Known as the “Gateway of the Great Southwest,” Yuma, Arizona is a beautiful city nestled right into the southwest corner of Arizona, bordering California and Mexico. Home to over 100,000 residents, the population almost doubles during the winter season as visitors flock to soak up the Arizona sun.
Yuma’s culture is interesting as it incorporates Old Western vibes, Mexican culture, and the Gold-Rush history into its little southwestern corner. For example, you can float down the Colorado River in the afternoon and head to Mexico at night for an authentic, Mexican meal. This diversity amongst its natural beauties of rich vegetation and desert land attracts visitors year-round (that, and the fact that it is so close to so many other cities). This destination deserves a visit. So, we’ve decided to tell you the top five things to know before visiting Yuma.
1. What Yuma is Known For
Located in the Sonoran Desert of southwestern Arizona along the eastern banks of the Colorado river, Yuma, Arizona is America’s true southwestern city. Yuma stands as a border city to Mexico and California and the half-way point between San Diego and Phoenix. So, whether you’re passing through on the way to another city or taking a hiking vacation here, there really is so much this border city can offer.
Yuma’s recorded beginnings date back to 1540 when Spanish explorer Herdando de Alarcon became the first European to see the region. In fact, Yuma was under Spanish and Mexican control until 1854 when the US gained control through a treaty. In the 1850’s Yuma became known as a major river crossing for the California gold seekers during the 1850’s Gold Rush. In fact to this day, Yuma County remains the fourth largest gold producer in Arizona due to its unique geographical features of mountains and rivers amidst a desert land.
2. When To Go Visit Yuma
Yuma has a hot desert climate so don’t expect the temperature to drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit much—even in the winter months. We’re definitely not saying that 60 is an average though. Expect sweltering heat in the summer months and cooler, drier weather in the winter months. Regardless, don’t forget that Yuma is recorded as the sunniest place on earth with an annual average of 4,133 hours of sunshine! So, get that SPF ready! Whether you want to hike in the Sonoran Desert in autumn and winter months, relax near the Colorado river under the summer sun, or see the millions of cacti and flowers blooming in springtime, Yuma has an activity for you in each season.
The hot season lasts for about 4 months – June to September. Make sure you look up the temperatures before leaving for your vacation, as the average daily temperatures during these months surpass 99 degrees Fahrenheit more often than not. We recommend traveling during these months only if you have a pool to cool off in nearby! We weren’t kidding about that SPF—it’s a necessity!
This may be a better time to visit than summer as temperatures during the spring see a rise in heat but nothing like the scorching summertime brings. During these months you’ll be sure to see a plethora of budding flowers and cacti so be sure to take a hike in the Sonoran Desert to see mother nature’s work. Nearby lakes and rivers- especially the Colorado River- offer fishing opportunities, which interest the locals and visitors alike in the sunny weather.
Don’t expect making anything close to a snowman in this city. Temperatures are usually – if not always – warm in Yuma. This is when people say it is the best time to visit Yuma, as the temperatures are mild and comfortable. They usually range from 68-79 degrees Fahrenheit, while the average low temperatures are between a cozy 46- 59 degrees Fahrenheit. This may be the best time to explore Yuma by foot outside due to the low ultraviolet index during these months. So, grab a hiking pole and get moving.
3. Things To Do In Yuma
Now that you know what it is known for and which season you want to visit, here are some of the many things you can do in this sun-filled city. From fishing on a nearby lake to hiking to going to the waterpark, there is an activity for everyone. Moreover, with two historical parks, Yuma Prison Site and Yuma Crossing, you are bound to find your own adventure.
This former prison was built by its first prisoners in 1876 and shut down in 1909 due to overcrowding. Though only in running for 33 years, this prison had a fearsome reputation in the Wild, Wild West for its severe heat and overcrowding, 111 prisinores did die during their sentence. It actually became so famous it was used in many Western films.
Discover the Yuma Riverfront. This site stands as the passing point between Arizona and California. Because of this, it remains a significant point in history as it allowed transportation and communication to take place across the Colorado river.
Come here to see century-old buildings that give you a taste of what the Wild, Wild West might have been like. The buildings that were around during the gold rush have long since been gone due to Arizona’s many floods. Yet, with the revitalization of the area the history lives thanks to those who restored it. Take a historic tour, go shopping, or grab a bite and drink in the North End. Be sure to check out the many entertainment events offered here.
The Yuma locals and tourists alike search for a way to cool off during the summer months. What a better way than to tube or float along the Colorado River? Tubing is usually available April 1st – September 30th. Check out their fun floating and tubing activities here such as the Full Moon Extravaganza.
Experience a total blast from the past at these renovated and re-created buildings that portray life in circa-1878 mining town. See the details that made the 1800s the reign of the Wild, Wild West! Experience activities such as visiting The Peanut Patch and checking out their ongoing projects that this lively museum offers! Note: Call/check website for seasonal hours
This farm specializes in breeding Arabian camels. But you’ll see more than just camels here! This farm has water buffalo, tortoises, various types of birds, and other exotic animals. This is a great day-activity for the whole family.
