Things to Do in Arizona…
…all within an easy drive from Interstate 40!
In the slide show above, you’re viewing
pictures of interesting Arizona attractions that you may enjoy while traveling across the state along I-40. Some truly one-of-a-kind scenery can be found in the Grand Canyon state! (If you’ll be traveling along I-10, please be sure to visit our
Fun Things to Do in Phoenix and
What’s to do in Tucson? pages, instead.)
Discover exciting northern Arizona attractions
One-of-a-kind scenery awaits you…and it’s easily accessed from I-40!
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Arizona’s section of I-40 runs across the entire northern part of the state from east to west. The good news? This ribbon of highway will make all of northern AZ’s attractions easily accessible to you!
The Grand Canyon is Arizona’s most highly-visited attraction, and if you’d like to view this magnificant spectacle, then you’ll only need to make a simple side-trip off of Interstate 40.
However, the Grand Canyon is far from being the only interesting Arizona attraction that’s within side-trip distance of I-40 (AKA, the famous former Route 66 “Mother Road.”) Northern Arizona is blessed with some of the most unique scenery that nature has bestowed on Planet Earth…and some of it you just won’t be able to find outside of this part of the world. On this page, you’ll discover interesting things to see in Arizona that are either directly along the Interstate 40 freeway…or within a reasonable detour from its path.
The Google map to your left shows I-40’s route through Arizona. From end to end, Interstate 40 through Arizona is 360 miles long…and is a well-maintained 4-lane divided freeway throughout. You can zoom right along without a stop…but WHY? Your family’s road trip will be greatly enhanced if you enjoy one or more of the unique adventures that the Grand Canyon State has in store for you!
Fun side trip from Arizona’s stretch of I-40:
Laughlin, NV via Bullhead City, AZ
- Distance from I-40: 25-45 miles, depending on the I-40 exit you choose
- Time to Laughlin from I-40: 45 min to 1 hour, depending on traffic through Bullhead City
- Turnoff from I-40: AZ Exit 1 (or else Calif Exit 142 in Needles, CA)
If you want to view a surprising terrain, try driving up thru Bullhead City! With the exception of beautiful Flagstaff up in the pines, most of I-40 is brown and desert-like. But once you’re heading north towards Bullhead City, you’ll find productive farmland along the Colorado River! Who would have guessed to find this farming oasis in the middle of the vast desert? You’ll also pass by homes & a variety of businesses, too…which means that you’ve got lower speed limits and heavier traffic than it this were some isolated, lonely road. You’ll also find quite an assortment of gas prices, so be sure to choose a station that’s selling it cheaper rather than more expensive.
From Bullhead’s city center, you’ll see the high-rise hotels and casinos rising up along the Nevada side of the Colorado River. That makes it difficult to get lost when you’re heading to Laughlin! However, be sure to follow the directional signs carefully…because there’s only ONE bridge crossing over from Bullhead City to the Laughlin side.
What’s there to do in Laughlin? Aside from the casinos, the big emphasis is water sports. Why visit Laughlin? The convenience of its location near I-40…and its prices! The city attracts many budget-conscious travelers who want all the amenities…without a steep price tag to go along with it. A vacation here can cost less than in Las Vegas, and has the additional thrill of boating and jet-skiing, as well. For a guide to this oasis in the desert, please use the following link to view Laughlin’s official tourist website.
Map: Here’s information from the DistanceBetweenCities.net website with a good pre-marked map that can help you choose which I-40 exit is best for you. Heading north from Needles, California is a straight shot north. Another popular route is to exit at Kingman, AZ and take Highway 68 west.
Fun Things to do in Arizona:
Lake Havasu & London Bridge
In the slide show above, you’re viewing
pictures of Lake Havasu City, AZ and its famous attraction, the London Bridge. Whether as a side trip or as a main destination, you’ll find shopping, dining…and plenty of water fun…at Lake Havasu.
- Distance from I-40: about 25 miles
- Time from I-40: about 30 minutes
- Turnoff from I-40: AZ Exit 9; Arizona Hwy 95
Whether or not you want to visit the town of Lake Havasu, you SHOULD stop at exit 9. This exit is 9 miles from the California state line…which means that in 9 miles, you’ll be paying more for gas! Exit 9 has several modern gas stations with convenience stores & large restrooms. And, of course, whether you’re heading into (or out of) California, you’ll want to fill your tank at the cheaper Arizona prices. (If you’re heading into California, you’ll find some of the steepest gas prices in the USA out in the dry & deserted Mojave Desert that you’re about to enter. You will NOT want to gas-up there.)
