The Getaway
The Wild West Lives in These Small Arizona Towns

Tucson, Phoenix, and Scottsdale (ok, the valley of the sun)—these well-known cities might already be on your radar, even if you haven't visited Arizona yet. But beyond these urban areas, the Grand Canyon state is speckled with fascinating small towns, each with its own unique tale. Arizona boasts a collection of locales that echo the Old West era, complete with cowboys and saloons, alongside towns nestled near one of the planet's magnificent natural wonders and vibrant communities rich in culture near the Mexican border.

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01 Flagstaff

Flagstaff, affectionately known as "Flag," offers much more than just a route to the Grand Canyon. It's a haven for stargazing, being the world's first recognized dark sky city. The stars here are so clear, they'll make you feel insignificantly small yet utterly content. Flagstaff, where Pluto was discovered and astronauts trained for lunar missions, is a lively university town that's easy to explore on foot and enjoys all four seasons. Start your day with breakfast at MartAnne's Breakfast Palace, consider skiing at Arizona Snowbowl, take a drive on the historic Route 66, and delve into Native American history at Glen Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

Mount Humphreys at sunset overlooks the area around Flagstaff Arizona ChrisBoswell/ Getty Images

02 Jerome

Once notorious as the "Wickedest City in the West," Jerome's history in the Verde Valley is as colorful as it gets. This former mining hotspot attracted a diverse crowd, leading to the rise of numerous bars and brothels. However, its prosperity didn't last, and by the 1950s, Jerome was deserted, only to be revived as a National Historic Landmark in 1967. Today, 450 residents inhabit this quaint town, known for its ghostly charm. Don't miss the Haunted Hamburger for a unique dining experience, enjoy the stunning views of Prescott National Forest, and immerse yourself in the town's artistic vibe, especially during the Jerome Indie Film Festival. Nearby attractions include Cottonwood, Prescott, and Tuzigoot National Monument, with the scenic Mingus Mountain Road offering breathtaking views.

Jerome town, nestled on a hillside in the winter's morning sun in Arizona, USA FiledIMAGE/ Getty Images

03 Bisbee

Just 15 miles from the Mexican border, Bisbee is nestled in the Mule Mountains and is famous for its mining history, producing gold, copper, lead, zinc, and exquisite turquoise. Explore this history with a tour of the Copper Queen Mine and a visit to the Bisbee Mining and Historical museum. Architecture enthusiasts will appreciate the Art Deco courthouse and Victorian homes. Like Jerome, Bisbee has a history of eccentricity and artistic flair, with tales of hauntings adding to its allure. Once a hub of activity, Bisbee has mellowed but remains an intriguing destination. Be sure to check out local events when planning your visit.

Bisbee is a city and the county seat of Cochise County in southeastern Arizona, United States. DenisTangneyJr/ Getty Images

04 Arcosanti

Envisioned by architect Paolo Soleri, Arcosanti was born from a desire to create a town that harmonizes with nature, starting in 1970. The concept of 'arcology'—architecture inspired by ecology—shapes its design. This ongoing project, an "urban laboratory," is home to students and features unique architecture like massive circular windows and semi-domes. Visitors can support the local economy by purchasing wind bells made in town and even stay overnight to fully experience this unique community.

05 Sedona

Sedona, a well-known name in Arizona, is a standout destination in the Grand Canyon State. It's a place where you can hunt for UFOs or unwind at a spa retreat, surrounded by the stunning landscapes of Red Rock State Park. Sedona is an ideal spot for rejuvenation, especially for those into alternative health practices, with spiritually-charged sites like Bell Rock offering a unique experience. For shopping and dining, West and Uptown Sedona have much to offer, and the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village is perfect for picking up gifts and souvenirs. Art lovers will find inspiration in the town's 80 art galleries.

Sedona, Arizona - Southwest USA desert landscape sunset Starcevic/ Getty Images

06 Williams

A mere 30 minutes from Flagstaff, Williams serves as another portal to the Grand Canyon. The town is steeped in Route 66 heritage, with a retro vibe throughout. Canyon Coaster Adventure Park offers year-round fun for all ages. A visit to Williams isn't complete without a journey on the two-hour Grand Canyon Railway, a memorable way to experience one of the world's natural wonders.

Williams, Arizona, USA: May 2014: Street in Williams, one of the cities on the famous route 66 ersler/ Getty Images

07 Lake Havasu City

In western Arizona, Lake Havasu City is a gem in the desert, thanks to the Parker Dam creating a haven for water sports. The town is famous for its lively Spring Break and the enchanting hot air balloon festival. A must-see is the London Bridge – yes, the actual bridge from England, now a unique attraction in this desert city.

