The Wild West Lives in These Small Arizona Towns
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The Wild West Lives in These Small Arizona Towns

Getaway Staff

Tucson, Phoenix, and Scottsdale (ok, the valley of the sun)—these major cities are known entities, whether you've set foot in Arizona or not.

The Grand Canyon state is dotted with incredible former mining towns and villages with unique stories too.

Arizona is filled with places that hark back to the days of the Old West with cowboys, saloons, specters, bordellos, towns that surround one of the world's seven great natural wonders, and culturally rich communities that are a stone's throw away from Mexico.


01 Flagstaff

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

"Flag" is so much more than a gateway to the Grand Canyon. It's an astrotourism destination, for starters. As the first international dark sky city, it offers breathtaking star-gazing moments that will make you feel like a tiny but content amoeba.

Pluto was first discovered at Lowell Observatory, and Flagstaff was a training ground for the astronauts who walked on the moon. This student city has a sense of vibrance, is highly walkable, and experiences four seasons.

Have your morning meal at MartAnne's Breakfast Palace, and put the Arizona Snowbowl on your itinerary if you enjoy skiing. Drive the Mother Road for Route 66 attractions, and explore Glen Canyon de Chelly National Monument with a Native American expert.


02 Jerome

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

Jerome in the Verde Valley used to be known as the "Wickedest City in the West," and if that's not enough to pique your interest, we're not sure what will. The once-booming mining town drew a wide array of characters, and bars and brothels popped up to accommodate them. But what goes boom must go bust, and Jerome was abandoned in the 1950s before being restored as a National Historic Landmark in 1967. Only 450 people live in this charming town of ghosts, but the Haunted Hamburger is worth a try; the views from the Black Hills of Prescott National Forest are otherworldly, and the peace signs lit up during Christmas show you this artsy town's priorities. Put the Jerome Indie Film Festival on your calendar and visit Cottonwood, Prescott, and Tuzigoot National Monument while you're in the area. The Mingus Mountain Scenic Road is awesome.


03 Bisbee

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

A mere 15 miles away from Mexico, this town full of concrete stairs in the reddish Mule Mountains produced gold, copper, lead, zinc, and some of the best turquoise gems ever discovered. You can visit former mines on the Copper Queen Mine tour and consolidate your knowledge at the Bisbee Mining and Historical museum.

If you're interested in architecture, stop by the Art Deco county courthouse or drive by the Victorian-style homes. Often compared to Jerome, Bisbee is much warmer but has a similar history, a flair for the eccentric, an artistic bent, and tales of the haunted. It was a happening hub of licentiousness back in the day and home to one of the nation's earliest baseball fields.

Bisbee's toned down, but there's still plenty attractive about this funky destination. Check the local event calendar before going.


04 Arcosanti

The architect Paolo Soleri had a vision. He wanted to build a town with as little impact on nature as possible and set about doing so in 1970.

The concept of arcology, ecology-inspired architecture, informed Arcosanti's name, and the town is still a work in progress, with students in situ at this "urban laboratory." You can buy wind bells the town produces to support the local economy and stay the night if you like. The enormous circular windows and semi-domes are worth the drive from Phoenix.


05 Sedona

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

Sedona is a small town you've probably heard of before. It's a Grand Canyon State highlight where you can look for UFOs after a rejuvenating day at one of the many spa retreats or take in the unique formations in Red Rock State Park.

Sedona is one of the most beautiful places in the country to recharge, and fans of alternative health will want to book an extra-long stay for wellness practices in spiritually-charged locations like Bell Rock. West and Uptown Sedona will scratch any itch you have to shop, and the foodie scene ensures your stomach's a happy camper. Visit Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village for gifting and souvenirs and some of the 80 art galleries for inspo.


06 Williams

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

Just half an hour from Flagstaff, Williams is another gateway to the Grand Canyon. You'll love the Route 66 heritage, and retro touches sprinkled throughout the town. All year long, Canyon Coaster has something for everyone. You can't come to Williams and not take the two-hour train from the Grand Canyon Railway.


07 Lake Havasu City

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

Don't sleep on Lake Havasu City in western Arizona. It's in the middle of the desert, sure, but Parker Dam makes it a blast for water sports enthusiasts.

Spring Break in the town is epic, as is the hot air balloon festival that turns the sky into a fantastical screensaver. Take lots of pics of London Bridge—it's the real deal.


08 Prescott

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

Just 50 minutes from Jerome, you'll find Prescott, a town with a slightly different aesthetic flavor from others in the Southwest.

Prescott was the territorial capital of the state during the Civil War and experienced a huge fire in 1900. Whiskey Row is still where you'll find nightlife, and the Phippen Museum houses western art.

But if you're more outdoorsy, you'll be in your element with mild weather, lakes, and ponderosa pine forests. There are opportunities for camping, kayaking, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, or hiking the Granite Mountain Trail. You can check out the world's oldest rodeo on the Fourth of July or pop by during a winter break to see Arizona's "Christmas City." Prescott's plaza hosts many events throughout the year.


09 Yuma

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

Yuma is just north of the Mexican border, in a southwestern nook of the state, and its cultural diversity and weather are drawcards. The Guinness Book of World Records has called this town "the sunniest place on earth," so Yuma is mighty popular during winter.

Fertile soil enables the town to produce around 90% of the country's leafy greens. The "In a Date Grove" dining experience is a must-do, as is tubing, canoeing, or speedboating on the Colorado River.


10 Honorable mentions

Tombstone Arizona USA Sean Pavone/ Getty Images

Arizona has many quaint and wonderful small towns; some have memorable names like Carefree and Tombstone.

The former is as laidback as it sounds, with upscale hotels, golfing, and fantastic hikes. It's also home to the largest sundial in the country.

Tombstone is famous for a frontier shootout, and gunfight reenactments aren't uncommon if you want a taste of the Wild West.


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