Located just southwest of Yuma International Airport on Route 95, Somerton Arizona is a tiny town of less than 2 square miles which was founded in 1898.
The town’s history is largely connected to that of Yuma’s, which includes the military supply depot that was so crucial to supporting the U.S. Army’s forts in the area, many of which were in remote and nearly inaccessible areas.
At the time of the last census, Somerton had a population of slightly more than 7,000 residents, and due to its closeness, is often considered a suburb of the much larger Yuma.
Below are 15 things to do in Somerton and the surrounding areas.
1. Wild River Family Entertainment Center
As part of the Cocopah Tribal Casino, the Wild River Family Entertainment center is the go-to place in Somerton and Yuma for family-friendly fun, food and entertainment.
Sporting 24 lanes of cosmic, glow-in-the-dark bowling, a big video arcade, laser tag, pool tables and even darts, there’s something for everyone regardless of your age or level of maturity.
All those activities will definitely make you hungry, so there are restaurants on site. If you can’t drag yourself away, there’s even a great hotel that’s just a hop, skip and jump away if you’d like to spend the night.
The center is conveniently located on South Avenue B in Somerton.
2. Visit the Somerton Parks
With two parks just a stone’s throw from each other, finding an easy place to unwind after a long day of hitting all the area’s tourist sites won’t be a problem.
Perricone Park is located just west of Avenue F near its intersection with Route 95, and Somerton Park, or Main Street Park, is a few blocks to the southeast, on the south side of Main Street, west of Congress Avenue.
Both parks are run by the city’s parks department and are great little oases in the middle of the great Sonoran Desert. They both offer fairs and live events throughout the year too, so check online before you go.
3. Casa De Coronado Museum
The Coronado Motel in Yuma is one of the town’s most iconic and historic places.
Opened in the late ‘30s, it was the first hotel in the state that was built in the style of modern motels and hotels, with the rooms next to one another in a large building, as opposed to individual cabins, which was the norm of design up until that time.
The hotel and its Czech founders have interesting stories. You’ll learn all about them at the museum, which was one of the original franchises of the modern Best Western brand, which is now nationally recognized.
4. Cocopah Casino
The Cocopah Casino in Somerton is managed by the Cocopah Tribe of western Arizona that has resided in the area for centuries.
Whether you’re into rolling the dice and playing the slots, or just taking it all in and doing a little people watching, the Cocopah Casino will spoil you with its top-notch amenities, delicious food, and beautiful facilities. The casino also hosts sporting events, live entertainment and exhibits throughout the year.
Visitors particularly like the Artisan Restaurant, and rave about the seafood and prime rib buffet too, which is on par with anything you’re likely to get in swanky and expensive Las Vegas.
5. Center of the World
Located in Felicity, California, an easy drive across the border from Yuma, the Center of the World Monument in the California desert is one of those quirky roadside gems that shouldn’t be missed when in the area.
The Mayor and founder of the town, a Frenchman, has declared that somehow, Felicity is the center of the world, which is odd considering the earth is round. Not surprisingly, other places in the world claim the distinction as well, making it an unsubstantiated claim, but no matter, it’s a cool and unique place to see.
You may even get to meet the man himself, as he’s usually close by.
6. Yuma Territorial Prison State Historical Park
Imagine what it was like to be a prisoner in the Arizona Territory in 1876. I’m guessing the conditions were pretty rough, and the guards less than sympathetic.
During the prison’s 33-year history, over 3,000 poor souls called it home, and though most were men, a few were women too. In an ironic twist, the first 7 prisoners of the new jail had actually built their own cells.
A tour of the park will let you visit the actual cells and the prison cemetery, which is supposedly filled with ghosts of the long-dead criminals laid to rest there.
7. Somerton Branch Library
Like parks, libraries are great places to unwind and learn a little bit about the town you’re visiting.
Though visitors often can only occasionally check out books from libraries, if not, consider a relaxing morning or afternoon in a comfy chair, reading the local paper or just browsing the shelves.
The Somerton Branch Library is at 240 Canal Street, and is equipped with historical records and a database which is able to help families research their relatives and family trees, if they have a history in the area.
Libraries are also great places to hear speakers, volunteer and meet friendly locals.
8. Yuma Conservation Garden
Located in Yuma, near Pacific Avenue and Route 80, the Yuma Conservation Garden is 28 acres of native Arizona cactus, trees, wildflowers and animals too. The gardens are open on the weekends from November to April.
There’s a large pond on the grounds that attracts waterfowl, hummingbirds, and lots of other animals that are attracted to the water, which is usually very scarce. The garden is also home to a few desert tortoises that are native to the area.
The garden has a display of well-used farm equipment that was used by the local farmers and ranchers back in the day.
9. Yuma River Tubing
Though the Colorado River isn’t as mighty as it once was, the portion that flows through the Yuma area is perfect for lazy tubing excursions through the scenic surroundings.
Open from April through September, Yuma River Tubing Company will provide you with everything you’ll need from the tube to transportation to and from the pick-up and drop-off areas.
The trip will take you through some pretty amazing country, but remember to bring sunblock, sandals and plenty to drink.
Keep in mind that tubing groups often consist of large numbers of loud, inebriated people, so if you’re going with kids, consider forming your own group.
10. Brinley Avenue Historic District
Running through Madison Avenue and Main Street, the Brinley Avenue Historic District in downtown Yuma is comprised of shops, galleries and historic buildings, many of which were developed in the first few decades of the 20th century.
Due to its historic importance, the area was included in the National Register of Historic Places in the ‘80s.
Now the area is home to boutiques, shops and hip cafes that offer shaded outdoor seating and great food and drinks, so look for the big red fork.
There are also museums close by, and the area is a great place for a morning or afternoon stroll.
11. Sanguinetti House Museum and Gardens
Considered the jewel of historic Yuma, the Sanguinetti House Museum and Gardens were built in the late 19th century, and were the former home and refuge of a man who was one of the city’s wealthiest merchants and businessmen.
The facilities are operated by the Arizona Historical Society and are open to the public, though the hours of operation are seasonal.
The admission fee is wonderfully inexpensive, and the site offers plenty of exhibits, a garden, a café known for its tea, and even a chocolate shop which is locally famous as the place to go to get out-of-this-world homemade chocolates.
12. Yuma Art Center
Run by the Yuma Parks Department, the Yuma Art Center is conveniently located in the historic downtown area and welcomes nearly 100,000 visitors annually.
The center provides art education and awareness programs and produces plays, art shows and exhibits with the help of local schools and charitable organizations.
Classes are offered as well, for aspiring artists of all levels, and throughout the year the center hosts shows, festivals, events and fairs which highlight the work of local artists and craftsmen.
Check out their website to see what fun things will be going on when you’ll be passing through the area.
13. Cocopah Tribal Museum
Since 1996, The Cocopah Tribal Museum and Cultural Center have been preserving the tribe’s heritage and educating visitors about their history, customs and way of life in years past.
The museum is surrounded by a park with a reproduction of a traditional Cocopah dwelling, largely made from adobe, which was a common building material in the desert.
Exhibits include articles of clothing and footwear, housewares like pots and baskets, musical instruments and even weapons used by the Cocopah warriors.
The museum is near the aforementioned casino and is free to visit, but they do accept donations which will help them continue their good work.
14. Yuma Quartermaster Historic State Park
Run by Arizona’s State Park Department, the Yuma Quartermaster Historic State Park is located near the banks of the Colorado River.
During the 1870s, when Arizona wasn’t yet a state, the quartermaster’s depot was an important point for the storage and distribution of goods to the frontier forts that were located in remote and not easily accessible corners of the largely unexplored southwest.
The depot was also home to nearly 1,000 mules that provided the muscle to move the freight between the river and depot.
The park is a great place to see the area’s fascinating frontier and military history.
15. Yuma Proving Ground Heritage Center
Full of attack helicopters, tanks and howitzers that can lob explosive shells with pinpoint accuracy from miles away, the Yuma Proving Ground Heritage Center is a cool place to visit for kids and adults alike. The history goes back to the World War II era when the facility was a desert training site.
Since the museum is on an active military base, getting through security is a must, but it’s not that difficult, and once inside the museum is free.
Many of the docents are veterans who spent time at the facility in years past, so they’re knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and will really add to your enjoyment and the value of your visit.