It's fitting that Arizona is abbreviated "AZ" because it's got it all, from A to Z.
Here are five A's and five Z's that represent the best of the state. And that's without even mentioning the zoos.
Frank Lloyd Wright was so ahead of his time that Taliesin West, his breathtaking residence and studio out in the desert, is as fascinating and relevant today as it was when he and his apprentices built it – by hand! – back in 1937.
The 90-minute tour gives you an up-close and personal look at this passion project, including Wright’s own bed partitioned in half to let his staff distinguish between naps from which they could wake him up and serious sleep from which he was not to be disturbed.
This is not a “look, don’t touch” kind of place. In fact, you’re encouraged to sit down wherever there’s a chair and make yourself at home. The only place you’re asked not to take photos is in the working studio of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, where students are continuing his legacy.
Thanks to Wright’s vision and intentional placement of every wall, every column, every ceiling, Taliesin West warrants repeat visits at different times of the day and during different seasons to really appreciate the astonishing way he used nature itself to create human masterpieces.
Sami Zen Treatment at Revive Spa at JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa — Photo courtesy of JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa
Arizona has become the unofficial spa capital of the world, and it would be sinful not to experience a treatment or two – or five – while you’re there.
You can spend a week in your robe at Miraval in Tucson or Mii amo in Sedona, or try an authentic Native American treatment at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess or Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler. Or you can simply park yourself for the day at one of the top-notch JW Marriott spas at Starr Pass in Tucson, Camelback Inn in Scottsdale or Desert Ridge in Phoenix.
Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to the 90-minute Sami Zen, an energy ritual at Revive Spa at JW Marriott Desert Ridge. This one-of-a-kind treatment cleanses, nourishes and energizes the body, mind and spirit through time-honored traditions and customs of Japanese Zen and Sweden’s native people, the Samers. All you really have to know about it is that it will leave you feeling totally blissful.
Arizona goat yoga
Arizona Goat Yoga — Photo courtesy of Meghan Cyr
Okay, this may just be the most fun you will ever have. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve ever heard of Balasana because the whole experience is Child’s Pose at its most natural. You just get down on the ground, cuddle with the goats and relax.
Sarah Williams, a 20-year yogi, teaches the class outdoors while the cutest little goats climb on you and nuzzle you. Don’t worry – everyone gets time and photos with the goats!
Because it is virtually impossible to feel anything but happy when you’re interacting with these creatures, this is the perfect stress-reducer.
Zagat five-star dining
Cedar Wrapped Ocean Trout at Kai — Photo courtesy of Debby Wolvos Photography
The only AAA Five Diamond/Forbes Five Star restaurant in the state, Kai at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass is a delight for all five senses, starting with the one-of-a-kind hand-painted menus that tell lovely stories (which your server will share with you) passed down by the local Pima and Maricopa tribes. Inside, each course is beautifully described as a chapter, from “birth” to “beginning” to “journey” and “afterlife.” You’ll want to experience each stage of this life.
Plan an early dinner so you can spend hours savoring every minute of your luxurious dining experience along with every bite of Chef de Cuisine Ryan Swanson’s magnificent creations. The presentation is as stunning as the food itself, which incorporates Native American culture and locally farmed ingredients from the Gila River Indian Community, combining them in tantalizing culinary feats.
For a truly decadent experience, indulge in the 13-course Journey Tasting Menu. You will be spoiled for life.
Carrie Curran at Hermosa Inn — Photo courtesy of Erin Kenly McDonald
The Arizona landscape has inspired hundreds of artists over the years, so it’s no surprise that art abounds throughout the state.
Visit the Phoenix Art Museum, one of the largest art museums in the Southwest, housing a permanent collection of more than 16,000 pieces. The Tucson Museum of Art features a variety of collections from Art of the American West to Folk Art of the Americas, and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is Arizona’s only permanent museum dedicated to modern art, design and architecture.
Try your own hand at a workshop at the Mesa Arts Center or take a Mimosa Mornings and Painting class with local artist Carrie Curran at the Hermosa Inn, where the ghost of Arizona’s best-known cowboy artist, Lon Megargee, may be watching over you. Spend the night to give your masterpiece time to dry.
