MANY early stars such as the archetypal square-jawed cowboy hero John Wayne have graced the sunny state of Arizona, home to many a cowboy, cactus and the infamous Camelback mountain.

The best way to learn about America’s sunniest metropolis, of course, is to experience it first hand. My recent travels took me on a tour of Arizona’s territorial capitals, exploring their evolution over the last 100 years of statehood.

Arizona is an intriguing place, home to 22 American Indian tribes, with cities and towns waiting to be explored.

My adventures began at Prescott, pronounced ‘Pres-kit’ by the locals, home to the world’s oldest rodeo which began in 1888. The town is very quaint – you can understand why it’s a popular place among retirees who flock here for the all-year warm climate.

To soak up some of Prescott’s western heritage visit The Sharlot Hall Museum, named after its founder Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870-1943). The museum features exhibits and beautiful gardens, which serve as the setting for numerous public festivals.

In the hub of Precott town is the Elks Opera House, an architectural masterpiece in its own right, having undergone an extensive million dollar refurbishment to restore its Victorian grandeur. With souvenir shops aplenty, authentic cowboy hangouts and museums, it’s a pleasant place to sit back and relax.

Lunch at The Palace on Whiskey Row is like stepping on to a western movie set with intriguing cowboy memorabilia lining the walls.

You might think that Arizona is an arid moonscape dotted with cacti and other prickly plant life but Prescott is a mile above sea level. To discover more about the area’s unique flora and fauna and the natural bounty Northern Arizona has to offer you have to take to the water at Watson Lake and kayaking is best way to enjoy the breathtaking vistas. If you prefer to keep your feet firmly on the ground, take a stroll around the Highlands Center for Natural History in Prescott, or wander around the Phippen Museum that showcases a collection of cowboy art.

Arizona’s two major metropolises, Greater Phoenix and Metropolitan Tucson, lie in the state’s southern sector, swathed by the rugged beauty of the Sonoran Desert, lush with saguaros and other cacti, and punctuated by several mountain ranges.

Westwood Look resort in Tucson is a plush resort located at the base of the Catalina Mountains. Having undergone a multi-million dollar renovation it now delivers new guest rooms, lobby, meeting spaces, pool area, spa and the Lookout Bar & Grille.

Downtown Tucson is a beautiful metropolis, combining the old with the new. Highlights include the legendary Hotel Congress (a place of ghostly tales), the historic Train Depot, the Presidio Neighborhood, where the elite built their homes in the early 1800s, and the Centre for Creative Photography.

An excellent eatery to pinpoint on your map is El Charro in Old Town Artisans. This authentic family-run Mexican has run since 1922, has evaded prohibition and has been named ‘One of the Country’s Five Best’ by USA Today. You must sample their signature carne seca – beef hung to dry on the rooftops.

To devour fine fare, make a visit to Aracia, Tuscon – located in Gallery Row. Aracia’s contemporary American menu is as eclectic as America itself. Dishes combine a blend of new Latin, Pacific Rim, and regional favourites.

A new dawn, a new day, and today I was heading to the renowned Tanque Verde Guest Ranch in the picturesque Rincon Mountain foothills just east of Tucson.

I was greeted by a handsome horse named Traveller, who took me on a gentle ride up to Tanque Verde’s Old Homestead where a hearty campfire breakfast was prepared by executive head chef Ben.

Tanque Verde is a working ranch that features a wide range of activities for adults and children with programmes for children ages four to 11. It’s one of America’s old time cattle and guest ranches and is recognised as one of the last luxurious outposts of the Old West.

Heading back to civilisation, we made our way to Phoenix, America’s sixth-largest city. Phoenix has attractions to suit every taste. The Heard Museum (Native American), Desert Botanical Garden, the Phoenix Art Museum and the Museum of Musical Instruments are among the cultural hot spots.

The MIM museum opened in 2010 showcasing an expansive collection of instruments from around the globe. The Artist Gallery features instruments from musicians including Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Carlos Santana.

The latest addition to this vibrant urban hub is Westin Phoenix Downtown, a luxurious business and leisure hotel with killer floor-to-ceiling views from every room. Western Phoenix certainly offers a sense of sophistication.

Another particular place of note is the remarkable Arizona Biltmore hotel.

With its luxurious facilities and distinctive Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired design, from the beginning it has been a playground for the rich and famous. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard honeymooned here as did Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Marilyn Monroe had her favourite swimming pool (Catalina Pool), every US president since Herbert Hoover has stayed here and many current celebrities frequent the resort.

It has long been a destination of choice for discriminating travellers, from couples seeking a pampered getaway to families looking for amenities and services for all ages.

You can also enjoy a fabulous meal at the Frank & Alberts restaurant at the Biltmore.Serving comfort food with a twist is their forte.

Downtown Phoenix itself is the heart of the Sonoran Desert.

As you explore the city you’ll spot intriguing landmarks that make this city so unique. Highlights include the CityScape, shops and restaurants at Heritage Square, Orpheum Theatre, Phoenix Convention Centre, and Roosevelt Row – home to arts district with live music and galleries. The new Metro Light Rail system offers a convenient and easy way to get around.

The finale to my trip was a visit to Arizona famous cowboy steakhouse, Rustler’s Rooste – less luxe but its rustic charm makes it unique and rather special. After making an entrance via the tin slide (once devised as clever escape route in case bounty hunters showed up), you can tuck into some great grub. As it declared on the menu – just tell ya server how ya want it; rare – keep it on the rope; medium – that’s how the sheriff likes it; well done – don’t mistake it for ya boot!

If I had a dollar for every time someone said “awesome”, I’d be rich.

Arizonians are positively enthusiastic, friendly and very hospitable.

From rustic ranches to modern uber-cool luxury hangouts, Arizona is a playground for both the young and old.

So, don ya cowboy boots and discover the best of the west.

Travel facts

Six nights in Arizona costs from £925 per person. Price includes direct flights with British Airways from London Heathrow to Phoenix Sky Harbor, car hire, one night at Best Western Inn of Tempe (, one night at Hassayampa Inn Prescott (, two nights at the Westward Look Resort Tucson ( and two nights at the Westin Phoenix Downtown (

• Nightly rates at Tanque Verde start from £372 per room, per night, based on two sharing and including all meals and activities at the ranch, • To book call America As You Like It on 020 8742 8299 or visit the website at

• Arizona Biltmore: find out more at • For further information on Arizona visit or call 0207 367 0916.

• For a look at planned events visit • Detour guided sightseeing tours: