Hit the Road: 10 Summer Art Trips Around Arizona

Check out this mural painted by Fin Dac near Etherton Gallery in Tucson.
Check out this mural painted by Fin Dac near Etherton Gallery in Tucson. Lynn Trimble

click to enlarge Check out this mural painted by Fin Dac near Etherton Gallery in Tucson. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Check out this mural painted by Fin Dac near Etherton Gallery in Tucson.
Lynn Trimble

If you’re only seeing art on First Friday in downtown Phoenix, you’re not doing it right. The state is filled with art experiences, from exhibits to festivals, and summer is a great time to give them a try. We’ve found 10 places you can spread your wings while you explore art, music, nature, and other creative pursuits. Crank the car stereo, and get started. There's only so much summer left to enjoy.

Feeling Zen


Years ago, developers demolished a Roosevelt Row building where Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia had painted two murals. But you can still see his work at DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, located at 6300 North Swan Road in Tucson. It’s on a 10-acre site where you can also see several funky buildings where the artist worked or played.

Then head into downtown and make your way to Etherton Gallery at 135 South Sixth Avenue, where the summer exhibition features a fascinating array of Grand Canyon photos. Wander around town scouting murals if you have more time, and check out the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson. Or, take in the Tucson Botanical Gardens, complete with art gallery, at 2150 North Alvernon Way. Highlights include the Zen and xeriscape gardens.

Old Times


When you start to fantasize about living a simple life free from technology, it’s time to hit Prescott, which is home to the original territorial governor’s mansion built in 1864 and the state’s oldest log cabin. Touring the Sharlot Hall Museum, located at 415 West Gurley Street, will remind you that cellphones, ice, and ceiling fans are marvelous things. Take note, wine connoisseurs: Sharlot's Wine Fest happens on August 17.

You can fit in a good nature walk at the Highlands Center for Natural History, at 1375 South Walker Road. Then make your way to historic downtown Prescott to see what’s happening at Courthouse Plaza, and kick around Whiskey Row, where you’ll find places to shop and dine amid Old West charm.

click to enlarge One of the Grover geologic rover training vehicles used back in the 1970s for Apollo astronaut training in the lobby of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
One of the Grover geologic rover training vehicles used back in the 1970s for Apollo astronaut training in the lobby of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff.
Benjamin Leatherman

Moon Shot


If the recent Apollo 11 anniversary left you with stars in your eyes, make the trip to Lowell Observatory, located at 1400 West Mars Hill Road in Flagstaff. You’ll learn how astronauts trained in the desert and Pluto was discovered. Or you can try solar viewing by day and telescope stargazing by night. You can learn more about Arizona ties to space exploration at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center at 2255 North Gemini Drive, but you should call ahead to make an appointment.

If you need more time with nature, head to The Arboretum at Flagstaff, where the “Botanical Blacksmiths” exhibit features metal, glass, and fiber art installed throughout the garden. It's located at 4001 South Woody Mountain Road. Leave some time for the heart of historic downtown, where you can take in an outdoor concert or film at Heritage Square. It’s near the Orpheum Theater at 15 West Aspen Avenue, where the artist who did the Trump billboard on Grand Avenue has a unity-themed mural. If you’re there during the first weekend in August, check out the big annual book sale at the downtown library.

Art Collective


If you remember The Firehouse, a Roosevelt Row arts and music venue that lost its lease to new development, check out what the creatives who used to run it are up to now. They’ve got an arts space called Miami Art Works at 509 West Sullivan Street, where you can see work by several local artists.

