10 Awesome, Small Towns in Arizona

Tucson Skyline
Tucscon Skyline. Photo by Susan Rovira – Susan Rovira Photography 

When one thinks of Arizona, it’s difficult to not think about saguaro cacti, the Wild West and bomb Mexican food. And we definitely have all of that! But many don’t realize we have a lot of other things going on, too.

Whether you’re from Arizona or considering a visit, read on to find out more about these fabulous, finance-friendly destinations in Arizona! We’ll cover the tried and true, as well as some places that might be new to you.

Note though, that the number listing is arbitrary for this listicle. I really couldn’t pick which I like best! They’re all so different!

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#10 – Tombstone, Arizona

Best month(s) to visit: Early March to early June, or from mid-September to mid-November.

Hotel/lodging rates: $50-$100 nightly (hotels and B&Bs), $30-$70 nightly (AirBnB)

Best Restaurants: Puny John’s BBQ, Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, Crystal Palace Saloon.

Sweet Treats: Tombstone Sarsaparilla, Grandma Fudpucker’s/Fallen Angel Sweet Sin Parlor, Tombstone Sweet Memories.

Best Places for Drinks: This is one of those places where you’ll have the most fun walking Allen St. and just stopping in on saloons. Part of the magic is discovering for this place, so I’ll leave this one for you to decide!

Must-see Attractions: Silver Strike Winery, Good Enough Mine Tour, Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park (for my fellow history-lovers!), Bird Cage Theater and the street shoot-outs, pick-up walking tours.

Nearby Attractions: Kartchner Caverns (amazing!!), Biosphere 2 (so interesting!), Dragoon Brewery and Mt. Lemmon (awesome hiking!).I just told you that Arizona is more than the Old West, deserts and such, didn’t I? Though I still stand by that statement, I would be remiss to not mention this super-fun destination!

My husband and I visited Tombstone two years ago on a somewhat impromptu trip. I had a four-day weekend in February that he also had off (a miracle!), so we just had to take advantage of the opportunity!

The weather was near perfect – cloudy, cool with a bit of misty rain at times. It looked magical over the Dragoon Mountains!

Though we’d both seen the movie a long time ago, we spent the first night watching the movie in our hotel room since we got there late in the evening. Honestly, it was the best choice! It made the location that much more fun. Though the town is loosely based on the way of life in the Old West (and though it does have some very real, interesting history), the big focal points of the town are really made more meaningful by watching the movie.

Some may say it’s ‘touristy,’ or that it’s got a ‘Disneyland’ feel. Well, Disneyland gets millions of visitors annually, and people keep coming for a reason – so, I definitely think it’s worth it!

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#9 – Bisbee, Arizona

Best month(s) to visit: mid-October through mid-November, March-April

Hotel/lodging rates: $50-$100 nightly (hotels), $30-$70 nightly (AirBnB).

Best Restaurants: Tough question – this is a foodie’s paradise! Baller option, Cafe Roka. For mid-range/vegan, Poco. For budget lunch, Jimmy’s Hot Dog Company. If brunch is your thing, Bisbee would need a separate category for that since there are so many options!

Sweet Treats: ChocolΓ‘te (of course!), and Ana’s Seasonal Kitchen (for sweet breakfasts). I’m a bit of an ice cream snob (yes, I’m THAT person), but if you’re not, you might want to check out Bisbee Scoop! Many people love their ice cream.

Best Places for Drinks:
For such a small town, there are coffee houses GALORE. Check out Old Bisbee Roasters, Bisbee Coffee Company and Bathtub Coffee if you have a chance! Flying Leap Tasting Room is great if you like wine. The St. Elmo Bar has a fun yet relaxed feel, with affordable drinks. Locals hang out here; it’s a lovable dive bar. Patrons suggest bringing cash, so consider doing that!

Must-see Attractions:
  Bisbee is just a neat place. Since all of Arizona is known for it’s copper mining, you’ll see quite a few options for mine tours – and they can be really fun! The Bisbee Seance Room is a unique experience if you’re into that.

Nearby Attractions:
 Bisbee is actually a half-hour away from Tombstone, so it would be doable to both in one weekend if you wanted to – or even in a day if you’re doing an Arizona blitz!

Bisbee is definitely starting to get the love and attention it deserves! In 2016, USA Today named it as the number one historic small town in America! And for good reason, too. It’s one of the great mining ‘boom-towns’ of the West. It’s stayed popular due to it’s beautiful, Victorian-era architecture and laid-back vibes. I’m sure the variety of brunch places and coffee shops doesn’t hurt, either!

If you’ve been to the Natural History Museum at the Smithsonian (and have check out their AWESOME mineral collection), you would have noticed that Bisbee is a big contributor. Though this could be said about Arizona in general, Bisbee in particular has been a hotspot for mining and minerals for many years now.

Since Bisbee is so close to Tombstone (and as a result, close to the other neighboring areas around Tombstone), they could be done together in one weekend road trip. It’s an easy drive from Tuscon, Arizona (1.5-2 hours), and just a bit more of a drive from Phoenix, Arizona (just over 3 hours).

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The Polar Express is a train that runs around Christmastime. It’s so magical and fun for kids!
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Unmistakably, this is The Grand Canyon! Williams is noted as the gateway to the Grand Canyon. It’s an easy place to base yourself to explore when exploring the surrounding area.
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Anyone who comes to Williams HAS to check out Bearizona! It’s seriously so fun! The animals are also very well-treated, and it is evident education and conservation are more important than entertainment.
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This beautiful image captures the entrance into this awesome area!

#8 – Williams, Arizona

Best month(s) to visit: Crowds-wise? March-May. Weather-wise? September-early November. Summer is the most popular time, but it can be pretty hot in the bottom if you’re camping (in the high 90s and even up to the 110s, sometimes!).

Hotel/lodging rates: Varies greatly depending on when you go (and how you like your lodging), but there are a ton of options! Here are a few of them:

  • Dispersed camping! There’s a ton of National Forest around. Did you know that you can do dispersed camping on National Forest land for up to 14 days at a time? This is a great way to explore northern Arizona on a budget!
  • Site camping! If you need a few more amenities when camping, there are quite a few campsites nearby. Checkout Williams KOA, Kaibab Lake Campground and Dogtown Lake Campground (good sites for groups).
  • RV Camping! If you have an RV, or a vehicle besides a standard car/truck like a camper-van, there are quite a few RV sites nearby – Grand Canyon Railway RV Park, Canyon Motel & RV Park and and Canyon Gateway RV Park, to name a few.
  • Hotels! And there’s quite the variety to choose from. You could spend as little as $50-$60 per night at a Motel 6, or you could pay over $200 per night at one of the many resorts nearby.
  • Bed & Breakfasts! There are SO many to choose from! Check out this link for a comprehensive list.
  • Hostels! Though a bit dated as far as amenities and design, The Grand Canyon Hostel is tried and true. Prices are a bit steep at around $40 per night, per bed – but considering the prices of hotels can easily get up into the hundreds, it’s definitely a more budget-friendly option! If you’re looking to travel around for a while, ask about a work-stay exchange.
  • AirBnb! The price will vary quite a bit based on the type of accommodation you book, and when you book it for. The low-end for this area will be $35-$45, and those will be hard to come by. If you find one you like at that price, book it quickly! Prices in the $60-$90 range per night are more common.Best Restaurants: Tough question – this is a foodie’s paradise! Baller option, Cafe Roka. For mid-range/vegan, Poco. For budget lunch, Jimmy’s Hot Dog Company. If brunch is your thing, Bisbee would need a separate category for that since there are so many options!

    Best Places for Drinks:
    For such a small town, there are coffee houses GALORE. Check out Old Bisbee Roasters, Bisbee Coffee Company and Bathtub Coffee if you have a chance! Flying Leap Tasting Room is great if you like wine. The St. Elmo Bar has a fun yet relaxed feel, with affordable drinks. Locals hang out here; it’s a lovable dive bar. Patrons suggest bringing cash, so consider doing that!

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#7 – Jerome, Arizona

Best month(s) to visit: May-November. Note though, that we get some pretty intense monsoon storms throughout July, August and sometimes September!

Hotel/lodging rates: $80-$200 nightly (hotels), $100-$150 nightly (AirBnB), $50-$150 (Beds & Breakfasts – varies greatly according to time and amenities).

Best Restaurants: The Mine Cafe is great! They have a day-drinking happy hour from 12pm-2pm – beers for $3, mimosas for $4, and craft cocktails for $5! Their vibe is really fun, and their food is very healthy and fresh. I’m not the biggest fan of deli sandwiches – but if that’s your thing, Hilltop Deli is reasonably priced, and has some spectacular views of the plateau. If you’re craving barbecue, head to Bobby D’s – and if you’re craving the diner feel, Mile High Grill & Inn has some really good food!

Sweet Treats: Bordello Sweets is the real deal! This place is ran by a pastry chef who chose to move to this quirky, little town. Check out the fresh, homemade cookies! If you’re looking for a dessert wine, check out Passion Cellars. Flatiron has great coffees and bites too – and they have a pretty decent lunch menu, as well.

Best Places for Drinks:
Wicked City Brew has a dive feel to it, yet it’s warm and cozy, if that makes sense! The Spirit Room is described by others as a “clean, friendly biker bar.” It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the history of the place is very neat. Paul & Jerry’s Saloon is a place with some history where locals hang out.

Must-see Attractions:  Jerome is known for it’s old mines and ghost stories/tours. Check our a walking tour of Jerome’s haunted spots. This little town is also surrounded by beautiful scenery, so there are several trails to check out!

Nearby Attractions:
 Gold King Mine and Ghost Town is a short drive away, and is worth the drive through if you have the time. If you’re combining a trip to Jerome with Sedona, visit the Tuzigoot National Monument on your way to Sedona from Jerome!

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Tuzigoot National Monument is a great stop. Spend your time exploring, wondering and wandering around these ancient dwellings.
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Dead Horse Ranch State Park is a beautiful, well-kept secret in this area! This park could easily be explored for hours, but you can get some great views just by having a picnic here.

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#6 – Sedona, Arizona

Best month(s) to visit: Honestly, Sedona is magical in winter when the snow dusts the top of the deep red mountains, and it’s gorgeous in fall when the aspens and oaks are changing. But if I had to choose, and if you can only go once, visit between March and May. The weather is warm, but not too hot – and all of the wildflowers are in bloom!

Hotel/lodging rates:  Sedona is definitely one of the pricier options on this list, as far as hotels are concerned. But if you’re willing to be flexible with your lodging, Sedona can be affordable! There aren’t hostels here, but if you’re creative (and patient), there are a TON of artists retreats, trade-stays, and things of that nature here. There are also several campsites nearby.

  • Dispersed Camping – This is one of the rare exceptions where dispersed camping actually isn’t an option. Due to heavy use of the Red Rock State Park area, camping is limited only to campsites. If you’re going to be camping and traveling around this area, I recommend you save this guide by the Forest Service.
  • Campsites – Camp Avalon classifies itself as a ‘spiritual retreat and campground.’ Chavez Crossings is a more traditional campground that’s nearby. Chavez Crossings is no more than 10 minutes away from Sedona proper; Camp Avalon is about 20 minutes away. There are several other campgrounds off of the 89A as well if you explore a bit.
  • Hotels – This is definitely the place to splurge if you’re going to. You’ll spend $120-$250 nightly in hotels (if not more), and there are several great resorts here. or $40 or more nightly with AirBnB. Bed & Breakfasts for between vary greatly, starting at $90 per night, going upward to $200, $300 or even $400 per night! Sedona is definitely a place to splurge, though. You’ll find world-class accommodations here as far as resort amenities, things to do, etc.

Best Restaurants: It’s virtually impossible to list the top contenders here. There are SO MANY quality restaurants in Sedona! I can tell you that a few that are tried and true are Tamaliza, The Hudson, Momo’s Kitchen, Hideaway House, Elote Cafe and Dahl & DiLuca Ristorante (if you’re craving Italian food!).

Sweet Treats: Creekside Coffee and Bakery can be both your sweet tooth and coffee fix! It’s very cute. If you’re craving a healthier kind of sweet, Berry Divine offers all kinds of Acai bowls, while Local Juicery offers, well local juices! Sedonuts is super unique, and is exactly what it sounds like! Red Rock Gelato is hot and new. Though it’s opened right before our “cooler” months (though I know that term is very relative, considering the wintery north and northeast!), it’ll be much busier come March or April.

Best Places for Drinks:
While Sedona isn’t exactly known for it’s nightlife, it does have a few neat bars and wineries. Dellepiane has a bar/night club scene in the evenings. The Art of Wine is a fairly popular tasting room, as is Vino di Sedona. The Sundowner is what you want if you’re looking for an American dive bar feel, and Saltrock will be your go-to choice for a lounge. If you’re into beer, check out Oak Creek Brewing Company and/or Sedona Beer Company.

Must-see Attractions: This section could be it’s own guide within itself. There is SO much to do and see in Sedona! To really, truly enjoy a place, I think it’s important to know what kind of recreation you’d enjoy. Then, you can narrow it down to the options in those categories.

  • Touristy Fun/Commercial – The pink jeeps are almost synonymous with Sedona! You always see them out there as a local or visit. While it won’t be for everywhere, Pink Adventure Tours or Arizona ATV Adventures would be awesome for someone from out of the country or area who isn’t driving, but wants to have the desert, off-road experience! If you’re craving the ATV thing but don’t want a tour, check out one of the many rental companies. While it’s not my thing, Sedona Segway Tours has great reviews. People see it as a fun, novel way to explore the town!
  • Natural – This is where Sedona really shines, in my humble opinion. The geography (and geology!) of Sedona really is so unique and beautiful.  This is another area that could be a whole section in itself, so I will instead link you to a blog post that has covered this in-depth!
  • Supernatural – This is another thing Sedona is really known for. It’s a hotspot for new age (though, some would call it ancient or old age) phenomena. If you’re into hunting for vortexes (which Sedona is known to have), check out this website, Vortex Map. It actually has a worldwide map of vortexes, and you’ll see there’s a lot of activity in Sedona. There are so many yoga studios, yoga retreats, reiki retreats, spas, and the like that it would be impossible to list them all, but it’s definitely part of the culture.

Nearby Attractions:
 Sedona is especially great due to where it’s located! It could easily be combined with other towns and areas on this list for a long weekend, or it could be visited quickly from Phoenix for a nice day trip. Jerome is 45 minutes away, Montezuma’s Castle is about 50 minutes away (on the way down to Phoenix), and is DEFINITELY worth at least an hour or two! If you have kids with you (and/or if you enjoy fishing), a visit to one of the few local hatcheries (Page Springs, Sedona’s Rainbow Trout or Sterling Springs) may be worth a visit, as well. Slide Rock State Park is home to a natural, rock water slide that cools you off well during the summer, and that’s only 15 minutes away from Sedona off the 89A (on the way to Flagstaff). In fact, it would be relatively easy to start in Prescott, then visit Jerome, then see Sedona en route to Oak Creek and/or Flagstaff en route to Williams!

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#5 – Flagstaff, Arizona

Ahh, Flagstaff.

I should start with a disclaimer that, as a Lumberjack myself, I’m a bit biased when it comes to this being on the list! It’s for good reason, though. While it may not be very affordable to live in Flag these days, it can definitely be a budget vacation destination.

Best month(s) to visit: I can truly say that anytime is a great time to visit Flagstaff; it just depends what you’re after! You want Fall colors, and to participate in the local tradition known as ‘Tequila Sunrise?’ Come in October. Do you ski or snowboard? Visit January-March. ‘Summer’ is a short season here, but it’s relatively warm June-August, with the exception of occasional monsoon storms. Unless you’re visiting specifically for someone’s graduation, avoid May, as lodging jumps during that month.

Hotel/lodging rates:  Lodging is what will get you in Flagstaff! Thankfully, there are ways to save here.

  • Dispersed Camping – The housing crisis is so bad, that I’ve known quite a few undergraduates in the Parks & Recreation and Forestry majors to actually camp full-time in the forest. Now, mind you, you can’t spend more than 14 days in one campsite, but you can virtually move your campsite around indefinitely on National Forest land.
  • Campsites – There are several campsites that vary in amenity offerings and location. If you have an RV, check out Black Bart’s RV Park! There’s actually a restaurant right next to it (Black Bart’s Steakhouse) where the serving staff performs. They’re very talented, it’s entertaining, and you’re helping out local performing art college students! Here’s a list of cabin/traditional tent and car camping sites: Fort Tuthill County Campgrounds, Canyon Vista Campground, Flagstaff KOA, Little Elden Springs Horse Camp, and Woody Mountain Campground.
  • Hotels – You could spend between $50-$200 per night, depending on the quality and location of the hotel. If you can, I recommend visiting Flag on a weekday, as it’ll be significantly cheaper. A Thursday night would be great, as the nightlife is still good, but you’ll save on a room.
  • AirBnB – Honestly, this is the way I’d do it! Flagstaff has many beautiful homes, and the people there are so hospitable. The weekend I moved there, I mentioned at a thrift store that I couldn’t buy furniture because I don’t have a truck. Another student’s parent just up and offered to drive it over for me! I was floored. I’ve had SO many experiences of generosity there, which is why it’s one of my favorite towns ever. This will also keep Flag affordable, yet comfortable for you. You can find places for as little as $20 nightly there, or you could spent $50-$70 nightly and get a really nice, small cabin to yourself.
  • Hostels – If you’re wanting a young, hostel atmosphere to base yourself from, Flagstaff is your place. Having Northern Arizona University there means that there are thousands of 20-somethings August-May. There are still quite a few over summer, too, since many rent traditional apartments and work through the summer. The Grand Canyon Hostel is the go-to for many visiting Flagstaff. It’s pretty affordable, but most importantly, centrally located! It’s close to campus if you’re visiting family or friends at NAU, and it’s a short walk from everything downtown. Motel DuBeau, also known as DuBeau Hostel, is another affordable, fun option that’s centrally located.

Best Restaurants: Flagstaff is another foodie paradise! New restaurants are opening all the time there. Nomads Global Lounge is really nice if you want to treat yourself. If you’re craving Chinese, though it may not look like much, check out Hot Wok. Their recipes are just SO good and it’s really affordable! Karma Sushi is fun if you like maki sushi that’s experimental fusion. My go-to for Japanese is Teppan Fuji. I went there once a week and could still never be sick of that place! If you’re vegan or vegetarian, Flag is a great place to be because there are Thai, Indian and other fusion places everywhere.

Sweet Treats: Admittedly, my favorite place in Flagstaff for dessert is… Cold Stone. I know, not as intriguing as the little places! I also frequented the various frozen yogurt places as a student. I’ll also say that Flagstaff is a very health-conscious town, so you won’t see as many sweet shops as you would in other small towns.

Best Places for Drinks:
Breweries abound! The Lumberyard was my go-to. They have free line-dancing lessons, country swing classes and of course it’s even just fun to watch the really skilled dancers do their thing! The mixed drinks are good, and well-priced. They have great specials, too. Also check out Hops on Birch, Historic Brewing Barrel + Bottle House, Mother Road Brewing Company and Dark Sky Brewing. There are also a TON of coffee places if you’re into that! I’d usually get my coffee at Macy’s, then join friends at Biff’s Bagels.

Must-see Attractions: So much to see and do! There are endless opportunities for the outdoors enthusiast. Humphreys, the tallest peak in Arizona, is a challenge visitors love to take on. Sunrise Ski Resort welcomes all kinds of snow play up a the top, and if you’re visiting during summer, you can still take the ski lift up for amazing views. If you’re into the night sky, go to one of the star parties or other events at Lowell Observatory (great date idea!). If you visit while the aspens are turning, leaf peeping is best at Aspen Loop. The Galaxy Diner has a fun mid-century feel, and offers swing dancing lessons! There are always local events and festivals going on, so if you’re heading to Flag, keep an eye on the city’s website for their cute, kitchy events and festivals! Northern Arizona University (NAU) also has a busy activities calendar, as they often put on concerts and events that attract people from everywhere – so keep an eye on those, as well!

Nearby Attractions: Sunset Crater Volcano is pretty amazing; worth the short drive, in my humble opinion. If you like road trips, head east on the I-40 toward Holbrook, and enjoy the sprawling views of the Painted Desert. It’s one of my favorite views in the world. Of course, Flagstaff is also on the Historic Route 66 – so if you’re doing that awesome road trip across America, be sure to add it on your stop list. It’s worth it!!!

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#4 – Prescott, Arizona

Pronounced press-kit. I’m not joking! Locals will correct you!

Prescott is such a unique place. There are still legitimate, cattle-driving cowboys here. It is not uncommon to see people carrying guns on their hip. Yet, there’s a very strong liberal, hippie presence, as Prescott College (a local liberal arts university) gains more popularity. It’s also home to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – so you might be drinking with our next generation of rocket scientists, astronauts and/or engineers!

This would be a great place to include on your northern Arizona road trip, as Jerome, Sedona, Flagstaff, Williams and Grand Canyon can all be reached starting from here.

Hotel/lodging rates:  Lodging is what will get you in Flagstaff! Thankfully, there are ways to save here.

  • Campsites – You have several campsites to choose from. Point of Rocks RV Campground, Hilltop Campground and Thumb Butte would be your closest and most highly rated options.
  • Hotels – $80-$150 nightly
  • AirBnB – $35-$120 nightly
  • Hostels – House in the Pines Hostel is reallllly nice! While the website for the Prescott International Hostel isn’t as cool, it’s still a solid second choice.

Best Restaurants: Papa’s Italian Restaurant and Farm Provisions are great options. If you just want a casual lunch, The Local is one to consider as well.

Sweet Treats: Now, THIS town loves it’s desserts. Rustic Pie, Marino’s Mob Burgers & Ice Cream, Shannon’s Gourmet Cheesecakes, and Frannie’s are all solid spots for sweets. Outlaw Donuts is a dessert option as well, but note that they close early (4pmish).

Best Places for Drinks:
The Superstition Meadery is very different. I loooove mead, so I’ll pretty much try mead wherever I go! Granite Mountain Brewing, The Point Bar and Lounge, Lyzzard’s Lounge, and Coppertop Ale House are other options. Honestly, the most fun way to experience the ‘Whiskey Row’ of Prescott is to walk up and down the main streets, and to just pop in and out of the bars. If you’re looking for coffee, you have quite a few choices; Fresca Cafe, The Lone Spur Cafe, Wild Iris Coffee House, Cupper’s Coffeehouse, and Method Coffee. If you want a chain, they have Dutch Bros.

