Even before European settlement, Yuma has been of great importance to the people of the region.
Located on the banks of the once unstable Colorado River, it was one of the only safe or predictable crossings at the time.
Originally established as Colorado City, it took on greater significance as thousands of opportunistic Americans headed south to California via Yuma to profit from the Gold Rush of 1849.
At that time, rope ferries would carry passing passengers across the river.
The city was renamed Arizona City twice, then Yuma, derived from the Spanish word for smog (humo), as the locals in the area use it in their practice.
Full of history and surrounded by nature, let’s explore the best things to do in Yuma, Arizona.
1. Historic Downtown
What was once flooded, now comes to life in Yuma’s historic downtown.
Destructive flooding in the past means that most of the buildings here now only date back to the 1920s, but the history continues as the area regenerates.
Discover the charms of the North End with a historical tour, or simply enjoy shopping, dining and entertainment.
There are regular fairs or events in the area.
2. Yuma Regional Prison State Historic Park
The Yuma Regional Prison, which no longer operates, is now a prestigious National Historic Park.
It was built strategically (by its own pioneer convicts) on the banks of the Colorado River as an added security measure for the common escapes of the time.
During its 33-year operation, it held 3,069 prisoners, 111 of whom died while serving their sentences.
The prison cemetery is a grim reminder of life in the Old Southwest.
Don’t forget to take a photo of yourself before you leave with an original mirror that creates both a frontal and side profile in one photo.
3. Gateway Park
Putting your toes on the sand, Yuma’s Gateway Park is steeped in history and provides families with a family-friendly riverside spot for a warm day out.
This is the best place to see the historic Ocean Bridge, which was originally designed to carry the Ocean Expressway.
The bridge was renovated and reopened to traffic in 2002 after 14 years of dedicated pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
The park is perfect for a picnic, with playgrounds and a small beach near the refreshing waters of the Colorado River.
4. Sanguinetti House Museum and Gardens
Tucked away in the city center and surrounded by elegant gardens, the original adobe house of businessman EF Sanguinetti now serves as a museum showcasing his life.
Follow his story and learn how Sanguinetti came to Yuma with nothing but became an influential businessman who impacted the community he loved.
Learn about the history of him and his family, combined with the history and life of the town at the time.
If you’re looking for refreshments later, the Garden Cafe is next door.
5. Colorado River State Historic Park
Containing the old U.S. Army Quartermaster Station and the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, this park has a rich history and interesting exhibits for children.
It’s home to some of the oldest structures in Arizona, where you can learn about and learn about the history of the Colorado River, an important crossing for Yuma in the Old West.
You can also learn about the Yuma Project, which aims to enable year-round agriculture by using dams, canals, siphons, power plants, and drains to irrigate large tracts of land in Yuma County and California.
To keep the kids engaged, head to the Yuma Crossing area to learn about railroads, check out the original pivot points and board the steam train on display.
6. Empire National Wildlife Refuge
Breathtaking views of mountains, wetlands, deserts, and rivers combine in this fascinating preserve that stretches into Yuma County, Arizona, and Empire County, California.
Despite its location in the Sonoran Desert, wetlands actually make up most of its habitat, making it a refuge for wildlife and a perfect place to observe nature.
Inside the sanctuary, you can enjoy boat trips, fishing, hiking and camping. Wandering the painted desert trails is a must for newcomers.
7. Castle Dome Mine Museum and Ghost Town
Once a bustling mining town, the abandoned Castle Dome City is now deserted.
Beneath its soil are more than 300 mines, all of which have been explored and relics excavated from there fill the museum.
You can walk through more than 50 buildings, including homes, shops, and churches, each offering its own view of the town’s history.
Frozen in time, this ghost town of the West preserves a precious piece of the Old West’s history for all to enjoy.
8. Waylon Water Park
Packed with family fun, Waylon’s water park features over 15 slides and attractions, making it a refreshing stop with plenty to do.
Not just limited to getting wet, thorough entertainment can be found on the mini golf course alone.
This place has a pleasant restaurant for all ages and is the perfect haven from the hot weather.
9. Eastern Wetland Environment Restoration Area
Not far from Yuma Prison is the recently restored East Yuma Wetlands Natural Habitat.
Since restoration began in 2002, the removal of litter and dirt, and the replanting of native species, have triggered a huge increase in bird diversity, doubling their numbers, making it a wonderful natural attraction.
The wetlands have several trails and trails for walking or biking, as well as some nice places to stop and rest and enjoy nature.
10. West Wetland Park and Centennial Beach
Opposite the East Wetland, West Wetland Park is just across the river.
It’s more of a recreation area than the eastern wetlands, with playgrounds, picnic spots, walking trails and fishing spots.
It also has a delightful centenary beach developed for the town’s 100th anniversary. This is another ideal picnic spot and cool place.
11. Empire Dunes National Recreation Area
Just 20 miles west of Yuma, these incredible dunes hold the title of the largest inland dune area in the country, stretching over 40 miles.
The dunes are accessible to all during the off season, but during the off-road peak season, only off-road vehicles are allowed on the dunes, although you can make quick stops to take photos.
This is a paradise for off-road bikes, quad bikes and dune buggies.
The impressive scenery has also been the backdrop for several films, such as Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
12. The “official” center of the world
Just a short drive from Yuma, California’s Empire County, this seemingly random spot has been approved by the state of California and France as the official center of the world.
Established in the 80s by Jacques-Andre Istel, the site consists of many interesting monuments, including a spiral staircase leading to nowhere, formerly part of the Eiffel Tower.
You’ll also find a set of granite pyramids depicting human history, a church and, of course, a plaque marking the location.
This bizarre site is only open from March to December, but you’ll get a certificate when you visit.
13. Yuma Conservation Park
An educational center and community treasure, this botanical garden is a secluded place no more than 4 miles from Yuma.
Magnificent desert plants, many of which are sloth for educational and identification purposes, provide a captivating Sonalendrat experience.
A collection of antique farm machinery is also on display for those interested in old trucks and tractors.
With two airports nearby, you can watch some interesting planes while you feed the ducks or stroll the nature trails.
14. Yuma River Oil Pipeline
From April to September, during Arizona’s sunny summer months, Yuma River Tubing offers a great alternative way to experience the Colorado River.
No matter how old you are, you are free to try it out, you will love this floating journey, from the company to send you upstream, under the bridge from ocean to ocean, all the way back to West Wetland Park
The activity takes about an hour, and you can even enjoy refreshments at the right time to watch the sunset in the company of your friends or family.
It’s best to book as the attractions fill up quickly and you don’t want to miss out on the fun!
15. Martha’s Garden Date Farm
Arizona, and Yuma in particular, is fast becoming an increasingly popular date producer.
That’s not surprising, since dates require constant sunlight, and Yuma holds the title of the sunniest place in the world.
At Martha’s Garden, you can stroll through the palm groves and learn about the growth and history of the organic farm.
You can also grab lunch, try their famous date shake, and buy other dare-to-go products before you leave.
Remember, peak season runs from September to April.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Yuma, Arizona (AZ)
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