Places to visit in & around Phoenix Arizona

The last five years have seen more people moving to Phoenix, Arizona, than any other city in the country. With this influx of residents calling The Phoenix Valley home, the swell of the Phoenix Metro Area is palpable, and some feel stifling. If you are living in Phoenix and just have to get away now and then, you’ve likely already encountered the next frustration of overpopulation: overtourism.

Unlike the jovial cast of Cheers, sometimes you don’t want to go where everybody knows your name. With so many people living within driving distance to beautiful places like Lake Havasu, Sedona, Flagstaff, and even The Grand Canyon, it comes as no surprise that these areas become hotbeds for too many visitors. You might find yourself heading to these destinations to get away, only to run into everyone else from your city trying to do the same thing!

If you’re willing to do a little driving and head off of the beaten path, check out these places to visit in and around Phoenix, Arizona. You’ll be able to avoid the crowds, try something new, and at the very least enjoy a good, old fashioned American road trip!

Destinations to visit outside of Phoenix

Bisbee, Arizona

When it comes to packing a weekend bag for a quick getaway from the city, most Phoenicians quickly suggest Sedona or Flagstaff. Both of these are beautiful locations for tourists to visit, so they are unremarkably…full of tourists.  If you want to get away and enjoy some true American history, take in gorgeous mountain views, dine in cozy restaurants, and find the perfect shops for all your souvenir hunting, Bisbee, Arizona is the place to be.

Located in the Mule Mountains in southeast Arizona, this sleepy little desert city was once a bustling and booming mining town. Producing great quantities of copper from the nearby Copper Queen Mine, in the late 19th century into the early 20th century the city thrived. Today, visitors can still tour this historic mine and stroll the streets of Bisbee that have for the most part retained their original architecture and charm. Unlike the many kitschy, Disneyland-esque “wild west” and ghost town themed cities dotted about the American West, Bisbee is the real deal, and you’ll feel the history as soon as you arrive.

Downtown Bisbee AZ, Unique Places to visit outside of Phoenix

 Mt. Lemmon

Don’t let the name fool you; it’s anything but a lemon! This Phoenix Arizona getaway is one of the most biodiverse places in the United States. Within a 26-mile span, visitors traverse through as many North American biomes as you would experience traveling from Mexico to Canada!

Mt. Lemmon also provides the only fully accessible “cactus to clouds” venture in the area, as the trip from the desert floor to the sub-alpine peak of Mt. Lemmon is all drivable and can be experienced by all, regardless of ability. For an experience complete with educational snippets, the Mt. Lemmon Science Tour app provides an audio guide for your journey up the highway, so be sure to download the app before you go!

If you drove all this way, let’s assume you’d like to go ahead and get out of the car. Your options for adventures on foot are endless! Mt. Lemmon is a year-round destination, so activities on the mountain are certainly seasonal. If you find yourself whisking away to Mt. Lemmon to escape the sweltering heat of the desert summer, you’ll find respite in Mt. Lemmon’s cool, 75 degree summer average. This breezy mountain air is perfect for hiking, biking, and camping. With more than 1,500 sport and trad climbing routes in the area, Mt. Lemmon is one of the most popular climbing destinations in the state.

Of course, if you are headed to the mountain in the winter, let’s hope you packed the skis, because the southernmost ski resort in the United States, Ski Valley, offers 22 trails of on-piste skiing ranging from beginner to advanced routes.

view from Mt Lemmon, Unique Places to visit outside of Phoenix

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Petrified Forest/Painted Desert

The Grand Canyon is one of the most visited places in the world, but just to the south of this Natural World Wonder is another wonder fit to be on that list, even if it isn’t. The Painted Desert is one of the most unusual desert environments in the world; being there feels as if perhaps you are in fact in another world. The colors of the Painted Desert span over 160 miles and encompasses the Petrified Forest at its western edge. If you are there to see one, you certainly have to check out the other. You will not be disappointed.

Though these badlands are a harsh and unforgiving place to call home, to visit it may look like a desert paradise. Over millions of years minerals and sediments like bentonite, iron, and sandstone created fluvial deposits waiting to be unearthed by the weathering of the years to come. As these layers upon layers of sand and stone eroded and surfaced, what remained of this once ocean floor was nothing short of artistry fit for a canvas.

These same colorful deposits manifested within the desert flora of millions of years gone by and can be seen in the now nearly entirely quartz remnants of the coniferous forest that once called this desert home.

view of the Petrified Forest, Unique Places to visit outside of Phoenix

Tonto National Monument

The desert may not be a hospitable place to call home, but the tenacity of the human race has never found inimical to be too hard to overcome. If you want to see what living in the desert 700 years ago would have been like, a visit to Tonto National Monument is a great place to start.

Here, the highly intact remains of Native American cliff dwellings can be explored, and artifacts in the museum help to paint a picture of daily life for these desert dwelling indigenous people. The Salado people inhabiting the area now known as Tonto National Monument chose the area to be close to the Salt River, building their cliff dwellings nearby to this life-giving resource and capitalizing on the respite of shade under a relentless summer sun. With expert engineering, we can see the dwellings were constructed in a manner that provided early morning sun and shade in the afternoon.

One of the best things about this incredible anthropological gem is that it’s relatively easy to get to. There are two dwelling sights, Lower Cliff Dwelling and Upper Cliff Dwelling. The lower dwelling is open year-round and is only a mile from the trailhead, gaining 300 feet in elevation. This is a hike nearly everyone can do. If you are up for a bigger adventure with an even greater reward, the Upper Cliff Dwelling is accessible via guided tour, is about three miles in length, and gains 600 feet in elevation. Though longer and higher, this is still a relatively easy hike, and the experience is well worth the extra footwork.

If you start to feel like the walk is too long, just remember, the first residents of this area didn’t have the luxury of a car to come back to at the end of a long trek!

Tonto National Forest sign, Unique Places to visit outside of Phoenix

 Young, Arizona:

Topping off our list of the less-touristy destinations near Phoenix is perhaps Arizona’s best kept secret, Young, AZ. This little backcountry haven has remained unmarred from the unfortunate effects of over visitation. There wasn’t even cell service in town until 2009! Just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Phoenix, you will truly feel like you’ve gotten away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Even in the summertime, the mountain streams and cool breeze will certainly make you feel like you’ve gotten away from the desert heat!

Once you arrive, you undoubtedly won’t want to leave, and that’s fine because there are plenty of places to stay! Cabin rentals are available online ranging from plush with amenities to the more rustic (if you are really here for the off-grid experience!) While you prepare to unplug, start to unwind with a visit to Bruzzi Vineyard.

Come hungry because the tasting room offers a taste of more than just wine. The dining menu is superb, and depending on when you visit, you might be able to enjoy themed dinners such as spooky murder mysteries around Halloween! By far, the crown jewel of this charming little vineyard is the Sunday brunch, which is only available via reservation…but that French toast is worth a toast (or two, or three…) Cheers!

Ready to be a homeowner in Phoenix?

The Grand Canyon State is full of lesser-known adventures, and these are only a few of them! If you are ready to call Arizona home, reach out to me at AZLiveStyles, I would love to help you find your next home in the Phoenix Metro Area.