However, if you’re looking for a quick ‘n quirky side-trip that won’t eat up much time, then you should head south into the interesting town of Lake Havasu City. Stretched out along the shores of the Colorado River, you’ll find a striking contrast of brown desert terrain alongside rippling blue waters. The highpoint of the town is the London Bridge, which is actually not a fake. It was indeed an actual working bridge in London, England for many years until it was sold to the highest bidder (so that a new bridge could be built.) Strangely enough, it ended up in the Arizona desert…where it was shipped piece-by-piece & reassembled into its present position. A cute little faux-English Village attracts tourists with shopping & dining. And, if you don’t have your own boat with you, it’s also a great place to rent a small craft or jet ski to enjoy the lake.
If you’d like to stay overnight, Lake Havasu City has an assortment of hotels. Likewise, you’ll find a good selection of restaurants. Shopping? On the way into town from the interstate, you’ll find an attractive outdoor mall and a huge Walmart Supercenter.
Still more fun! For complete information on Lake Havasu activities, shopping, dining, boating and lodging, please visit the official Lake Havasu tourism website.
Arizona is the ONLY place to see so much of the
Original Route 66
- Turnoff from I-40: Several exits, including Exits 1, 44, 48, 53, 121, 123 and 139, may be used to access stretches of old Route 66.
- Time & Distance: Variable, depending on how much of the original road you’d like to see.
Arizona has long stretches of roadway that were originally part of Route 66 but were eliminated from the plans when Interstate 40 was developed (in the interest of streamlining the route.) You can travel over some of these original segments…which now live on as AZ State Route 66 and County Hwy 10. These segments are for those with reliable vehicles and strong bladders, since services are scarce in comparison to the interstate. For a good description of the Route 66 segments you can follow, you’ll want to check out the Historic66.com website. Along the way, you may see Peach Springs (inspiration for the town of Radiator Springs in the Disney animated move “Cars,”) and the Grand Canyon Caverns, website www.GCCaverns.com You may also enjoy the interesting Powerhouse Route 66 Museum in the city of Kingman…which was also one of the original cities through which Route 66 ran. Fortunately, Kingman has grown, and has now become a major tourist stop for Interstate 40 travelers.
Driving to Las Vegas from I-40:
Hoover Dam and Las Vegas, NV
In the slide show above, you’re viewing
pictures of Arizona’s & Nevada’s Hoover Dam. Aside from providing much-needed electrical power, the Hoover Dam is a popular tourist attraction with visitors from all around the world!
- Distance from I-40: about 100 miles to Las Vegas; 75 mi to Hoover Dam
- Time from I-40: appx. 1 hr 40 min to Vegas via bypass bridge; 1 hr to Hoover Dam turnoff before bypass bridge
- Turnoff from I-40: Exit 48 in Kingman, Arizona
Driving to Las Vegas, NV…along with touring the Hoover Dam at the Arizona/Nevada state line…can make for an interesting side trip from Interstate 40. Travelers heading on to Southern California don’t even need to return to I-40 at Kingman. Instead, they may reach Los Angeles by taking I-15 south from Las Vegas.
US 93 going northwest to Las Vegas has few services. There are a very few small gas stations along the way, but for the best prices and restrooms, it makes sense to fill up in Kingman…and grab a meal or a snack, as well. Before leaving Kingman, you may wish to view the interesting Route 66 museum there (which is just south of the interstate…also at Exit 48.)
Will you be visiting Hoover Dam? Viewing Lake Mead from roadside observation areas and passing by the dam structures is available 24 hours. There is also a good visitor’s center that’s open from 9 am to 5 pm. To get current info about taking a tour of the facilities—which is very popular, by the way—here’s a link to the Hoover Dam website. Also, you can see our pictures of Hoover Dam, the visitor’s center and high points of the tour on our Las Vegas Activities page, if you’d like.
There is now a dam-bypass bridge soaring high over the Colorado River that many travelers choose to take. Should you? If you don’t live here in this part of the country, you will most likely enjoy viewing Lake Mead and driving over the top of the Hoover Dam on the “old road”, instead. Visitors should note that you can NOT see the dam from the bypass bridge (because its safety walls are built too tall for you to view over them.)
