Williams is a small city of around 3,000 people, located in the Coconino County of Arizona. What makes it a big touristic attraction – even though it’s such a small town – is the fact that it’s located on the historic Route 66 and also on the Southwest Chief Amtrak train route.
It’s also a starting point for those who want to get to the Grand Canyon, so inevitably, Williams is visited a lot by tourists from all over the world. Thus, the locals are profiting from this, offering a wide variety of things to do:
1. Take the Grand Canyon Train
Of course, you can also drive there, but you will miss a lot of breathtaking scenery that is only visible from this train, pulled by an antique locomotive. The staff are friendly and entertaining and drinks are included, so you can have a lovely time during the 65-mile ride to the Grand Canyon.
This is not a trip meant to take you as fast as possible to the canyon. The train goes quite slowly, so you can just enjoy the scenery and the journey.
2. Visit the Bearizona Wildlife Park
This is not your regular kind of zoo, but rather a large park where you can see wild animals in their natural habitat and interact with them. You can drive in some areas and walk in others, and there are various animal shows during the day.
The animals are used to having people and cars all around them; in some areas, they even walk right past to your car. You will find a variety of species, including wolves, bears, pumas, bison, deer, foxes and many more. There are multiple places to get food, drinks, and souvenirs.
3. Admire the Williams Depot
This train station is the starting point of the Grand Canyon Railway and was built in 1908. It has a restaurant, restroom facilities, and a shop. Admire this old building while you spend some relaxing time waiting for the train.
If you are passionate about trains, here is a great spot to take lots of cool photos. There is also a gift shop, so feel free to get a nice souvenir to remind you of Williams and its depot.
4. Feed a deer at the Grand Canyon Deer Farm
Yet another facility where you can admire a large variety of animals, the Deer Farm has 10 acres of land and is home to deer, bison, llamas, wallabies, as well as a goat, a camel, and a talking parrot.
Not only can you admire the animals in their habitat, but you can also feed the deer right from your hand, pet the goat or even kiss the camel. This is a one of a kind experience and the kids will absolutely love it. The animals are used to people and are very friendly – especially if you have some food on you!
5. Visit Pete’s Route 66 Gas Station Museum
If you are passionate about the historic Route 66, you will love this small but cute museum and gift shop. It’s full of antiques, old photos and all sorts of random items related to the legendary route.
What’s fun is that everything is displayed inside a gas station; there is even a well-preserved vintage car parked here. The owner is friendly and will gladly answer your questions related to the items on display.
6. Admire some planes at the Fame Air Museum
After admiring memorabilia related to driving on the Route 66 and old trains, it’s time to see some old planes too. This museum displays more than 30 different models, from small ones to huge ones; from one-passenger planes to transport models and military planes.
You can spend at least an hour here admiring all the models and take lots of photos with them – you can even climb in some.
Some engines and personal items that used to belong to various pilots are on display, and you will find plenty of souvenirs at the gift shop.
7. Have a beer at the Grand Canyon Brewing Company
Relax after all the walking and visiting and just enjoy a cold beer along with a nice meal. This brewery offers a wide variety of beers crafted right there at their own distillery. It’s an attractive spot and is made of wood and stone, with a big fireplace and a fountain.
There is also a shop with various shirts, hats, glasses, and other souvenirs. Besides beer, they have many other types of drinks (some that are also produced right there), and the prices are quite affordable.
8. Camp at the White Horse Lake Campground
After admiring the beautiful scenery surrounding Williams on the train ride to the Grand Canyon, you can now get up close and personal with the mother nature at the White Horse Lake Campground.
This place is really beautiful and quiet and includes some great camping spots for the entire family, near a fishing lake. It’s clean and well maintained and includes restrooms and other facilities. The sunrises and sunsets are absolutely gorgeous. Just be aware of raccoons, as they might steal your food.
9. Visit the Sycamore Canyon
While not as huge as the Grand Canyon, the Sycamore Canyon is still an impressive place with some breath-taking landscapes. It includes a wide variety of trees, plants and wild animals, as well as multiple spots for picnics and camping.
The roads are a bit rough and narrow but still drivable, and you can also choose to hike your way there. Some people even called it “a mini Grand Canyon with no crowds”, so it’s definitely worth the visit.
10. Have dinner at the Wild West Junction
This place includes a hotel, a restaurant, and a pub and is located right on Route 66. The hotel has nice rooms and offers the basic needs for a good night’s rest. What’s really unique about the bar is that the walls and ceiling are covered in dollar bills. Feel free to leave your mark on this place and stick one on too.
The exterior looks nice and everything is made to resemble an old southwest city. While the restaurant may not be prepared for large groups, it can handle smaller ones easily and the food is quite good. Sometimes there are bands and everyone is welcomed to get up and dance.
11. Hike the Bill Williams Mountain
If you are looking for a fun day in the great outdoors, go hiking at Bill Williams Mountain. The mountain was named after Old Bill Williams – a scout, guide and mountain man, and the founder of the city. You can drive to the lookout point, although it’s much better to hike and admire the natural surroundings on the way.
Make sure to wear proper clothes, as the climb can get quite steep at times. The mountain has a maximum elevation of 9,259 feet and offers some really nice views.
12. Sample some wine at the Grand Canyon Wine Company
Located downtown, this place offers an amazing wine tasting experience, with a wide variety of wine assortments. They also happen to be the only winery in Arizona that produces craft beer.
If possible, try to arrive between 2 PM and 6 PM, as they have the “happy hour” with special offers and discounts. The place is nice and cozy, with beautiful music playing in the background so you can just relax and enjoy a good glass of wine.
13. Have a picnic at Bill Williams Monument Park
This cute little park has an area for picnics, an area for walking dogs, a statue of Bill Williams (the founder of the city) and a monument dedicated to fallen soldiers.
Just have a seat, enjoy the view – along with some lunch or a coffee – and continue your journey through Williams.
14. Buy some souvenirs from the Valle Travel Stop
What makes this gift shop really unique is the multitude of antique cars displayed outside, as well as statues of wild animals. Inside, you will find all sorts of items related to the area or to Route 66, including boots, clothes, metal art, and rocks.
15. Get more info from the Williams and Forest Service Visitor Center
For even more information about the area and even more cool places to visit, head to the Williams and Forest Service Visitor Center. The staff will help you plan your visit to Northern Arizona and have some amazing experiences, and can also assist you in making reservations.
Plus, you will find various maps, books, and educational items about Williams, the Grand Canyon and the other attractions of the area – as well as various souvenirs for home.