History -- Marshall Trimble's Roadside History of Arizona is an ideal book to take along on a driving tour of the state. It goes road by road and discusses events that happened in the area. If you're interested in learning more about the infamous shootout at the O.K. Corral, read Paula Mitchell Marks's And Die in the West: The Story of the O.K. Corral Gunfight, an objective, non-Hollywood look at the most glorified and glamorized shootout in Western history.
The Grand Canyon & the Colorado River -- John Wesley Powell's diary produced the first published account (1869) of traveling through the Grand Canyon. Today, his writings still provide a fascinating glimpse into the canyon. Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons, with an introduction by Wallace Stegner, is a republishing of Powell's writings. Alternatively, read Stegner's Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West, an in-depth biography of Powell.
For an interesting account of the recent human history of the canyon, read Stephen J. Pyne's How the Canyon Became Grand. Colin Fletcher's The Man Who Walked Through Time is a narrative of one man's hike through the rugged inner canyon. In Down the River, Western environmentalist Edward Abbey chronicles many of his trips down the Colorado and other Southwest rivers. Grand Canyon: True Stories of Life Below the Rim (Travelers' Tales Guides) provides a wide range of perspectives on the Grand Canyon experience, with essays by Edward Abbey, Colin Fletcher, Barry Lopez, and many others. For a slightly macabre look at the canyon, read Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, by Thomas M. Myers and Michael P. Ghiglieri. As the title implies, this book looks at the many ways people have died in the Grand Canyon. For an equally offbeat read, pick up Sunk Without a Sound: The Tragic Colorado River Honeymoon of Glen and Bessie Hyde, by Brad Dimock. The book title says it all.
Water rights and human impact on the deserts of the Southwest raised many controversies in the 20th century. Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, by Marc Reisner, focuses on the West's insatiable need for water. A River No More: The Colorado River and the West, by Philip L. Fradkin, addresses the fate of the Colorado River.
Natural History & the Outdoors -- Anyone curious about the plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert should be sure to acquire A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert. Cacti, wildflowers, tarantulas, roadrunners -- they're all here and described in very readable detail. Halka Chronic's Roadside Geology of Arizona is another handy book to keep in the car, as is Geology Underfoot in Northern Arizona, by Lon Abbott and Terri Cook. If you're a hiker, you'll find Scott S. Warren's 100 Classic Hikes in Arizona to be an invaluable traveling companion.
Fiction -- Tony Hillerman's murder mysteries are almost all set on the Navajo Reservation in the Four Corners area of the state and include many references to locations you can visit on a vacation in the area. Among Hillerman's many Navajo mysteries are Skeleton Man, Sacred Clowns, A Thief of Time, and The Ghostway.
Author J. A. Jance sets many of her murder mysteries in southeast Arizona's Cochise County, where she grew up. The protagonist of the series is Sheriff Joanna Brady. Titles include Devil's Claw, Dead to Rights, Rattlesnake Crossing, Outlaw Mountain, and Tombstone Courage.
Barbara Kingsolver, a biologist and social activist, has set several of her novels either partly or entirely in Arizona. The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven, and Animal Dreams are peopled by Anglo, Indian, and Hispanic characters, allowing for quirky, humorous narratives with social and political overtones that provide insights into Arizona's cultural mélange. Kingsolver's nonfiction works include High Tide in Tucson and Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983. The former is a collection of essays, many of which focus on the author's life in Tucson, while the latter is an account of a copper-mine strike.
Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang and Hayduke Lives! are tales of an unlikely gang of eco-terrorists determined to preserve the wildernesses of the Southwest, including parts of northern Arizona.
Zane Grey spent many years living in north-central Arizona and based many of his Western novels on life in this region of the state. Among his books are Riders of the Purple Sage, The Vanishing American, Call of the Canyon, The Arizona Clan, and To the Last Man.
Travel -- If you're particularly interested in Native American art and crafts, you may want to seek out a copy of Trading Post Guidebook, by Patrick Eddington and Susan Makov. It's an invaluable guide to trading posts, artists' studios, galleries, and museums in the Four Corners region.
Spectacular landscapes, rugged deserts, ghost towns, and its cowboy mystique have, over the years, made Arizona the location for hundreds of films, from obscure B Westerns starring long-forgotten singing cowboys to the seminal works of John Ford. This state has become so associated with the Old West that fans come from halfway around the world to walk in the footsteps of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.
Production companies working on movies, television shows, and commercials have over the years traveled to every corner of Arizona to find just the right setting for their work. The state has represented the past, the present, and the future, and the state's landscape is so varied that it has doubled for Texas, Kansas, Mexico, foreign planets, a postapocalyptic earth, and even New York.
In 1939, a set was built in Tucson for the filming of the movie Arizona, and when the shooting was done, the set was left to be used in other productions. Today, this mock-Western town is known as Old Tucson Studios and is still used for film and video productions. Movies that have been filmed here include Tombstone; John Wayne's Rio Lobo, Rio Bravo, and El Dorado; Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales; Kirk Douglas's Gunfight at the O.K. Corral; and Paul Newman's The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean.
John Ford made the otherworldly landscape of Monument Valley a trademark of his filmmaking, using it as the backdrop for such movies as Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, My Darling Clementine, Rio Grande, and The Searchers. Other Westerns filmed here have included How the West Was Won, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, and Mackenna's Gold. The valley has also shown up in such non-Western films as Back to the Future III, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Thelma and Louise, and Forrest Gump.
The red rocks of Sedona have also attracted many filmmakers over the years. The original 1957 version of 3:10 to Yuma, The Riders of the Purple Sage, and The Call of the Canyon were all filmed in Sedona and nearby Oak Creek Canyon.
The area around the small town of Patagonia, in southeastern Arizona, has also served as a backdrop for quite a few films, including Oklahoma!, Red River, McClintock, Broken Lance, David and Bathsheba, and A Star Is Born. Television programs such as Little House on the Prairie, The Young Riders, and Red Badge of Courage have been filmed in this part of southern Arizona, too.
In 1987, the Coen Brothers produced one of the most offbeat films to have been shot in Arizona. Raising Arizona, starring Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, and Frances McDormand, is a bizarre story of a childless couple who kidnap a baby. Other offbeat and non-Western films that have been filmed in the state include Broken Arrow (starring John Travolta), Nurse Betty (starring Morgan Freeman and Renée Zellweger), Days of Thunder (starring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and Robert Duvall), Traffic (starring Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones), and, most recently, Transformers, a science-fiction film based on a line of toys. The movie includes scenes shot at Hoover Dam.
Arizona has a soundtrack. You hear it in hotel lobbies and gift shops, in restaurants and national park visitor centers. It is the sound of Native American flute music. The haunting melodies of this music are the perfect accompaniment to a long drive across the wide-open spaces of Arizona. R. Carlos Nakai, who was born in Flagstaff and is of Navajo and Ute heritage, is considered the preeminent Native American flutist, and you'll find his music for sale in gift shops all over the state. Keep an eye out for some, and you can start the soundtrack of your trip.
Tucson, home to April's annual Tucson International Mariachi Conference, is called the mariachi capital of America, and year-round you can hear this lively south-of-the-border music in Mexican restaurants. Also in Tucson, you can sometimes catch a bit of indigenous waila music. This is the music of southern Arizona's Tohono O'odham tribe and is a mix of polka, waltz, and various Mexican influences.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.