If you’re in a hurry to get to Las Vegas, on the other hand, then DO take the bypass bridge. The drive over Hoover Dam will always take longer because you’ll face low speed limits, tourist traffic & pedestrians…and, of course, you’ll want to spend some time at one of the overlook areas to take in the view. Generally speaking, we find that it’s at least 25 minutes longer to drive by the dam on the old road…and even longer if you take more than a quick glimpse of the dam and Lake Mead.
Map: Here’s a Google map to Las Vegas from I-40 along US 93 (via the Hoover Dam.)
From I-40, you can easily plan a fun
Grand Canyon road trip!
- Distance from I-40: about 58 miles
- Time from I-40: appx. 75 to 90 minutes
- Turnoff from I-40: Exit 163 in Williams, Arizona
View Larger Map
To your right, you can see a Google map showing the route from Williams, AZ to the Grand Canyon…or, here’s a link to an even larger Google map to the Grand Canyon along AZ Route 64. This road is a straight-shot to the Grand Canyon (and related attractions in the little town of Tusayan, AZ.) However, like any 2-lane road, you’re subject to the speed of the drivers ahead of you and the amount of total traffic (which determines how easy it is to pass.) Services along the road are few, so it’s a good idea to gas up & get a snack before leaving Williams.
Hotels at the Grand Canyon are few. Nearly every single day during the busy summer season ALL hotel/motel rooms at the Grand Canyon and in the nearby town of Tusayan are booked-up in advance. (Same with camping spaces at the Grand Canyon.) You will not be able to stay overnight there unless you have a reservation, and it’s foolish to pin your hopes on grabbing one of the rare cancellations. It’s even a wise idea to have advance reservations for hotels in Williams during the summertime. Budget travelers and last-minute tourists will find it easier and cheaper to stay in Flagstaff…which is nearby, but has quite a few more motels and hotels.
For more details about the fun you can have at the Grand Canyon, please visit the following pages of our site, which examine different Grand Canyon topics in detail:
1.) Interstate 40 Road Trip Planner, featuring not only the Grand Canyon, but also other I-40 attractions in Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma
2.) Grand Canyon with Kids, detailing activities at & near the Grand Canyon for the young & the young-at-heart
3.) Driving to the Grand Canyon, which offers route information…whether you’re traveling from afar, or just want to know the best way to get from Flagstaff to the national park.
4.) Grand Canyon Camping, a page with pictures and specific info about the national park’s developed campgrounds for tents and RV’s.
It’s not just the Gateway to the Grand Canyon anymore:
Williams, Arizona’s fun attractions for tourists!
- Distance from I-40: 0 miles
- Turnoffs from I-40: Exit 161, 163 and 165
Williams, Arizona may be the gateway to the Grand Canyon…but it has become a tourist attraction in its own right, as well! Although there are Grand Canyon visitors who are content with simply taking a peak of the famous gorge (and then leaving,) there are plenty of others who want to savor the entire Grand Canyon experience. With that in mind, a number of exciting options now exist that are based in Williams…where plenty of hotel beds, restaurant choices and hospitality workers make sure that the tourist’s wants and needs are well taken-care-of.
The Grand Canyon Railway, based in Williams, is one of the most popular Grand Canyon add-on attractions. This historic train was actually the usual way for visitors to see the Grand Canyon at one time…and the train has returned to popularity as the former excitement of automobile travel has become ho-hum. And, at Christmas every year, visitors from all over the Southwest make a beeline to ride the train’s family-oriented Polar Express winter holiday version. For schedules, prices and complete details, you’ll want to browse through the Grand Canyon Railway’s official website.
Families with kids won’t want to miss the Grand Canyon Deer Farm and/or “Bearizona,” both of which are popular animal attractions in Williams. The Deer Farm, just as its name implies, is a place where your kids can see, pet and feed deer and other tame animals. This is a place where you’re sure to get some adorable photos of your children…and may well be the highpoint of their trip. Bearizona is another can’t-miss attraction for animal-lovers. It’s a drive-through park where you’ll enjoy viewing big horn sheep, bison/buffalo, wolves, and other animals in addition to (of course) bears. Here are the Bearizona.com and the Deerfarm.com websites where you can get complete info about current hours and prices. And, with or without kids, the place you’ll want to visit if you’re an aerospace buff is the Williams unit of the multi-location Planes of Fame museum.
Williams is also the base for a number of different tours, including air & rafting trips through the Grand Canyon, along with jeep & horseback tours of the area’s handsome terrain. For a more detailed list of things to do in Williams, you may wish to view the official Williams, AZ tourism website, which will give you plenty more fun ideas.
