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5 Cool Southwest Towns That Need to Be on Your Radar

Sponsored by Arizona Office of Tourism

01.15.20

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These Arizona small towns are big on charm, history, and culture.

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Stroll down the streets of Bisbee, Arizona—a former mining camp just 11 miles from the Mexican border—past antique stores and art galleries. Then dart down one of the narrow streets, climb a steep staircase, and you can discover beautifully landscaped parks and unexpected vistas that reveal precariously perched historic homes.

It’s not an uncommon blend of pleasures to find in Arizona’s small towns. From a place where donkeys outnumber people to a spiritual destination where you can soar over towering red rocks, these delightful small towns offer gorgeous landscapes, vibrant downtowns, delicious Southwestern cuisine, interesting art galleries, Native American historical sites, and more. Here are five to put on your must-visit list.

Bisbee

Explore Arizona’s mining past in cosmopolitan Bisbee—a town of narrow, winding streets and 350 historic staircases, including a whimsical Outdoor Art Alley chockablock with framed paintings. Everywhere you go, this turn-of-the-19th-century boom town’s rich history is on full display, from the underground Queen Mine Tour to the Bisbee Mining & History Museum and the well-preserved architecture. For a thorough (and spooky) orientation, take the Old Bisbee Ghost Tour, where you’ll visit the haunts of Bisbee’s colorful historical figures. Then head to Brewery Gulch for beer and tacos, or visit Café Roka for a four-course meal focused on locally sourced ingredients.

Oatman

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Get your kicks on Route 66 in the tiny town of Oatman, an authentic Old West mining settlement where wild burros outnumber humans and the sidewalks are made of wood. Set in the rugged Black Mountains of western Arizona, this one-of-a-kind “ghost town” offers visitors the chance to pet the burros, watch staged shootouts in the street, and enjoy a variety of unique restaurants and kitschy shops that capitalize on Route 66 nostalgia. Don’t leave without visiting the 1902-era Oatman Hotel, where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard allegedly honeymooned.

Winslow                               

“Standin’ on a corner in Winslow Arizona” offers many fine sights, indeed. Snapping a selfie on the corner immortalized in the Eagles song “Take it Easy” is the perfect way to kick off a tour of this Route 66 hotspot. Before the iconic highway was built, travelers passed through Winslow by rail, and one of the country’s most famous trackside hotels from that era—the hacienda-style La Posada—is as spectacular as ever. The hotel’s red-tiled roof, beautiful gardens, and dramatic archways were designed by Fred Harvey Company architect Mary Jane Colter for the Santa Fe Railroad. Savor the excellent Southwestern cuisine at its onsite restaurant, the Turquoise Room, and take a day trip to the nearby Rock Art Ranch, where visitors can explore excavated Anasazi dwellings and view petroglyphs dating between 5000 BC and 1400 AD.

Globe

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Founded in 1876, the old mining town of Globe isn’t just great for antiquing—it also makes an excellent base for exploring east-central Arizona’s many historical, cultural, and natural wonders. One can’t-miss: the 800-year-old ruins of the Salado people, which beckon amateur archeologists at Besh Ba Gowah Archeological Park and Museum. Meanwhile, located in a grand 1906 courthouse in the heart of Globe’s historic district, the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts showcases regional artists as well as community theater. And just outside of town, along the Old West Highway, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum displays plants from the world’s desert environments alongside native Sonoran Desert vegetation. Of course, no visit to Globe would be complete without sampling its authentic Mexican cuisine, like the green chili burrito at Chalo Casa Reynosa.

Sedona

Whether you believe in energy vortexes or not, the iconic red rock formations of Sedona are truly awe-inspiring. By day, one of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of this Arizona gem is by soaring high above it in a hot-air balloon. At night, take a Sedona Stargazing Tour, which lets visitors check out the darkened sky through large telescopes (the Milky Way is visible on clear nights). And there’s much more: spiritual enlightenment at one of Sedona’s many spas and meditation centers; outdoor adventures, like trekking the Secret 7 hiking trails; or cultural activities, such as taking in the art scene. Don’t leave without visiting the imposing Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Roman Catholic chapel built into Sedona’s crimson-colored buttes.

Explore more of Arizona’s must-see small towns—and big cities—at VisitArizona.com.

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