Cottonwood is often overlooked by tourists shuttling between the better-known destinations of Sedona and Jerome. But the once sleepy town has become a destination in its own right with restaurants, wine-tasting, coffee houses, antique shops, a brewery and frequent festivals.
Lonely Planet named Cottonwood one of its Top 10 Places to Visit in 2013..
Follow Main Street to Old Town to a walkable, historic business district that has been rejuvenated in the past 15 years by Arizona vintners and others investing in small businesses. Old Town Center for the Arts adds a lineup of music to the mix with a comfortable 130-seat theater.
Cottonwood has a mild climate, except for a few months of the summer, and lots of shade trees. Visitors can take the Jail Trail at the north end of Main Street to walk along the Verde River. Named for the town's historic jail, now a tea shop, the Jail Trail is ideal for bird-watching, easy hiking or skipping rocks on the river.
Campers can head across the Verde River to Dead Horse Ranch State Park, which has online camping reservations. The nearby Blazin' M Ranch has barbecue and a Western musical show.
You wouldn't expect it from driving by, but the Verde Lea Market Deli & Grill, 516 N. Main St., has tasty Mexican food -- tacos, tortas and burritos -- and Italian subs. Eat in or take it with you.
Tavern Grille in Old Town's historic movie theater is reliable with a casual and affordable menu, and a choice of craft beers and wine. It's adjacent to its sister Tavern Hotel with 41 rooms.
We recently tried the beer at That Brewery, 300 E. Cherry St. The warehouse location is a little hard to find and it was too hot inside on a June afternoon with no AC, but the beer was good. That Brewery has another location on State Route 87 in Pine.