NOTE: Please visit our Grand Canyon Activities for Kids page if you’d like to view our pictures of Bearizona and the Grand Canyon Deer Farm, and discover other activities near the Grand Canyon that kids & teens will enjoy.
Flagstaff, Arizona—Gateway to Northern Arizona fun
- Distance from I-40: 0 miles
- Turnoffs from I-40: Exit 195, 198 and 201
Flagstaff is yet another gateway to the Grand Canyon, and also to several other worlds of fun in Northern Arizona. Nestled atop a region filled with both natural and cultural wonders, you can encounter a surprising amount of different activities in the Flagstaff area. Flagstaff has its own separate roadway that heads to the Grand Canyon…and it’s generally less-traveled than the road from Williams. (Photo note: to your right, you’re viewing a photo of the attractive Flagstaff Mall featuring a lodge-like design.)
Flagstaff also sits in the middle of a large field of volcanoes, which are thankfully quite inactive…but the remains of their violent explosions can be found here. A lovely and very accessible lava floe can be found in the Flagstaff suburbs at the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Only about 15 minutes off the freeway (in good traffic,) you may stroll along a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and admire what LOOKS like freshly-laid lava (even though it’s really about 1,000 years old.) Open year-round, the black lava looks particularly stunning when seen against a glistening layer of white snow. Things get quite interesting at the park’s visitor’s center, where you learn that the Sunset Crater Volcano sits in the middle of a volcanic field numbering in the HUNDREDS of volcanoes! And that this locality was already settled when the volcano erupted & tales of the explosion live on in Native American lore; you can hear descriptions of the eruptions today from people who were living at the time! Here’s the Sunset Crater’s website where you can get the details for planning your excursion.
Just north of Sunset Crater, you may view well-preserved Native American ruins at the Wupatki National Monument. These are worth a stop, and if you’re interested in the subject, you’ll be glad to find such an outstanding example of pueblo ruins so close to a major interstate. Here’s the Wupatki NM website which can explain the different ruins you may see on your visit. Head first by car to the visitor’s center for an overview (and see the largest ruins, which are directly behind it.) Flagstaff has more than one major ruins site, however. Southeast from Flagstaff, you’ll find the Walnut Canyon National Monument. More outstanding examples of Native American ruins are found at this location. Not all of the ruins are wheelchair or stroller accessible (or accessible to anyone challenged with climbing stairs; there are 240 of them, and the elevation is 7,000 feet here!) But if you’re not able to view them, you WILL be able to enjoy the visitor’s interesting interpretive exhibits. For your convenience, here’s the Walnut Creek NM website
Route 66-lovers, history buffs and dining/nightlife fans will all enjoy downtown Flagstaff. Historic buildings predating the Route 66 heyday can be found & appreciated here, but at the same time cute stores & interesting restaurants and nightlife (catering to the town’s college students as well as tourists) make for part of downtown Flagstaff’s charm, too. Route 66 enthusiasts can head for downtown along the old highway & see vintage motel buildings along the way. Anyone spending time in Flagstaff will want to visit the historic train station downtown…which now serves as a tourist information center. Flagstaff official tourism website order a tourist guide…or discover still MORE Flagstaff fun (which includes active outdoor sports such as skiing, hiking, fishing and golf.)
Flagstaff is also known for its skiing and other outdoor recreational activities. If you’re interested in taking a hike, hitting the slopes, sledding or other active excursion, here’s the Winter Recreation page of the Flagstaff tourism website which will fill you in on the wealth of sports opportunities that the Flagstaff region offers its guests.
Adventuring south from Flagstaff:
Sedona and Camp Verde, AZ fun
In the slide show above, you’re viewing pictures of
Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, Slide Rock State Park, Out of Africa zoological park, and the Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, AZ. If this slide show has stopped by the time you reach here, then refreshing the page should start it up again.
Flagstaff is also the gateway to Sedona, an upscale travel destination known for its outstanding red rock formations. Known for pricey inns, new age spas, and its “energy vortex” locations which believers find healthful and restorative, seeing the high-end side of Sedona isn’t something that all travelers can afford. Yet, there’s also an affordable side to the Sedona area. Budget-minded vacationers may enjoy camping in the lovely Oak Creek Canyon, reached by taking AZ 89A southwards from Flagstaff. There are 3 beautiful Coconino National Forest campgrounds here, plus picnic-only areas for day-trippers. Another affordable attraction near Sedona is
Slide Rock State Park, also in Oak Creek Canyon. You can explore historical exhibits and enjoy the scenery here, but most people visit Slide Rock to enjoy swimming in the river and sliding along on the slippery rocks which gave the park its name! For your convenience, here are the Slide Rock SP website, the Sedona official tourism website, and information about
camping in Sedona’s Oak Creek Canyon.