Lake Havasu City is a city in Mohave County, Arizona, United States. DenisTangneyJr/ Getty Images

08 Prescott

A short drive from Jerome, Prescott offers a distinct vibe compared to other Southwestern towns. Once Arizona's territorial capital during the Civil War, it's known for surviving a massive fire in 1900. Today, Whiskey Row remains a hub for nightlife, and the Phippen Museum showcases western art. Outdoor enthusiasts will love Prescott's mild climate, lakes, and ponderosa pine forests, with plenty of opportunities for camping, kayaking, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking. Don't miss the world's oldest rodeo in July or the festive atmosphere of Arizona's "Christmas City" during the winter. Prescott's plaza is a focal point for numerous events throughout the year.

a beautiful sunset at scenic Watson Lake near Prescott Arizona equigini/ Getty Images

09 Yuma

Located just north of the Mexican border, Yuma is a cultural melting pot with an enviable climate, earning it the title of "the sunniest place on earth" from the Guinness Book of World Records. A winter favorite, Yuma's fertile land produces about 90% of the nation's leafy greens. Unique experiences include dining in a date grove and enjoying water activities like tubing, canoeing, or speedboating on the Colorado River.

Yuma is a city in and the county seat of Yuma County, Arizona, United States DenisTangneyJr/ Getty Images

10 Kingman

Canyon with river and desert vegetation along the Monolith Garden Trail in the Mojave Desert near Kingman, Arizona, USA

Nestled in the heart of the Mohave Desert, Kingman stands as a testament to America’s golden age of road travel and rail. This city, cradled by the historic Route 66, is not just a stopover; it's a deep dive into a bygone era where cars and trains shaped the nation. Visitors are drawn to its meticulously preserved Arizona Route 66 Museum, where the story of “The Mother Road” unfolds. Not far, the Electric Vehicle Museum showcases the evolution of automotive technology, reflecting Kingman's unique blend of history and innovation. Here, the spirit of Americana is not just remembered; it's lived.

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11 Seligman

Seligman captures the essence of Route 66's enduring legacy. As the birthplace of the historic highway's preservation movement, this town is more than a dot on a map; it's a vibrant shrine to the road that connected a country. Wander through streets lined with vintage motels and neon signs that light up the desert sky, offering a slice of nostalgia. Seligman’s charm is in its authenticity, from classic diners to quirky shops filled with memorabilia. It's here that the past isn't just preserved; it's celebrated, making every visitor feel like a part of Route 66's continuing story.

famous seligman town of route 66, arizona Jon Chica / Shutterstock.com

12 Ajo

Aerial palm framed view of the historic downtown area of Ajo, Arizona, USA.

In Ajo, art and nature merge in a stunning display of creativity and desert beauty. This town, once the heart of copper mining, has transformed into a cultural oasis where murals paint the town's walls and community gardens dot the landscape. The Spanish Colonial Revival architecture of the plaza offers a picturesque backdrop for the vibrant arts scene that thrives here. Ajo's proximity to the pristine wilderness of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument presents a contrast to its artistic endeavors, creating a unique blend of culture and nature that captivates all who visit.

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13 Carefree

True to its name, Carefree offers a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. Here, the days are marked by the shadow of a massive sundial, one of the largest in America, reminding visitors to slow down and savor the moment. The town's streets, named for whimsical qualities like "Easy Street," reflect its laid-back vibe. Luxury blends with leisure in Carefree, where art galleries, gourmet restaurants, and golf courses cater to those seeking a serene escape amidst the beauty of the Sonoran Desert.

The sign for the Town of Carefree, a town planned by Tom Darlington and K.T.Palmer in the 1950s. Rosemarie Mosteller / Shutterstock.com

14 Globe

Globe's rich tapestry weaves together threads of Native American heritage, mining booms, and the untamed Wild West. This historic town, once a hotbed of prospecting, now invites exploration of its architectural treasures and storied past. The Globe Downtown Historic District offers a window into the early 20th century, with buildings that narrate tales of fortune and folly. Beyond the charm of its old streets, Globe serves as a gateway to outdoor adventures, with the sprawling Tonto National Forest nearby, offering a natural playground for the intrepid.

The Cobre Valley Center for the Arts Cheri Alguire / Shutterstock.com

15 Camp Verde

Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona

Camp Verde invites adventurers and history buffs alike to delve into Arizona's storied past and vibrant natural landscape. The town's heart beats in its historic downtown, where Western facades and local museums like the Fort Verde State Historic Park tell the tale of frontier life. Just a stone's throw away, the Montezuma Castle National Monument showcases the ingenuity of the ancient Sinagua people with cliff dwellings that defy time. Surrounded by the beauty of the Verde Valley, Camp Verde is a testament to Arizona's rich cultural tapestry and the spirit of exploration.

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