By Riley Hoffman
This year, on Valentine’s Day, our beloved state turns 105 years old.
With so much to offer, it’s hard to narrow down what makes Arizona great. The weather, the national landmarks, the colorful sunsets, not to mention the award-winning dining and hotel destinations, all make Arizona one of the most-visited places in the country. According to the Arizona Office of Tourism, the state had over 42 million overnight visitors in 2015. Clearly, the beauty and fun found in our diverse state are no secret.
Arizona shares its birthday month with the Grand Canyon, which turns 98 years old on February 26. As Arizona is known as the “Grand Canyon State,” it’s no wonder our most sought-after landmark saw more than six million visitors in 2016, surpassing its 5.5 million in 2015.
While the Grand Canyon attracts about one-seventh of the people who visit our state, there are numerous caverns, trails and unique spaces that draw people to Arizona, each promising an adventure. Scott Dunn, senior director of communications with the Arizona Office of Tourism, shared some insight on his favorite destinations in the state.
“Arizona is replete with hidden gems, so it’s difficult to pick just one,” said Dunn. “It’s amazing to me how many people – even native Arizonans – have never been to Canyon de Chelly. The Wave in the Coyote Buttes is also one of those places that’s not super easy to get to but is impossible to forget. And I was blown away the first time I explored the caves at Kartchner Caverns State Park,” he continued.
Havasupai Falls is also an overlooked wonder, mentioned Dunn. “It’s a place that covers so many bases when it comes to the Arizona experience,” he said. “It’s stunningly beautiful, it’s located within the Grand Canyon, it offers distinct and diverse recreational options, and it gives visitors a glimpse at life within a Native American community.”
Despite drawing millions of tourists each year, the majority of visitors to the Grand Canyon never actually step foot in the canyon itself. Dunn encourages residents and visitors alike to experience it. “I always encourage families who are reasonably fit to take a short day hike to ‘Ooh-Aah Point’ along the South Kaibab Trail,” he said. “It’s a 1.8-mile round trip, and it’s great for active kids and adults.”
When planning your next vacation, show the state you call home some love and plan a staycation somewhere you have never explored. With all that Arizona has to offer, getting to know your great state is a gift in itself, and the perfect way to say happy birthday.
For more information on great things to do in Arizona, go to visitarizona.com.
Riley Hoffman is a Southern California native who has always been passionate about living a sustainable lifestyle and helping educate others to do so. Her most important personal focus is joining the fight to replace the use of fossil fuels with renewable energy around the world.