So many people are intrigued by the desert. I can understand. It is a completely different land than most folks in the country ever see. So, how do you come and visit the state without ending up like something out of "Hills Have Eyes?"
First, let me tell you a little about AZ. The most surprising thing is that 70% of AZ is owned by the government, i.e. military, state parks, historic sites, and Reservations. So, we can only live on the other portion of the state. When you drive through AZ to go north or south, east or west from the major cities, you are going to be driving through some very barren country with no signs of humans. It is gorgeous, picturesque and majestic. You can literally see 180 degrees of sky and see mountains 50 miles away. So, don't be surprised how unusual it feels. It's not just the desert, sand, scrub brush and our famous saguaro cacti, but the mountains in much of the state are naked rock that turns blue and purple depending on the sunlight. There is also a huge swath of green in AZ up north in Flagstaff to the White Mountains and parts of Tucson. In fact, Flagstaff is much colder with much more snow than where I grew up in the DC area. So, variety is huge in this state.
So, where do you go if you want to visit? Depends on your interests. I'll try to give you a region so you don't have to travel the whole state to see it all, but get what you want out of one region.
Resorts/pampering/golfing/fine dining/shopping: Paradise Valley and Scottsdale.
History of the Old West: Tombstone, Bisbee. These two towns are just a few miles apart and both love their tourists. Tombstone is ideal if you want to do the total campy Old West stuff, riding in a stagecoach, mine tours, pictures in costumes, saloons, people in reenactment costumes. Bisbee is wonderful for antique shopping, mine tours, and cozy B&Bs. On your way down by car from Sky Harbor Airport, consider stopping at "Rawhide" a reenactment town on the way to Tucson. Old Tucson has some great old west atmosphere too. After going through Tucson, you head on towards Tombstone and then Bisbee. You will see amazing desert and beautiful sights.
National Parks: Head north! Stop at Montezuma's Castle. This Indian site in the hillside is truly breathtaking. Stop in Sedona for the most amazing sight anything a citizen could ever see. It's filled with New Age shops, UFO tours, soft Spanish guitar music, and margaritas. Hike around the energy vortexes. Stay in a creekside cabin. Keep heading north to Flagstaff and you have two courses you can go: a. Go to Williams and take the train to the Grand Canyon or b. Go east and check out Meteor Crater and the Petrified Forest.
That's just a bit of the state. There's so freaking much to do here that I've been here pretty much since 77 and have not run out of new finds!