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Tubac (Credit: David H. Smith)

Small-Town Holiday Day Trips

By: Arizona Office of Tourism

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The holidays are here and these three small towns in Arizona are the perfect spots to celebrate with all the charm and none of the crowds.

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Arizona Office of Tourism

These articles are brought to you by the staff of the Arizona Office of Tourism, and occasionally local tourism organizations around the state.


This is wine country. Located about a 1½-hour drive from Phoenix, in the appropriately named Verde Valley, relax in Old Town Cottonwood with some locally produced (and nationally renown) Arizona wine. It's one of a few stops along the Verde Valley Wine Trail, which also includes wineries and tasting rooms in nearby Jerome, Clarkdale and Sedona.

If you're not ready to taste, grab a couple of bottles to take home and continue to browse the assorted antique shops, art galleries, cafes and restaurants on Main Street. (For ideas on where to eat, check out "It's the Weekend. Let's Eat. Old Town Cottonwood.")

Families can book a trip on the Verde Canyon Railroad's Magical Christmas Journey weekends through December (limited seats remaining for 2019) or Blazin M Ranch for special "deck the barn" decor and holiday cowboy dinner shows with the ranch's signature "flying biscuits." Don't forget to check out Blazin M's Frontier Town for additional activities and photo ops. 

Pro tip: On New Year's Day, head to Dead Horse Ranch State Park, which is hosting two First Day Hikes at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. to kick-off 2020. There'll be hot chocolate for the morning hikers and beautiful views of the Verde Valley (afternoon hike).


Each year, "Arizona's Official Christmas City" puts on an extravagant holiday display in its town square with millions of lights, welcoming visitors and residents alike with its Christmas cheer. The annual courthouse Christmas lighting takes place in early December and stays lit through mid-January so there's plenty of time to experience Prescott's holiday glow. The town also offers many other family-friendly activities this time of year, including parades and holiday craft fairs.

The mile-high city is a 1½-hour drive from Phoenix. And, should you wish to stay a little longer, author David Duran shares his ideal itinerary for "48 Hours in Prescott."

Pro-tip: Celebrate New Year's Eve on the famous (some might say "infamous") Whiskey Row. Instead of a traditional ball, a 6-foot illuminated cowboy boot drops down to help ring in the new year.


If you're heading south, it doesn't get more charming than Tubac—so much so that Travel + Leisure named it one the "10 Most Charming Small Towns to Visit in 2019."

Located directly off of I-19, 45 minutes from Tucson (or 2½ hours from Phoenix), Tubac is known for its eclectic shops, meandering streets, and surprising hidden courtyards and sparkling fountains. With more than 100 shops with wares ranging from vintage goods, ceramics, leather, jewelry and handmade crafts, it's a great place to find a one-of-a-kind gift for a loved one (or yourself) this holiday.

In the center of it all is the Tubac Center of the Arts, which hosts seasonal exhibits and multiple artist events and programs. Their current art installation, "Javelinas de Tubac" features life-sized javelina statues hand-painted by local artists.

Western fans will enjoy the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, home of the oldest Spanish fort in Arizona and Otero Hall, one of the state's earliest school buildings. You'll also find a 19th-century era printing press, museum and gift shop.

Pro-tip: Unwind with a round of golf or spa treatments at the Tubac Golf Resort & Spa, a AAA Four Diamond resort.

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