Arizona Travel Guide for Travel Nurses
By E’Louise Ondash, RN, contributor
Ready to escape the early winter, or simply looking for a great place to start your next travel nursing assignment? Either way, Arizona may be the answer. The state boasts a number of extraordinary things to see and do year-round.
When most people think of Arizona they automatically think desert, but this Southwest state is so much more. Arizona is red-rock canyons, snow-covered mountains, spectacular rivers, historic towns, eclectic artist enclaves and vibrant cities with plenty of culture and outdoor adventure within their borders.
And of course, there is the Grand Canyon. No one should pass up an opportunity to see this natural wonder, whether from an observation point, by helicopter or up close on one of its many trails. But there are many less-well-known treasures that can be fully explored during a day off or a weekend getaway. Here are a few:
Phoenix metro area:
• Desert Botanical Garden – It began as an effort to preserve rare plants and flowers of the desert. Today the garden is a spectacular showplace for desert flora of all kinds, always with an abundant crop of flowering cacti in the spring. Bonus: several large and permanent glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly.
Exploring Phoenix, Arizona
• Heard Museum - Few museums match this collection of Native American Art. It features world-class permanent and rotating exhibits, as well as festivals that celebrate American Indian culture.
• City parks – Check out South Mountain Park and Preserve (16,000 acres and 51 miles of trails) in south-central Phoenix, and McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale. It’s hard to believe that these are city parks, what with the excellent hiking trails, expansive acreage and panoramic views.
• Tempe Town Lake – This amazing man-made body of water was originally created with an inflated rubber dam on the Salt River to control flooding. A new steel-gate dam opens December 2015. The surrounding acres make a beautiful, much-used urban play space featuring a sidewalk encircling the lake, a futuristic bridge and many sculptures. About 150,000 people attend the annual Four Peaks Oktoberfest held here the second week of October.
North of Phoenix
• Arcosanti – About an hour’s drive north of Phoenix, this experimental desert community at 3,700 feet was built largely by 7,000 volunteers working since 1970. It has a history of bumps and starts, but it is still worth seeing this “urban laboratory” whose inhabitants are focused on making Arcosanti an environmentally self-sustaining city.
• Sedona – Whether you believe in the mystical vortex or not, the town of Sedona, two hours north of Phoenix at 4,000 feet, is a worthy destination. It sits within an “other-worldly” landscape of red-rock canyons and monuments, has a wealth of boutiques and art galleries, and offers picture-postcard trails nearby. Sedona is just 30 miles from Flagstaff, which boasts fresh mountain air and a wealth of natural beauty at 7,000 feet elevation.
Arizona Wine Country – Yes, there really is such a thing, about two-and-a-half hours southeast of Phoenix where the desert rises to about 5,000 feet. What appears to be a rocky, inhospitable landscape is a grapevine's paradise. Wineries are small and family-owned, and tasting rooms are unpretentious. Best times to visit are from November to April.
Underground Arizona (Southeast)
• The Titan Missile Museum – Learn about the Cold War and descend into a Titan II missile silo. Green Valley.
• Kartchner Caverns – Discovered in 1974 and open only since the 1990s, these caverns are a wonderland of unique mineral formations. Well-versed tour guides direct small groups on 90-minute tours.
• Queen Mine (Bisbee) – Don a hard hat, miner’s headlamp and a yellow slicker and you’re ready to head 1,500 feet into the once-prosperous Copper Queen Mine. Tours are led by former miners. Stay at the historic and colorful Copper Queen Hotel, just a block away.
Tucson Metro Area:
Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tuscon, Arizona
• Mission San Xavier del Bac – A National Historic Landmark, the mission is one of the oldest in the country. Founded in 1692, the current church was built in 1783 when southern Arizona was part of New Spain. The glowing white edifice stands as a magnificent monument to Arizona history. It is a working parish.
• Tubac – This small but vibrant artist colony on Interstate 19, south of Tucson, features more than 100 shops and colorful galleries and unique street signs at every turn. Visitors will also find great golfing. Take the scenic four-mile hike from Tubac Presidio State Historic Park to Tumacacori National Historic Park.
Looking for a travel nurse assignment in Arizona, or another specific location? Request a call from our partner travel nursing agencies and get on the road to your next adventure.
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