10 Things to Do in Cottonwood and Jerome With Kids
We recently took a day trip to Cottonwood and Jerome with fellow friend and blogger Vicki at Surprise AZ Mom. Just under 2 hours from Phoenix, these two towns offer quite a variety of things to do with kids! We explored a national monument, experienced a ghost town, hiked along the Verde River (yes, the same one we love in far north Scottsdale), enjoyed ice cream, and more! Here are 10 things to do in Cottonwood and Jerome with kids.
Tuzigoot National Monument – sitting on top of a large hill are the ruins of a very large pueblo, dating back to 1100 – 1425 AD. There are around 100 rooms inside this pueblo! The national monument allows visitors to walk around a paved path, and sometimes in the rooms, getting a feel for life in early ancient Arizona history. Soak up the views of the Verde Valley! Even though we visited in October, after an extremely dry summer, one could easily see why the Sinagua people chose this location to live and thrive. Unfortunately, when we visited, the visitor’s center was closed (which housed some artifacts from the pueblo excavations), and the top of the pueblo was closed. So our stop only lasted 45 minutes. Still, it was a good history lesson for the kids, and we’d be interested in coming back when everything is open, and the river was higher to offer interesting hiking trails. Admission is $10/person, ages 16 and up (under 16 is free), or free with a National Park pass.
Dead Horse Ranch State Park – don’t let the name scare you off! This state park is popular for swimming, fishing, hiking, camping and more, all along the banks of the Verde River. Camping especially is highly rated, and a place we have bookmarked for a 2021 family trip. Entrance fee is $7 per car, plus additional fees for camping.
Jail Trail – we loved this hiking area! Parking is free at the community parking lot, and the trail is 1.5 miles in and out (no loop), wandering along Verde River. Did you know that, unlike other rivers or creeks in Arizona, the Verde River never runs dry? The depth may obviously vary, but this river literally brings life all year long! We wandered and climbed trees and threw rocks in the water for a good hour, opting for a picnic lunch back at the parking long. Note that there are several paths to explore along the river; from the main trail, you’ll come to a “T” – take the right for the official path, or the left (like we did) for the more adventurous side! Either way, the path is a mixture of dirt and sand, so we recommend leaving strollers behind.
Verde Canyon Railroad – north of Cottonwood is the small town of Clarksdale, and the Verde Canyon Railroad offers a unique 3.5 hour, 20 mile trip around the beautiful Verde canyon. Fall trips here are spectacular! There are closed and open cars to ride. Prices vary, see website for details.
Cottonwood Mural – if you love murals, this is a must stop! Located on the Main Street side of Verde Lea Market and Deli (516 N Main St, Cottonwood, AZ 86326), this colorful mural showcases all Cottonwood and surrounding area has to offer. If you can, get there before the deli opens at 9am for an uncluttered photo! Otherwise, you may have luck with no cars mid-afternoon or after 6pm, even though the deli doesn’t close until 9pm.
Arizona Copper Art Museum – one of the 5 C’s of Arizona is…copper! This little but amazing museum in Clarksdale is well worth the stop to learn about copper history, and see some fabulously made items. While not geared for kids, kids are welcome and will likely enjoying browsing. Just make sure little hands keep to themselves. Admission is $9.75/adults, $3.50/children ages 10-17, $1.25/ages 5-9 (under 5 is free).
Sliding Jail – another funky bit of cool history in Jerome! This jail is pretty much sliding down the side the hill, hence the name, and has a plaque to tell the story of the past. It’s next to a parking lot, which is handy to also visit other places in town, acoss the street from Rickeldoris Candy and Popcorn (405 Hull Ave, Jerome, AZ 86331).
Jerome State Historic Park – lots of history in this area, with a kids junior ranger program, a period mansion to tour with a museum, and the chance to stand on glass above a 1,900 foot mine shaft! Admission is $7/ages 14+, $4/ages 7-13 (6 and under free).
Gold King Mine Ghost Town – if you like funky, this is the stop for you! This ghost town is an interesting “graveyard” of old cars and buildings, and a fun look back at the early 1900’s when Jerome was a bustling mine town. Our kids loved seeing what was in each building (so many old fashioned tools and gadgets!), plus going inside (for a short distance) the old mine. There were even live animals like chickens and goats, which delighted them. We wouldn’t recommend coming here just for this place, but if you’re in the area for the weekend, it could be worth a stop. Ages 13+ are $7, ages 6-12 are $5, and 5 and under are free.
Playgrounds – if you need a park stop for the kids, there are several options! Del Webb Park (195 Cowboy Way, Cottonwood, AZ 86326) and Riverfront Park (1284 E River Front Rd, Cottonwood, AZ 86326) are good options, although the playground at Riverfront is more for toddlers. Other options are Clarkdale Park (1001 Main St, Clarkdale, AZ 86324) and Jerome Park (201 Main St, Jerome, AZ 86331).
Where to eat – there are lots of options in Cottonwood and Jerome! Cottonwood offers many familiar fast food options, and for local restaurants, try Randall’s Restaurant, Cork and Catch, Pepe’s Diner, Hog Wild BBQ, Bing’s Burger Station, or Pizzeria Bocce. In Clarksdale, try Violette’s Bakery or Number 1 Sandwich Shop. In Jerome, there are so many good food options! Our top recommendations would be Haunted Hamburger, Mine Cafe, or Grapes Restaurant.
Where to stay – you can easily make a weekend trip out of a trip to Cottonwood and Jerome! There are numerous hotel options. We really love Airbnb and usually default to that it at all possible.
Before you go – we had a hard time finding any free parking while in Jerome. Also, the majority of the town has steep roads and small streets. So drive carefully! For more information about Cottonwood, Jerome, or Clarksdale, visit their websites.