Must-see Attractions: Prescott is where you enjoy country music, open scenery and the Wild West culture. Watson Lake Park, Thumb Butte Willow Lake and Peavine Trail are solid options if you want a day hike, bike ride or picnic. The nightlife is fun here, as it’s a mix of a college town and retirement spot. Matt’s Saloon considers itself to be ‘one of the last true honkytonks.’ It’s like having a bit of Texas in northern Arizona. πŸ˜‰

Nearby Attractions: If you’re based in Prescott, Arcosanti is just under an hour out and is worth the visit. It’s a uniquely structured town based on the concept of ‘arcology,’ which combines architecture and ecology.

View of Arcosanti from the southeast, showing buildings from Crafts III on the far left to the guestrooms in the right foreground.

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#3 – Payson, Arizona

Payson has some amazing views in areas surrounding the town. Since it’s right on the Mogollon Rim, photographers will love the panoramic views. Storm-chasers will especially love this location since Payson gets the brunt of the summer monsoon storms. People who are more accustomed to cities will love that this small(ish) town has almost anything a visitor could want or need to be comfortable, along with a few extras and surprises.

Hotel/lodging rates:  Lodging is what will get you in Flagstaff! Thankfully, there are ways to save here.

  • Campsites – Houston Mesa, Christopher Creek, and Flowing Springs are all very pretty campgrounds not too far from amenities. If you have an RV, Payson Campground and RV Resort might be your best option.
  • Hotels – $70-$150 nightly. Hotels actually book fairly far in advance during summer since it’s the closest mountain town to Phoenix, so book early if you’re doing a hotel! 4th of July is an especially fun weekend to be here, so book even further in advance for then.
  • AirBnB – $50-$100 nightly. Hotels will tend to be right off the highway, whereas the residential areas are a little further out of the way. If you’re doing a family tri[,
  • Hostels/Motels – There aren’t any hostels in Payson, but there are a few budget motel options for $50-$60 nightly.

Best Restaurants: Ayothaya has reeeeally good thai food! In general, the highest-rated and most-frequented restaurants are the ones that serve burgers, sandwiches and fries. These include Miss Fitz 260 Cafe, Mogollon Moose Bakery, Mike’s Fish & Chips, and The 703 on Main.

Sweet Treats: Scoops is a great spot for ice cream and coffee. Country Charm Fudge, also known as Sweet Country Charm, always has a wide variety of sweets, and they’re ALL good.

Best Places for Drinks:
Admittedly, I’ve only ever camped out in Payson, or have been there for the day – but I hear that in this town, there isn’t much of a drink-out culture. People usually have drinks or beers with dinner at Native Grill, or Chili’s, or at a restaurant like that.

Must-see Attractions: The rim! It sounds a bit silly, but that’s the big draw. It offers an escape from the heat for Phoenicians, and beautiful hikes. I’m honestly surprised that Water Wheel Falls doesn’t have more people visiting it, because it’s a very relaxing spot. Monument Peak Loop Trail is a pet and kid friendly day hike,

Nearby Attractions: Geocaching is big in this area, and across northern Arizona, really. It might be a fun way to enhance your road trip and your stops through small towns! Note: digging or hunting for crystals used to be very popular in the Diamond Point area near Payson. Unfortunately, this has since stopped due to overuse. Don’t get caught doing this, or you’re pay quite the hefty fine!

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#2 – Page, Arizona

Page is a unique spot on the Navajo Nation, right where Utah and Arizona meet. It’s such a unique and beautiful place, one that doesn’t get nearly enough love and attention! If you’re planning a Southwest or Four Corners trip, definitely consider including this one!

