Yuma, Arizona, is one of those cities that flies under the tourism radar, but it shouldn’t. Not only is it the Guinness World Records holder for the sunniest city in the world, it’s a warm weather destination filled with history, unique attractions, and outdoor adventures.
The number of fun things to do in Yuma, AZ, will surprise you.
If you’re trying to decide whether to plan a vacation to this sunny town, here are a bunch of reasons to make a trip to the Yuma area.
- 30 Best Things to Do in Yuma AZ
- 1. Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area
- 2. Colorado River State Historic Park
- 3. Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park
- 4. East Wetlands Park
- 5. West Wetlands Park
- 6. Gateway Park
- 7. Pivot Point Interpretive Plaza
- 8. Prison Hill Brewing Company
- 9. Historic Downtown Yuma
- 10. Lutes Casino
- 11. Sanguinetti House Museum & Gardens
- 12. Yuma Art Center
- 13. Historic Yuma Theatre
- 14. Coronado Motor Hotel
- 15. Yuma Landing Bar & Grill
- 16. Yuma History Museum
- 17. Cocopah Museum and Cultural Center
- 18. Martha’s Gardens Date Farm
- 19. Castle Dome Mine Museum & Ghost Town
- 20. Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
- 21. Museum of History in Granite and the Center of the World
- 22. Salvation Mountain
- 8 more fun things to do in Yuma
- Where is Yuma, Arizona?
- When is the best time to visit Yuma?
30 Best Things to Do in Yuma AZ
1. Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area
The Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area is a National Historic Landmark on the Lower Colorado River. It protects two state historic parks, a system of trails along the river, and historic downtown Yuma.
Both Colorado River State Historic Park and Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park are part of this heritage area. Also protected is the Heritage Center building, known as Old City Hall, and Yuma East Wetlands.
2. Colorado River State Historic Park
Colorado River State Historic Park serves the dual purpose of sharing the history of the old U.S. Army quartermaster depot and the importance of the Colorado River, considered the lifeblood of the Southwest.
The United States Army established the Yuma Quartermaster Depot in 1864 to supply outposts all over the Southwest.
If you were stationed in what is now Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, or Utah, your supplies came from this depot.
At this park, you can see the oldest buildings in the region from San Diego to Tucson, and the oldest Anglo-built house in Arizona.
One of the exhibits focuses on the Yuma Siphon, a 1912 tunnel that was built under the river and was the area’s first means of irrigation. That tunnel was the beginning of Yuma’s status as an agricultural capital instead of barren desert.
Colorado River State Historic Park, 201 N 4th Ave, Yuma, AZ, azstateparks.com
3. Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park
The Yuma Territorial Prison was once the most feared place in the American Southwest. The prison opened in 1876, constructed on a bluff above the confluence of the Colorado River and Gila River.
At Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, you can walk into the actual prison cells, and even better, walk out. Exhibits detail what life would have been like for the inmates, and why locals accused prison officials of running a country club.
You’ll also learn why Yuma High School athletic teams became known as “The Criminals.”
Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, 220 Prison Hill Rd, Yuma, AZ, yumaprison.org
4. East Wetlands Park
At the base of Yuma Territorial Prison along the Colorado River is East Wetlands Park. This environmental restoration area is a popular place for hiking, biking, and birdwatching. Bird species you might see include black-necked stilts, great egrets, and greater yellowlegs.
East Wetlands Park, Yuma Crossing Bike Path, Yuma, AZ
5. West Wetlands Park
Another one of the fun outdoor things to do in Yuma, AZ, is West Wetlands Park. This 110-acre park has thirty acres that have been restored with trees and grasses native to the Sonoran desert, and another thirty are developed for use with a lake, picnic shelters, and landscaping.
The park has memorials for the 1st Iowa Volunteers and the Mormon Battalion. There’s also a butterfly and hummingbird garden, and a boat launch off Centennial Beach.
West Wetlands Park, 282 N 12th Ave, Yuma, AZ
6. Gateway Park
If you want to go swimming in the Colorado River, head to Yuma’s Gateway Park and its sandy beach. A picnic area has pavilions with grills, electrical outlets, and tables, as well as public restrooms and a playground.
The park extends under I-8 and ends at the Ocean to Ocean Bridge. Parts of it are in California.
Gateway Park, E 1st St & S Gila St, Yuma, AZ yumaaz.gov
7. Pivot Point Interpretive Plaza
Located on Madison Street and the Colorado River in Gateway Park, Pivot Point Plaza is an historical park marking the exact spot where the first train entered Arizona in 1877.
The train crossed over a swing bridge, and the concrete pivot that turned to let boats pass is on the plaza. Also on site is a 1907 Baldwin steam locomotive.
