Heading to Arizona and want to create some incredible memories? Make sure you spend some time in Yuma, dubbed the “Sunniest City on Earth.” Set on the banks of the Colorado River, Yuma has a rich culture and history linked to the 1849 gold rush days. From fascinating museums and historic parks to beautiful botanical gardens, you’ll find a multitude of fun things to do in Yuma, Arizona.
Stroll around the charming downtown area, check out some local art, and catch a show in Yuma’s historic theater. Or explore top tourist attractions like the chilling cells of a Wild West-era prison or check out some cool missiles and tanks at the Yuma Proving Ground Open Air Museum.
Can’t decide where to start? Do this sun-kissed city justice by making sure you discover all the best places to visit in Yuma, Arizona!
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Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park
Make your first stop at the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park. One of Yuma’s top attractions, the prison is an open-air museum where you can discover the hardships of life in an Old Southwest prison. Opened in 1876 before Arizona became a state, the prison had a reputation for being gruesome.
Take a self-guided walking tour of Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park and explore cell blocks where prisoners were left in isolation. Brave the dark and visit the Dark Cell, where prisoners were sent to be punished. Wander around the prison yard and climb up the reconstructed guard tower for spectacular panoramic views of Yuma.
Visit the small museum and learn about the history of the prison and the famous criminals who were housed there. Don’t forget to get a mugshot of yourself in the original mirror used for prisoner’s mugshots!
Castle Dome Mine Museum
Journey back in time to the days of the gold rush with a trip to the ghost town of Castle Dome City at the Castle Dome Mine Museum. Resting atop over 300 abandoned mines, the western town has been meticulously restored to recreate the bustling mining district it once was.
Get a feel for life in the 19th-century Wild West by wandering around the eerie town and visiting some of the buildings that are filled with period artifacts. Head to the Castle Dome Mine Museum to learn more about the history of the town and marvel at artifacts discovered in the mines below.
Book a tour of the spectacular Arizona Fluorescent Mineral Wall at the Hull Mine. Explore various parts of the mine, check out the desperado hideout, and marvel at the colors and patterns of the natural fluorescent and phosphorescent mineral walls.
West Wetlands Park
Time for some fun in the sun! One of the jewels in Yuma’s crown, the West Wetlands Park is packed with exciting activities for the whole family. Spanning 110 acres along the banks of the Colorado River, the park boasts gardens and picnic lawns, and a game fish-stocked lake with a boat launch.
The kids will love Castle Park, a huge castle-themed play area where they can climb, crawl, swing, and zipline. Shaded ramadas are available for picnicking while Centennial Beach is perfect for paddling and swimming.
Explore the Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden, wander around the Solar Demonstration Garden, and see if you spot a burrowing owl in the protected habitat in the park.
Colorado River State Historic Park
Discover how the Colorado River played a vital role in shaping the Southwest at the Colorado River State Historic Park. Part of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, the park features wonderful exhibits highlighting the story of how the river was used to transport goods.
Visit the old U.S. Army Quartermaster Depot, a 19th-century Army supply and distribution warehouse that operated in the 1800s, and learn how they used the river. Read about the Yuma Project and the plan to irrigate land in Yuma County.
When you’re done inside, head out to the Yuma Crossing area to learn about the railroad. Check out the original pivot point of the system and hop on board the magnificent steam train on display. Don’t forget to pop into the gift shop on your way out to pick up some souvenirs.
Yuma Art Center
Pop into the Yuma Art Center and see the creative side of the desert community. Located downtown on Main Street, the Yuma Art Center caters to all spheres of the arts, from fine arts to theater. Several galleries display local artists’ works and host over 20 visual art exhibitions each year.
The center is also home to Historic Yuma Theatre, where theater and performing arts productions are held. Dating back to 1912, the old Vaudeville theater was transformed into the 643-seat Yuma Theatre and the 270-seat Black Box Theatre. The venues host unique live art performances, theater shows, film screenings, and more throughout the year.
Browse the art gallery in the lobby and admire both established and emerging artists’ works. Find out information about the street art around Yuma and the best spots to go on a self-guided walking tour to see it.
Martha’s Gardens Medjool Date Farm
Get a taste of Morocco at Martha’s Gardens Medjool Date Farm. If you like the little fruit, visiting this fascinating farm shouldn’t be missed. Situated near the Marine Corps base, Martha’s Gardens is a family-owned working date farm that produces sweet Moroccan fruit.
Get an in-depth look at what it takes to grow and harvest this delicious fruit on a guided tour of the farm. Learn more about the history of date farming, how they spread around the world, and what they can be used for – besides eating!
After your tour, relax with a delicious date milkshake and stock up on boxes of “the candy that grows on trees” for friends and family.
Arizona Market Place
Head down to the Arizona Market Place for a bit of bargain shopping, eating, and socializing with the locals. Home to over 150 vendors, the market sells everything from clothing and beauty products to farm fresh produce and specialty gifts.
Grab a coffee and wander around the stalls, browsing for bargains. When you have worked up an appetite, make your way to the food court, where you’ll find a fantastic selection of food, from homemade burgers and sandwiches to Greek gyros and classic hot dogs.
The Arizona Market Place also hosts rotating live entertainment throughout the year. Check out the events calendar and catch a cooking demonstration or some live music.
Yuma Conservation Garden
The Yuma Conservation Garden is a lovely peaceful spot to spend a few hours learning about the local flora of the Sonoran Desert. Just four miles outside of Yuma, the garden is filled with a variety of plant species that flourish in harsh conditions.
Amble along the nature trails – you might have to dodge a tortoise or two! Learn about the flora in the Yuma Conservation Garden through interpretive signs and feed the ducks in the park’s large pond.
The gardens are only open on weekends from November through April.
Overlooking the Colorado River, Gateway Park is a lovely spot for a beachside picnic. Named for being the gateway between Arizona and Mexico, the park is a popular spot for swimming and fishing. Set beneath the historic Ocean To Ocean Bridge, a wide beach offers welcome shade, and there are plenty of ramadas with BBQ grills for picnicking.
Relax on the beach and enjoy refreshing dips in the river. The kids can burn off energy in a dedicated children’s play area, and you can enjoy fishing off one of the fishing piers.
If you prefer to get active, book a Yuma River Tubing adventure starting from Gateway Park.
East Wetlands Park
East Wetlands Park is proof that we really can make a difference in the fight to save the environment! Once a homeless encampment and dumpsite for trash, the park’s 1,400 acres are now a lush oasis of marshy wetlands.
Forming part of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, East Wetlands Park is now home to a diverse array of fauna and flora, from cottonwood and willow trees to various wildlife species. The protected wetland is crisscrossed with hiking, biking, and equestrian trails and is a wonderful spot for birdwatching.
Take a stroll along the East Wetlands Interpretive Trail and learn all about the park through signs along the route. Take your fishing rod and cast a line. Or simply relax on one of the benches and soak up the beauty of nature around you.
Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
If you want to see some bighorn sheep, plan a getaway to the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1939 to protect the ruminant species, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is also home to the California fan palm, the only native palm in Arizona.
Spectacular landscapes abound at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, from the craggy spires of the Kofa Mountains to the wind-swept sea of saguaros and ocotillos. You can’t help but admire the impressive Castle Dome Mountains in the south and the vast endlessness of the scrubby desert plains.
The 665,400-acre park is best explored on scenic drives; however, there are some fantastic hiking trails here, too, if you prefer to wander. Keep an eye out for quartz stone in the Crystal Hill area, and keep a camera handy for that once-in-a-lifetime bighorn sheep shot.
Sanguinetti House Museum and Gardens
Learn about the “Merchant Prince of Yuma” with a visit to the Sanguinetti House Museum and Gardens. Hailed as the “Jewel of Historic Yuma,” the museum memorializes the life of local merchant E.F. Sanguinetti.
Set in a beautiful 19th-century adobe house surrounded by manicured gardens, Sanguinetti House Museum and Gardens takes visitors back to late 19th-century Yuma. Interesting exhibits tell the story of E.F. Sanguinetti and his vital role in the growth of the Yuma community.
Wander through perfectly recreated rooms that reflect the life and times of the merchant. Head outdoors to the exquisitely preserved rose garden, Mr. Sanguinetti’s favorite place.
When you’re done, relax over a coffee in the charming Garden Café.
Yuma Proving Ground Open Air Museum
Ever wondered where tanks are tested against the elements or how far missiles can fly? If you’re a military buff, a visit to the Yuma Proving Ground Open Air Museum is a must on your vacation! The Yuma Proving Grounds are just that – a place where the Department of Defense tests everything from tanks to tents in the most extreme environment.
The Yuma Proving Ground Open Air Museum features a fascinating collection of militaria from different wartimes. Stroll around among tanks, artillery vehicles, missiles, and other weapons of mass destruction. Gain some insight into military history and the sacrifices made to maintain peace.
Bear in mind that the Yuma Proving Ground is a working Army Base. It’s only open to US and Canadian citizens; you’ll need to go through a law enforcement background check before entering. It’s well worth the wait, though!
Imperial Sand Dunes
Follow in the footsteps of Luke Skywalker in The Return of the Jedi on a visit to the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. Located 20 miles west of Yuma, these spectacular sand dunes extend for more than 40 miles along the eastern edge of California Imperial Valley.
Once known as a sandy deathtrap to 18th-century Spanish explorers, the Imperial Sand Dunes are now a haven for outdoor recreation. On any given day, you can hear the buzz of ATVs and off-road vehicles tackling the walls of shifting sands.
The nation’s largest mass of inland sand dunes has also served as a movie location for decades. Well-known films like Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, The Scorpion King, and Jumanji 3 were shot here. The breathtaking scenery of the orange sands against cobalt skies makes it a popular spot for stunning landscape photos.
Despite the name conjuring images of a classic honky tonk, Lutes Casino is a quirky bar and restaurant with eclectic décor and a menu of All-American fare. Named for the former casino that once occupied the building, the one-of-a-kind eatery offers something for everybody.
Tuck into towering burgers doused with a secret-recipe hot sauce, baskets of chicken wings, and a variety of tacos paired with cold craft brews and other libations. Challenge the locals to a game of dominos or put a coin on the table and chalk your pool cue.
Journey back to your childhood at the wall of pinball machines where you could easily lose an afternoon to the flickering lights and pinging sounds.
Prison Hill Brewing Company
When it comes to great craft beer, Prison Hill Brewing Company is the best brewery in Yuma—and its only brewery! Named after the nearby Yuma Territorial Prison, the craft brewery sits in the heart of Yuma’s bustling downtown area. It produces a range of handcrafted brews using locally sourced ingredients.
You’ll find a fantastic selection of beers on the menu with quirky names like the easy-drinking Jailbait Blonde pale ale and the Chango Malo, a coconut milk stout. Try the English-style bitter, Bierre de Jesus, honoring the owner’s great-grandfather who did time in the prison.
Pair your craft brews with a delicious choice of burgers, sandwiches, and light snacks.
North End Coffeehouse
When it’s time for a hit of java, the North End Coffeehouse will answer the call. Located in the historic downtown area of Yuma, this charming coffee shop is a lovely little spot for a quick coffee or a lazy brunch with friends.
Boasting red brick walls and sleek décor, the coffee shop serves single-origin, fair-trade coffee sourced from the world’s finest coffee-growing regions. From hot Pour Over/French Press coffee to iced Ghiaccios, you’ll find your favorite caffeine fix on the menu.
Pair your coffee with East Coast-style bagels, healthy acai bowls, or freshly baked muffins. Don’t forget to stock up on bags of your favorite freshly roasted beans before heading home.