Top 8 Things to Do in Cottonwood, Arizona (+ Extras!)

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If you’re looking for the top things to do in Cottonwood, Arizona, you’ve come to the right place!

Cottonwood, Arizona, has quietly been building a reputation as a great getaway from the Phoenix area. The Cottonwood, AZ elevation is higher than Phoenix, so it’s cooler, making it an attractive destination in the hotter summer months.

Cottonwood is also nestled in the Verde Valley, a flourishing Arizona wine region. Wine lovers know about the Verde Valley wine trail and flock here to support local Arizona vineyards.

So, while you could do it on a day trip if you enjoy wine, it’s a great idea to make a weekend of it. Verde Valley wine is worth it.

Even if you’re not a wine aficionado, there’s plenty to do in Cottonwood. There’s a quaint small downtown, many incredible restaurants, and a gorgeous state park, for starters. It’s a great depiction of an old Arizona town, complete with the charm!

If you haven’t heard of Cottonwood, Arizona—no worries! This article will share all you need to know about a visit and why you should go.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park Lagoon

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1. Go Hiking in Dead Horse Ranch State Park

This beautiful state park isn’t far from the main drag of Main Street in Cottonwood. It’s worth visiting, particularly if you want to work off a little of the wine you’ve been drinking!

There are over a dozen trails through the park. Most of them are easy, and some are moderate. Take a walk through the woods, walk along the river, or walk around the three pretty lagoons. This is a great place to see how pretty the Verde River is.

There are camping options and some cabins you can rent available in the park as well.

For a private guided kayaking adventure on the Verde River, check out this tour.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park is located at 675 Dead Horse Ranch Rd, Cottonwood, AZ 86326. The parking fee is $7 per car, and it’s open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

2. Explore Historic Old Town Cottonwood

The main drag in Cottonwood is only a few blocks long, but it’s packed full of great things to do. There are some cute little boutique shops for our furry friends, like my favorite Pawz on Main.

You’ll find a rock shop, an olive oil shop, antique shops, and so much more! Many people visit Cottonwood for the wineries but take the time to explore this cute little town. Many hidden treasures are tucked away on this cute Main Street.

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3. Taste the Local Wines

The Verde Valley is one of the three wine regions in Arizona and the only one in northern Arizona. Cottonwood wine tasting is a popular draw to this small Arizona town, and there are a surprising seven tasting rooms in a couple of blocks on Main Street.

If you want to check out the Cottonwood, AZ wineries or even the Verde Valley wine trail, check these out. They are some of the best wineries in Arizona.

  • Pillsbury Wine Company Tasting Room—There’s a wide range of wines, from light whites to crisp whites and light to crazy bold reds. Out of the rooms we tried, this one had the best experience, so it’s a must-see in my book!
  • Arizona Stronghold Vineyards Tasting Room—This is a really cute tasting room with some insanely good wines. This place got me interested in Arizona wine on my first trip to Cottonwood. My pup was allowed to enjoy the experience inside with us, and he gave it two paws up too!
  • Burning Tree Cellars—One of the most popular tasting rooms, this one was like enjoying a flight with family.
  • Merkin Vineyards Hilltop Winery & Trattoria—You can’t beat the new location with views of the area. Oh, and their wines!
  • Tantrum Wines—Who doesn’t love a female-owned winery? Go girl! This one has a touch of attitude and some great options.
  • Provisioner—Now owned by Arizona Stronghold, this tiny tasting room packs a punch!
  • Carlson Creek Winery—Another winery with a Scottsdale location in case you want to continue on.

Wine lovers will love Cottonwood. The wineries offer a really nice range of wines, showcasing some of the best of what Arizona offers. And even if you’re not a wine enthusiast, you’ll gain an appreciation for the grape.

For a fun hop-on hop-off tour of the Verde Valley wineries, check out this tour! It’s a great option to go wine tasting in the area without having to drive. Or explore the wineries in luxury on this tour.

4. Enjoy the New Merkin Vineyards Hilltop Winery & Trattoria

I was sad to learn that Merkin Osteria was closed. But my sadness was only temporary when I learned that bigger and better things were in store!

Maynard James Keenan has built a wine empire in the Verde Valley. Who is this, you may ask? He’s not only descended from winemakers in Italy, but he’s also the lead singer of the rock band Tool.

He has settled in the area and is passionate about it and wine. So, he has established his business of Merkin and Caduceus Cellars in Cottonwood and nearby Jerome.

The Merkin Vineyards Hilltop Winery & Trattoria opened in late 2023. It’s perched on a hill overlooking the main street in town and offers a 270-degree view of the valley.

Not only does it offer award-winning wines and a farm-to-table seasonal menu, but there’s also homemade gelato and sorbetto. You can walk up or take a tram for your visit.

Not only is Merkin located here, but Caduceus Cellars Hilltop Facility is onsite. They grow, produce, and bottle onsite.