Hotel/lodging rates

  • Campsites – This is where Page really stands out. There are a TON of campsites to choose from, varying in levels of amenities, cost and distance to the nearest gas station.
    • Page Lake Powell – Tent sites run about $30 nightly. Full hook-ups (including cable TV, water, electric and sewer) will run about $50 nightly for RV folks.
    • Wahweap RV & Campground – This one is mainly for RVs. Amenities could be updated, but the views are GORGEOUS! While rates vary, at the time of this post, they’re running at about $50 nightly.
    • Bullfrog Marina – Nice spots by Lake Powell. Reservations aren’t required; first-come, first-served basis. $20 nightly at the time of writing this.
    • Lees Ferry Campground – This campground operates out of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and it’s ran by the National Park Service. Pretty modern amenities with a gas station closeby. $20 nightly.
    • Lone Rock Beach Primitive Camping – Also operated by NPS, on the beach or on sandy dunes. Much more primitive. Note that there’s a $14 fee per vehicle per night, in ADDITION to the daily park entrance fee ($30 for 1-7 days, per vehicle).
    • Primitive Sites – Primitive camping is available at Slanton Creek, Hite, Dirty Devil, and Farley. Note that there are no designated campsites in these spots; you just find and stay where you can fit. Great in a pinch though, since no reservations are required, and it’s only $12 per night.
  • Hotels – EXPENSIVE. Expect to pay between $90-$250 nightly. Not very affordable, but honestly, this is more of a place to camp and explore! Save your money for the central locations in cities.
  • AirBnB – $40-$70 nightly. Quality varies, but there are some really nice places!
  • Hostels/Motels – The main hostel/motel (I’m combining them because it’s not quite either) is Lake Powell Motel. They have great reviews. Price will of course vary depending on the time of the year.

Best Restaurants: Birdhouse is where it’s at for fried chicken. El Tapatio has decent Tex-Mex, and if you’re looking for a burger or sandwich, Slacker’s is a great option.

Sweet Treats: This one’s tough. It’s a bit of a toss-up with the places here, but it’s always worth a shot for something cheap. Canyon Crepes offers, well, crepes – and Big Dipper Ice Cream & Yogurt has some basic options.

Best Places for Drinks:
When I’ve been to Page, it’s been for camping or church retreats. This means we either didn’t drink, or we bought our own stuff locally. So, while I can’t speak personally to the local bars, here are some options to consider:

  • State 48 Tavern – Gastropub. This would be a place to get dinner and a few drinks, a slow drink place.
  • Windy Mesa – Classic karaoke dive bar.
  • Blue Coffee & Wine Bar – A little more classy, which means it’s a bit more expensive. It seems well worth it, though. Great reviews and decor!

Must-see Attractions: Page is a great base location for exploring the canyon lands! There is literally SO much to see nearby. As you may have inferred from the lodging names, Page is VERY close to Lake Powell – less than 10 minutes away, depending on where you are! It’s a very unique lake. It’s shared by Utah and Arizona, and it just makes me think it’s what the Grand Canyon would look like if the water was higher. There are quite a few marinas if you’re into boating or water sports, and the camping panoramic views are just phenomenal.

Lake Powell 1.jpg

Surely, you’ve seen the swoon-worthy photos of Antelope Canyon. Page is 15-20 minutes from the canyon, so it’s a must-see! Note that, since it’s on the Navajo Reservation (and due to visitor usage among other factors), you MUST be part of a tour from one of the local organizations to visit Antelope Canyon. If you try to without a guide and are caught, you can be fined heavily. It’s also heavily looked down upon, as the Navajo Nation is a sovereign nation – and as a guest, you’re breaking their house rules. Paying for a tour is so worth it, though!

Antelope Canyon 1.jpg

This one may not be for everyone – but the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook is pretty impressive. It’s a very pretty view into Glen Canyon, and it’s just interesting to think of how dams have changed the physical and political landscape of the region. It’s worth the stop if you’re around.

Glen Canyon Dam Overlook 1

Another popular photo and selfie spot is Horseshoe Bend. This is a very popular stop along the 89 between Flagstaff and Page. It provides an amazing view into the canyon, and of the Colorado River. It’s about 10-15 minutes before you get to Page.

Horseshoe Bend 1.jpg

Since Page is right by the border of Arizona and Utah, I’d recommend using this as a base area to explore the local parks and national monuments if you have the time! The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument isn’t often talked about, but it should be considered for your itinerary. If you’re into geology, there are so many different rock formations there, and it’s just neat to see history in the environment. And of course, it’s just so pretty!

Nearby Attractions: There is sooooo much to explore if you’re willing to drive an hour or more away from Page! One stop that doesn’t get enough attention online is Vermilion Cliffs. It has some of the same, amazing rock that Antelope Canyon does, but it doesn’t get nearly as much traffic. Another really neat thing about the location is that it’s on the way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon from Page, so it could easily be added as a stop.

Vermilion Cliffs.jpg

And since Vermilion Cliffs is on the way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, I would be remiss to not recommend it! As mentioned earlier, the North Rim doesn’t see as much traffic. This is a plus if you want to get away from people, but it’s a drag if you prefer to have more amenities, restaurants and etc. nearby. I’ve personally backpacked the Kanab Wilderness, and it’s absolutely STUNNING. If you have a chance and you’re in good shape, absolutely do it!

