However, the small city (population just 3000) is home to a number of desirable attractions which you might want to incorporate into your itinerary if you plan on choosing Williams as your base for your Grand Canyon/Northern Arizona vacation.">

Top Ten Lists

Williams

 
Williams, Arizona, commonly referred to as the "Gateway to the Grand Canyon," is a popular lodging choice for those traveling to the Canyon, as well as other great natural attractions throughout the state of Arizona. Willams is most famous for being home to the Grand Canyon Railway and the seasonal Polar Express train ride based on the classic children's novel.
However, the small city (population just 3000) is home to a number of desirable attractions which you might want to incorporate into your itinerary if you plan on choosing Williams as your base for your Grand Canyon/Northern Arizona vacation.
 
 
  • 1. Plan a visit to Bearizona
    Plan a visit to Bearizona
    1500 Historic Rte 66, , 86046
    Bearizona is one of the country's premier drive-thru wildlife parks. Black bears, bison, wolves, and more can be seen from the comfort of your car. It's amazing to be able to watch these beautiful animals up close roaming in an environment similar to their natural habitat. Bearizona also has a nice little walk through section which is similar to a zoo, and home to bobcats, baby black bears, and much more. Also be sure to check out the wonderful Wild Wonderland holiday event where the ground are decorated gorgeously and lights are synchronized to a selection of old and new Christmas tunes.

    If you need a break from hiking and all that walking around at the Grand Canyon, a trip to Bearizona makes for a great relaxing addition to your itinerary.
  • 2. Stroll historic Main Street
    Stroll historic Main Street
    Main Street, , 86046
    Downtown Williams is jam packed with more Rt 66 memorabilia then you could possibly take in. Fans of the historic "Mother Road" will definitely want to stop by the historic downtown for some old-fashioned nostalgia like no other.

    Downtown, you will find everything Rt 66 - gift shops, themed cafes, a museum, and even lightposts adorned with the classic sign. It's a cute little area to enjoy a short stroll, take some souvenir photos, dine at a cute little retro diner, and shop, either before/after your long day at the Grand Canyon.
  • 3. Drive to the Grand Canyon
    Drive to the Grand Canyon
    Grand Canyon National Park, , 86023
    Skip the pricey Grand Canyon Railway in favor of driving yourself. The famous South Rim is just 1 hour away from Williams, making it just a quick morning's drive away. By driving yourself, you can spend as much time at the canyon as you please, plan your arrival way before the crowds begin to hit, and also save on the hefty train ticket.

    At the South Rim, you will have endless opportunities for exploration and fun including hiking within the canyon itself (check out the South Kalibab trail), dining at the historic El Tovar Lodge, browsing gift shops and museum, and taking in incredible views from various scenic overlooks. It's a full day activity for sure, so be sure to set out early and plan for an entire day.
  • 4. Hike the Keyhole Sink trail
    Hike the Keyhole Sink trail
    Keyhole Sink, , 86046
    Keyhole Sink is a unique canyon in that it has a keyhole like shape, hence the odd name. The canyon is accessible via a really short trail through the quiet ponderosa forest. After enjoying a little nature walk amongst the tall pines, you will come across the canyon. If you visit after a big winter storm or summer monsoon, you will be treated to rare views of a waterfall. Also be sure to scan the canyon walls for faint traces of ancient petroglyphs. Keyhole Sink is definitely an interesting attraction with a lot of history, and does not take up much time, so there really is no reason not to incorporate it into your trip.
  • 5. Check out Wild Wonderland at Bearizona
    Check out Wild Wonderland at Bearizona
    1500 Historic Rte 66, , 86046
    Bearizona, the beautiful drive-thru wildlife park, is transformed into a winter wonderland over the holiday season. While it is quite a difference experience then visiting the rest of the year, the synchronized light show is pretty fantastic, and by far one of the best in the state.

    Although few animals will be seen, the drive-thru portion will be closed, & the temps will be absolutely freezing, it really is a fun experience to take a walk around the festively decorated grounds, with a cup of hot cocoa in hand. If your Williams trip happens to fall during December, I recommend skipping out on the overpriced, overrated Polar Express train ride in favor of this local gem.
  • 6. Treat yourself to a piece of homemade pie at Pine Country
    Treat yourself to a piece of homemade pie at Pine Country
    107 N Grand Canyon Blvd, , 86046
    Pine Country is an old-fashioned country style local's favorite cafe in downtown Williams. This rustic cafe is a bit different from the rest as it does not feel like a tourist trap and has that cozy mountain feel which everywhere else seems to lack. The homemade pies, available in dozens of flavors, from traditional apple to fun chocolately S'Mores, makes for a delicious treat like no other in the area.

    Lighter and fluffier than traditional pie, you may just have to try out more than one slice! So pick your favorite flavor (or mix and match between 2) and an espresso drink from the Giddy Up and Go bar and soak up all the action downtown from the humongous windows. It's the perfect relaxing vacation activity after a long day at the canyon!
  • 7. Attend the Second Saturday Art Walk
    Attend the Second Saturday Art Walk
    Main Street, , 86046
    Williams is home to a thriving art community which you would not typically expect in such a small community. It's home to the area's best art walk, thanks in part to friendlier employees, a more casual ambiance, and less congestion then neighboring Flagstaff, whose art walk is very crowded and very overrated. During the Second Saturday Art Walk, you will be able to take a look at special exhibits, mingle with gallery owners and locals, and enjoy more home baked goodies and wine samples then you have ever seen at an artwalk before.
  • 8. Browse the Rt 66 Museum
    Browse the Rt 66 Museum
    101 E. Route 66, , 86046
    Pete's Route 66 Gas Station Museum is a great little free stop for any Rt 66 fanatics. There's lots of interesting old memorabilia to explore and it won't cost you a dime to do so. If you are already planning to head downtown anyways, it's worth a quick look.
  • 9. Enjoy annual events
    Enjoy annual events
    Various, , 86046
    Williams hosts a number of festive community events all year round. Although, nothing really compares to the spirit of the annual holiday parade and Christmas tree lighting. During the holiday season, the downtown looks incredible with a grand tree as the centerpiece and thousands of colorful lights adorned on all the buildings. The holiday spirit is really in the air with the addition of horse drawn sleigh rides, the seasonal Polar Express train ride, and holiday music to sing along to. After visiting every downtown area in Northern Arizona, I can attest that Williams is definitely the most festive of the bunch!
  • 10. Shop for Grand Canyon souvenirs at the Williams Depot
    Shop for Grand Canyon souvenirs at the Williams Depot
    233 N Grand Canyon Blvd, , 86046
    The gift shop at the historic train depot is the best in Williams. They have everything you could possibly think of, at prices much cheaper than at the Canyon shops. It's a great place to pick up souvenirs that you might have forgotten to pick up or simply did not have enough time to explore since you were too busy enjoying the majestic views - really who can blame you? It's also a great place to pick up a few Christmas souvenirs. The area around the depot keeps up with the holiday spirit and is totally decked out just like the rest of town.