Merkin Vineyards Hilltop Winery & Trattoria is located at 770 Verde Heights Drive, Cottonwood, Arizona 86326. It is open from Monday to Thursday, 11 to 9, Friday and Saturday, from 11 to 10, and Sunday from 10 to 8.

5. Get in Touch With Your Inner Hippie

For a fun little walk through the past, check out the Hippie Emporium. If you were alive in the ’60s and ’70s, this place would feel like going home to that time. If not, you get a great taste of what it must have been like then.

Incense, long flowy dresses, John Lennon posters, beads, oh my! And there is a treasure trove of little goodies and trinkets your inner hippie will love. Take the time to browse—there’s no telling what goodies you’ll find here!

The Hippie Emporium is located at 1123 N Main St, Cottonwood, AZ 86326. It’s open from 10 to 7, Monday through Saturday.

Hippie Emporium

6. Dine at the Cottonwood, Arizona Restaurants

You might expect that any small town packed with incredible wineries might have fantastic restaurants. If so, you’d be right! There are several really great restaurants in Cottonwood, just a stone’s throw from the wineries on Main Street. And no, it’s not just the wine talking!

There are several “lick your plate clean” establishments, and we didn’t even get to eat our way through every place! Our top favorites are listed here, but check below for more information:

We were told Nic’s Italian Steak and Crab House is great for upscale far from a local and that The Tavern is also a solid contender. If we had more time, we would have checked these places out (while probably hitting Crema a third time!)

And, on your way out of town, stop at Romano’s Panaderia for some tasty Mexican pastries. Yum.

Merkin Osteria

7. Check Out the Clemenceau Heritage Museum

If you want to learn about the history of Cottonwood and nearby Clarkdale and Jerome, head down to the Clemenceau Heritage Museum.

This area was known for copper mining. You’ll see a lot of references to it in all three towns, particularly Clarkdale and Jerome. The area also had copper smelting, farming, ranching, and other industries.

You’ll find permanent displays with a 1950s classroom, copper mines and smelters, a pioneer ranch kitchen and bedroom, and more. And there are some interesting rotating displays to learn about other aspects of this area. If you’re a history lover, don’t miss this.

Guided tours are available by appointment.

Clemenceau Heritage Museum is located at 1 N Willard St, Cottonwood, AZ 86326. It’s closed Monday and Thursday, open from 9 to noon, Tuesday and Wedne,day and 11 to 3 on Friday and Saturday.

8. Visit Other Nearby Towns

Cottonwood, Arizona, is a great place to visit. It is a small town, though, so you may want to stretch your legs a bit to see other surrounding areas. It’s fun to compare and contrast these small towns in this area.

By far, the most famous town in this area to visit is Sedona, known for its striking red rock buttes. It’s worth seeing, but take the time to check out the smaller, less-touristed towns of Jerome and Clarkdale.

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Visit Clarkdale

If you think Cottonwood is tiny, well, then there’s Clarkdale! It’s very small, and the town center is only really a block or just a little more. It’s cute, though, and it has a big-time brewery worth checking out.

Visit the Clarkdale Cooper Art Museum for a history lesson and to see some beautiful pieces of art. A popular draw to visit Clarkdale is the Tuzigoot National Monument, a Native American ruin. Or, check out the Arizona Copper Art Museum to learn all about local copper mining.

If you get thirsty, don’t worry, as Clarkdale has you covered with the Smelter Town Brewery. It’s a popular brew pup with some great beers and food.

cottonwood arizona, cottonwood to sedona
Smeltertown Brewery

Head to Jerome

Jerome may just be one of the most interesting and unique towns in all of Arizona. This ghost town has stories to tell, and it’s a popular day trip from Phoenix.

This small town is perched near the top of Cleopatra Hill. It was once the location of an old copper mine founded in the late 1800s. The town that sprung up had quite a reputation for being colorful, and you can see reminders now with the House of Joy and Gentleman’s Alley, among others.

When the mine closed, the town residents moved out, leaving it as a ghost town. A few stayed, and it has now built up to several hundred people living there. It’s a popular place to visit as artists, wineries, and restaurants moved in.

Now, you can explore the steep switchbacks packed full of interesting places that pays homage to its history.

Check out this tour of historic Jerome from Sedona. And read more about the things to do in Jerome here.

Jerome, Arizona

Admire Sedona

The most heavily touristed town in this area by far is Sedona. It started as a small artist colony and has stayed true to its roots with galleries all over. But it has gotten quite built up, so it feels less like a small town now.

There are some fun areas to walk around, such as the Tlaquepaque area, which has galleries, boutique shops, and some great little restaurants. It’s a quaint spot that pays homage to the market area of the same name in Mexico.

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One of the big things to do in Sedona is to go hiking. There is a wide range of trails, from easy and flat hikes to very strenuous and everything in between. Many are through Red Rock Country, and it’s worth seeing as it’s gorgeous!

If you don’t have the time or don’t enjoy hiking, you’ll find a lot of pullouts where you can view these stunning buttes. Many have names, like Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, and Snoopy Rock. See what you can find!

Other Fun Places to Visit in Cottonwood

If you have some extra time and are looking for more to do, Cottonwood won’t disappoint. There are other places to visit when you’re here!

  • Old Town Center for the Arts—For nearly 100 years, this institution has educated people about local arts. They also offer a full event calendar.
  • Arizona Copper Art Museum—Located in nearby Clarkdale, you can learn about the history of copper mining in the area.
  • Float on the Verde River—A relaxing way to spend a day is floating along the Verde River. You can kayak or float on a tube. If you don’t have a kayak, you can get one with this tour.

Best Hotels in Cottonwood, Arizona

If you want to stay right on the main drag on Main Street within easy walking (or crawling) distance of the wineries, you have two options.

Mid-Range—The Iron Horse Inn is a small place with basic but comfortable rooms framing a cute courtyard. It’s an affordable option near one end of the town center.

Luxury—The Tavern Hotel is the most comfortable, upscale option. There are a number of different room options, including some with small balconies and two cottages with indoor and outdoor space. The beds are ridiculously comfortable, and the rooms are nicely appointed with some special touches like a white noise machine.

If you’re okay with a short drive or are open to taking a taxi after enjoying the wineries, there are a few other options.

The Pines Inn & Suites is the least expensive option and the farthest away from Main Street.

The Best Western Cottonwood Inn is currently the highest rated according to TripAdvisor, one of my favorite sources for reviews. Another solid option is the Lux Verde Hotel if you can drive or don’t mind hopping into a cab.

Iron Horse Inn courtyard

Where to Eat in Cottonwood, Arizona

For such a small town, Cottonwood has some ridiculously good restaurants. And there are a lot of them to choose from! Here were our favorites and some of the most popular places to go.

Crema

Crema Craft Kitchen & Bar—We loved this place so much that it was our only repeat performance! They have a ridiculously good breakfast/lunch/brunch. Make sure to get there early for a homemade cinnamon bun. Their specialty coffees (Mexican mocha and Creme Brule) were a home run, and their Bloody Mary was nice and spicy. And the food.. (drool!) They make homemade English muffins, chile-rubbed bacon, and some other incredible treats. You can’t go wrong here, and everything was incredible.

It’s located at 917 N Main St, Cottonwood, AZ 86326, and is open from 7 to 2 daily.

Merkin Trattoria

Merkin Osteria was an incredible spot, so I don’t expect anything less of the trattoria. It’s the perfect spot for a wine pairing.

The Osteria charcuterie board was amazing, and I’m thrilled to see they offer it at the trattoria.

The wines are also fantastic, and there are so many great ones to try.

Merkin Vineyards Hilltop Winery & Trattoria is located at 770 Verde Heights Drive, Cottonwood, Arizona 86326. It is open from Sunday to Thursday, 11 to 9, and Friday and Saturday, from 11 to 10.ƒ

Pizzeria Bocce

Pizzeria Bocce was our first stop and did not disappoint. Their bartender makes insanely good specialty drinks, and the food was as good as we read. Pizza snobs will rejoice here, and they have some interesting offerings like carbonara and a Cire’s meat lover’s pizza.

They offered a great half-pizza and salad option that was the perfect amount of food.

Pizzeria Bocce is located at 1060 N Main St, Cottonwood, AZ 86326. It’s open from 4 to 10 every day except for Saturday when it’s open from 12 to 10.

When to Visit Cottonwood

Cottonwood, Arizona, is at a higher elevation than the Phoenix area, which makes for a more temperate climate. When you think of Phoenix, the summers are scorching, and the winters are mild and beautiful.

Summers in Cottonwood are milder, though they can get quite humid as it’s monsoon season. Highs are often in the 90s (32 to 36°C), so they can feel quite hot (though nothing like in Phoenix)!

Winters are moderate, and they can get snow, though it’s not very common for it to be more than a dusting. Low temperatures average near freezing, so it’s not too cold in the wintertime.

There really isn’t a bad time to visit this area. Summers tend to get very crowded as Phoenix locals head north to beat the heat there. As a result, the spring and fall may be the best times to go.

How to Get to Cottonwood, Arizona

Cottonwood is a two-hour drive from Phoenix, so if you’re not driving, you’ll want to fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (PHX). Check out the Phoenix area, as there are so many fun things to do there.

Once you’ve spent a few days, head north on I17 to get to the Cottonwood and Sedona areas. Then head west on 260, and you’ll drive right into town.

Why You Should Check Out the Many Fun Things to Do in Cottonwood, Arizona

Arizona tourists tend to hit the top spots, Phoenix, Tucson, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon. They are all worthy of your time but show a different aspect of this incredibly diverse state.

To get to see the small town Old West feel of Arizona, check out Cottonwood. It’s a short drive from Sedona, so it’s well worth the stop if you’re heading there.

You’ll find some beautiful areas in the state park and a quaint and small historic town center. Between the incredible wineries, boutique shops and galleries, and tasty restaurants, you could easily spend a few days here exploring and enjoying small-town Arizona.

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