Another must-see is Besh-Ba-Gowah Archeological Park and Museum at 324 West Jesse Hayes Road in Globe, where you can explore ruins of the ancient Salado people and explore the site’s botanical gardens. Leave some time for shopping at the Pickle Barrel Trading Post and other local spots, and selfies along the scenic drive through canyon and mountain territory.

click to enlarge The wine industry has revitalized the Verde Valley. - COTTONWOOD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The wine industry has revitalized the Verde Valley.
Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce

Wine and Mine

Jerome/Verde Valley

Jerome is renowned for its local arts scene, which includes the Jerome Art Walk the first Saturday of the month. But its historical significance as a hub of copper mining is worth exploring, too. Head to Audrey Shaft Headframe Park at 55 Douglas Road to stand atop glass covering a 1,900-foot wooden shaft that’s over 100 years old. Or, visit the Douglas Mansion built in 1916 to see how the other half used to live. It’s in the Jerome State Historic Park.

Art pairs well with wine, so spend indulge in a bit of tasting time as well. Start with Caduceus Cellars, located at 158 Main Street, which is owned by Maynard James Keenan of the rock band Tool. Or sip your way through the Verde Valley Wine Trail using an easy-to-follow online map. The trail includes several wineries in Jerome, Cottonwood, and Sedona.



Try a bit of bird-watching at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, where there are more than 250 species of birds that will be looking right back at you. Located at 37615 U.S. Highway 60, the arboretum established by a mining magnate during the 1920s boasts more than 1,000 acres.

The arboretum is also home to several hiking trails, where you can spend some time under the big sky and go home with some terrific selfies. Check out the local arts and music scene as well, which includes exhibits and Music in the Park gatherings in downtown Superior during Second Friday art walks.

Plein Air

Grand Canyon

If your first Grand Canyon adventure was all about peering across the vast canyon expanse, it might be time to head back for some other outdoor adventures. This is the 100-year anniversary for the state’s best-known tourist attraction, so there’s an especially robust lineup of activities happening in the region.

Clear your mind by hiking and camping, but don’t forget about arts and culture. This year’s Grand Canyon Celebration of Art, when artists paint en plein air (outdoors) along the rim, happens from September 7 to 15. Participating artists will include Ed Mell and Erin Hanson, and all the artworks will be part of an exhibition and sale at the historic Kolb Studio on the South Rim, with proceeds going toward creating a new Grand Canyon arts venue.

Vortex Vibes


You’ll have to wait until fall if you want to watch the leaves change in Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon, but the vortexes famed for creating good energy are always there, as are the Pink Jeep tours that take you through some beautiful terrain.

It’s also fun to just kick around town, exploring farmers markets and New Age boutiques as you find them. Check out the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village at 336 State Route 179 if you want to explore charming shops and galleries in one central location. Once a month, art venues come together for Sedona’s First Friday in the Galleries art walk.

Look Ahead


Let your imagination run free at Biosphere 2, a research facility operated by the University of Arizona, where you can spend time with a beach and rainforest created to help scientists envision the ways people and the planet Earth can stay on good terms for the long haul. It's located at 32540 South Biosphere Road.

Head to Triangle L Ranch at 2805 North Triangle Ranch Road if you want to get in some arts time. The artist-owned ranch has a beautiful adobe barn gallery that’s open to the public on Saturdays, plus a six-acre sculpture garden. The annual GLOW event featuring light-based immersive art installations kicks off with a mythological theme on September 14, just as summer fades into fall.

Go Deep


Benson is home to Kartchner Caverns State Park at 2980 AZ-90, where geological formations have been taking shape for tens of thousands of years. Sign up for the tour if you want to marvel at massive stalactites formed by mineral deposits anchored to the ceiling of the cave, and stalagmites that rise up from the floor of the cave. The longest stalactite measures more than 21 feet long. The Discovery Center, which highlights information and artifacts tracing the development of human and other animal life in the area, is also worth a visit.

Consider timing your tip to coincide with the Benson Lantern Festival happening on September 7. If you don’t mind wandering off the beaten path, make the pilgrimage to Singing Wind Bookshop, located on a working cattle ranch at 700 West Singing Wind Road. It’s a fun place to poke around, but best enjoyed by those who like to discover new titles by serendipity. 
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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble