Located in the southwestern United States, Arizona is known for its desert landscapes, red rock formations, and ancient Native American ruins. However, the state also has several picturesque small towns filled with the history of the Old West and Route 66. These main streets and historic districts offer unique shops, Native American art and history, and stunning views of nature. Many of these towns have rich cultures, vibrant art communities, and museums that share local, state, and ancient history. Whether you are looking to brush up on your southwestern history, relax in the great outdoors, or explore a ghost town, you will find that and more in these Arizona towns.
Bisbee is a former miner’s town that has been beautifully restored over the years and feels like a small European city with its narrow streets and walking paths. Located in the Mule Mountains, this southeastern Arizona town offers beautiful mountain views from Main Street and was the first town in Arizona on the National Trust’s Distinctive Destinations list. Along the street, visitors enjoy shopping at local art galleries, antique shops, and jewelry stores. One unique store is the Tumbleweed Mining Company, a jewelry shop that creates tumbleweed gems from local Arizona deserts. There are also ample local restaurants that serve up delicious food. If you want to learn more about the town's past, you can see historical artifacts at the Bisbee Restoration Museum. Plus, a trip to Bisbee is not complete without an underground mine tour at the Copper Queen Mine.
Located near Flagstaff, the northeastern small town of Winslow runs along historic Route 66. The historic road, which is now part of the town’s charming Main Street, is a great place to take it easy. The Eagles sang about "standin" on the corner in Winslow, Arizona" in their hit song, Take It Easy. Today, a trip to the Standin’ on the Corner Park offers a great photo opportunity on the corner of Route 66. Nearby are many local restaurants, cafes, and gift shops. Another historical attraction is the town’s Old Trails Museum, with exhibits about the Hopi and Navajo tribes from the region, area ranches, and the Santa Fe Railway. For outdoor enthusiasts, the Little Colorado River runs through the small town and into the Homolovi State Park. Visitors can see archaeological sites in the park related to the migration of the Hopi people, as well as hike several trails.
In central Arizona is the quaint town of Cottonwood. The small town boasts more than 60 businesses on its historic Main Street, including cafes, art galleries, and charming shops. For those who enjoy the great outdoors, a hike to see the cottonwood trees along Jail Trail is a must. The trail begins at the site of a rustic old jail building and follows the banks of the Verde River. For those looking for more scenic views, Dead Horse Ranch State Park offers fishing and kayaking in the park’s lagoons, as well as horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking on the park’s trails.
Founded as a mining town in 1876, the southern Arizona town of Globe has a colorful history, outdoor attractions, and scenic views along Main Street. Downtown Globe allows visitors to step back in time at the 1910 Territorial Sheriff’s Office and Jail and the 1916 Train Depot. There are also several shops to explore, such as the Pickle Barrel Trading Post, which sells Native American arts and crafts. Since Globe is in the Tonto National Forest and surrounded by the Pinal Mountains, Main Street, and the surrounding area offer scenic views. Nature lovers enjoy walking and hiking up Round Mountain for its natural beauty and overlook of the town of Globe.
Known for being home to red rocks, steep canyon walls, and beautiful pine forests, Sedona offers many attractions for outdoor enthusiasts. However, the town’s Main Street is also not to miss. The downtown area offers Native American jewelry and art stores, outdoor sculptures, local shops, and restaurants with breathtaking views of the red rocks and surrounding mountains. The historic Main Street is also close to the Sedona Heritage Museum in Jordan Park. Visitors to the park learn more about the town’s history, early settlers, ranching, and cowboys, as well as movies made in Sedona. The town also provides nature explorers with several trailheads to the surrounding mountains and Coconino National Forest. The area provides plenty of options for easy and rugged hiking trails, mountain biking, rock climbing, and horseback riding. For those looking for a more peaceful adventure, fishing in Oak Creek is a relaxing option.
In the heart of the Sonoran Desert is the picturesque downtown of Ajo. Visitors can step back in time at the Ajo Plaza, the town’s historic district with a 100-year-old train station, annual events, and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. The town’s main street is home to local shops, cafes, and artisanal gifts. Natural beauty also surrounds the town, which boasts more than 1,000 species of plants and animals, as well as clear skies for stargazing. For nature enthusiasts, a stop at the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is a must. The center includes a museum, wildlife, and the history of the refuge. Another great sightseeing attraction in the town is the New Cornelia Mine. The inactive open-pit copper mine is 1.5 miles across and 1,100 feet deep.
Southeast of Phoenix is Florence, one of the oldest settled towns in Arizona. The historic downtown district is home to the town’s charming Main Street, where you can find local coffee shops, restaurants, parks, and pottery stores. The area is also the site of a walking tour that showcases homes and buildings from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. From Sonoran to American Victorian and Neo-Classical Revival, the walking tour provides a look at stunning architectural styles. The beauty of the town can also be seen along the scenic views of the Gila River, Poston Butte Reserve, and the surrounding Mineral Mountains.
Located in the Black Hills of central Arizona, Jerome was known as "the wickedest town in the west" when it was a vibrant mining town. Today, the quaint town is an artist hub and hillside destination for visitors to learn more about the Verde Valley. The town’s Main Street includes a heritage shop with unique items, an ice cream and gelato store, local restaurants, and even a few saloons. However, the town’s past is still visible in the ghost stories and tours that attract visitors from near and far. Visitors can enjoy a bite at the Haunted Hamburger, stay at the Ghost City Inn, and explore the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town. You can also visit the Jerome State Historic Park, home to the Douglas Mansion, built in 1916. Visitors can tour the museum at the mansion and enjoy scenic views of the Verde Valley.
Known as the "Gateway to the Grand Canyon," Williams is a charming small town along historic Route 66. The picturesque town offers many attractions to outdoor enthusiasts and thrill seekers. Train lovers can ride the Grand Canyon Railway to the Grand Canyon or enjoy the scenic views along the way. For history buffs, the town’s Main Street offers six blocks of historic buildings and shops to explore. You can visit Pete’s Route 66 Gas Station Museum and Williams Route 66 Open Air Museum. If you want even more excitement, an escape to Canyon Coaster Adventure Park will provide fun for the entire family. For those seeking outdoor adventures, the Bearizona Wildlife Park offers visitors a drive-thru experience to see bears, mountain goats, bison, and other wildlife. You can also fish at Buckskinner Park and Lake, as well as hike up Bill Williams Mountain.
From the city’s historic district to the surrounding Prescott National Forest, this charming city offers many exciting adventures. Along the city’s main street is Whiskey Row, which was home to Old West saloons during the gold rush. Today, there are still several saloons, as well as local restaurants and art galleries along the historic street. For history buffs and Old West enthusiasts, there are many museums and guided tours offered in the city. Plus, a stop at Courthouse Plaza provides a look at historic buildings and annual events. For nature enthusiasts, Prescott offers fishing, kayaking, and hiking at Watson Lake Park. A trip to Watson Woods Riparian Preserve also provides views of wildlife and cottonwood trees in this endangered forest. The city offers plenty of trails for hiking, walking, horseback riding, or mountain biking.
Surrounded by the Santa Rita Mountains, Tubac is a stunning small town with a thriving arts community. The Tubac Center of the Arts offers free admission and highlights the town’s art community through the center’s gallery exhibits. The town’s historic district also provides art galleries, local jewelry stores, a sculpture park, and delicious restaurant options. However, a trip to Tubac is not complete without a stop at the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park and Museum. The museum is the site of the first Spanish settlement and fort in the state. Home to Arizona’s first state park, the museum showcases artifacts, buildings, and ruins of the state’s history. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the trailheads near the park, including the Historic Ramona Trailhead and Juan Bautista de Anza NHP Trailhead, which are great for hiking.
These Arizona towns provide visitors with stunning views of nature and historical downtowns and main streets that offer local charm, southwestern hospitality, and unique gifts and keepsakes. From northern towns in Arizona’s forests to southwestern towns in the Sonoran Desert and everywhere in between, the state’s small towns offer endless opportunities for outdoor recreation and historical adventures. Whether you are looking to hike, bike, kayak, or explore the history of the Old West, these small towns have something for everyone.