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Arizona is a wondrous place, both geographically and culturally diverse, rich with tradition yet young as a state. Few travel destinations offer so great a change of scenery in so little time. Within a two to four hour drive any direction, visitors find themselves in completely different surroundings. Certain times of the year one could actually ski twice in one day – on both snow and water.
Arizona boasts vast open spaces and scenic beauty from the high lush desert area south of Tucson to the magnificent Grand Canyon area. Ranges of mountains rise from the desert floor throughout the Sonoran desert region. Traveling northward, pine covered mountain slopes lead upward to snow capped peaks in Flagstaff and in the White Mountain area which extends along the eastern state line. In areas like Sedona and Monument Valley , reddish rock formations composed of layers of volcanic rock, sandstone, limestone and shale, give the landscape striking colors and unique formations. Rock hounds find the state rich with gems and minerals created by millions of years of geological activity.
Arizona’s night skies are some of the darkest in the country, and amateur and professional stargazers enjoy hundreds of cloudless nights. The far reaches of the galaxy can be explored in the state’s numerous observatories, planetariums and through telescopes on patios and balconies of the finest resorts.
Perhaps no better location in the state illustrates the extreme variety of geography in Arizona than a roadway on the northeast side of Tucson , the Sky Island Parkway or the Catalina Highway . A drive on this road takes travelers through five “life zones,” beginning in the desert and ending above 9,000 feet in a conifer forest at the top of Mount Lemmon. This single, 27-mile drive passes through as many life zones as a drive from the Mexican to the Canadian border.
The Mexican cultural influence can be seen throughout the state, evidenced by missions and presidios established by Franciscan monks in the early 1700s. Hispanic names abound for shopping centers, residential developments, streets, schools and parks. The language, food, music, art, architecture, entertainment and traditions of Latin peoples are deeply infused in the culture of the state.
Arizona is home to 22 different Native American tribes with the most reservation land in the United States . Various cultural centers and museums display beautiful handcrafted pottery, baskets, jewelry, blankets and crafts from Arizona ’s numerous tribes. From ancient cliff dwellings and ruins to thriving casinos, Native American culture plays a leading role in Arizona.
The dry, temperate weather that has attracted humans to Arizona for thousands of years has also preserved vestiges of ancient cultures. Prehistoric inhabitants built houses of stone and left galleries of rock art at countless sites. A thousand years ago, using stone hand tools, the Hohokam Indians dug an entire system of irrigation canals in what is today Phoenix, some of which are still being used.
Within the past couple hundred years, Spanish explorers and friars built forts and missions, such as Tucson’s San Xavier del Bac, the “White Dove of the Desert,” an ornate church in which the Tohono O’odham Indians still worship. The U.S. Army scattered garrisons around the state, such as Forts Apache and Verde, several of them preserved in national or state parks. Inspiring an entire movie industry, rough-and-tumble gunfighters and lawmen walked the streets of Tombstone and did time in the Territorial Prison in Yuma , both of which can be visited today.
The grandeur of Arizona is beyond description in words, it must be experienced first hand – from magnificent sunrise to breathtaking sunset and into star studded night skies. Come see for yourself. There is no place like Arizona.