Tucked away in the south west corner of Arizona, bordering both California and Mexico, is where you’ll find Yuma. The city of around 96,000 people nearly doubles in size from October to May due to an influx of snowbirds (people who come to Yuma to escape their freezing cold winters). So, why is Yuma such a popular place to spend winters? The most obvious answer is the gorgeously mild temperatures October to May. The sun shines in Yuma roughly 90% of the year and in winter, temperatures tend to stay in the 70’s and 80’s- it can’t be beat! But Yuma has more to offer than just its weather, the city is bustling with activities year-round! Here are some of the best things to do in Yuma, Arizona.
History & Museums
Yuma Territorial Prison State Park
Tour parts of the original prison built in 1875 - before air conditioning! The structures are fascinating and the property has a rich history that’s well displayed in an air conditioned building. Once the prison closed due to overcrowding in 1909, the facility has been used as a school, hospital, clubhouse and more! It finally came to be a state park when the City of Yuma sold the land to the Parks Board for one dollar!
Castle Dome Mine Museum
Castle Dome City was a booming mining town, once bigger than Yuma. The last legitimate miners left around 1979 and the town emptied. Soon after, others came to scam mine investors, this caused Fish and Wildlife to take action by removing everything from the town. Luckily the team that now runs the Castle Dome Mine Museum came in to salvage as much as they could. They found no shortage of history and the town became a non-profit museum. Over 50 town buildings still stand, giving hints of what Castle Dome was like back in the day. Multiple tours are available for various prices, including an underground tour of the Hull Mine!
Yuma Proving Ground Heritage Center
The Yuma Proving Grounds have “hosted a variety of military activities to train and equip America’s combat forces to ensure they are the best in the world. This has resulted in the US Army Yuma Proving Ground developing into one of the best multi-purpose test range facilities in the Department of Defense. The Heritage Center is proud to present a visual interpretation of the people, places, events, and objects that have comprised this intriguing history.”
Z Fun Factory / Waylon’s Water World
There’s fun for the whole family at Z Fun Factory! Their attractions include mini golf, go-karts, batting cages, bumper boats, an arcade and a bar. Events are hosted regularly and they have packages for hosting parties as well. The massive water park is open during the summer months and features multiple water slides, activities and even a lazy river!
Imperial Sand Dunes
While these massive sand mounds are technically in California, they are just a few short miles outside of Yuma city limits and are a major attraction. With the right permit you can camp, climb and drive motorized vehicles all over the dunes! They are truly magnificent to see in person (think middle east sand dunes!) and provide endless entertainment!
Colorado River Float
The Colorado River has so much to offer Yuma. It flows along feeding farm fields and offers a place to cool off alongside multiple parks, but the best way to experience the Colorado River is to be in it! There are numerous points of entry to start your float and convenient places to end with ample parking. The float is slow on calm waters over a sandy river bottom. There are not many places to stop along the way due to the banks lined with luscious greenery. Be sure to wear sunscreen, bring water and even an umbrella!
If you’re thinking coordinating drop offs, pick ups and securing tubes seems like a hassle, there is another option! A locally owned Yuma business, Yuma River Tubing, takes care of all of that for you for a small fee.
Lakes Near Yuma
There are seven lakes near Yuma, no further than 30 miles out. They include Redondo Lake, Fortuna Lake, Mittry Lake, Squaw Lake, Senator Wash Reservoir, Martinez Lake and Ferguson Lake. You can enjoy activities like fishing, boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, swimming, camping and hiking! Each lake has unique characteristics so be sure to do your research before setting out on your adventure! Martinez Lake is probably the most popular as it has a resort right on the water, which includes a marina, stores and lodges available for rent.
Telegraph Pass Hiking Trail
Experience this 5.3 mile loop trail east of The Foothills. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 3 hours to complete. This is a very popular area for birding, hiking, and mountain biking, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring. The best times to visit this trail are October through March. The views from the top are amazing!! Dogs are welcome and may be off-leash in some areas.
Downtown Yuma’s history is what makes it unique but the restaurants, local businesses and events are what make it alive today! Some of the top downtown restaurants include DaBoyz Italian Cuisine, Prison Hill Brewing Company, Cafecito and Lutes Casino. Main Street is lined with a variety of stores such as boutiques and gift shops, restaurants and bars. Catch a movie at the Regency Main Street Cinemas, or coffee and brunch at Cafecito. There is also an escape room, wine tasting, art center, antique store and much more! You can commonly frequent events like street fairs and festivals on Main Street as well. If you don’t know where to start, the Yuma Visitor Center is conveniently located in the heart of downtown, stop in for tips on the best ways to experience Yuma!
Open seasonally, the Yuma outdoor markets offer good food and unique shopping opportunities as well as live music! The two main markets are Arizona Marketplace on Avenue 4E and Yuma Swap Meet Flea Market on 4th Avenue. These markets are open weekends October through May and there is no limit to what you might find!
The Yuma community is passionate about supporting its small businesses by offering many other local market opportunities in various other places; downtown, church parking lots, the mall parking lot, coffee shops, etc. If you come across one while out and about be sure to stop in!
Yuma has many parks throughout the city; some along the Colorado River, some within neighborhoods and all with fun amenities! Gateway Park and West Wetlands Park are two popular parks along the river. They have playgrounds, walking trails, grills, tables, benches, gazebos and even bathrooms! West Wetlands Park features a boat ramp into the river and a massive playground! Additionally, an incredible hot air balloon launch is hosted there every year. At Gateway Park, a beach lines the riverbank beneath the iconic Ocean to Ocean bridge, it’s a great place to swim or fish!
This is not an all-inclusive list of all Yuma has to offer by a long shot! And while it may not be known for being a destination city, Yuma is its own little hidden gem. A city with something to offer everyone, it continues to pleasantly surprise its visitors.