Find all kinds of roadside sights—odd, unexpected and one-of-a-kind— across Arizona.
Sometimes the best part of a journey isn't the destination, it's the expedition itself. Thankfully, the Grand Canyon State is ripe with peculiar places to see, play and explore while you're en route to your next stop.
On Arizona's west coast, visit the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City for a trip back in time—and "across the pond." Originally built in the 1830s to span the River Thames in London, this bridge was dismantled and moved here, brick-by-brick, in the 1960s. You can take a walking tour or just gaze up at its timeless elegance.
Further east, as you drive through the desert in Tempe, in the greater Phoenix-area, try to spot Governor Hunt's Pyramid Tomb. This out-of-place white pyramid overlooking Papago Park is the resting spot of seven-time Arizona Governor George W.P. Hunt and his wife, and not a lost Egyptian pharaoh as it might seem based on the design.
Whichever direction you're traveling on U.S. Highway 160, you can't miss the Elephant Feet rest area. The two sandstone columns located near Tonalea, on the Navajo Nation, resemble the legs of a giant, petrified pachyderm. According to experts, the massive, elephantine towers were formed millions of years ago.
Near Flagstaff sits the Lowell Observatory where Pluto was discovered in the 1930s. There are hands-on exhibits and guided daytime tours, or stop by in the evening and see the stars through a high-powered telescope and learn about this important piece of Arizona history.
Kitschy detours on Route 66
At the Wigwam Motel in northern Arizona, snap a few photos, view a vintage car collection and browse a free museum featuring American Indian artifacts and memorabilia. And, yes, you can still book a night in one of the iconic concrete-and-stucco teepees—but only by calling or sending an email, and well in advance.
Stop at the nearby Rainbow Rock Shop in Holbrook for a quick photo op with a huge dinosaur statue. And don't forget to browse through the piles of petrified wood and glittering geodes that fill the shop.
In Seligman, visit Delgadillo's Snow Cap drive-in for a good laugh and a quick bite. This retro burger joint, with its whimsical decor and joke-filled menu, is a must-see spot.
If you have a hankering for the atomic age, seek out Gila Bend's futuristic Space Age Lodge. The 1960s hotel off of Interstate 8 boasts out-of-this-world decorations (think starbursts and spaceships) and a funky gift shop. The adjoining Space Age Restaurant sports a similar vibe with food that's a bit more down to earth.
A mile north of the town of Congress (about an hour-and-a-half northwest of Phoenix) you'll come across Frog Rock, a 16-foot tall boulder painted bright green and artistically decorated. The gargantuan amphibian, affectionately nicknamed "Rocky," greets travelers from its perch beside U.S. Highway 89.
Stop at The Thing, a mysterious museum along I-10, an hour east of Tucson in southern Arizona. The bright yellow building houses a collection of bizarre objects for visitors to gawk at and odd souvenirs to buy in the gift shop.
At the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch in southern Arizona, get up close and personal with massive birds and the many other animals that inhabit the farm. This family-run establishment offers tours of the ranch and a chance to feed the animals by hand.
A rosebush by any other name…
The former silver-mining boomtown of Tombstone may be the Town Too Tough to Die, but it has another, decidedly more decorous claim to fame; home of "The World's Largest Rose Tree."
Lady Banksia Rose cuttings were planted here in 1885, reportedly by a homesick Scottish bride, and the plant continues to grow. It is now more tree than bush, with a trunk measuring 12 feet in circumference, and a canopy spreading an impressive 8,700 square feet. (It's supported by a sturdy network of wooden trellises.) In April, the bush bursts into clusters of fragrant white blossoms, and the town celebrates with a parade and annual Rose Festival.
About the Author
Native Tucsonan Bryn Bailer is an award-winning journalist, former newspaper reporter, current-affairs junkie, and a firm believer in indecision. (At least she thinks so.) Her work has appeared in various publications, including The Dallas Morning News, Arizona Highways, Arizona Daily Star, international news service Agence France-Presse, scads of lifestyle magazines, and curiously, the English-language financial magazine Czech Business Weekly.