Sitting within the four corners of the United States, Arizona is known for its unmistakable climate and landscape. This state encompasses a large portion of the Navajo Nation and is home to the Apache Reservation, as well. When asked “what is Arizona known for,” most people likely picture the Wild West scenery of old films.
Arizona is famous for its beautiful desert landscape scattered with breathtaking rock formations. From the depths of the Grand Canyon to the red hillsides of Sedona, Arizona is famous for some of the greatest natural sights in the world. With a bustling artistic community and more tourist destinations than many states combined, it’s hard not to love Arizona.
Let’s dive into the list of 12 things that Arizona is known for.
1. Desert climate
H-O-T. Hot hot hot.
Arizona is famous for reaching average summer temperatures in the triple digits. Rather than a humid heat like in Miami, Arizona’s heat is very dry. I once flew into Phoenix from Indianapolis. I stepped off the plane in full hoodie and jeans to 108° temps.
Anyone who has felt the desert climate in Arizona knows how great the shade feels, too. At night, you can sit poolside underneath a clear, starry sky. The weather is absolutely amazing in the evening.
2. The Grand Canyon
The number one answer to the question “what is Arizona known for” is The Grand Canyon.
This natural wonder makes Arizona famous all over the world. Almost 300 miles along the Colorado River, the canyon is massive. It is the absolute most impressive natural feature in the continental US.
You can’t help but feel tiny and dumbfounded when you stand and look out across the canyon. The park has thousands of international visitors each year. People come from all over to get a look at the multicolored walls.
Some people hike the canyon from side to side. This is impressive considering that some areas of the canyon are 18 miles across. Other people come to ride donkeys down to the bottom! There are camping areas inside the canyon, but you have to reserve them far in advance.
You can check out the National Park Service’s information about the park here.
3. Road trips
What comes to mind when you think of an “American road trip?” Most people see a convertible car, top down, driving through the dusty roads of Arizona. They picture themselves stopping along Route 66, eating in diners, and taking pictures along the highway.
As such, Arizona is the perfect setting for a road trip.
Because of the dry weather, Arizona is known for having excellent roads. Typically roads crack due to sharp changes between cold and dry weather. When water in the pavement freezes and then defrosts, it expands the concrete. This causes potholes and cracks on the surface.
Arizona doesn’t have this problem, though. Because there is little rain and snow, the roads in Arizona stay nice all year long.
4. Saguaro cacti
Shop any home decor page on Etsy and you’re likely to find a little cactus in the pictures. In recent years, cacti have become more popular home decorations.
When people think “what is Arizona known for,” one of the first things to come to mind is cacti in the desert. Across the backdrop of a stark, dry climate, a cactus is a quirky plant.
Some of these cacti can grow to massive heights. The saguaro cacti are particularly large. Arizona is famous for these cacti which are usually the size of trees. Unsurprisingly, these plants take a really long time to grow. In fact, Arizona laws prohibit people from harming the cacti.
If you’re thinking about taking one home as a souvenir, better to stick with plastic.
5. Cactus wren
The cactus wren is the Arizona state bird. It is a very fitting bird for the state based on its appearance. Like the scenery of Arizona, the cactus wren is earth-toned. Typically it has brown, black, and white coloring.
If you’ve been to the state, you’ve probably heard these birds singing to each other. The bird’s name comes from a Greek word meaning “curved beak,” and they use their beaks to find food under rocks.
“The red rocks of Sedona” is a popular answer to “what is Arizona known for?” Most tourists make it a point to stop in Sedona. The scenery alone is worth the stop. It also doesn’t hurt that the climate is a bit cooler than other parts of the state.
Another great thing about Sedona is the arts community. When I was there in 2011, I went to tons of great small shops. You can buy all sorts of beautiful hand-crafted items. The most popular categories are jewelry, prints, and pottery.
Arizona is known for the bright red hues of the rocks in Sedona. I went hiking in Red Rock State Park when I was there. My brother dropped the camera in the sand and ruined it. You can see one of the pictures we did manage to take, above.
7. AriZona tea
If you’ve ever been on a road trip, you’ve seen AriZona tea at the gas station. AriZona brand tea is one of the staples of a great American adventure. There are so many flavors and options. For instance, they sell tea, juice, and sparkling water (to name a few). My personal favorite is the Mucho Mango juice.