Hermosa Inn — Photo courtesy of Hermosa Inn
The Hermosa Inn is an oasis in the desert. This luxurious hideaway is as warm and hospitable as staying at your BFF’s house. Well, your BFF’s AAA Four Diamond house which features a AAA Four Diamond restaurant where scrumptious farm-to-table meals are cooked by Executive Chef Jeremy Pacheco.
Hacienda-style guestrooms and casitas are filled with amenities including fireplaces, oversized showers and original artwork by Megargee, who founded the Hermosa Inn as his private retreat back in the 1930s.
The property’s lush gardens are eye-popping and smile-inducing, as are the fresh cookies left by your bed each night to guarantee the sweetest dreams.
Agritopia — Photo courtesy of Visit Mesa
This model agri-hood – a residential development centered around an organic farm – in Gilbert is pretty idyllic, with its 160 pedestrian-accessible acres featuring houses, a school, the artsy new Barnone – a craftsman community of shops and studios with a brewery and winery – and a handful of great restaurants featuring homegrown ingredients. Joe’s Farm Grill was even featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Agritopia is one of a dozen stops along Mesa’s Fresh Foodie Trail, a fascinating and delicious route to the county’s best local offerings. Start your morning with orange juice fresh from the tree at The Orange Patch, taste the most unique flavored olive oils at Queen Creek Olive Mill, pick your own fruit at Schnepf Farms (where you can also glamp out in a vintage trailer), get a behind-the-scenes look at the milling process at Hayden Flour Mills and take a tour of the amazing 5000-square-foot vertical urban farm at True Garden.
This is agritourism at its best, giving you a real sense of where your food is coming from. If it comes from one of these places, consider yourself lucky.
Farm omelette at Morning Glory Cafe — Photo courtesy of The Farm at South Mountain
An affectionate term for locals, Zonies have their favorite haunts and, in Phoenix, one of them is The Farm at South Mountain, a charming mix of gardens, restaurants and markets, where you can eat every meal – breakfast at Morning Glory Cafe, lunch at The Farm Kitchen and dinner under the stars at Quiessence – and stroll around the grounds and shop in between.
If you’re in town for goat yoga, commemorate the occasion with some goat’s milk buttery caramels and a sandwich made from hyper-local ingredients at Worth Takeaway in downtown Mesa (which you can eat on the giant pink chair sculpture right outside) or settle in for a ceviche and grilled street corn at Joyride Taco House.
For a classic Tucson breakfast, head to Cup Cafe in the lobby of the historic Hotel Congress for the famous cast iron baked eggs, which will put you in the zone for the rest of the day.
Apache Trail — Photo courtesy of Visit Mesa
Take a day trip up the historic Apache Trail, through the mysterious and iconic Superstition Mountains, and into the foothills of the Tonto National Forest, following the footsteps that Native Americans and hopeful prospectors took over 100 years ago.
Drive along this 80-mile loop, take in the spectacular desert wilderness, mountains, and – surprise! – deep blue lakes and try to imagine navigating the terrain in a stagecoach like the original trailblazers did.
There are lots of places to stop and explore, like Tortilla Flat, Roosevelt Dam and Goldfield Ghost Town, where the Mammoth Mine produced three million dollars worth of gold from 1892-1896. The views alone are priceless.
26 Blocks at Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel — Photo courtesy of Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel
Paying homage to his beloved city in 2010, Joey Robert Parks paired 26 local photographers with 26 local writers and assigned each team to a randomly-selected block in downtown Phoenix.
Their mission was to capture the past, present or imagined future of that block in one photograph and one piece of commentary, with renowned local sculptor Rafael Navarro assigned to turning small wood cubes into 26 sculptures to represent them all.
The result, the wildly popular “26 Blocks,” toured for over a year and produced a free iPad app. It’s now become its own gallery in the lower lobby of the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel, where it’s free to the public 24/7.
This is a must-see and a great model for other cities. It’s also a good excuse to stop into the hotel’s new lobby restaurant and bar, Dust Cutter, for a drink and Chef Joshua Murray's eclectic shareable plates like chicken and waffles, skillet cornbread and avocado fries.
This modern-day urban saloon has become a centerpiece for Adams Street since Renaissance owner Steve Cohn paved the street with individual brick pavers – and, at the same time, paved the way for a bright new future for these 26 blocks.