If you find yourself in Arizona searching for a fun but less touristy town to explore, look no further than Cottonwood! Nestled in the heart of the Verde Valley between the red rocks of Sedona and the mountainside ghost town of Jerome, Cottonwood has charm and adventures galore. Cottonwood offers a delicious taste of small-town life paired with ample attractions to keep you happily occupied for at least a few days. From nature parks and Native American ruins to wine tasting and Western adventures, this article covers 10 things to do in Cottonwood, AZ!

Things To Do In Cottonwood, AZ

Here are the ten best things to add to your Cottonwood itinerary:

1- Explore Cottonwood’s Historic Old Town

Every tremendous small town’s a historic heart, and Old Town Cottonwood fits the bill! Strolling down Main Street under the Arizona sunshine is like walking into the early 1900s. The historic storefronts are decked with wooden porches, rustic brick, shake siding, and an undeniable charm.

Cottonwood Old Town
Cottonwood Old Town

Today many old buildings house tasting rooms, little shops filled with handmade goods by local artists, cozy cafes serving tasty comfort foods, and restaurants offering yummy Southwestern-style cuisine and live music entertainment. Take advantage of the Cottonwood Hotel built in 1907 – imagine the cowboys riding into town to let loose!

2- Discover Tuzigoot’s Ancient Ruins

Only a 10-minute drive from Cottonwood, Tuzigoot transports you back centuries to the days of the ancient Sinagua people. Framed by limestone cliffs, this impressive 110-room pueblo remains remarkably well preserved.

Walking among the ruins, you’ll see what life was like between 500-1400 CE. Watch for petroglyphs, agave roasting pits, and reconstructed rooms like the artifacts museum. The views overlooking the Verde Valley are stunning too.

3- Enjoy Dead Horse Ranch’s recreation

If you’re craving time spent enjoying Arizona’s great outdoors, Dead Horse Ranch State Park is the place for you! Sitting on the banks of the Verde River, it has everything – trails for hiking and biking galore, spots for fishing and swimming, shady ramadas, and cottonwood trees if you want to picnic or grill.

Dead Horse Ranch's recreation
Dead Horse Ranch’s recreation

They have horseback riding and an awesome lagoon-style pool too! And the views of those famous red rock formations are stunning. You could spend a whole day or two relaxing here if being out in nature makes you happy.

4- Eat, Watch & Play at Blazin’ M Ranch

Are you looking for an Old West adventure? Visit Blazin’ M Ranch in Cottonwood’s Old Town district! This frontier town replica lets you walk wooden boardwalks lined with shops, saloons, and more. Have fun with a tractor ride, ropin’ and shootin’ lessons, and meeting critters like horses, donkeys, and peacocks up close. 

When evening comes, head to their big ol’ barn for a hearty chuckwagon feast of BBQ ribs, chicken, beans, and all the cowboy sides you can imagine. With hands-on experiences and cowboy grub, Blazin’ M Ranch brings the Old West to life for visitors in a unique way. It’s the perfect place to play cowboy for a day in Cottonwood, Arizona!

5- Indulge in Verde Valley’s Wine Trail

The Verde Valley Wine Trail in northern Arizona is great for people who love wine! It is just 100 miles from Phoenix. It goes through beautiful scenery with wineries all around. The trail started small in 2009 but has grown to about 20 tasting rooms, vineyards, and cellars. You can enjoy skillfully made wines at Alcantara Vineyard, Four Eight Wineworks, Burning Tree Cellars, Pillsbury Wine Company, and Bodega Pierce.

Verde Valley's Wine Trail
Verde Valley’s Wine Trail

There are wines to make every taste bud happy! The Verde Valley trail lets you explore Arizona’s excellent winemaking with beautiful history and nature. Following this wine trail is a yummy way to explore the area!

6- Uncover History at Clemenceau Heritage Museum

The Clemenceau Heritage Museum in Cottonwood shows the exciting history of the Verde Valley area. The exhibits show how the area grew over time. It had ranching, farming, copper mining, railroads, and local businesses that all helped the area develop.

