×

14 Top Attractions & Things to Do in Williams, AZ

Written by Anietra Hamper
Feb 3, 2020

The small town of Williams in northern Arizona is probably most well-known as being the gateway to the Grand Canyon. If you do plan a trip to visit the Grand Canyon, making a base in Williams and staying for a few extra days in the area affords a nice vacation that combines outdoor adventure, historical elements like Route 66, and insight into the Old West.

Williams is surrounded by the Kaibab National Forest, where you can take in a day of hiking, skiing, and other outdoor excursions. The Sycamore Canyon and Bill Williams Mountain are also nearby to appease your senses, with scenic views, rustic trails, and tranquil waterways.

The town is an intriguing crossroads for people hopping on board the Grand Canyon Railway or exploring Route 66, which runs right through Williams. There are some great nostalgic attractions, both on the main thoroughfare and off the main drag, to explore on your own that make Williams one of those small-town unforgettable treasures. Carve out a little time to grab a piece of fresh homemade pie from the Pine Country Restaurant, which has 55 varieties available.

For more sightseeing ideas, check out our list of the top attractions and things to do in Williams, Arizona.

1. Grand Canyon Railway

Grand Canyon Railway at sunset | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

Most people end up in Williams because it is the gateway to the Grand Canyon, and one of the best ways to see it is by taking the Grand Canyon Railway to the South Rim. Hopping on board is a trip back in time to the early 1900s, when the railway made its first trips to the Grand Canyon. The two-hour-and-fifteen-minute train ride takes you past the cattle ranches and mountains that define the landscape.

During the train ride, passengers learn about the Old West and the Grand Canyon as they keep an eye out for mule deer and elk outside the windows.

Once the train arrives on the South Rim of the canyon, you have several hours to take a guided tour or explore on your own along the rim trails and overlooks. You have time for lunch at the historic El Tovar Hotel before hopping on board the train back to Williams, where you might encounter an old-fashioned and family-friendly train robbery.

Address: 233 N. Grand Canyon Blvd., Williams, Arizona

Official site: https://www.thetrain.com/

2. Bearizona Wildlife Park

Black bears at Bearizona Wildlife Park

The Bearizona Wildlife Park should be one of the top places to visit in Williams during your stay. The wildlife and conservation park enables you to get up close to animals like black bears, wolves, bison, and mountain goats in a unique way. The drive-through part of the park can be done with your own car or on the shuttle bus provided at Bearizona.

The other side of the park enables you to walk the grounds where the animal enclosures allow you to watch the daily activities of otters, foxes, and jaguars.

Be sure to catch one of the Birds of Prey demonstrations to learn about the great horned owls and hawks. Feel the wind of a hawk's wing brush above your head as the handlers showcase the stealth flight patterns of these magnificent animals.

You can walk or drive through the park areas as often as you like with a day ticket.

Address: 1500 E. Historic Route 66, Williams, Arizona

Official site: https://bearizona.com/

3. Stroll Route 66

A café on Route 66 in Williams, AZ | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

Historic Route 66 goes right through the heart of Williams, so it is easy to park the car and walk to the many gift shops, restaurants, and historic spots. Be sure to pay close attention to the brass plaques on the sides of some of the buildings that explain what it used to be.

You will find the old post office, fire station, grocery store, bank, and more that have been converted into quirky shops. The town comes alive, especially at night with original neon signs on the businesses and music from the 1950s piping out of old diners.

There is a two-mile route that loops around Williams, so it is best to park on one end and walk to the end of the strip.

4. Grand Canyon Deer Farm

Grand Canyon Deer Farm | Photo Copyright: Grand Canyon Deer Farm

While there are many vintage attractions along Route 66 in Williams, the Grand Canyon Deer Farm is a favorite, especially for families who are visiting. The 10-acre deer farm has been operating for more than half a century. You can get up close to deer and other animals that are hand-raised and used to human interaction.

Walk through the park and see bison; llamas; wallabies; camels; peacocks; goats; and one of the famous residents, Mozart the cockatoo. You can even feed hand-feed some of the deer.

The Grand Canyon Deer Farm is a unique attraction that allows you to see some of the local wildlife that you might not get a chance to see in their natural settings.

