Arizona has red rocks, the Grand Canyon, and massive cacti. But many people overlook Arizona’s extensive history. One of the best places to explore is historic downtown Yuma.
Let’s take a look at Yuma, Arizona, and discover why it might be a great place to plan your trip.
Where Is Yuma, Arizona?
Yuma, Arizona, lies in the far southwest corner of Arizona. Those in Yuma can make it to the Mexican border city of Los Algodones, Mexico, in around 20 minutes.
Many choose historic downtown Yuma as a travel base for heading into Mexico for medical services. San Diego, California, is a 2.5-hour drive to the west, and Phoenix, Arizona, is 3 hours to the northeast.
The History of Yuma, Arizona
Yuma, Arizona, sits along the Colorado River, a river that has shaped the success of many towns in the west. The untamed Colorado River flowed quickly, making it difficult to cross in most places. Yuma provided a safe place to pass over, thus becoming the Yuma Crossing. The first Europeans arrived in 1540, seeing value in the area because of the natural river crossing.
Yuma found itself in the spotlight during the 1849 gold rush. Yuma helped to serve as a gateway city as more than 60,000 people sought the easiest way into California.
During the mid-1800s, the United States government used the local river to transport military supplies. Modern transportation services reduced the government’s dependence on river transportation, but it played a significant role in forming the city. You can now explore many places in historic downtown Yuma.
7 Places You Have to Visit in Historic Downtown Yuma
Yuma has a lot of history and fun things to do. Let’s look at why you should consider making historic downtown Yuma part of your travel plans.
#1. The Sanguinetti House Museum & Gardens
The Sanguinetti House Museum & Gardens provides a beautiful and educational place to explore. The flower-filled gardens have pretty landscapes with floral scents.
In addition to enjoying the flowery gardens, you can easily spend hours learning about the history of Arizona, both locally and statewide. You can explore the ups and downs of the agriculture and industry found in Yuma.
Address: 240 S. Madison Ave, Yuma, AZ 85364
#2. Yuma Landing Historic Site Landmark
The Yuma Landing Historic Site Landmark makes a great place to stop for a bite to eat while appreciating a local historical site. Here, you can find the state monument marking the first plane landing in Arizona on October 25, 1911.
It has a life-size statue of the pilot, Robert Fowler. Then step inside for a great meal. The restaurant pays tribute to the area’s history with three sections reflecting the rich aviation past.
Address: 195 S. 4th Ave, Yuma AZ 85364
#3. Pivot Point Interpretive Plaza
The Pivot Point Interpretive Plaza is a train lover’s dream. A real steam locomotive sits right out front. The exhibit marks where the first railroad train entered Arizona in 1877.
This plaza preserves the concrete pivot on which the rail bridge turned to allow boats to pass. It stands as one of the last remaining artifacts of the original rail line.
You can view photos and read stories about many of the areas of historic downtown Yuma. These include the Yuma Territorial Prison, Fort Yuma, the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway Bridge, and the Southern Pacific Hotel.
Address: N. Madison Ave, Yuma, AZ 85364
Pro Tip: Need somewhere to stay while in Yuma? Check out these 9 Awesome RV Parks in Yuma AZ.
#4. The Yuma Art Center/Theatre
Those interested in the arts may want to stop by the Yuma Art Center/Theatre. It works to advance the arts in the community.
The center, which sees over 100,000 visitors each year, has many theater productions, visual art exhibitions, and holds visual art classes.
It also hosts a summer mural program. Additionally, you might get to participate in a film screening. You can experience the modern culture when visiting historic downtown Yuma at this art center.
Address: 254 S Main St, Yuma AZ 85364
#5. Gateway Park
When visiting historic downtown Yuma, you can take a break at Gateway Park. Locals love cooling off by swimming in the river and playing on the river beach. You’ll find plenty to do at the park, even if you don’t care to splash in the water.
It has fishing docks and grills where you can cook your daily catches. After swimming, you can wash off in the outdoor showers and sit at the picnic tables to enjoy a meal. The little ones can have fun at the playground. Or you can go for a walk or bike ride.
Address: E 1st St & S Gilda St, Yuma AZ 85364
#6. The Yuma Territorial Prison Park
If you find yourself interested in the darker side of history, you might enjoy exploring the Yuma Territorial Prison Park. Visitors can see the cells that held prisoners almost 150 years ago. It has a gift shop and a museum on-site.
In 1875, the city authorized $25,000 for constructing the prison. On April 28, 1876, they broke ground for the prison. Some prisoners built the cells. When the prison first opened, it contained seven prisoners.
The Yuma Territorial Prison Park held a variety of lawbreakers, including the famous stagecoach robber Pearl Hart. The prison operated for 33 years until overcrowding forced it to transfer inmates to a new facility.
Address: 220 Prison Hill Rd, Yuma AZ 85364
Pro Tip: Need more things to do while in Yuma? We put together a list of the 9 Best Things To Do in Yuma, AZ.
#7. Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area
The Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area takes you back to where it all began. Visitors will enjoy the very place that put Yuma on the map. Walk along the riverbank that many others have for hundreds of years.
The Colorado River has played a vital part in western history and developing historic downtown Yuma. You can explore the wetlands and enjoy a bike ride or walk on the path.
Visitors can enjoy the Colorado River State Historic Park, the original home of the Yuma Quartermaster Depot. This Army supply depot operated from 1865 to 1883. The area served as the main supplier for all Army forts in the Arizona Territory during the Indian Wars.
Address: 180 W 1st St, Yuma AZ 85364
Downtown Yuma Is Full of History
Visiting historic downtown Yuma gives you a trip with the perfect balance of modern conveniences and historical experiences. Yuma played a vital role in the development of the west. You can feel part of the story as you walk through town.
Have you had the chance to visit this historic town? What do you consider to be must-sees when visiting Yuma? Tell us in the comments below!
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