Jeep and air tours of Sedona’s back country are very popular with tourists. However, they can also set back one’s budget by a hefty amount. There are quite a few jeep touring companies (compared to the size of this little town,) and thus plenty of competition among them. Before you book your tour (or cut out the idea of such a tour altogether because of the expense!) be sure to check www.Groupon.com. Put “Sedona” into the website’s search box, and the results should turn up a number of touring companies who are currently offering a Groupon discount. Sometimes the price is slashed by a considerable amount…so it’s worth giving it a try, if this type of activity interests you.
Camp Verde, south of Sedona along I-17 is another tourist-oriented town in northern Arizona. Here’s where you’ll find the popular Out of Africa wildlife park where you can see a variety of animals native to the African continent. Though the animal compounds are large, you’ll board trams to take tours through the park where you’ll get up-close views. You can even feed some of the tame species (such as the giraffes!) Here’s the Out of Africa website where you can get hours, prices, and even a discount coupon for their attraction.
Heading east on AZ Rt 260 from Out of Africa you can also reach the old mining town of Jerome, Arizona which reeks of old-West history…and charming shops, hotels & restaurants. And, in Cottonwood, AZ you can enjoy the Indian ruins at Tuzigoot National Monument…or take it easy at the attractive Dead Horse Ranch State Park, featuring camping, hiking and a lake. Here’s a link to the Jerome official tourism website along with the Cottonwood tourism website and the Tuzigoot NM website…and the Dead Horse Ranch SP website, too, for good measure!
But if you head north from Flagstaff, you can see
Arizona’s spectacular Monument Valley!
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Monument Valley’s stunning rock formations are famous world-wide for their beauty…and for the intriguing way nature’s forces have shaped the landscape here. Though Monument Valley is off the beaten path, thousands of tourists make their way to this treasure each year to enjoy the spectacle. You may enjoy viewing the rock formations free-of-charge simply by driving through the Navajo Nation along US Hwy 160. Once you reach the Arizona-Utah border, you may not wish to stop nor turn around, as you’ll find still MORE amazing natural displays in Utah…including the famous Mexican Hat rock. Although ANY time of day is a good time to visit, the afternoon sunlight makes the red rock formations of Monument Valley and southern Utah absolutely dazzle. The Google map to your right shows the route to Mexican Hat, Utah from Flagstaff, AZ…right through the middle of Monument Valley. You may also wish to view our
Utah National Parks Vacation page for further information on the jaw-dropping natural wonders on the Utah side of the AZ-UT border.
The Navajo Tribal Park offers you a way to linger longer amidst the natural wonders in northwestern Arizona. Visiting this park requires a detour off of US 160 plus a small fee, but you’ll view rock formations that can’t be seen from the main road as well as a visitor’s center with interpretive exhibits and rangers who can answer your questions personally. Off-road tours are also available. Here’s the Navajo Nation Parks website where you’ll find complete information.
Another interesting spot you may visit from Monument Valley is the Four Corners Tribal Park. A monument here marks the only spot in the USA where you can stand in 4 states…all at the same time! The road to Four Corners, alas, isn’t the same road where you’ll view all the interesting rock formations. Yet, visiting here can be a memorable experience, nevertheless. For more information and directions, here’s the Four Corners info page of Arizona’s official tourist website.
Visitors to the Northwestern Arizona attractions often dine or stay in Kayenta, AZ, which is the largest town in the area. This is where you’ll find the best selection of hotels, restaurants, fast food and gas stations. This is quite a small town, however. If you plan to stay here, you need to find a hotel and book early. Otherwise, you may find yourself scrambling for alternatives!
Find family fun in nearby Las Vegas: Las Vegas family fun:: Things to do with Kids in Las Vegas :: Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum :: Stratosphere Tower Rides :: IMAX Movies :: Adventuredome & Las Vegas Zoo :: Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden :: Dolphin Habitat & Shark Reef :: Hoover Dam & Ethel M Candy tours :: Las Vegas Camping :: Las Vegas Malls & Shopping :: Las Vegas Halloween: Fright Dome :: Springs Preserve Haunted Harvest :: Christmas: Las Vegas Christmas Lights
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