It’s said that travel expands the mind – and shrinks the wallet. If you’re traveling through Arizona this summer, though, you’ll find plenty of absolutely free activities and attractions. Even better? Many are also family friendly.
Here are just a few things to do in Arizona’s major travel regions that won’t require pulling out ye olde credit card.
Fun in the Northern Region
In Northern Arizona, Flagstaff’s historic downtown Heritage Square fills up for Summer Nights on the Square, a series of open-air concerts, performances and movies.
The square is also the epicenter of another popular event, Flagstaff’s First Friday ArtWalk, an evening when you can browse galleries, studios and shops.
Another item on the Flagstaff to-do list – hike the Flagstaff Urban Trail System (FUTS), pathways that lead from town to nearby parks and pine forests.
Also in Northern Arizona, there’s the must-stop, photo-op at Winslow’s Standin’ on a Corner Park, where a mural and bronze statue bring to life the Eagles’ famous hit, “Take It Easy.” While you’re there, drive down memory lane on Winslow’s stretch of historic Route 66.
Beyond Flagstaff and Winslow, tour historic 19th-century homes in the pioneer communities of Snowflake and Taylor.
On the Navajo Nation, the historic Hubbell Trading Post operates today as it has since 1876. Community members still come to the Ganado trading post to trade art, jewelry and rugs for staples such as coffee and flour.
Cultural Hubs in North Central Arizona
In North Central Arizona, art is a glorious attraction. Jerome’s galleries stay open late on the first Saturday of each month during the Jerome Art Walk, while Sedona galleries also keep the evening lights burning for the First Friday Gallery Tour, with the Sedona Trolley offering rides between venues.
Prescott art gets showcased during the town’s 4th Friday Art Walks, and Globe’s Gallery at Cobre Valley Center for the Arts, housed in the historic Gila County Courthouse, has numerous exhibits throughout the year.
In all four towns, you’ll be able to see the work of local artists. Want another form of art? Sedona’s sculptural Chapel of the Holy Cross is an architecturally striking chapel set in the red rocks.
Greater Phoenix Beckons
Your child – not to mention your inner child – will be entertained for hours at several attractions in Greater Phoenix.
Little ones squeal with delight getting wet at Tempe Beach Splash Playground, located on the banks of Tempe Town Lake.
Across town in Glendale, they’ll go all Willy Wonka during tours of Cerreta Candy Company, where you can see chocolates being made.
Too much sugar? Stretch your legs with a walk around nearby Sahuaro Ranch Park, a historic farm with a gracious main house, dairy barn, orchards, rose gardens, peacocks and more.
Back in Tempe, adults can enjoy browsing galleries at the ASU Art Museum, which features global, regional and contemporary artwork in a landmark building designed by Antoine Predock. The museum’s annual Family Fun Day – this year on July 14 – includes art activities for the kids, educational booths and live performances.
For something less cerebral, see saguaros during an early morning desert hike at preserves such as South Mountain Park in Phoenix or the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale. Both offer miles of trails and numerous trailheads.
Southern Arizona Shines
Southern Arizona also offers art-centric activities. In Tucson, visit DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, the 10-acre home, studio and gallery of the late artist Ted DeGrazia, or the University of Arizona’s noted photography research center and museum, the Center for Creative Photography. It’s home to works by Ansel Adams, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Edward Weston and others.
Further south, Bisbee, the free-spirited arts community, hosts a monthly art walk, Bisbee After 5.
Want a little of the Wild West? Visit Tombstone, between Tucson and Bisbee. Known as “the town too tough to die,” its Boothill Graveyard is the final resting spot of citizens and outlaws who, apparently, were not quite too tough to die.
And, no visit to Southern Arizona is complete without a drive up the twisting Mt. Lemmon Highway near Tucson. Also known as the Catalina Highway, its 27 miles spiral up from the desert floor to 9,000-foot-high pine forests.
West Coast Happenings
In Yuma, along Arizona’s West Coast, you can spend a day exploring the Colorado River.
Along the riverfront, Pivot Point Interpretive Plaza tells the story of the railroad and Yuma’s history, while nearby trails provide river views and link the West Wetlands, East Wetlands and Gateway parks. Spend time at playgrounds, linger in the hummingbird garden, picnic or swim in the river.
Up river, also on Arizona’s West Coast, you’ll find plenty to do at Lake Havasu City. Stroll the historic, 19th-century London Bridge, reconstructed here in 1971; tour lighthouse replicas used along the lake as navigational beacons for boaters; or cool down with a dip at Rotary Community Park beach.
Finally, in Oatman, a former gold mining town north of Lake Havasu City, it’s four-legged creatures who get their kicks on the town’s stretch of historic Route 66.
Oatman’s famous wild burros, descendants of miners’ pack animals, regularly come down from the hills and stroll the main street, seemingly posing for photographs.