Address: 6769 E. Deer Farm Road, Williams, Arizona

Official site: https://deerfarm.com/

5. Pete's Route 66 Gas Station Museum

Pete's Route 66 Gas Station Museum | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

For those who love the nostalgia of Route 66, some of the best finds are in Williams, including the restored Pete's Route 66 Gas Station Museum. The small gas station is full of Route 66 memorabilia and information about historic gas stations. You will find old model cars sitting out front and a garage filled with signs, gas pumps, and more.

It is open daily through the summer. During off-season, it is best to call first before stopping by, but you can always peek in the tinted windows.

Address: 101 E. Route 66, Williams, Arizona

6. Kaibab National Forest Petroglyphs

Kaibab National Forest Petroglyphs | Kaibab National Forest / photo modified

One of the most spectacular things to experience in Williams is the prehistoric evidence of inhabitants in the Kaibab National Forest that dates back more than 1,000 years. Hike along the Keyhole Sink Trail as you make your way through the pine forest to the ancient petroglyphs that are carved into the canyon walls.

It is believed that this ancient form of communication was useful to original inhabitants who hunted in the area. The petroglyphs are a stunning site to see and have been respected and protected by visitors over the years. The Keyhole Sink trailhead is about 20 minutes from Williams and is relatively easy to navigate.

Address: Kaibab National Forest, Williams, Arizona

7. Williams Depot

Williams Depot | Photo Copyright: Xanterra Travel Collection

Whether you plan on taking a trip on the Grand Canyon Railway or not, you should book some time in your itinerary to visit the Williams Depot. The historic train station is a restored piece of history and an important part of the transcontinental railroad that first ran through the town in 1882.

The depot now serves as the departure point for the Grand Canyon Railway where passengers can experience a trip from Williams to the Grand Canyon's South Rim the way they have since 1901.

Usually in the mornings before the train departs, you can see a family-friendly cops and robbers reenactment outside the depot, which sets the mood for a day in the Old West. Be sure to tour through the depot and see some of the original structures, vintage railroad cars, and enjoy lunch in the depot restaurant.

Address: 233 N. Grand Canyon Blvd., Williams, Arizona

8. Hiking

Dogtown Lake Trail | Kaibab National Forest / photo modified

The hiking star of the show near Williams are the trails at the Grand Canyon, about 60 miles away, but the area has dozens of other nearby hiking opportunities. You can take a guided tour and hike with a local outfitter or set out on your own. Some of the recommended trails include the four-mile round-trip Bixler Saddle Trail and the Dogtown Lake Trail, which is a 1.8-mile loop around a lake.

For more aggressive hiking, you might want to take the Kendrick Mountain Trail (eight miles round-trip) to the 10,418-foot summit for unmatched views of the Grand Canyon in one direction and Oak Creek Canyon in the other.

9. Valle Travel Stop

Valle Travel Stop | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

At first glance, you will assume that the Valle Travel Stop is a typical travel plaza, but it is worth a stop to check out some of the unique gift items inside. You can find local products like Native American jewelry, artwork, vintage signs, southwestern gifts, and even antiques. The Valle Travel Stop is frequented by people going to and from the Grand Canyon.

The Valle Travel Stop has a Williams address but is about 30 minutes north on route 64 and well worth the drive. The Rocks and More store located in the plaza complex has rare and jaw-dropping rocks, minerals, fossils, and jewelry. The mammoth $80,000 amethyst and boulder-sized crystal in front of the store will let you know that you are in the right place.

Address: 317 South State Route 64, Williams, Arizona

10. Wild West Junction

Wild West Junction | Scott Blackwell / photo modified

Learn about the Wild West and life in Williams in the early 1900s at the Wild West Junction. This is a fun place to visit, especially if you are unfamiliar with the Old West. The complex has the Dover's Inn bed and breakfast, a restaurant, and historical re-enactments. It is set up like an old western town with a make-shift jail and town hall. It's a fun gathering place, especially in the summers when the activity at the Wild West Junction is in full swing.

