- Where to Go
- The Best of the Valley of the Sun
- Wild West Adventure
- Let Scottsdale Rock Your World
- Finding Water in the Sonoran Desert
- Spring Training
- Arizona Family Road Trip
- Phoenix Points of Pride
- Southwestern Culture and Heritage
- Nocturnal Scottsdale
- Exploring Phoenix’s Architecture
- Unexpected Arizona
- Desert Chic
- Chilly Drinks and Cool Eats in Scottsdale
Enjoy a bit of roadside charm on a quick ride through Old Town Cottonwood, a terrific throwback to the 1950s small towns you would expect to find off Route 66. The district’s quaint Main Street—which is also called Old Highway 89A or Highway 260 depending on the sign—is a pleasant drive, especially for travelers on their way from Sedona to Jerome, Tuzigoot, or Dead Horse Ranch State Park.
Many of its storefronts are being restored as Cottonwood tries to recapture a bit of its former glory. And though the town of 11,000 residents has strong agricultural roots that are still alive, modern Cottonwood also serves as a bedroom community for Sedona’s workers, who can’t afford to live in pricey Red Rock Country.
You’ll find a few chain motels in Cottonwood, but frankly, you’re better off staying in Sedona or Jerome. If you need to say in town, though, Pines Motel (920 Camino Real, 928/634-9975, www.azpinesmotel.com, $50–90) is better than your average roadside hotel. Its clean, bright rooms are cheery, and the new mini suites, equipped with full-sized refrigerators, are great for larger groups or big families.
Hankerin’ for an Old West cookout? Well, even if themed dining isn’t your thing, Blazin’ M Ranch (599 N. 10th St., 928/634-0334, www.blazinm.com, 5–8:30 p.m. daily, closed Jan. and Aug., adults $34.95, children $24.95) serves up darn good “cowboy vittles, stories, tomfoolery,” and it’s a destination in its own right for many Sedona tourists.
Arrive at 5 p.m. when the gates open so that you can enjoy the full Wild West experience, including a shooting gallery, train ride, petting zoo, and roping. The dusty streets and wooden sidewalks may not be authentic, but it’s hard to resist browsing the old-fashioned shops—or dressing up as rough-and-tumble cowboys and saloon madams for an “Olde Tyme” photo.
The dinner bell rings at 6:30, when you’ll find chuckwagon grub like barbecued meats, cowboy beans, chunky applesauce, and homemade biscuits. After supper, the Blazin’ M Cowboys carry on the Old West tradition of twangy music and storytelling. Call for reservations.
Willy’s Burgers & Shakes (794 N. Main St., 928/634-6648, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Sun., $5–8) in Old Town Cottonwood re-creates the classic diner ambience of the 1950s, right down to the black-and-white checkered floor and swell jukebox. Look for the converted gas station’s old pumps at out front, which welcome nostalgic boomers or those who want to refuel on classic burgers, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches, and malts that range from chocolate-banana to strawberry. If you’re in a rush, grab a seat at the counter; otherwise slide into the vinyl booths for a tasty lunch.
The bustling Nic’s Italian Steak & Crab House (925 N. Main St., 928/634-9626, 5–9 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 5–10 p.m. Fri.–Sat., 5–9 p.m. Sun., $9–17) packs in Cottonwood residents with solid seafood dishes and topnotch steaks. Grab a drink at the saloon-like bar if there’s a wait, and consider whether to start with the little neck clams simmered in white wine and garlic butter or the baked Crabby Mac-n-Cheese, pasta tossed in a cheddar-alfredo sauce with sweet lump crab. And as at any good Italian restaurant, you can’t go wrong with the eggplant parmesan, classic lasagna, or lemon-and-caper chicken piccata.
Getting to Cottonwood
A quick day trip to Cottonwood is quite easy, and it’s a great place for a meal in between stops at Tuzigoot National Monument or Dead Horse Ranch State Park. From Sedona, take Highway 89A west. You’ll notice the landscape changes quite starkly from red-rock buttes, high-desert cacti, and ponderosa pines to tawny grasslands and flat plains. Once you get into Cottonwood, the highway loops north and turns into Main Street or Highway 260. You can opt to take Highway 260 south to Camp Verde and Montezuma Castle.
© Jeff Ficker from Moon Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona, 1st edition