10 things to see and do in Williams Arizona USA
Updated: Feb 13
Williams Arizona is the perfect small nostalgic town to visit if you want to see bits of the Old West, part of the original Route 66, parks, lakes, the railway, Bearizona, golf courses, fishing, camping, shopping and delicious eateries and restaurants. Billed as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon”, it is only one hour drive away from one of the great wonders of the world.
Billed as a “little town with a big heart” with a population of around 3,000, it attracts tourists from around the world.
The Historic downtown area covers a total of six square blocks and has two one-way streets. The town is perfect in size to park your car and walk around as you discover the delightful businesses it hosts.
A short drive out of town is 160 acres of land in a Ponderosa Pine Forest, home to this fabulous wildlife park. My visit started with a three-mile drive through. I could see North American animals such as black bears, bison, wolves, burros, bighorn sheep, deer and goats in their natural habitats, all from the safety of my vehicle. After this, I visited the walk-through section of the park where I enjoyed seeing badgers, beavers, bobcats, grizzly bears, elk and foxes, as well as other smaller animals.
2. Grand Canyon Railway
A train trip to the south rim of the Grand Canyon and back from Williams Arizona takes around two and a half hours each way. It can be done there and back in one day or combined with a stay over at one of the hotels at the canyon. This is a reminder of the glorious train travel of days gone by. The carriages have been lovingly restored with attention to historic accuracies.
Click here to read more about the railway
3. Old Cars
An eclectic collection of old wares and old cars is on display next door to the Arizona Motor Hotel. Check out the “inhabitants” inside the old vehicles. There is a wealth of treasure amongst all the wares on display.
The movie Cars was based on a lot of towns along Route 66 in Arizona. Visitors will often see signs or replica cars on display in the various main streets.
4. The Red Garter
The Tetzlaff building dates from 1897, this venue was built as a Victorian-Romanesque saloon and bordello. It offered female company in eight cribs, an elegant parlour, whiskey, pool tables, a Chinese restaurant and an opium den. Today’s visitors can stay in accommodation upstairs (no female company provided these days) or eat in the restaurant downstairs. Look closely and you just might see someone leaning out from an upstairs window - "hello boys!"
5. World Famous Sultana Bar
This cool dive bar opened in 1912 and holds the Arizona record as the longest continuously operating bar. Attached is a theatre that originally operated silent movies and now is used for special functions. During prohibition it was a speakeasy and kept alcohol in the tunnels underneath the bar (and the city of Williams). The tunnels were originally designed to smuggle opium. Visitors now can enjoy a game of pool, a few drinks or a meal while looking at stuffed animals, tv screens or many dollar bills stuck to almost every surface. The bar staff are friendly and enjoy a chat, as do the locals who tend to favour this bar over most others in town.
6. Wild West Junction
The Long Horn Saloon is open for meals and drinks, but I wasn’t quite sure if the accommodation venue was open or not. Taking a quick walk around, the outside of the buildings are designed as a western town from the 1800s, but everything was locked up, and looked shabby. They were definitely in need of a repair and a bit of TLC.
On their website it states that the Drover’s Inn is a hotel, where every room is a different western theme. There have been no reviews on their accommodation on tripadvisor since 2017. Yet, the outside of the buildings are worth a stroll past, even if just to imagine what a wild west town looked like.
7. The Grand Canyon Hotel
This 1891 built hotel was first class in its time. Visitors can still stay in this, the oldest hotel in Arizona, featuring 29 individually themed rooms. Over the years the ground floor has also been a drug store, grocery store, dance hall and meeting venue. Today it still stands in the main street, but expect to pay more than the $3.50 per night mentioned on the sign outside 😊
8. Gift Shops
A walk up and down the streets of this town will take you past many gift shops, most of them selling Route 66 memorabilia. They are all worth a look at, as surprisingly, they don’t all sell the same merchandise. Look for the store with the largest fridge magnet, or the one with the most Elvis memorabilia.
9. The Civitan Thrift and Trading Co
This store is worth a separate mention. The profits from sales go towards the Civitan Foundation which enriches the lives of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Such a worthy cause.
Jewlery, jeans, antique clothing, western clothing and items, antique train memorabilia are among the many treasures found here. Their prices are very reasonable, and I spent a fun hour looking at their wares. (And left with the purchase of a western blanket as a gift for a friend).
10. Grand Canyon Railway Hotel
My favourite accommodation in Williams is at this hotel, and I had the pleasure of staying several nights here. Stepping into the spacious two storey lobby, you start to experience the grandeur that, I am sure, was inspired by the geography of the area. Paintings decorate the walls, giving you a foresight into the glorious views you will experience when you visit the Canyon. The hotel is just metres away from the train depot, for those taking the Grand Canyon train. Staying here is a wonderful way to begin and end your relaxing and enjoyable train trip.
Click here to read more about the hotel
Williams Visitor Centre
Once you arrive in Williams, make sure you check out the visitor center at 200 W Railway Avenue. It has a Smokey Bear standing guard outside, and inside is very informative staff, and a small museum on the history of the area.
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