Travel Like a Tourist: Williams
Credit: Siegfried Claeys

Road Trips & Tours

Travel Like a Tourist: Williams

Play tourist in Williams—where Route 66 retro kitsch meets Grand Canyon grandeur.

You've heard the refrain: "Travel like a local." But what if you want to enjoy just being a tourist and experience a destination's most iconic draws and historic places? There's a reason these spots are famous, right?

In Williams—"gateway to the Grand Canyon" and a Route 66 stopover—you'll find a mountain town rife with tourist delights.


1500 E Rte 66, Williams
(928) 635-2289

Why it's famous: Where the buffalo, not to mention wolves and bears, roam

Okay, technically, they’re bison, not buffaloes, but you’ll see plenty of them, plus Rocky Mountain goats and elk—and those bears and wolves—at Bearizona Wildlife Park. These big animals, all native to North America, roam freely in their pine-shaded setting, while you remain safely in your car as you drive along a three-mile loop through their habitats.

Fort Bearizona, the park’s more traditional zoo-like setting, lets you get close to foxes, river otters, porcupines, bobcats, raccoons and other smaller creatures. Stay for lunch, browse the gift shop and check out animal experiences like grizzly bear training and otter feeding.

Canyon Coaster Adventure Park

700 E. Route 66, Williams
(928) 707-7729

Why it's famous:
The state’s only alpine roller coaster

Travel Like a Tourist: Williams
Canyon Coaster. Credit: Experience Williams

Twist, turn, slide and soar through Northern Arizona’s pine trees on a mile-long mountain “roller coaster” at Canyon Coaster Adventure Park, where tracks through the forest provide 360-degree views from as high up as 35 feet. Other smile-inducing park thrills include tubing down 400 undulating feet, either in summer sunshine or atop winter snow.

If little ones are in tow, snack or mealtime isn’t far away. Luckily, the on-site bar and grill serves up family-friendly pizza, sandwiches and mac and cheese, and adult-friendly beer, wine and cocktails.

Grand Canyon Brewing Company

301 N. 7th St., Williams
(928) 635-1911

Why it’s famous: An Arizona brewery’s original roots

Grand Canyon Brewing Company’s success—first as a brewery, then expanding into spirits and canned cocktails—started with humble beginnings in Williams. Production continues at the downtown Williams brewpub, where stainless-steel fermenters and copper stills share space with what feels like a close friend’s winter cabin. Rustic decor includes bar stools that look like they were chopped out of a pine tree from just outside, as well as a cozy, crackling fire.

Sixteen taps, a full bar and a full kitchen keep everyone happy. Pair a prickly pear vodka soda with fried pickles, or a sunset amber ale with a cheeseburger.

Grand Canyon Deer Farm

6769 E. Deer Farm Rd., Williams
(928) 635-4073

Why it’s famous: Offering animal encounters for more than half a century

Since 1969, the folks at Grand Canyon Deer Farm have been inviting the public to gentle meet-and-greets with a host of furry, fuzzy creatures—from deer and llamas to wallabies and miniature horses. Whether you want to feed animals from the palm of your hands or simply gaze at them on a leisurely stroll around the 10-acre property, the farm offers plenty of ways to connect with wildlife.

A popular experience includes 15-minute up-close interactions led by a biologist, where you’ll not only glean fun facts about wallabies, coatimundi, horses, porcupines and more, you’ll also learn animal handling skills and get to snap cute selfies with the wildlife. The zookeeper experience is a behind-the-scenes offering that goes more in-depth on animal care and feeding.

Grand canyon railway

233 N. Grand Canyon Blvd., Williams
(928) 635-4010 or (800) 843-8724

Why it's famous: Nostalgic train ride to the spectacular canyon’s edge

Sure, you can drive the 65 miles from Williams to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park on a highway, but the two-plus-hour rumble on the Grand Canyon Railway is a trip back in time—and much more entertaining. Think Wild West shows, cowboy serenades and a train robber or two, plus the chance to ride in one of several restored passenger cars, pulled by vintage diesel or historic steam locomotives.

Got kids? Plan ahead for the railway’s annual family-friendly Pumpkin Patch and Polar Express events.

The railway also operates the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, a comfortable lodge with amenities that include an indoor pool, pub and free Wi-Fi. Packages that combine a stay with railway passes make it an attractive and affordable option for anyone interested in visiting the Grand Canyon during their trip.


137 W Railroad Ave, Williams
(800) 328-1484

Why it's famous:
Legendary bordello turned boutique hotel

Long before Williams became known as the gateway to the Grand Canyon, it was a booming railroad town, serving logging and ranching interests. In 1897, August Tetzlaff, an enterprising German immigrant, leased his two-story brick building to two (ahem) service industries—a saloon at street level and a brothel upstairs, where the West’s infamous “soiled doves” plied their trade, sometimes hanging out the windows to wave at potential customers.

The rooms have since been transformed into Red Garter Inn—a cozy inn complete with Victorian decor, private baths and a resident ghost or two. And the saloon? It’s now Anna's Canyon Café, which serves a hearty breakfast.


301 W Route 66, Williams
(928) 635-2021

Why it's famous:
The diva of dive bars

Travel Like a Tourist: Williams
Credit: @historicbrewingcompany

From the vintage neon sign sporting the words “package goods” above the door to the stuffed mountain lion prowling over the bar, the Sultana clearly signals that you shouldn’t order a foo-foo craft cocktail here. Instead, opt for a local beer and a shot, then let this saloon’s history slowly unfurl around you.

Built in 1912 as a pool hall with an adjacent theater that showed silent films, the Sultana boasts underground tunnels rumored to lead to old opium dens and to have once harbored bootleggers. Pool tables, corn hole and live music are today’s entertainment. You’ll also hear a plethora of languages, thanks to international visitors, who amble in for the atmosphere and a cold one.

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About the Author

Nora Burba Trulsson

Nora Burba Trulsson is a long-time Arizona resident and a freelance writer specializing in travel, food, lifestyle, architecture and design topics. Her articles have appeared in Phoenix Home & Garden, Arizona Highways, Sunset,, Valley Guide, Modern Luxury Scottsdale and other publications and websites.

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