GILA BEND, AZ (ARIZONA HIGHWAYS TV) -- Looking for adventure in southern Arizona? Take a detour off of Interstate 8 and see what Gila Bend has to offer.

Gila Bend has been called the "crossroads of the desert," because traffic is constantly moving through the area. But back in the heyday of road trips, it was also known as the "fan belt capital of Arizona."

The reason? Legend has it, by the time folks made it to Gila Bend after driving through the desert, their fan belts were worn out, so they'd have to stop and buy a new one.

The whole area was a transportation route that helped develop the great southwest.

These days, there's still a lot to be found in this tiny gem of a town, starting with some great eats at Little Italy.

Owner Nino Buccellato used to run Nick & Nino’s Pizza in Maricopa, but now offers residents and tourists in Gila Bend some delicious authentic Italian and Sicilian cuisine. Don't miss the "The Gourmet Pizza," made with mozzarella, ground tomatoes, oregano, Parmesan, fresh basil and olive oil.

Little Italy has even hosted royalty. In 2011, Prince Harry stopped in for dinner while he was in the area for military training. He ordered a 14-inch Meat Lovers pizza, with pepperoni, sausage, bacon and ham — and ate the whole thing, telling a staff member it was “the best pizza in the world.” The menu now proudly notes that the Meat Lovers is “Prince Harry’s favorite.”

Tourists should also sample a taste of Arizona with a stop at Dateland. A date shake might sound odd, but locals swear this thick milkshake made with dates is the tastiest of treats, especially in the hot summer months.

Another favorite stop, especially for the hordes of Phoenicians headed to Rocky Point every year, is the Gila Bend McDonald's! It's actually the largest-grossing McDonald's in the Southwest. It's been remodeled, revamped, and offers up some great road-trip food.

Are you looking for an out-of-this-world hotel? Look no further than the Best Western "Space Age Lodge," a showcase for space-age chic decor.

Former mayor Dupe Fox is the man behind the kitschy, futuristic hotel. From the rooms to the diner to the souvenirs, you're sure to get lost in space.

Gila Bend is definitely a time capsule filled with a rich history and quite a few quirks!

Stout's hotel is one of the few historic landmarks still standing on Pima Street. It was built in 1927 and was known as "The Jewel of the Desert." The hotel ceased operations in the 1980s, but was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in September 24, 2018.

Another landmark in Gila Bend offers a piece of the past, but with a very different history.

The town opened the 9/11 Memorial Park on Memorial Day, 2013.

It's a place to remember and reflect.

Former mayor Ron Henry helped bring in a 4,000 lb. steel beam from the twin towers.The beam is surrounded by roughly 2,100 paving stones, engraved with sentiments, names of Gila Bend veterans, and loved ones.


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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