What’s great about AriZona products is that the price has remained a solid 99 cents throughout nearly three decades. The company was actually started in Brooklyn, NY.
For the name alone, many people think this brand is connected to the state of Arizona. The drinks don’t have to come from Arizona for the state to be famous for them. All in all, since its start in 1992, the AriZona tea brand has quickly solidified its place in every gas station in America.
8. Rock formations
Arizona is known for its breathtaking rock formations. You can go almost anywhere in the state and see a sweet wall.
Antelope Canyon is one of the more popular destinations. You can see a picture of it above. Isn’t it beautiful? The walls of the canyon are so smooth due to water running down the sides. Lots of Instagrammers like to post at the canyon because of how stunning it is.
Another popular rock formation is found in the Monument Valley Tribal Park. It costs $20 per vehicle to enter the park. While inside, you can see remnants of large rock formations that have eroded with time.
The entire park is on Native American tribal land. It is very typical of the Wild West movie scenes. Arizona is famous for this type of landscape.
9. Turquoise jewelry
All across the state are small businesses selling high-quality clothing and accessories. One of the more common items is turquoise jewelry. Arizona is known for its turquoise reserves. Along with Nevada, it is one of the few states where you can find turquoise.
Turquoise is widely used in the making of Native American jewelry. Many jewelers have to add some sort of polish layer to the rock because it is not naturally shiny like a diamond. Arizona is famous for the chunky pendants and rings you can find at many small boutique shops.
I am not referring to the self-regenerating bird in Harry Potter. No, Phoenix is the state capital of Arizona. It is also the international airport hub of the state. I always fly in and out of Phoenix when I travel to Arizona. As such, it is many travelers’ first stop in the state.
Lots of businesses like to do work in Phoenix, as well. There are many conferences and conventions that take place there. As a result, when asking “what is Arizona known for,” many people might say “oh, I had a business meeting there last month!”
There is an almost endless number of things to do in Phoenix. My absolute favorite is the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM). In fact, MIM is probably my favorite museum in the world. You get a headset and an audio tour with your ticket. As you walk through the building, you see instruments from all over the world.
The exhibits are broken down first by continent and then by country. Above you can see a picture of me geeking out with a massive octobasse. Ticket prices range from $10 to $27, depending on how many exhibits you want to see. You can check out their website here.
11. The sun
When most people think of Arizona, they see the sun. Even on “colder” days in Arizona, you can usually find a clear sky. Florida might be known as “The Sunshine State,” but that hasn’t stopped Arizonans from stealing the massive fireball that is the sun as their mascot.
The professional basketball team in Arizona is the Phoenix Suns. The name comes from an entry to a team naming competition back in the 1960s. Moreover, Phoenix is known as “The Valley of the Sun.”
There is a skincare company called Arizona Sun Care, a clothing brand called Arizona Sun Tops, a newspaper called Arizona Daily Sun…the list goes on and on. All in all, it’s not hard to see why Arizona is famous for the sun.
11. USS Arizona
This famous ship played a major role in the events of Pearl Harbor, 1941. Japanese fighter planes destroyed a US naval fleet in Hawaii. They attacked using bombs which were attached to torpedoes. When the torpedoes entered the water, they traveled toward their targets.
Unlike its name suggests, the USS Arizona sank during the Pearl Harbor attack and remains at the bottom of the harbor. The feature film Pearl Harbor has a memorable depiction of what happened. The torpedo which hit the ship, damaged it instantaneously. In the end, more than 1,100 sailors died when the Japanese sunk the ship.
The government named the ship after the state of Arizona because it had recently joined the union. Today there is a monument in Hawaii that floats over the ship’s wreckage site. All in all, the USS Arizona is known for its role in the beginning of WWII.
12. Commercials for the University of Phoenix
No matter which area of the country you live in, you’ve seen a commercial for the University of Phoenix. Among Americans, Arizona is famous for the promotion of this school. Because the school offers lots of online classes, it advertises countrywide.
The commercials are known for being somewhat cheesy. Things got a little more serious in 2019, however. The school had to pay millions of dollars in a false advertising case.
The Federal Trade Commission fined the university for claiming it partnered with big name companies to find jobs for students. No matter your opinion of the school, it’s hard not to think of Arizona when you see the commercials.