Pivot Point Plaza, N Madison Ave, Yuma, AZ
8. Prison Hill Brewing Company
Yuma’s first craft brewery is a family-friendly establishment in downtown Yuma. Its menu items play on the prison theme: Stripped Yard Bird, Sprung Rolls, Convict Cobb, etc.
The beers continue the wordplay, with names like Jailbait Blonde, Grand Theft Hefe, and Solitary Stout.
Prison Hill Brewing Company, 278 S Main St, Yuma, AZ prisonhill.com
9. Historic Downtown Yuma
Several fun things to do in Yuma are in the historic downtown. As you stroll Main Street, look for signs on the buildings for wedding chapels. During World War II, there would be about 150 weddings a week at just one chapel.
Yuma was a popular destination for Hollywood couples who didn’t want to wait the three days required for California marriage licenses. Celebrities who got married in Arizona included Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Charlie Chaplen, and Stan Laurel.
Pivot Point Interpretive Plaza, the Sanguinetti House, Yuma Art Center, and Historic Yuma Theatre are all located in historic downtown Yuma.
10. Lutes Casino
Lutes Casino is a legendary place in Yuma’s historic district. Located on a street where Gold Rushers used to tread, Lutes isn’t a gambling house at all.
Instead, it’s the state’s oldest pool and dominoes hall, and serves up beer, casual food, and the infamous Lutes Especial: a sandwich made of a cheeseburger, a hot dog, and special sauce.
Lutes Casino, 221 S Main St, Yuma, AZ lutescasino.com
11. Sanguinetti House Museum & Gardens
E. F. Sanguinetti was one of the town’s favored sons, considered the “Merchant Prince of Yuma” and someone who made a profound impact on the community.
The Italian-American arrived in Yuma from California in 1882 when he was just 15. He began working in a grocery store and saved enough money to buy into his employer’s firm and eventually build his own chain of stores.
The Sanguinetti House Museum and Gardens, which is part of the Arizona Historical Society, is located in the surprisingly modest adobe home where Sanguinetti raised his family.
Part of the museum is devoted to Sanguinetti and his legacy, while the rest features special exhibits.
Sanguinetti House Museum and Gardens, 240 S Madison Ave, Yuma, AZ arizonahistoricalsociety.org
12. Yuma Art Center
With its variety of programming, the Yuma Art Center attracts around 100,000 visitors every year. There are art exhibits, performing and visual arts classes, and several theatrical productions.
The Yuma Art Center also hosts several signature events, including Art in the Park and the Children’s Festival of the Arts.
One of their biggest events is YumaCon, a celebration of all things nerdy that’s held the first weekend of October at the Yuma Civic Center.
Additionally, the Yuma Art Center oversees the city’s sculptures and runs a summer mural program.
Yuma Art Center, 254 S Main St, Yuma, AZ yumaaz.gov
13. Historic Yuma Theatre
Part of the Yuma Art Center, the Historic Yuma Theatre was built in 1912. It originally opened as a vaudeville and movie house. After a fire in 1913 that burned the theater portion of the building, Riley’s Garage leased it the following year.
The theater was reconstructed, and Yuma Theatre opened in 1927 as a film house. Another fire caused a brief closure in the mid-1930s. After repairs, the Historic Yuma Theatre has been in operation almost continuously since 1936.
Historic Yuma Theatre, 254 Main St, Yuma, AZ yumaaz.gov
14. Coronado Motor Hotel
Make the Coronado Motor Hotel your home base during your exploration of Yuma. Opened in 1938 by John and Marie Peach, Czechoslovakian immigrants, the accommodations were the first in the state with rooms that were connected instead of individual cabins, ushering in the era of motels to Arizona.
The Spanish-style motel is still privately owned by the son and daughter-in-law of the Peaches. Rooms and suites have been recently renovated and include microwaves and refrigerators.
Coronado Motor Hotel, 233 S 4th Ave, Yuma, AZ
15. Yuma Landing Bar & Grill
Get a side of Yuma’s aviation history with eggs and bacon at Yuma Landing Bar & Grill. The restaurant is situated on the site of the first airplane landing in the state of Arizona.
On October 25, 1911, Robert Fowler touched down on his cross-country flight from Santa Monica to Miami in a “Cole Flyer,” a Wright Model B biplane. There’s a statue of Fowler in front of the restaurant to commemorate the moment.
Bonus: if you stay at the Historic Coronado Motor Hotel, breakfast is included.
Yuma Landing Bar & Grill, 195 S 4th Ave, Yuma, AZ yumalanding.com
16. Yuma History Museum
Formerly the Casa de Coronado Museum, this treasure highlighting Yuma’s past is located in the former lobby of the Coronado Motor Hotel.
