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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

10 things to see and do in Williams Arizona USA

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

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.

sign painted on a wall stating that Williams Arizona was the last town bypassed by I-40 in October 1984. 3 route 66 shields are painted underneath the banner

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.

1. Bearizonia

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.

the author helen is drinking coffee while sitting in the luxurious grand canyon railway first class carriage. green and gold carpet, plump embroidered cushions and a wooden end table, it looks like someones elegant lounge room at home

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.

a mock skeleton sits behind the wheel of an old rusted ford jalopy on main street williams arizona. an old metal water carrier hangs from animal horns which are strung from a rope over the gas cap at the front of the car
Ditha and Virgin Original owners says the hand written sign in the window of this old ford jalopy on main street Williams Arizona. 2 mock skeletons sit in the seat, one a man and one a woman. the car is black and has a side horn,, no side windows and is partially covered with a tarp to protect the paintwork

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.

an old car is painted to look like one of the cartoon cars from the movie Cars. It has cars of the mother road. a hastag and the words lawyer garage. the hood has the words rust eze on it. the windshield is where the eyes are painted and the front fender sports a wide open mouth

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!"

a double storey brick bulding with red trim around windows and door. the green foliage grows up the wall from the ground. a mannequinn of a street walker leans out the upper window

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.

an old sign with a cocktail glass and the words Package Goods tops another sign saying World Famous Sultana Bar, in Williams Arizona
inside the sultana bar in Williams Arizona, there are taxidermied animals, tv screens showing sports, and many dollar bills stuck to most available surfaces, including around the bottles stacked behind the bar. Most people write their name or a message on the dollar bills

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.

the light blue paint on this wild west junction replica of an old bar, is offeset with blue trim. The porch shades the 2 plate glass windows that announce that it was used for an eatery and dining. a brass triangle hangs near the door, ready to be rung and call people to supper
a manniquin of a sherriff stands outside a replica of a two storey old time building. yellow trim decorate the porch and doors of the cream brick downstairs and blue wooden walls upstairs are nicely decorated with white trim around the windows and eaves and red highlights on the decorations. a leafless tree stands in front of the building as it is winter
two doors of hotel rooms in the wild west junction are next to each other. one says bordello, the other says movie.
an old wooden slatted single story window with a sidewalk edged with a wooden rail, announces that this is Sandy Bobs Stage Line. It is a replica building of an old wild west depot, used for a while as a hotel room

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 😊

the double storey old grand canyon hotel sign advertises a vacancy of $3.50 and up. it is a relic from the bygone days, and the sign announces that it was built in 1891. the rendered walls are light brown with a chocolate brown trip. the bottom story has large windows  with the hotel name in gold printed on it. old fashioned lams with glass and brass trim sit on the walls

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.

a single story brick building has large plate glass windows and a door in the centre. red and white painted trim. the neon sign above says get your gifts and it sells route 66 memorabilia and souvenirs
an excellent collection of leather bags and belts, and western clothing are available to buy in this lovely old building. preseed metal ceilings have been restored and the interior brickway has also been kept the way it originally was

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).

The civitan gift shop has its boutique wares displayed in large glass windows. clothing, and household wares can be seen. an iron bench sits on the sidewalk outside the building. a newpaper vending machine stands along side it.

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.

the spacious lobby of the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel is two storey's high, decorated in different shades of brown and has inviting 3 seater leather lounges next to the large open fire.

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.

a statue of smokey the bear complete with smokey hat and shovel stands outside the williams visitor centre, the old rail depot. The fire danger sign says low, as the photo was taken in winter. Below the danger warning the caption says only you can prevent wildfires

Happy Travels!

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1 Comment

Feb 14, 2023

Looks worth time to stop to see all.

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