Experience riverside fun at this city park and beach situated next to the Colorado River and Yuma Crossing and under the famous Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge. Here you can go for a stroll, take a dip in the water, or have a picnic.
Check out this flea market downtown Yuma. See vendors selling items from ice cream to local vegetables to handmade trinkets. Oh, and don’t worry, it’s covered from Yuma’s piercing sunshine, so you won’t get burnt while shopping.
Stretching 30 miles along the Colorado River while encompassing wetlands and the desert, you will see an exceptional amount of animal and plant life in this wildlife refuge. Feel free to bird watch, take a hike, boat, or sit and gaze at the scenic views. Check out the visitor’s center for more information.
The Arizona Historical Society offers a look into a 19th century home in the heart of historic Yuma. enjoy a tour of this incredible, historic home all the while sipping on some tea to maybe feel like you’re back in the 19th century. This is a must see for all architect and history lovers.
Escape here during the scathing hot summer months in Yuma. This water park offers more than 15 slides and attractions. It even caters to all ages as you can find a restaurant on site that might be a perfect hideout if you’re not much of a slide-goer.
It seems to appear out of nowhere and being just 20 miles west of Yuma is the United States’ largest area of inland dunes that stretches over 40 miles. The white mounds of sand offers a perfect location to ride those buggies, your side by side, or a dirt bike. This may be an Instagram influencer’s dream photo spot! Fun fact: These dunes have served as the set for several films, such as Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
Yes, you read that right. Just a quick drive from Yuma to Imperial County California will get you to the Official Centre of the World. This random point in California was established in the 1980s and given this label by the Californian state and French government. This random site consists of many random monuments such as stairs leading nowhere that include parts of the Eiffel Tower.
4. Where To Eat In Yuma
Did you know that Yuma is the third largest producer of vegetables in the nation? Moreover, Yuma supplies the United States with close to 90 percent of their lettuce in the winter months. In fact, the area makes about half a billion dollars annually on lettuce alone. So, it is safe to say that Yuma knows something about fresh food with a backyard that is literally just a massive garden. You will certainly be fed well here in Yuma; it has made itself nationally known for its incredible, locally grown food. Moreover, since Yuma is so close to Mexico and many other American cities, it incorporates a variety of flavors into the cuisine. Here’s a list of some restaurants we recommend (in no particular order).
- Tacos El Cositas (Mexican, $)
- River City Grill (American Steak House, $$)
- Da Boyz Pizza & Pasta (Italian, Pizza $$) Note: Vegetarian Friendly
- Lutes Casino (Mexican, American $)
- Prison Hill Brewing Company (American, Bar $$)
- Mi Rancho Restaurant (Southwestern, Mexican $)
5. Where To Stay in Yuma
There are hotels, motels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, and more for every taste and price range in Yuma. We have put together a list of some of the best of these. It is important to keep in mind, however, that there are other types of lodgings. Be sure to check out Airbnb, GlampingHub, old-fashioned camping, and RV renting.
- La Fuente Inn & Suites
- Radisson Hotel Yuma
- Hilton Garden Inn Yuma Pivot Point
- Cocopah Resort & Conference Center
- Palms RV Resort
- Yuma Lakes RV Resort
- Knights Inn Yuma
6. Annual Events
Yuma offers several annual events, and we thought you should know about them. Be sure to check out more information here to see the updated dates on each annual event.
- Balloon Glow: This is an annual event presented by the Caballeros de Yuma. The Balloon Glow, or properly known as the Colorado River Crossing Hot Air Balloon Festival, is one of the premier fall events.
- Midnight at the Oasis: This event offers a weekend full of family-friendly fun concerts and more.
- Rio de Cerveza Brew Festival: Are you a beer fan? Make sure you do not miss these locally crafted beers.
- Somerton Tamale Festival: This event offers a range of different types of tamales. Be sure to get there early to be able to try as many tamales as you can as more than 30,000 people are likely to come.
- Village Jazz Series: This free event offers the public concerts from nationally known and regional artists in the Village Area of Yuma Palms Regional Center. If you’re a jazz whiz, don’t miss out on this event.
- 6th Annual Boogie, Brews & Blues Festival: Enjoy a day full of live music, food trucks, craft brews, and music right along the Colorado River. Buy your tickets here.
- Yuma Art Symposium: This symposium offers a series of demonstrations, lectures, and slide presentations given by both internationally recognized and emerging artists who have demonstrated unique, incredible talent.
Even more to keep in mind, these are just the five things to know before visiting Yuma.
Whether you want to escape here to see where the Wild, Wild, West began or float down the Colorado River in the summer or hike in the Sonoran Desert, we can guarantee you’ll have a great time in Yuma. Let your Yuma adventure begin!