Arizona is often in the spotlight for its abundant natural beauty and iconic golden landscapes.
But there’s a lot more to this wonderful state than just photo opportunities and (very) grand canyons.
Nope – there’s also a municipality of burros (small donkeys), citywide UFO sightings, expensive imported bridges and many, many more unique Arizona facts and trivia that most visitors don’t know.
Well, since I love reading up on all the best stories and random facts about destinations before I visit, I figured it was time to put together a list of Arizona facts for travel nerds just like me.
So, in this article, you’ll find a list of unique and cool facts about Arizona that will no doubt show you just how interesting this state truly is. I hope you enjoy them!
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1. Arizona has its own London Bridge
In Lake Tavasu City, AZ, you’ll find a very peculiar piece of English heritage – a “London Bridge” that once stood over the River Thames.
Built in 1831 out of granite, the “New London Bridge” stood for over a century in London, becoming at one point the busiest and most congested part of the city.
When growing demands meant they needed a replacement London Bridge (the one that stands in London today), Missouri entrepreneur and real estate developer Robert P. McCulloch decided to buy the original bridge from the City of London, eventually placing it in Lake Tavasu City (which he founded).
The bridge was taken apart piece by piece in London, with each stone numbered and then sent over to Arizona, where the original stonework was used to clad a new concrete structure.
For a while, the bridge was even accompanied by a British themed village/shopping center nearby, but these days the theme has been abandoned by the few shops there that remain.
Fun fact: A popular rumour goes that McCulloch thought he was buying the much more grandiose Tower Bridge in London, so was disappointed when he got this one. However, the London council member whose idea it was to sell the bridge has denied this claim… so who knows if there’s any truth to it!
2. Arizona gave women the right to vote 8 years before national suffrage was enacted
While the origins of the Women’s Suffrage movement can be traced to Seneca, New York, Arizona is a lesser known vanguard of the suffrage movement that deserves its own round of applause.
Thanks to the work of activists like Frances Willard Munds and Josephine Brawley Hughes who rallied support through distributing literature and making impassioned speeches, Arizona actually gave women the right to vote in the same year it officially became a state – 1912.
Yes, that’s a full 8 years before the 19th Amendment granted women this right nationwide.
3. Pluto was discovered in Arizona
While it’s no longer technically a planet, I’m a 90s kid who can’t cope with change, so this fun Arizona fact still thrills me… because yes, Arizona is where Pluto was officially “discovered” as a planet back in 1930.
Specifically, it was at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona that Clyde Tombaugh (at the age of only 24) discovered Pluto using the observatory’s astrograph to capture and compare images of the sky several nights apart.
Of course his research was based on earlier predictions from other scientists like Percival Lowell, founder of the observatory, but that’s still a pretty solid accomplishment for a 24 year old.
4. In 1997, a citywide UFO sighting transpired in Phoenix, Arizona
In what is one of the stranger Arizona fun facts in my opinion, Arizona became the nexus of UFO lore one night in 1997.
In what would become known as the Phoenix Lights, on March 13th, 1997, orbs and bright lights manifested in a coordinated formation above Phoenix, a phenomenon witnessed by everyone in the city —including the governor, who described the experience as “otherworldly”.
While some of the lights were attributed to military flairs, to this day, the Phoenix Lights are still largely a mystery, one that has been immortalized in countless movies and books.
5. There are no fossils in the Grand Canyon because the rocks are much older than dinosaurs
The Grand Canyon is a literal wonder of the world. However, it’s so much more than just grand – it’s historic too.
Replete with marine fossils and other impressions left by insects and reptiles, the Grand Canyon provides a fascinating look at evolution and the world’s most fascinating prehistoric creatures.
One fossil type you won’t find here though is anything to do with dinosaurs, because the canyon’s rocks are actually older than the oldest known dinosaurs. Isn’t that inT-Rexting?
6. Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings time
Every year, 48 other states in the USA abide by daylight savings time, adjusting ahead or behind an hour. However, (with the exception of the Navajo Nation) Arizona goes against the grain, and has done so for about the last 40 years.
