Also known as the “Grand Canyon State”, Arizona is full of stunning landscapes and fascinating cultural attractions. And while places like the Sonoran Desert and the Grand Canyon and cities like Phoenix continue to attract most of the attention, Arizona’s small towns are too great gems of this desert paradise. From charming hospitality to natural wonder and more, the small towns of Arizona are every bit as wonderful as the State’s best known tourist hotspots.
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Established in the year 1900, the town of Winslow is now home to just over 9,000 inhabitants. With its very hot summers and warm winters, this unique Arizona town certainly defines what it means to live in a desert setting. Visit such sites like the Clear Creek Reservoir, the fascinating Old Trails Museum (and its great collection of Native American artifacts), and the town’s assortment of great shops, restaurants, and other local galleries.
And naturally no visitor will want to miss a truly special photo opportunity at Standin’ at the Corner Park. Named for the line in the famous 1972 Eagles song “Take it Easy”, where the singer proclaims he is “Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona”, tourists can pose with a statue of a guitarist and his flatbed truck. It is a typical shot of small town America perfect for any passerby with a love of genuine Americana.
On the border of Maricopa and Yavapai Counties, the town of Wickenburg is also known as the Dude Ranch Capital of Arizona. Founded in the mid 1860s, Wickenburg indeed transports its visitors back in time to the days of Wild West. Including a downtown area full of restored 19th century buildings, tourists can also spend time at the fascinating Vulture Gold Mine and the Jail Tree where prisoners would be publicly shackled.
Also known for its very hot summers, when not trying to beat the heat locals and tourists alike always enjoy exploring the outdoors in Wickenburg. Amongst the popular activities include biking, hiking, and horseback riding, while the many historic souvenir shops and restaurants make this a place worth remembering.
Seat of Cochise County, the town of Bisbee was founded back in 1902 and today is home to a population of just under 5,000 residents. Situated right in the heart of the Mule Mountains and near the Mexican border, the picturesque Bisbee is indeed a charming and friendly place to discover. Full of 19th century and early 20th century architecture and homes, downtown Bisbee is postcard perfect snapshot of small town America in a unique Arizona setting. Visit such sites like the Copper Queen Mine or the Cochise County Courthouse or take in the sights and sounds of numerous annual festivals including the popular summer Blues Festival. Meanwhile for the athletically minded visitor, the Bisbee 1000 Stair Climb is a challenge unlike any other. For nearly five miles, participants can follow the path through town passing by some 1,034 stairs in one of the most intense workouts in the country.
A planned community established in the mid 1950s, nearly 3,700 people call the town of Carefree home. Just some 29 miles from the Phoenix Metropolitan area, the leisurely and relaxing Carefree is indeed a place where one can place all their worries on the side. Take a stroll along Easy Street, enjoy sports like tennis at any of the local courts, take a soothing spa, or enjoy any of the eclectic restaurants and boutique shops that fill out the town. A great place to escape the big city busyness while still conveniently located in its vicinity, Carefree is a most friendly and charming place ideal for those looking for an Arizona locale with no worries at all.
The small town of Tubac is home to only 1,581 residents, but its local arts scene is surely one of the finest in the entire State of Arizona. Just some 45 minutes from the city of Tucson, the best in southwestern art can be found here, ranging in designs for jewelry, leather products and decorative works of art. With more than 100 local galleries and shops, this lesser known artists colony town is indeed a great place to take home a most special piece of Arizona. In addition visitors can marvel at the historic Tubac Presidio State Park founded in 1782, and the oldest Spanish fort of its kind in the State. Meanwhile a number of other historic buildings can also be toured including the Tubac Schoolhouse (1885) and the Presidio Captains Quarters.
Founded in 1879, the historic town of Tombstone is indeed one of Arizona’s most unique and special places. Situated in Cochise County and home to a population of just over 1,300 inhabitants, any visitor to Tombstone will surely feel like they have stepped into the 19th century or perhaps even an authentic Western movie set. This living museum of a town was the site of the infamous O.K. Corral shootout in 1881 where such legendary names like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were involved.
And with many actors in period clothing filling the streets and recreating events of the Old Wild West, a time capsule sensation may certainly be felt. In addition a number of historic and restored buildings can be found in Tombstone including saloons, Western themed diners, and unique souvenir shops with special frontier memorabilia. Indeed for a most immersive slice of the cowboy days of the American West, the friendly and fascinating Tombstone is a place not to be missed by anyone in the “Grand Canyon State”.
Camp Verde is just some 85 miles from Phoenix and is the perfect place for all who seek great outdoor adventure. Home to a population of just over 12,000 residents, this Yavapai County town offers plenty of great opportunities for biking, hiking, camping, horseback riding, and even fishing in a hot Arizona desert setting. In addition a number of historic landmarks can be explored here including the Clear Creek Church and the Commanding Officer Quarters (1871). Meanwhile the Montezuma Castle National Monument is a definite must visit, while back in town itself the annual summer Corn Festival celebrates all that is corn in a most fun and tasty experience for the whole family.
Situated on the famed highway Route 66, the town of Williams is also affectionately known as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon”. Home to just over 3,000 residents this Coconino County town was first settled in the 1880s. Today it maintains an old world charm and is full of an assortment of great novelty boutiques, locally owned restaurants, and small inns and motels, giving one a real sense of small town America.
Stop by such charming attractions like the Williams Depot Train Station, the departure place of the Grand Canyon Railway which commenced operations in 1901, or the Route 66 Gas Station Museum. And for the nature enthusiast a visit to the Bearizona Wildlife Park is a great place to encounter local wildlife and other native plant species.
The town of Jerome has been satirically called the “Wickedest City in the West” and is amazingly situated some 5,000 feet above sea level in the Black Hills of Yavapai County. Once a mining hotspot, particularly during the 1920s, after the bust period Jerome was largely abandoned and nearly became a ghost town. Today just under 500 people still reside here, yet this unique Arizona locale is definitely worth an exploration.
Visit a number of abandoned and spooky former mines, embark on a frightful ghost tour, visit the famed Sliding Jail building, or take in any of the themed mining restaurants and other boutique shops. Jerome which was named in its entirety a National Historic Landmark in 1967 is indeed a most special place where local pride and fascinating history make for a most memorable experience for all who explore it.
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The State of Arizona offers its residents and visitors alike some of the best in natural wonder, accentuated only by its vibrant culture and alluring historic charm. The small friendly towns of the “Grand Canyon State” are then perfect snapshots of some of the very best this desert paradise has to offer. While Phoenix and major attractions like the Grand Canyon still dominate Arizona’s tourism industry, these towns are too very worthy of a first hand exploration for another side of the State. From the Wild West town of Tombstone to the tranquil and relaxed community of Carefree, any visit to these Arizona towns will surely leave one with a renewed appreciation for this great land.
- 9 of the Friendliest Towns in Arizona
Michael Vecchio June 1 2023 in Places