Yuma, Arizona, is chock full of free and inexpensive things to do. From the great outdoors to an unrivaled cultural scene, you’ll find plenty of ways to stay busy.
If you thought you had to shell out the big bucks to keep yourself entertained, think again.
Today, we’re spotlighting five of the best budget-friendly experiences in Yuma.
Let’s head out!
Discover Yuma, Arizona, “The Sunniest City on Earth”
Yuma, Arizona, lies at the crux of the Colorado and Gila Rivers. It’s in the state’s southwestern corner, just over the line from California and across the border from Mexico. This little corner of the country is a haven for snowbirds looking to escape frigid temperatures up north. Each year, the population nearly doubles in winter.
That’s no surprise since you can expect sunny skies and warm temperatures for more than 90% of the year.
Despite being a desert town, the waterways that crisscross it have substantially impacted the area. The Colorado River is one of the region’s big draws. It’s allowed for agriculture to take root.
Not only is it the Sunniest City on Earth, but it’s also the Winter Lettuce Capital of the World. They grow as much as 95% of the country’s cold-weather veggies!
However, more people visit for recreational opportunities than for fresh vegetables. Folks come from all over to float and fish and also explore the desert landscape on foot and four-wheelers. Designated trails for hiking, biking, and ATVs are plentiful.
Even if you come for an outdoor adventure, you might want to stick around for the vibrant cultural scene. This border town has a rich history. You’ll notice heavy Mexican and Indigenous influences in the art, the architecture, and the food.
Check Out These Fun Places to Explore Yuma on a Budget
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of free things to do in Yuma. You won’t have to blow your budget on entertainment to have a good time. Here are five excellent options.
#1 Yuma Art Center and Historic Yuma Theatre
The Yuma Art Center is one of the city’s treasures and a great budget find. It welcomes more than 100,000 visitors each year. At any given time, they have over 20 visual arts exhibitions to peruse. Whether you want to delve into their collections or take one of their 50 classes, you will learn something new.
We suggest setting aside at least one full afternoon to take in the sights. And, best of all, it won’t cost you a dime.
You can catch a live performance or film screening at the Historic Yuma Theatre. Enjoy a fabulous meal before the show and grab dessert during intermission at their dinner theater events. Depending on the season, you might see their production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show or The Nutcracker.
Of course, there’s a fee to attend shows, but the price of admission is worth it.
That said, even if you don’t visit the gallery, you can still enjoy murals and sculptures throughout the city.
#2 Martha’s Gardens Medjool Date Farm
When Martha and Nels Rogers started their date farm in 1990, they planted 300 palms. Today, the 100-acre property holds about 8,000 trees bearing these sweet fruits. If you’ve never tried one of these tasty morsels, this is the place to do it.
Martha’s Gardens grows the Medjool variety that originally came from Morocco. There are even depictions of them on the walls of ancient Egyptian pyramids. As far as we know, these are some of the earliest cultivated plants in history. And we get the appeal because they’re delicious!
You can visit the farm on the outskirts of Yuma for free. In addition to heaps of dried fruit, their gift shop sells a range of homemade goodies. We suggest indulging in their famous date shake to cool down on a hot day.
If you want the full experience, you can book a tour for about $10 per person.
#3 Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area
One of the city’s most important historic sites is the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area. The first known European explorers to venture up the Colorado River arrived here in the 1500s. It later became a significant location for trade between California and Mexico.
Sadly, the irrigation projects that made the valley so fertile devastated ecosystems along the river. But they’ve put a lot of work into bringing them back to life. This facility highlights those efforts and allows the public to enjoy their results.
Seven square miles of wetlands, waterfront, and downtown comprise the property.
You can visit most of the Yuma Crossing Area for free. The East and West Wetlands are large public parks devoted to habitat restoration. You’ll find gardens, playgrounds, pavilions, and picnic spots along the multi-use paths.
Pivot Point is an outdoor exhibit centered around a fully restored 1907 Baldwin steam locomotive. Interpretive panels tell the story of the region and significant sites nearby.
You’ll need to pay entry fees at the heritage area’s two biggest attractions. However, we think you’ll get your money’s worth.
The Colorado River State Historic Park is built around the old Yuma Quartermaster Depot that operated in the 1800s. It’s $10 to tour the museum, but you’ll gain a wealth of knowledge about the region.
Finally, you won’t want to miss the Yuma Territorial Prison. When you visit, you’ll see why it’s the city’s #1 tourist destination. This fascinating museum chronicles the town’s earliest baddies. You can explore what life was like for prisoners who had to carve their own cells out of granite.
Check out the excellent Free Camping at American Girl Mine in Southern California.
#4 Cocopah Museum and Cultural Center
Indigenous Cocopah Peoples have deep ties to the Colorado River. They’ve lived along its shores for centuries. Today, their past and present are displayed at the Cocopah Museum and Cultural Center.
This site is located on the reservation, about 13 miles south of town. You can view authentic bark skirts, intricate beadwork, pottery, and more at this destination. Stroll the park surrounding the museum to see a traditional dwelling set among native vegetation.
Before you leave, be sure to stop in the gift shop. You’ll find treasures like handmade jewelry and Native American music for sale.
Admission to this Yuma institution is free. However, consider making a donation. While they’re never expected, they’re always appreciated. Doing so can help preserve this vital piece of cultural heritage.
#5 Yuma Conservation Garden
Yuma Crossing isn’t the only group dedicated to protecting the unique ecosystems of the Sonoran Desert. The Conservation Garden seeks the same outcomes and teaches visitors about their efforts for free.
From November to April, you can stroll the site’s 28 acres and spot native flora and fauna. Towering saguaro cacti, ocotillo plants, and mesquite trees dot the property. You might even see turtles and domestic waterfowl. One thing you’ll definitely notice is the antique farming equipment.
Officials ask that you stick to the designated trails and avoid touching the plant life. After all, they’re a conservation garden! So you’ll want to leave it exactly as you found it.
There’s no fee to visit this urban wildlife habitat. But, again, consider donating to the organization. They do lots of outreach work, especially with local schools, so you’ll know it’s going towards a good cause.
Explore more of Arizona: Arizona Bucket List Adventure Guide!
Don’t Miss Out On The Best Free Experiences In Yuma, Arizona!
Yuma, Arizona, is a vibrant city with plenty of places to explore, no matter how big or small your budget. Whether you prefer spending time outside, indulging in the arts, or taking in recent and ancient history, there’s much to do and see in the Sunniest City on Earth.
When you visit Yuma, be sure to check out some of these free destinations!
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