The reason? Mostly the state’s scorching hot temperatures. If Arizona participated in daylight savings, that would make sunset in the summer as late as 9pm… a pretty horrifying proispect for those living in the desert.
The only other state that doesn’t observe daylight savings is Hawaii.
7. Winslow, Arizona has the world’s best-preserved meteor crater
What Arizona lacks in fossils, it more than makes up for in other historical artifacts, like in Winslow, Arizona for instance, where you’ll find an enormous bowl-shaped crater that claims to be the world’s best preserved.
In fact, believe it or not, the crater is still privately owned by the Barringer Crater Company, founded in 1903 by Daniel Moreau Barringer, an entrepreneur who became obsessed with the idea of finding vast iron deposits at the crater.
He would spend decades of his life pursuing this endeavour, ultimately losing most of his family fortune before passing away weeks after shutting mining operations in 1929.
Sad history aside, the Barringer Crater Company continues to preserve and promote the crater, which is now a bonafide tourist attraction in its own right, with its own visitor center filled with displays, artifiacts and the American Astronaut Wall of Fame.
8. Arizona has the wettest deserts in the world
Now, this Arizona fact may sound like a weird thing to celebrate, but hear me out!
With rainfall between 4.7 and 11.8 inches annually, the amount of rain that the Sonora desert gets is truly unusual, earning it the unique honor of “wettest desert in the world”, according to the Guinness World Records.
And things really do get steamy. Daytime can easily exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit in these deserts, and the summer months can even sometimes feel tropical, with localized thunderstorms from time to time.
9. Arizona is home to 13 species of rattlesnakes, more than any other state
If you don’t like critters—Arizona might not be the place for you. This is especially true if you have a thing against snakes.
In fact, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona is home to 13 different species of rattlesnakes. This is, by far, the most in any one state.
To put things in perspective, only 36 rattlesnake species have been discovered ever, so good luck with that scary fact.
Though, if it’s any consolation, less than 1% of bites result in human deaths. So…. nothing to worry about!
10. Arizona has a monsoon season
Arizona may be one of the driest and hottest states in the US (and a land-locked one no less), but it does indeed have a monsoon season.
As Arizona State University explains, while monsoons are commonly associated with the coast and water, they actually rely more on wind…
And in climates like Arizona, the intense heating of land can create wind shifts that then push moisture from the Pacific and the Gulf of California into dry desert environments inland.
This then causes extreme and hazardous weather conditions, usually from July to September, which is why Arizona is one of the best winter destinations in the US.
So yes… now you know. I’m realizing now that most of my Arizona facts are low-key terrifying, but hey let’s keep the scary train rolling…
11. Arizona is home to the only venomous lizard in the U.S.
While it would make sense that rugged conditions breed rugged species, this is still a testament to the unique wildlife abounding in Arizona.
The National Park Service describes the Gila Monster, one of only two venomous lizards in the world. And the only venomous lizard in America.
Don’t worry though – as a docile little beast, it spends most of its time burrowing beneath ground and avoiding predators…. unless it’s cornered of course, in which case it hisses and shows its sharp, pointed teeth.
This bite is of course a last resort, and when left undisturbed, they’re usually harmless.
12. Arizona has astounding Mesoamerican ball courts
If you think we’re the only epoch to get a kick out of watching grown men play ball against each other, you have another thing coming.
As American Archaeology Magazine explains, this is nothing new. In fact, over 200 ball courts have been discovered thus far in Arizona.
Dating back to before 1200 BC, evidence suggests that ancient competitors used to played games here with vulcanized balls, often on uniform courts consisting of oval-shaped earthen depressions with embankments.
It’s still unclear exactly what their purpose was (aside from recreation, I suppose), but we can assume it helped communities interact and get to know (and probably hate) each other.
13. Why, Arizona is named after an intersection
When considering strange town names, Why, Arizona should certainly rank among the strangest.
No that’s not a typo – the town is literally called Why, and you can find it approximately 30 miles north of the Mexican border.
And as you might have guessed (or probably not), it was named after the letter Y… namely an intersection shaped like the letter Y, where the town was built (between Highway 84 and 86 to be precise)
Interestingly, state law required cities and towns to have at least three letters in their names, so they adopted this spelling and the rest is history. Now you know Why!
14. Arizona is home to the 1st McDonald’s drive-thru in the world
People don’t really associate McDonald’s with Arizona, but nonetheless, Arizona made fast food history on January 24, 1975, when a McDonald’s franchise owner in Sierra Vista, Arizona carved a hole in the side of his restaurant to enable customers to order food on the go.
News of the initiative spread quickly, and by the end of 1979, 2,700 of the nearly 5,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the country had drive-thrus.
Now that’s what you call a McRevolution.
15. In Arizona, a man once stole a diamond valued at $160,000 and exchanged it for $20 worth of pot
It’s worth noting that you can’t put a price on some things (like a good time for instance).
But, still, this funny Arizona fact stings a bit.
According to ABC News, back in 2014, an Arizona man by the name of Earl Morrison was unloading a UPS cargo plane when he reportedly stole a package.
In this package? A diamond worth $160,000.
But rather than attempt to resell the jewel for a hefty profit, Morrison instead exchanged this jewel for $20 worth of weed… about 2 joints.
Don’t worry though – the diamond was ultimately returned to its owner. No word though on how the weed was. For that price tag, I’m hoping it was good.
16. Burros rule the land in Oatman, Arizona
Just as Alaska has bears, Arizona has… burros (small donkeys, in case you didn’t know).
Oatman, Arizona has often been considered “a ghost town.” However, it’s far from dead… at least not when it comes to burros.
Once upon a time, Oatman was a bustling settlement with lucrative goldmines that generated upwards of $40 million in revenue.
By 1941 however, the US entered World War II, and miners were given the directive to mine only minerals to be used in combat. This left the town in devastation, and eventually the mines would close.
After closing the mines however, Oatman miners freed their burros, and let them run free.
Today, approximately 2,000 feral burros live in the area, which is four times the recommended number by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Even crazier? Their population increases by an estimated 20% each year. That’s pretty un-burro-lievable.
17. Arizona became a state on Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is supposed to be romantic. You know, flowers, chocolates or (if you’re like me), the magical promise of discounted chocolate the next day…
But in Arizona, February 14th commemorates a special kind of union – the anniversary of when Arizona became the 48th state in the USA.
(Admittedly though, if you forget to acknowledge this one, the consequences are significantly less severe than good old V-Day).
18. Supai, Arizona is the only place in the US where mail is delivered by mule
As the world adopts drones and next-day delivery, there are some folks who continue to opt for slower-paced, but cuter methods.
Indeed, one of my favorite Arizona fun facts is that the Havasupai, a small community of indigenous people residing in the Grand Canyon, actually receive mail (and supplies) by mule six-days-a-week.
Likely for centuries, but at least for decades, this has been a tried and true method. Take that, Amazon Prime.
19. The oldest woman to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro is from Arizona
As someone who hasn’t even cracked 30, yet still has trouble going up stairs without getting winded, the following Arizona fun fact makes me feel deeply ashamed of my (lack of) physical prowess.
ABC 7 Chicago shares the unlikely story of Mt. Kilimanjaro’s oldest female conqueror, Anne Lorimor, who made history by ascending to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro (the world’s tallest free-standing mountain) at the age of 89. 89!!!!
Not a professional climber (though having kids and grandkids probably required getting some experience), Lorimor was born in the Phoenix area, and managed the feat even after falling at the beginning of her climb.
Now that’s an Arizona icon right there.
20. In Arizona, being a Mine Inspector is an elected government position
It goes without saying that mining is serious business in Arizona, with over 100,000 abandoned mines across the state, a legacy of mining’s pivotal role in Arizona’s history.
So, unsurprisingly, there’s actually a unique elected office in Arizona: the Arizona State Mine Inspector.
This office enforces mining laws and inspects safety conditions across all active and inactive mines.
Did I miss any of your favorite Arizona facts?
Let me know in the comments! I’d love to add more to the list.