If you love the vibrant landscape and culture of the southwest, you can have a fantastic experience in Arizona. The state contains an abundance of historical sites, spectacular natural features, and awesome urban activities. What should an adventurous person do with their time in the state? To make the most of it, you should be prepared to mix up your itinerary with a combination of natural and man-made destinations. Taking in everything might be a tall order, but the state rewards curious visitors with astounding experiences.

01Take a Guided Bike Tour of Tucson

Tucson, Arizona, USA

With two wheels and a knowledgeable local, you can survey the art and architecture of Tucson. The guided bike tour takes two to two-and-a-half hours and leads visitors through historic buildings and diverse neighborhoods that give Tucson its charm. This tour is your chance to take in the city's history from someone with ties to the community.

02Investigate Mystery Castle in Phoenix

Tourists visit the Mystery Castle in Phoenix

The mystery of Mystery Castle starts with Boyce Luther Gulley's decision to leave his family and build the castle for his daughter, Mary Lou Gulley. The structure took fifteen years to finish, and its creation involved unusual materials like goats' milk, automobile parts, and telephone poles. Gulley's family inherited the castle after learning about his death, and Mary Lou led tours of it until her death in 2010. The building still stands, and guided tours are still available.

03Visit Biosphere 2 in the Arizona Desert

Biosphere 2, Library & Living Quarters, Arizona

With the construction of Biosphere 2, Texas oilman Ed Bass hoped to create a space that could sustain diverse natural environments within the Arizona desert. While the two attempts to let people live in it failed, Biosphere 2 is now used for experiments by the University of Arizona and welcomes visitors who want to tour the ambitious structure.

04Experience Christmas Magic at Santa Claus

Santa Claus ghost town, Arizona Todd Huffman / Flickr

In terms of weather, few places are as far apart as Arizona and the North Pole. Despite this, you can find the remains of Santa Claus, AZ, sitting in the Mojave Desert! Although the place is abandoned, desert trekkers can locate the buildings and experience the contrast of festive Christmas buildings among the arid landscape. While you're out there, you can also enjoy the Joshua trees, the rock formations, and other natural features of the Mojave Desert.

05See the Captivating, Conceptual Arcosanti

Arcosanti is anexperimental town with a molten bronze bell casting business in Yavapai County, central Arizona

Arcosanti, located north of Phoenix, was conceived by architect Paolo Soleri as an experimental type of urban development. The creation features prominent arcs, an auditorium, a ceramic apse, and a five-story visitor center. Arcosanti is a daring, unique structure that welcomes visitors and artists who are interested in workshops and other events to raise funds for further development.

06Take a Look at the Large Binocular Telescope

Amazing Milky way over Monument Valley

Located in the Arizona Pinaleno Mountains, the Large Binocular Telescope boasts an incredible view. Two mirrors, each twenty-seven feet across, give this telescope better clarity than the Hubble Space Telescope. Considered the largest telescope in the world, the Large Binocular Telescope is a marvel in and of itself, and it provides us incredible glimpses into space. Thanks to its scenic mountain location, this destination is a great spot for both nature and science lovers.

07Take in the Sight of the Marvelous Montezuma Castle

Montezuma castle Pueblo Village Indian Ruins, Arizona

President Teddy Roosevelt placed the development under the protection of the U.S. government. The structure, located in Camp Verde, has been around for nearly a thousand years and is still mostly intact. You can marvel at this elaborate domestic dwelling, which contains twenty rooms. While visitors are no longer allowed to walk inside, the exterior view of the structure is still an impressive sight to behold.

08Paddle the Salt River in Phoenix

Wild horse and her foal on the Arizona Salt River

Phoenix is a great urban destination, but nature lovers can look forward to a paddle tour down the Salt River. This trek gives you a chance to see diverse flora and fauna found in the American Southwest region. Animal lovers can keep watch for wild mustangs, eagles, and many other representatives of the area's wildlife. If you love the desert landscape, the tour will let you see just how rich with plant life these regions can be!

09Discover Tovrea Castle in the Phoenix Desert

The historic Tovrea Castle in Phoenix, Arizona.

Tovrea Castle is a unique structure located in the urban desert around Phoenix. The building has an unusual "wedding cake" design, and it sits alone in an undeveloped portion of the city. Alessio Carraro began development in 1928, with dreams of turning the location into a destination hotel. While his goal was never reached, the building continues to attract attention. People can take tours of the castle if they can arrange one.

10Experience the Magic of Tucson's Valley of the Moon

valley of the moon, tucson Photo credit: midwinter / VisualHunt

Valley of the Moon represents the dream of George Legler. After purchasing the plot of land in 1917, Legler and friends began constructing a physical fantasy for visitors to explore and admire. You can travel down inviting pathways, peek into hidden caverns, and see how the creators carved structures out of the surrounding rocky areas. While Legler has passed, the George Phar Legler Society continues to operate Valley of the Moon, and invite explorers to see this space.

11Walk Through the Historic Street of Little Motels

Vintage mid-century motel in the town's historic district. Red Rock Motel exterior with an American flag and sign reading Street of Little Motels

The town of Page has a particular street offering a wealth of lodging options. Known as the Street of Little Motels, this line of mid-century buildings is left over from the Glen Canyon Dam. Workers on the project needed places to stay and motels popped up to house them. Today, the Street of Little Motels is a physical tribute to classic building design and a reminder of a critical earlier era for the state.