COTTONWOOD, AZ (ARIZONA HIGHWAYS TV) - If you’re looking to get away for the weekend or even the day, Cottonwood may just be that magical spot you’re looking for. It’s only a couple hours north of Phoenix in the heart of the Verde Valley. The city gets its name from a circle of 16 Cottonwood trees near the Verde River.
[READ: How Cottonwood got its name]
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Since starting out as a farming community in the late 1870s, Cottonwood is now a travel and dining destination. Main Street in the city’s Old Town is now filled with dozens of restaurants, shops, galleries, wine tasting rooms and boutique hotels. There’s no need to rent or even drive your car around town. Just park and walk and see where your day or night takes you.
We took the liberty of crafting an overnight stay. Since Cottonwood is so laid back, you can do as much or as little as you want. These are just a few of the many highlights to check out, which means you’ll have to keep coming back to explore the ones we didn’t include.
First things first. Checking in. We’ve chosen the Tavern Hotel. This boutique hotel overlooks Main Street, offering easy access to all the cool spots to check out. The historic building started out as a grocery store in the 1920s and has been preserved and remodeled into 41 guestrooms and two luxury penthouses. In 2019, TripAdvisor picked the Tavern Hotel as one of the 25 most romantic hotels in the country.
Part of your stay includes a complementary cocktail at the Tavern Inn downstairs and a continental breakfast across the street at Crema Craft Kitchen and Bar.
If you’re up for some adventure, the hotel offers package deals that include a sightseeing ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad or a short kayaking trip that will take you along the Verde River to Alcantara Vineyards for a wine-tasting. But you can always just stay and relax and take in the Old Town vibe.
CHECK THINGS OUT
Now it’s time to check things out. While Cottonwood does have more of a chic feel these days, that doesn’t mean it’s shed its old town charm.
Aside from the shops that offer the touristy trinkets, local art, jewelry and gifts, there’s one antique store you don’t want to pass by. Larry’s Antiques and Things is right off Main Street. It’s two acres of old stuff – from furniture to glassware to signs – even a 1920’s gas pump. They buy and sell pretty much anything they think is unique, and it is a destination for anyone looking for collectibles, vintage items and those antiques you thought no one could possibly want.
If you want to see someone else jump through hoops, you might get lucky over at the Verde Valley Dog Agility Club. You’ll have to check out their website in advance to find out if there are any public showings of dogs jumping over, running through and going up the obstacle coarse.
DINNER AND DRINKS
There are a lot of dining options in Old Town. We decided to head to the end of Main Street for a taste of Italy. Pizzeria Bocce and Patio Bar serves up authentic pizza Napoletana. Co-owner and chef Michelle Jurisin actually went back to her family roots in Naples, Italy – the birthplace of pizza - and became certified in the art of pizza.
The flour for the dough is even imported from Italy. Everything on the menu, including bread and desserts, are baked in a wood burning stove at the center of the kitchen where you can watch it get hot and bubbly.
On the back patio of the restaurant, you can play a game of Bocce.
The yard game, is a lot like shuffle puck, but uses small balls that you throw underhanded across the court. Bocce means ‘kiss’ – and it serves up a lot of Italy, with love.
THE NEXT DAY
You can’t have a weekend away and skip brunch. If you stay at the Tavern Hotel, you get a complimentary continental breakfast or a voucher toward your meal at Crema Craft Kitchen and Bar.
Here, you can eat or drink your breakfast inside or on the covered patio. Both the meals and cocktails come in generous portions with a unique twist on the “Breakfast of Champions.” You can certainly go traditional with pancakes, breakfast tacos or fresh salads. It’s a pretty big menu to choose from. But just one of their craft cocktails might just fill you up. Their “Haunted Bloody” comes in a mason jar filled with, among other ingredients, a house-made spicy mix garnished with a hard-boiled egg, bacon and other bites.
Or, you could sip on their “Ultimate Mimosa” – fresh squeezed O.J., Grand Marnier and a split of champagne. But if you’re feeling a little old fashioned, then “Fashioned for Breakfast” may be for you. Bourbon, orange bitters, maple syrup and bacon. Truly, breakfast in a glass.
And if these over the top cocktails or huge latte’s don’t get the blood flowing, then maybe a little music will. The day we stopped in, Reverend Ray and the Back Porch Bar-B-Q were playing. They’re Cottonwood’s own three-piece blues band – harmonica, guitar and drums. They’ll definitely get your toes tapping.
Now this is my kind of weekend. Boutique hotels, wine tasting rooms, European inspired dining and no rush to be anywhere else.