Happy 100th birthday, Arizona

Colorado River runs through the Grand Canyon

Colorado River runs through the Grand Canyon

For Arizonans, February 14, 2012 is more than just Valentine’s Day. On that date 100 years ago, President William Howard Taft proclaimed Arizona the 48th state in the Union. This centennial year promises to be a great time to visit the Grand Canyon State; in fact Arizona celebrated throughout 2011 leading up to the big day.

The Centennial  reminisces about milestones in Arizona’s history as well as the people who shaped its destiny. From ancestral Pueblo and Hobokam peoples who left early marks on the landscape, through the Spanish Conquistadors from Mexico, to pioneers who developed agriculture and mining industries, Arizona has a rich legacy from many cultures.

On February 14, numerous communities, libraries, and schools will host birthday parties for their beloved state. Courthouses and churches across the state will ring their bells at 2:14 p.m., and fireworks will light up the skies of many communities at 7:12 p.m. to commemorate admission to statehood.

As a visitor to Arizona you may be amazed at the diversity of landscape. The geography encompasses many major climate zones and includes desert, pine forests, mountains, and the geologic marvel of the Grand Canyon. It’s a desination that typifies what we think of as the Southwest region of the country. If you plan to visit Arizona soon, here are some highlights to put on your itinerary:

Native American Culture—December Pueblo Grande Museum Indian Market near Phoenix; Southwest Indian Art Fair at Arizona State University in February; Mohave Museum of History and Arts in Kingman; Montezuma Castle National Monument with preserved cliff dwellings and rock art at Coconino National Forest Heritage Sites near Sedona.

Map of famous Route 66

Map of famous Route 66

Route 66—Travel across Arizona for kicks, taking in the longest continuous stretch of the legendary highway as well as dramatic scenery of the Colorado River and the once-desolate desert. Stop at the Route 66 Museum at Kingman.

London Bridge—The failing structure of nursery-song fame was moved from London to a desert area near Lake Havasu City, reconstructed over dry land and now serves as a path over the man-made lake (as well as a tourist attraction). A related attraction: a series of working, reduced-scale lighthouses line the lake.  Water activities, history

London Bridge at Lake Havasu

and scenic mountains in the background attract visitors.

Grand Canyon—This magnificent natural wonder needs no explanation, except to say that it must be on everyone’s bucket list. You can take a helicopter ride over the canyon, venture out 4,000 feet above the canyon floor on the Grand Canyon Skywalk owned by the Hualapai tribe, tour and hike along the popular South Rim, or choose a rafting and camping adventure on the Colorado River deep at the bottom of the canyon.

More to do—Go antiques shopping in Prescott, tour wineries around Sedona, enjoy water sports at Lake Havasu, search for bald eagles from December to March, learn about mining history at Jerome, visit Desert Botanical Garden near Phoenix, hike and fish in the White Mountains; go birding in southeastern Arizona; reconnect with nature at the Phoenix Zoo; take in a rodeo, hot air balloon ride, or a craft fair. Many state parks provide a plethora of experiences such as hiking in cactus-lined Catalina State Park in Tucson, exploring underground at Kartchner Caverns State Park at Benson, and getting outdoors at Slide Rock State Park near Sedona.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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