The displays change, but some stay up always. One permanent one has a small working model train set. The museum lets you learn about this part of Arizona by showing how vital industries shaped the valley. From copper mining to railroad growth, the exhibits show how Verde Valley became what it is today.

7- Unleash Adventure at Verde River

The Verde River Adventure Center has opened Arizona’s beautiful Verde River to visitors for ten years. People can go tubing, kayaking, fishing, and bird-watching on the river all year. The river used to be unknown but is now a busy place for outdoor fun.

Verde River
Verde River

The Adventure Center gives nature lovers new and thrilling ways to explore the gorgeous Verde River’s waters. The Adventure Center has guided tours like tubing trips, kayaking trips, and combo adventures. The Classic Water to Wine tour starts with a 1.5-hour kayak ride down the Verde River, ending where the river meets Oak Creek.

Then, walk on a little path to the Alcantara Vineyard that looks like Italy. Here you can taste award-winning wines. With exciting and fun river experiences and yummy wine, the Verde River Adventure Center makes the Verde River a fun adventure.

8- Savor Delicious Dining at Red Rooster Cafe

Old Town Red Rooster Cafe was a modest eatery by friends Jet Tennant and Shane Smith. It soon became a favorite of Cottonwood locals by serving mouthwatering meals with fresh ingredients and friendly service. You’ll find tasty breakfast dishes, lunch entrees, and thirst-quenching drinks at the Red Rooster. 

Are you looking to cater a business lunch? They offer salad platters, sandwiches, wraps, and cookies for easy catering. Dedicated to flavorful food and quality service, the Red Rooster Cafe has become a go-to spot for delicious dining in Old Town. Its welcoming vibe and scrumptious eats keep loyal regulars coming back again and again.

Red Rooster Cafe
Red Rooster Cafe

9- Explore Jerome’s Historic Copper Town

Just 14 miles from Cottonwood awaits the mountainside mining village of Jerome – holding tight to its quirky spirit and ghost town vibe since its founding in 1876. It’s the definition of eclectic, with shops selling everything from antiques to fortune-telling services, along with wine-tasting rooms and restaurants dishing up fantastic views. 

A trip here means exploring the myriad copper mining relics while meeting the town’s famously friendly and artsy residents. A stroll along the main street transports you to another time and place. Come nighttime, pull up a stool at a local haunt like The Asylum for stories as good as the food and drink. You can’t miss this living ghost town!

10- Elevated Dining Experience at Nic’s

On Main Street in Old Town Cottonwood, Nic’s Italian Steak & Crab House blends East Coast flair with the Old West. You’ll find dark woods, gleaming brass, plush green seats, and a 40-foot mahogany bar – the atmosphere is regal yet lively. 

Chef Michelle’s menu stars juicy steaks, chicken, fresh seafood, and steamed crab paired with your choice of sides. You’ll also find authentic Italian dishes and appetizers like the fan-favorite New England-style clam chowder. Between the mouthwatering food, elegant decor, and vibrant energy, Nic’s takes dining to new heights in Cottonwood.


The Bottom Line

Well, there you have it – the ten best things to experience in Cottonwood, Arizona! From cowboy adventures to wine sipping, Native American history to great outdoor fun, this place truly has it all. 

With a charming small-town vibe, spectacular natural scenery, and endless attractions minutes away, you can keep busy for days. Cottonwood provides the perfect sampling of Arizona life without huge overwhelming crowds. After a few days of exploring this hidden gem, you will surely agree – Cottonwood rocks!

FAQs about Things to Do in Cottonwood, AZ

What are some family-friendly activities in Cottonwood, AZ?

Cottonwood offers plenty of family fun, like the Blazin’ M Ranch for chuckwagon dinners and cowboy shows, the Verde Valley Archaeology Center with educational exhibits, and Dead Horse Ranch State Park for fishing, hiking, and picnicking.

What are some unique shopping experiences in Cottonwood, AZ?

Cottonwood boasts unique shopping like Old Town’s antique stores, galleries, boutiques, the Cottonwood Farmer’s Market, and the Verde Valley Olive Oil Traders.

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