Standing on the corner of Historic Route 66 in Winslow, Arizona, via mcrvlife /

6 of the Most Hospitable Small Towns in Arizona

Arizona may be known for its bustling cities like Phoenix, Tucson, and Mesa, but beyond the cramped and busy streets lie small towns filled with friendly locals. These towns range from rural locations filled with open spaces and thriving wildlife to truly historical sites overflowing with ties to people and events from years past. Arizona is also the sixth largest US state by square miles, meaning there’s no shortage of fun things to do, land to explore, and people to meet. If you’re ready to visit Arizona and want to experience this desert state from a local perspective, these six small towns are sure to impress.


Fountain in a Payson, Arizona.
Fountain in Payson, Arizona.

Payson is a small town in Arizona situated in the middle of the state, earning it the nickname “The Heart of Arizona.” This area takes great pride in classic American values, local traditions, and its beautiful natural attractions found only in what’s known as Rim Country. Essentially, Rim Country is the land around the Mogollon Rim, a plateau that stands at an impressive 7,300 feet high. The plateau formed from different types of rock during the Precambrian era, roughly 5,000 years ago, and today provides numerous opportunities for visitors to take in its beauty. The Woods Canyon Lake Recreation area is an excellent spot for those who want to get out on the water, as it has fishing and kayaking, as well as hiking and biking.

Mogollon Rim from Payson, Arizona.
Mogollon Rim from Payson, Arizona.

One quaint and unique attraction visitors can enjoy is the Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin. This museum has exhibits covering the area's history from 800 AD to today, as well as a replica cabin dedicated to author Zane Grey. Located close to the museum is an area known to locals as the Granite Dells. This natural landmark is a Stewart Pocket geological structure that sits along a trailhead loop, making it easy for visitors to stop in and overlook this one-of-a-kind creek. Some additional popular attractions that offer hiking and sightseeing opportunities include the Water Wheel Falls Hiking Trail and the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, both with free admission and providing a great opportunity to meet the friendly locals from Payson.


Jail tree. Wickenburg, Arizona
Jail tree. Wickenburg, Arizona, via Paul R. Jones /

Known as the unofficial “Dude Ranch Capital of the World,” Wickenburg is a town with just under 8,000 residents that sits in Maricopa and Yavapai counties. Visiting Wickenburg gives visitors a chance to step back into what feels like the Old West, as the town’s historic district focuses on highlighting its authentic buildings and architecture dating back to the mid-1800s. The history is rich in Wickenburg, which is the oldest town located north of Tucson and maintains its dude ranch reputation thanks to the local ranches that allow visitors to stay and experience life on a working ranch farm. Some of the local ranches that offer immersive experiences include the Flying E Ranch, Kay El Bar Ranch, and Rancho de los Caballeros.

Hassayampa River in Wickenburg, Arizona.
Hassayampa River in Wickenburg, Arizona.

For those who want to experience the hospitality of locals first-hand while learning more about the area, scheduling a trip to the Desert Caballeros Western Museum is a must. This museum is dedicated to teaching the area’s Western roots to visitors and has art shows and educational programs that make this a great location for any age. Another historic attraction you can only see in Wickenburg is The Jail Tree, a piece of unique history that transforms visitors back to the 1800s. This location dates back to the days when Wickenburg did not have a jail, and instead, the town once handcuffed criminals to this now 200-year-old tree. The desert town also has incredible nature locations like the Hassayampa River Preserve, with over 700 acres of space for hiking and seeing the unique landscape that’s native to Arizona.


The downtown core of Patagonia, Arizona.
The downtown core of Patagonia, Arizona. Image credit Matt Gush via

Outside of the big, bustling cities in Arizona lies the town of Patagonia in Santa Cruz County. Patagonia is a rural town home to under 1,000 people and is a part of the beautiful mountain ranges known as the Sky Islands. The town is located under 20 miles from the US/Mexico border, providing great opportunities for taking in the unique character and Native American history rooted in this area. It only takes a single visit to this charming town to understand the depth of its spirit and dedication to keeping it a peaceful, quiet place for the locals. One of the best areas to take in nature's solitude is Patagonia Lake State Park, where visitors can enjoy the 250-acre lake through hiking, camping, boating, or even water skiing.

Afternoon sunlight shines on a church and gazebo in the historic downtown core of Patagonia, Arizona.
Afternoon sunlight shines on a church and gazebo in the historic downtown core of Patagonia, Arizona.

Another tranquil attraction for nature and bird lovers is the Paton Center for Hummingbirds from the Tucson Audobon Society in Patagonia. This location is great for the whole family, as it is free for visitors and offers a chance to see over 250 different species of birds on the property. There is also a pond, numerous bird feeders to observe, and a shaded pavilion for coverage. Another free attraction that’s not only quaint but informative is the Patagonia Museum. This museum has 4,200 square feet of pictures and exhibits that highlight Santa Cruz County’s history. After a long day of sightseeing, stop in for a drink and a meal at the popular Wagon Wheel Saloon, an affordable spot with sports streaming and karaoke.


rone view of Main Street in Downtown Florence, Arizona
Drone view of Main Street in Downtown Florence, Arizona, USA. Editorial credit: Manuela Durson /

History enthusiasts looking to visit or settle in a friendly small town should consider adding Florence to their travel plans. Florence is located roughly one hour southeast of Phoenix and has a moderate population of just 26,000 residents, which helps add to the sense of a tight-knit community in the town. Florence holds the county seat for Pinal County and has been the oldest town in the county since its foundation in 1866. There is rich Native American history in the area, which visitors can learn more about at the Pinal County Historical Museum on South Main Street. The museum focuses on preserving the history of the county and the Sonoran Desert and also has walking tours through some historic areas of the town, like the Florence Cemetery. 

Another must-see location in Florence is the Gila River, which runs through the historic downtown section of the town. This river is a part of the Colorado River and remains a crucial part of the area’s cultural history and an important landmark. Visitors can take in some of Florence’s history and natural beauty at the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, showcasing Classic Period Hohokam structures, or the Tom Mix Memorial honoring the automobile crash site of Western film actor Tom Mix. Even just strolling the town’s historic district is a great way to step back in time, as it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for having over 20 buildings on the register.


Cyclist traveling along route 66 in Winslow, Arizona
Cyclist traveling along route 66 in Winslow, Arizona. Image credit Terry Kelly via Shutterstock

Situated in Navajo County is Winslow, a town with under 10,000 residents but a close community comparable to that of a larger city. Winslow’s gained much of its reputation for being a welcoming small town thanks to its location on the iconic Route 66 and reference in the classic rock band Eagles’ hit song “Take it Easy.” Like many other Arizona towns, the area has deep Native American roots, while also boasting a rich railroad history as well. You can view monuments dedicated to Winslow’s connection to pop culture at the town’s public park space called the Standin' on The Corner Foundation. This unique downtown attraction has a hotel, murals, and statues for visitors to marvel over.

The town of Winslow has numerous historical attractions and landmarks that highlight what a welcoming, hospitable area it is. One popular spot where visitors can stop to pay their respects to lives lost is at the 9/11 Memorial Garden, situated at the intersection of East 3rd Street and Transcon Lane. This monument has wreckage from the former Twin Towers on display, as well as a garden where people can reflect. Another great spot to visit that allows travelers to enjoy the Arizona landscape while learning about the area's history is the Homolovi State Park. This park is the site of historical pueblos dating back to AD 620-850 and also has hiking trails and RV camping options. Some other attractions that are great for the whole family include the Old Trails Museum and Hubbell Trading Post & Warehouse.


Downtown Bisbee, Arizona.
Downtown Bisbee, Arizona. Image credit Atomazul via

Bisbee is an Arizona town that is known for its artistic culture and incredible historic architecture. The city of Bisbee was officially incorporated in 1902, but the town’s roots lie in being one of the major locations for copper, gold, and silver mining through the late 1800s and early 1900s. Much of the mining took place in the Mule Mountains, proving to be one of the most significant mineral sites in the country. Visitors can stop at the Copper Queen Mine for a hard hat tour through the underground mine that is over a century old. The tours are a one-of-a-kind experience that takes guests 1,500 feet into the mines while learning about life during the mining days.

Another great attraction that’s great for all ages and provides a chance to interact with locals is the Warren Ballpark, the oldest baseball stadium in the state. The stadium holds various events throughout the years, is the home of several high school sports leagues, and is a true testament to one of America’s favorite pastimes. For those who prefer to literally step back in time, visiting Erie Street in Bisbee is a must. This street is preserved just as it was in the 1950s when it was a town called Lowell that was integrated into Bisbee. It is maintained by volunteers and has vehicles and buildings that look seemingly abandoned (yet frozen in time) from that era. Some additional places to visit include the Lavender Pit mines and the Virile Copper Miner Statue.

Whether you’re looking to relocate to the Grand Canyon state or just want to get away to this southwestern state, Arizona has no shortage of friendly small towns. There’s no shortage of cultural heritage either, with the rich mining history in Bisbee and the Native American roots in Patagonia that connect visitors to the past. If you’re looking to visit a hospitable small town in Arizona, these six are sure to welcome you with open arms!

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