Grand Canyon North Rim 1

#1 – Greer, Arizona

Greer 1
Greer 2
Greer 3

When I think of “Hygge,” the Scandinavian concept of “cozy fun,” Greer comes to mind. So many Phoenicians (residents of Phoenix) escape from the heat to Greer during the summer, and they visit during winter for the amazing landscapes. Despite the 4-hour drive each way, people just love it! And I do, too. Even though Pinetop-Lakeside is fairly up there in elevation, and has forests full of Ponderosa pines, there’s just this change in the air when you get up towards Greer. The skies fill with firs and spruces; you’re surrounded by a natural, never-ending Christmas tree farm! I might be partial since I LOVE Norway and Switzerland – and this area just gives me those Nordic vibes.

Best month(s) to visit: Summer for fishing and hiking, winter for snow fun, and Fall for leaf peeping!

Hotel/lodging rates: $70-$300 nightly (big range, I know!), $100-$200 nightly (AirBnB)

Best Restaurants: Like I said – Nordic vibes! Restaurants are few and far between, and EXPENSIVE. This is a place where you rent a cabin with a kitchen, load up at Wal*Mart or a health food store, and cook while listening to music and dancing around the kitchen. If you’re looking for a trip where you can have a few zero/pajama days, this is your spot.

Sweet Treats: S’mores or home-baked cookies in your kitchen! Seriously. Save your money for activities here. =)

Best Places for Drinks: Can you guess what I’m gonna say? Yup! Your favorite bottle of wine from a local winery, or Safeway. I recommend stopping at the Safeway in Lakeside on your way there (50 minutes west on the 260). If you wait until you get closer into town, stores are spread apart and way more expensive. Quality also gets spotty since there seem to be fewer shipments out there.

Must-see Attractions: Sunrise Ski Resort is obviously a huge draw here. I am probably the least athletic person ever, but even I was able to figure out some bunny slopes (sorta, kinda!) by the time I left. If skiing and snowboarding aren’t your speed, there’s a solid hill for tubing, which is really fun! The Butterfly Lodge Museum is an interesting, kitschy spot if you walk in with an open mind. It’s also a beautiful location for a wedding! Aside from that, this place is really for people who enjoy the great outdoors. Bring your fishing gear, hunting equipment, kayaks, canoes and hiking boots! Seriously. You’ll forget that you’re in Arizona.

Nearby Attractions: The drives along these roads are activities within themselves. It’s worth it to explore the nearby towns of Alpine, Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low. Northern Arizona is full of volcanic fields if that’s your thing, and you’ll definitely see extinct volcanoes all over the White Mountain Apache Reservation. I won’t reveal the location on here, but there are several “secret” spots where you can find fossils, if you’re into that! Antique stores are a big thing here on the mountain, so if you’re looking to decorate your house or cabin, you can find some really neat stuff up here if you’re willing to dig. Also, if you find (or have) antlers, you can make a few hundred dollars at the right places! There’s nothing like MAKING money on vacation!

Thank you for reading my NOVEL of a guide to small towns worth visiting in Arizona!

Have you visited a great, small town in Arizona that I didn’t mention? Talk about it in the comments below! This blog is a community by traveling teachers, to help other traveling teachers.

About Author

I'm just another teacher who loves to travel! I currently live and teach on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, which is a destination in it's own right. I love discussing, sharing and creating opportunities for teachers to travel farther and more often.

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(6) Comments

  1. Farah Al Zadjaly

    I love this :_ so much to do and so affordable. I really need to visit Arizona when I plan my US trip.

  2. M.B. Henry

    I LOVE Sedona. Hope to go back again someday soon πŸ™‚

  3. biblejournalingjourney

    I am a teacher, but I am not a traveling teacher. My family visited Arizona this summer, and I agree that Sunset Crater Volcano was pretty amazing, along with the Painted Desert views you can get on the nearby drive. We really enjoyed Walnut Canyon when we were near Flagstaff. Also, my son absolutely adored Bearizona. It was pretty important to give him some entertainment since we had to hold his hand the whole time at the Grand Canyon. I love reading blogs about Arizona because it brings back memories from our vacation.

  4. Alli Jakoubek

    Sedona is so gorgeous and Jerome is on my list of top places to visit in the U.S. Hope to get back out to Arizona here soon!

  5. Lauren

    I want to do a trip to AZ and your post has hit some locations that sound really fun, especially for families. Tombstone and Williams seem like my kids would love the attractions there! Pinning for future reference. πŸ™‚

  6. Krystianna (@VolumesNVoyages)

    I really need to explore more of the US! This place looks gorgeous. Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

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