The 12 Most Charming Small Towns in Arizona

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Arizona is filled with incredibly beautiful places. Obviously, the Grand Canyon remains the most majestic and well known natural phenomenon in the state or, arguably, the entire country. You’ll also find towering San Francisco Peaks, ponderosa pine forests, Saguaro National Park and the Sonoran Desert. Maricopa County has the vibrant cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale, while Tucson offers the University of Arizona and breathtaking gardens teaming with an array of cacti species. You can even see snow as well as ski and snowboard at Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff.

Outside the major metropolitan areas are a slew of charming small towns, creative communities and former mining hubs. Of course, you’re familiar with Sedona. Though, many travelers haven’t heard of Bisbee, Carefree and Wickenburg. That’s why we’ve rounded up 12 tiny and mid-size treasures across the Grand Canyon State that should totally be on your radar. Use this list to plan an upcoming winter getaway or save it for inspiration later down the line (aka when you’ve stockpiled enough vacation days to do an epic road trip).


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1. Sedona, Arizona

Without question the most famous town in all of Arizona, Sedona—which you might remember from our article about U.S. destinations that will reinvigorate your soul—is an enchanting spot with photogenic red rocks, world-class hiking and a deeply spiritual side. Test your fitness on the popular 3.9-mile Devil’s Bridge Trail, make a pilgrimage to an energy vortex, book a stress-melting massage and shop for crystals at the New Age shops in downtown.

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2. Bisbee, Arizona

A close second to Sedona in the natural beauty department (though, in fairness, some firmly believe Bisbee deserves the coveted top slot), this picturesque former mining town in the Mule Mountains of southern Arizona brims with 19th-century architecture, including colorful Victorian houses and creative flair. Step back into the past at the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum. Lots of artists call present-day Bisbee home, so there are also galleries and hip boutiques galore.

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3. Jerome, Arizona

The gold, silver and copper boom of the 1920s turned Jerome into a rather debaucherous place—hence its moniker “the Wickedest City in the West”—with bars, bordellos and unscrupulous behavior. Like so many mining towns, it was later abandoned. Then in 1967, Jerome earned National Historic Landmark status. Today, tourists flock to this notoriously haunted destination to visit spooky sights. Feeling brave enough for a ghost tour?

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4. Tombstone, Arizona

A trip to Tombstone is sort of like stepping into a Wild West-era live action play where characters wearing period costumes walk the dirt roads and talk in all sorts of old-timey jargon. Add to that shops selling frontier memorabilia, western-themed restaurants and saloons. Staged brawls and duels are also part of the shtick. Speaking of, be sure to stop by the O.K. Corral to watch a reenactment of the famous 1881 shootout.

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5. Arcosanti, Arizona

The notion of an experimental town sounds like a thing of the future, however it very much exists in the present. Billed as the world’s first arcology (a word coined from a combination of architecture and ecology) prototype, Arcosanti, which sprung from the mind of Italian-American architect Paolo Soleri, is an ongoing sustainable urbanism project that’s managed by the Cosanti Foundation. It’s a super interesting and visually stunning, sort of sci-fi-esque, place. Visitors can stop by for the day to do a guided tour of the many interesting sights or spend the night at an eco-accommodation.

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6. Wickenburg, Arizona

The dude ranch capital of Arizona, Wickenburg doesn’t shortchange travelers when it comes to authentic Wild West fun. Downtown is lined with restored 19th-century buildings and historic sites, including the 200-year-old Jail Tree where outlaws were shackled. Needless to say, you can’t visit Wickenburg without going horseback riding, touring the historic Vulture mine and seeing a roping show. Maybe even switch off your cell phone and really embrace that 1863 lifestyle?

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7. Williams, Arizona

Set along the iconic Route 66, Williams is a great home base for road trippers and travelers keen to explore the wonders of the Grand Canyon (the Grand Canyon Railway departs from the historic Williams Depot). The town itself has a wonderfully retro feel with motor lodges, classic cars, diners, soda fountains, shops selling all manner of nostalgic Americana items and a gas station museum. We also recommend a pitstop at Bearizona Wildlife Park.

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8. Tubac, Arizona

An easy 45-minute drive from Tucson, the small community of Tubac entices shoppers with the promise of southwestern decor—especially colorful pottery—as well as jewelry, art and leather goods. If you want to bring a piece of Arizona back home with you, this is the place to buy it! Famished from browsing the more than 100 shops and galleries? Chow down delicious local fare. And don’t leave without visiting the oldest Spanish fort in the state.

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9. Winslow, Arizona

An old Route 66 town in Navajo County, 57 miles southeast of Flagstaff, Winslow boasts a major pop culture claim to fame...and that’s a cameo in the 1972 Eagles song “Take It Easy.” Thanks to the mention, Standin' on the Corner Park exists. Besides stuff linked to the timeless hit single, you’ll find all sorts of outdoor activities in Clear Creek Reservoir, plus ancient Native American artifacts at the Old Trails Museum.

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10. Carefree, Arizona

Sometimes a name says it all. Such is the case with Carefree. We genuinely can’t think of a better place to kick back. Situated just over 30 minutes north of Scottsdale, this Maricopa County town with a population of 3,360 people has an endearingly relaxed vibe and tons of leisure activities, from hitting the links and tennis to spa sessions and strolling along Easy Street. Carefree also lays claim to the largest sundial in the U.S.

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11. Payson, Arizona

Payson is pretty much smack dab in the middle of the state. For that reason, it’s often called “the heart of Arizona.” Geography aside, there’s something very soulful about this small town. Perhaps it’s the fact that the vast wilderness of Tonto National Forest surrounds Payson. Visitors and residents are never more than a few minutes from top-notch hiking, biking and camping. The area also touts many scenic drives if that’s more your speed.

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12. Camp Verde, Arizona

A tight-knit community of friendly locals who welcome visitors like old friends, Camp Verde, located 86 miles north of Phoenix in Yavapai County, is an ideal destination for those seeking outdoor adventure. It’s a super laid-back spot with rural charm where you can truly unwind. Pastoral pastimes include farm tours, horseback riding, hiking, biking, birdwatching, camping, canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Camp Verde even hosts an annual corn festival in July.

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Lindsay Cohn

Freelance PureWow Editor

Lindsay Cohn is a travel writer and serial trip planner who has visited 46 countries across six continents (and counting). When not globetrotting, she’s most likely either doing...
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