Exhibits showcase the history of the first motel in Arizona and its stint as a charter member of the Best Western chain, but it goes beyond the story of the hotel. There are magazines spanning decades and an antique cash register, typewriter, phone, and phonograph. There is also the Ellis Island certificate from the hotel’s founders, John and Marie Peach.
Tours are available by appointment.
Yuma History Museum, 233 S 4th Ave, Yuma, AZ Facebook
17. Cocopah Museum and Cultural Center
Long before Europeans arrived, Cocopah called the lower Colorado River home. The River People, as they’re known, have lived in the area for centuries. Learn their story at the Cocopah Museum. It’s on the Cocopah Reservation, where you can also find a casino, the Cocopah Speedway, and golf courses.
Cocopah Museum and Cultural Center, 14533 S Veterans Dr, Somerton, AZ cocopah.com
18. Martha’s Gardens Date Farm
If you’ve ever wondered why dates are expensive, you won’t after visiting Martha’s Gardens Date Farm. Take their tour through the date palms and you’ll learn the extensive process for growing the fruit. Short story: almost everything is done by hand.
Tours are operated seasonally and their extensive store is open year round.
Martha’s Gardens Date Farm, 9747 S Avenue 9 ¾ E, Yuma, AZ marthasgardens.com
19. Castle Dome Mine Museum & Ghost Town
Feel like you’re literally stepping into the past at Castle Dome Mine Museum and Ghost Town.
Replicating a mining town from the 1800s, the site is the former location of the longest running mines in Arizona. There’s a school, a bank, a church, five saloons, blacksmith and machine shops, a hotel, a barber, and a dress shop.
Some of the buildings are original and some are reproductions. Don’t miss the separate mining camp, which includes an old Spanish mine and a graveyard.
Castle Dome Mines Museum, Castle Dome Mine Rd, Yuma, AZ castledomemuseum.org
20. Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
Since 1939, the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge has protected native wildlife, particularly desert bighorn sheep.
While it can seem difficult to sustain life in the Sonoran Desert, plenty of animals can be found at this refuge, including badgers, foxes, and kangaroo rats. There are also lots of lizards, including dangerous breeds like the Gila monster and western diamondback rattlesnake.
Pick up brochures at the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center before heading north on State Highway 95.
Kofa National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, 9300 28th St, Yuma, AZ fws.gov
21. Museum of History in Granite and the Center of the World
Cross the border into California and get off at the exit for Felicity, population two. There you’ll find the Museum of History in Granite and the Center of the World.
Jacques-André Istel created this unique destination in Imperial County after writing a children’s book titled Coe: The Good Dragon at the Center of the World. The Frenchman then convinced not only the Imperial County Board of Supervisors, he also convinced a branch of the French government to declare his land the official Center of the World.
He founded a town named Felicity, named for his wife, Felicia, and built a pyramid to mark its official status.
He then began building a series of monuments etched with moments from the past. Topics include the History of Arizona, the History of the French Foreign Legion, and the epically ambitious History of Humanity. This Museum of History in Granite is calculated to last 4,000 years, plenty of time for you to see it.
Museum of History in Granite and the Center of the World, Felicity, CA historyingranite.org
22. Salvation Mountain
Only an hour and a half from Yuma, Salvation Mountain is definitely worth the drive and makes for a fun, and colorful, day trip. Located near the Salton Sea in California, it’s a public art installation created by Leonard Knight. Made out of adobe and hay bales, it’s painted with vivid colors and is meant to be a general message of love.
Knight passed away in 2014, but his legacy continues in a charity founded to keep his mountain alive.
Salvation Mountain, 603 Beal Rd, Niland, CA
8 more fun things to do in Yuma
- McPhaul Suspension Bridge: a defunct suspension bridge known as “the bridge to nowhere”
- Yuma Armed Forces Park: park honoring past, present, and future veterans
- Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area: public lands with dunes up to 300 feet in height
- Imperial National Wildlife Refuge: thirty miles of wildlife refuge on the Colorado River
- Yuma Conservation Garden: botanical garden showcasing cacti and Sonoran desert native plants
- Yuma River Tubing: tube rentals for floats on the Colorado River
- zFun Factory & Waylon’s Water World: family fun entertainment center with mini-golf, Go-Karts, arcade games, a water park, and more
- Valley of the Names: unusual “graffiti” garden where visitors spell names out with rocks found in the desert
After seeing all these things to do in Yuma, will you be planning a visit to this Arizona hot spot?
Where is Yuma, Arizona?
The city of Yuma is located in the southwest corner of Arizona. It borders Mexico to the south and California to the west.
Its location on a natural, and relatively narrow, section of the Colorado River made Yuma Crossing one of the best places to cross; it became known as the gateway to California.
When is the best time to visit Yuma?
January through March is the prime season to visit Yuma. Some activities close in the summer months due to heat.