Arizona’s 5 best budget-friendly vacation spots, according to readers

The waterfall at Lake Havasu at sunset. Our readers named Lake Havasu one of the best budget-friendly vacations in Arizona.

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By Stacy Rounds

May 28, 2024

Are you dreaming of a budget-friendly vacation that won’t break the bank? From stunning red rock landscapes to historic mining towns, Arizona has something for every budget-conscious traveler. In this guide, we’ll explore the top five budget-friendly vacation spots in Arizona that were chosen by locals in the know in our recent readers’ poll. Get ready to discover the magic of the Grand Canyon State!

A view of the lake at sunset.

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5. Prescott

Prescott, affectionately dubbed “Arizona’s vintage Instagram filter,” gracefully straddles the line between its illustrious past and the present, making it an irresistible draw for budget-conscious wanderers. Here, the streets are a live-action scrapbook of the Old West, lined with perfectly preserved Victorian buildings that serve as a picturesque backdrop.

Strolling through Prescott’s historic downtown, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped onto the set of a Western movie, but with all the conveniences of the 21st century. The city square, framed by whimsical boutiques and cafes, invites you to linger over a cup of coffee as you plan your treasure hunt at the local antique shops.

For a dose of history that feels anything but textbook, the Sharlot Hall Museum is a go-to. This open-air museum offers a glimpse into the lives of Prescott’s early days. With historical reenactments and artifacts, the museum provides an educational experience that feels more like time travel than a history lesson.

The city is surrounded by the Prescott National Forest. Hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails wind through captivating views of the great outdoors. Nature doesn’t charge for admission, making it the perfect playground for those on a budget.

As the sun dips below the horizon, Prescott’s modern side comes alive. The city’s arts and culture scene features galleries, theaters, and live music venues offering nightly entertainment. Whether you’re in the mood for a classical concert or a contemporary art exhibit, or just want to jam out to local bands, Prescott’s cultural offerings are diverse and mostly affordable.

And when it comes to bedding down for the night, Prescott offers a cozy array of accommodations from charming bed-and-breakfasts to boutique hotels, finding a place to lay your head is as easy as pie.

A view of Petrified Forest National Park.

Photo by Kamchatka

4. Petrified Forest National Park

For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Petrified Forest National Park is where you can touch the remains of ancient history. The ancient trees turned to stone through the alchemy of minerals, time, and pressure. Some of the petrified logs sparkle with quartz and amethyst, making each piece a unique sculpture that tells a story millions of years old. And you’ll be pleased to know that this experience costs only the park’s modest entry fee.

The Petrified Forest is a journey of geological marvels and panoramic views that stretch to the horizon. From the Painted Desert’s palette of reds, oranges, and purples to the Blue Mesa’s surreal landscapes, the park offers a feast for the senses. Plus, the park’s backcountry hikes invite you to play amateur paleontologist, exploring untouched areas where fossils have been discovered.

For those who love a good story, The Rainbow Forest Museum is a great place to check out cool fossils and learn about the ancient ecosystems that flourished here, the creatures that roamed this land, and how those gorgeous petrified logs came to be.

So, whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or just someone who appreciates a new adventure into the ancient past, Petrified Forest National Park offers an enriching budget-friendly experience.

An view of the Grand Canyon from above, at sunrise.

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3. Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon National Park is on a lot of people’s bucket lists, and we know why. Imagine standing on the edge of eternity, peering into a colorful masterpiece below. Overlooks like Mather Point and Yavapai Point offer breathtaking panoramas. The park offers trails that descend into the canyon for those looking for a challenge and a closer look at the geological layers that tell the tale of Earth’s past.

Outdoor adventurers and fun-seekers on a shoestring budget: camping options are plentiful. Pitch your tent and fall asleep under a blanket of stars in one of the most incredible settings on the planet. It’s as affordable as it is unforgettable. And for those who don’t enjoy camping out, The Grand Canyon is surrounded by gateway towns like Flagstaff and Williams, where day-trippers can find budget-friendly accommodations and still journey to the park with ease. Plus, these towns add a dash of local charm and history to your adventure.

For families, the park doesn’t skimp on education. Ranger-led programs offer insights into the canyon’s geology, ecology, and history, turning your visit into a moving classroom with the most spectacular backdrop imaginable. These programs are part of your admission, making it a no-brainer for the budget-conscious traveler.

The streets of Bisbee at night.

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2. Bisbee

This southern Arizona jewel is your go-to destination for a journey back to the days of the Wild West. With its hilly streets and Victorian-era facades, you can step into a world where history and hipster vibes meet. The Queen Mine awaits adventurers willing to plop on a hard hat and explore the depths where miners once sought their fortunes. It’s an experience that promises the thrill of discovery without costing a fortune.

While Bisbee is a haven for history buffs, it’s also an enclave for modern wanderers and art lovers. Eclectic art galleries, quirky boutiques, and cozy bookshops can be found in every corner of town. You can snag a piece of local art, a rare vintage find, or maybe even a ghost story or two without the guilt of overspending.

Bisbee’s culinary scene offers rustic bakeries and funky cafes, offering mouthwatering meals at affordable prices. Local watering holes serve up craft beers and delightful cocktails, and after you can rest at one of Bisbee’s charming bed and breakfasts.

In Bisbee, the past is part of the daily life. This town offers a step back in time and a dance through history, culture, and art, all while keeping your purse strings comfortably intact. So lace up your walking shoes, grab your camera, and prepare for an adventure where the old world meets new.

A view of Cathedral Rock during the day.

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1. Sedona

If you thought your budget might snub the idea of a scenic vacation, Sedona is here to prove you delightfully wrong. It’s the kind of place where every hike is photo-worthy, and the best part? Mother Nature doesn’t charge admission.

Downtown Sedona is eccentric, full of character, and surprisingly affordable. Unique galleries and shops line the streets, where you can pick up everything from handcrafted jewelry to crystals (because, let’s face it, you’re in Sedona, and if you leave without a crystal, did you even go?). And when it’s time to elevate yourself (quite literally), the Chapel of the Holy Cross awaits. Perched among the red rocks, this architectural marvel offers marvelous views.

Oh, and if you’re fretting over the cost of cozying up for the night, don’t. Sedona has plenty of accommodation options that won’t require you to break open the piggy bank. From charming bed-and-breakfasts to campsites under a canopy of stars, there’s a spot for every budget to rest and recharge.

So, pack your bags (and maybe a crystal guidebook), and get ready to explore the mesmerizing red rock wonderland. Your wallet might just leave heavier with experiences and lighter with worries, proving Sedona to be the ultimate budget-friendly vacation.

READ MORE: The Tucson Food Guide

 

Author

  • Stacy Rounds

    Stacy Rounds is a writer and growth producer for Copper Courier. Prior to joining the team, Stacy has worked as a writer, editor, and engagement specialist covering topics ranging from local history, disability advocacy, recreation, and food hotspots to relationships and mental health.

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