Arizona is a big place. It’s totally possible to head to Rhode Island and just drive around and see what you see. You can likewise cruise up and down the coast of California and take in whatever sites you land upon, and the same goes for New Jersey and D.C.

But in Arizona, if you don’t have a plan, you’re going to wind up burning up a lot of miles, getting lost along the state’s vast highway system and generally just making a beeline from gas station to gas station until it’s time to head back home. You’ve got to have a plan, you can’t expect to simply stumble upon any great discoveries in the enormous expanses of the great Southwest. Make sure pay attention to the traffic laws. If you violate one, you may have to take an AZ defensive driving course to stop the points from going on your record. Here are the must-see spots on your trip through the American desert:

The Grand Canyon

This one is obvious, of course. What is there to say about the Grand Canyon? There are no words to do it justice, you simply have to go and see it for yourself once in your life. It’s an American rite of passage.

Montezuma Castle

The Montezuma Castle National Monument dates back to the 1100’s, when the Sinagua people carved their homes into the sides of cliffs. The Montezuma Castle overlooks Beaver Creek and will take you back to a time that feels somewhat strange and magical. The castle was here before any white people were, and it stands as an amazing, surreal piece of architecture in the desert landscape.
You can find Montezuma Castle on Montezuma Rd. in Camp Verde, AZ.

Meteor Crater

The ancient meteor crater, about thirty-seven miles east of Flagstaff and eighteen miles west of Winslow, features, as you’d expect, an enormous crater produced by an ancient meteor impact. There is a visitor center and a museum. Unfortunately, they don’t let you walk the rim of the crater, but it is nevertheless an amazing thing to see.

Desert Botanical Garden

The Southwest is beautiful, but it gets to be a little repetitive with its reds and browns and oranges. After a while, you want to see a little more green and yellow and purple, all those beautiful colors you get to enjoy in the more humid states where flowers and fruit grow like weeds. The Desert Botanical Garden can be found at 1201 N Galvin Parkway in Phoenix, and they offer a beautiful splash of color in the desert. Native flora like yucca and cacti are on display, along with colorful flowers of all colors. A nice change of pace from the typical scenery you get in Arizona.

Old Tucson Studios

If you’re a movie buff, don’t leave Arizona without visiting the Old Tucson Studios at 201 Kinney Road in Tucson. A landmark in the history of the Western film genre, the studios are now a Western-themed movie park, showcasing vintage cars and movie sets, with attractions like a haunted mine walk, a carriage ride, and a train for getting around the premises. The Old Tucson Studios will take you back in time to the glory day of the American western film.

Arizona is one of the greatest places in the world to stage your own adventure. The grand scenery, the history and culture of the land, the unique flora and fauna all make for an experience you can’t get anywhere else. It is distinctively Southwestern, and distinctively American. A journey through the Southwestern desert is simply the best road trip that the country has to offer.