Just a mere two hours away lives a land where lions roam freely, a ghost town lives on top of a mountain, a train whistles through massive red rocks and vineyards create the sweet taste of local wine. History, character and entertainment fill the air and there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
The cities of Cottonwood and Jerome make up part of the Verde Valley and these quaint towns are just a quick drive from Phoenix. They provide visitors with a hands-on history lesson of the wild west. With Spring Break and the summer months just around the corner, consider going on a family field trip inside our great state and let this list serve as your guide.
Things To Do
Out of Africa Wildlife Park
Camp Verde (on your way to Cottonwood and Jerome)
Forget about caged animals, visitors to Out of Africa Wildlife Park get a face to face encounter with lions, tigers, bears, wolves, giraffes and plenty of more wild animals. These exotic animals roam freely (or so visitors think) around the park and only if you look hard will you see the barriers between a wild animal and your own little wild toddler. Guests can walk through the park and get a clear look at the animals, while adrenaline junkies can zip line over the lions themselves! The park offers a wide range of entertainment, including a tiger splash show, the opportunity to feed a tiger, along with a giant snake show, predator feeding, the chance to to feed a giraffe and much more. Click here for park details.
Tip: Make sure you take the authentic Unimog Adventure Tour. This add-on will let you experience to drive through the safari and meet giraffes, zebras and ostriches face to face.
Verde Canyon Railroad
The best way to see Arizona is to get off the highways and explore the nature of the area, but unless you’re an avid hiker, that can be easier said than done. This is why the Verde Canyon Railroad in Cottonwood is such a treat, especially for families with young children who want to teach them about the area. Visitors board the train and enjoy a luxurious experience complete with comfortable indoor seating, outdoor viewing decks, food and alcohol service, along with the views of gorgeous canyons, red rocks, bald eagles and yes, even creeks! It’s an experience that typically only hikers would get to enjoy, but the railroad makes it possible for everyone to take in the splendor of our great state. The trip takes four hours, so plan accordingly! Click here for more details.
Tips: Throughout the year, the railroad hosts special events such as cocktail tasting parties and chocolate parties. If you have a large party, look into reserving the caboose for the adventure. It will give you a private experience and some gorgeous views!
Blazin’ M Ranch
After a day of exploration, take the kiddos to Blazin’ M Ranch in Cottonwood for a cowboy experience they will love. This old west frontier village offers a variety of cowboy activities including roping lessons, a shooting gallery, old time photos and the chance to take a ride around the ranch in a John Deere tractor. After exploring the frontier town, guests are seated for a finger lickin’ BBQ dinner and a western dinner show that will put a smile on your kid’s faces. It’s a great way to end the day in the Verde Valley! Click here for more details.
Places to Eat, Drink and Stay
If you need a place to take a break and refuel in Cottonwood, visit Pizzeria BOCCE for a mouthwatering pizza. This pizzeria will have a wait during popular months, but it’s worth it! Located right in the heart of Cottonwood, this local eatery also has a nice patio. Click here for details
Arizona Stronghold Tasting Room
The Verde Valley is known for having wineries and tasting rooms that showcase the local Arizona wines, but one of my favorite tasting rooms is Arizona Stronghold in Cottonwood. This is a cozy tasting room, but if you score a seat, you can enjoy wine while you play one of their many board games available for enjoyment. It’s right across the street from Pizzeria BOCCE so you can enjoy a glass of wine while you wait. Click here for details.
The Haunted Hamburger
If you are traveling to Jerome with kids, this will be an enjoyable experience for all, along with great views of the Valley below. Expect a wait for this popular burger joint, but it’s located in the heart of Jerome so you will enjoy exploring the tiny ghost town while you wait. Don’t forget to ask about the monthly specials during your visit! Click here for details.
Vaqueros Grill & Cantina
If you’re craving Mexican food while in Jerome, visit Vaqueros Grill & Cantina for some delicious nachos or a blue corn enchilada. This is some of the best Mexican food we’ve had! They also serve some tasty margaritas if you need a “Mommy” break. Located right on Main street, this restaurant is also in the heart of Jerome so you can enjoy the sites before or after your meal. Click here for details.
The Surgeon’s House Bed & Breakfast
Some will tell you to stay at the Jerome Grand Hotel, but the Surgeon’s House is Jerome’s best kept charming secret. This historic bed and breakfast was once the home of Jerome’s chief surgeon and will give you an authentic experience of the city. With only a couple of rooms available to rent, you will want to book it in advance and with your reservation will come some of the best views in the entire city, along with a complimentary breakfast and snacks. Click here for more details.
Detour: Rock Springs Cafe
On your home, take a detour from the 1-17 and travel through Black Canyon City to pick up a Jack Daniels Pecan Pie from Rock Springs Cafe. This popular bakery and cafe has lines out the door during the holiday months and one taste of the pie will tell you why! Click here for details.