Address: 321 E. Route 66, Williams-Valle, Arizona

Official site: https://www.wildwestjunction.com/

11. Sycamore Canyon

Sycamore Canyon in Williams

Another hiking and scenic opportunity in Williams is in Sycamore Canyon. The landscape is more wilderness than touristy, so trekking beyond some of the main entrances is suited for more experienced hikers. The canyon is the second largest in Arizona, extending for 21 miles. Sycamore Canyon is a great spot for rock climbers, fishing, wildlife viewing, and hiking for those who are looking for a challenge.

The reward for the journey into Sycamore Canyon is dramatic vistas, rock formations, and stunning colors. It is a premier example of Arizona's Red Rocks in an untouched setting. Some of the most popular trails are the Parsons Trail, located in the Wilderness Area, and the Sycamore Rim Trail, which has spectacular views on the rim of the canyon. Since Sycamore Canyon is mostly wilderness, you should pack proper provisions, like food, water, sunscreen, and first aid with you.

Address: 200 W. Railroad Ave., Williams, Arizona

12. Planes of Fame Air Museum

Planes of Fame Air Museum | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

The mission of the Planes of Fame Air Museum is to preserve aviation history and honor pioneers in aviation. The museum preserves and displays historic aircraft from the early years of aviation to the modern day.

One of the unique features of this aviation museum is that you will often see some of the historic aircraft flying in and out of the base as they head to air shows at public events. You can also learn about the detailed restoration process involved in protecting these aircraft.

The museum is closed part of the year, so call ahead for hours.

Address: 755 S. Mustang Blvd., Williams, Arizona

Official site: https://www.planesoffame.org/

13. Beale Wagon Road Historic Trail

Beale Wagon Road Historic Trail | Kaibab National Forest / photo modified

For travelers or history buffs who love stumbling on lesser-known sites, the Beale Wagon Road Historic Trail should be on your Williams must-find list. There is no grand attraction to call you in, but instead, a visualization of what this rustic trail was once used for in connecting settlers from Arizona to California.

This was one of three wagon roads constructed starting in 1857 to provide an east-west corridor to the Mojave Road in California. This rustic dirt road was used by settlers until railroad transportation became available in the late 1800s.

The Beale Wagon Road (built by Edward Fitzgerald Beale) was the first pathway constructed in the same general corridor that historic Route 66 and Interstate 40 pass through today.

Address: Interstate 40, Parks exit to FR 141, Williams, Arizona

14. Bill Williams Monument Park

Bill Williams Monument Park | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

Since Williams is the gateway to the Grand Canyon, and it played such a vital role in the pathway west, it is nice to gain an understanding of the town's origins at the Bill Williams Monument Park. It is a small unassuming park but an important piece of history for the area. The park holds a bronze statue of William Sherley Williams, or "Old Bill," to commemorate the frontiersman honored by the town's name.

While your visit to the statue and the park will only require a short amount of time, you can also head to Bill Williams Mountain for some of the best views in the region. There are hiking trails and scenic drives with lookout points.

Address: Sixth Street, Williams, Arizona

15. Elk Ridge Ski and Outdoor Recreation Area

Winter visitors to Williams can log some time on the ski slopes at the Elk Ridge Ski and Outdoor Recreation Area. It is a family-friendly recreation facility that offers skiing, tubing, and snowboarding, and a great way to experience the outdoors in the region without having to hit the open wilderness to do it.

Elk Ridge offers lessons for beginners or for those who need a refresher. The White Stag Café is where you can warm up between runs with a cup of hot cocoa.

Address: 2467 S. Perkinsville Road, Williams, Arizona

Official site: http://www.elkridgeski.com/

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

The Grand Canyon: As you plan your Williams trip, you will want some background on the Grand Canyon to get a sense of where to stay and the tours available to make the most of your time. If your trip is focusing on the outdoors, you will also want to review some of the best hiking trails at the Grand Canyon, including the South Rim Trail and the Bright Angel Trail.

Nearby Places to See: If Williams is part of a broader Arizona adventure, plan on seeing some of the most popular and spectacular nearby towns. At the top of the list is the picturesque town of Sedona, just over an hour away. Known for its energy vortexes and as a spiritual center, this town also has spectacular hiking trails, great mountain biking trails, an interesting main street, as well as Native American ruins in the surrounding area. Other popular stops in this area of Arizona are Flagstaff and Prescott.

Discover destinations, find outdoor adventures, follow the journeys of our travel writers around the world, and be inspired.

More on Arizona