The wild west of the gold rush days lives in Williams, Arizona. The small town is just outside the Grand Canyon, mixed with the 1950s kitsch of the glory days of Route 66 and the days of the old west.
I discovered Williams by searching for a unique bed and breakfast and came up with the only town where I could stay in an old bordello. Sold, sight unseen. The town charms you with its quirkiness and nostalgia.
Williams is the perfect place to park your horse, so to speak, when visiting the Grand Canyon. It’s linked to Arizona’s major attraction by a railway with morning and afternoon service.
Driving down historic Route 66, you enter Williams from the west and are transported back in time. The 1890s overlap the 1950s in a fun-filled town full of shops, restaurants and real friendly people.
I dropped my bag in the madam’s room at the Red Garter Inn (137 W. Railroad Ave.). It was built in 1897 to house the ladies meant to entertain railroad workers and travelers. I asked the friendly present-day owner John Holst if I needed to worry about any ghosts. He suggested the only murder started as a stabbing on the stairs but the poor old soul dropped dead on the front sidewalk. Whew, that was close. He told me the madam might show up since she didn’t like people sleeping in her room but she left me alone and I was quite comfy for two nights, nary a ghost to be seen.
Williams offers comfort food at the local diner; pizza and more at Station 66 Italian Bistro; and the Route 66 Cruisers Café for a bite of nostalgia with your burger. Start each day with breakfast at the Grand Canyon Café, run by the lovely Anna. It’s the perfect morning boost before hitting the road.
The main drag in Williams is full of fun eateries and shops, from souvenirs to jewelry and clothing much better priced than at the Grand Canyon itself. You can even hitch a ride in an old horse-drawn carriage for a realistic trip back in time.
There’s no question I’ll return to the Grand Canyon and no doubt that the next time I’ll spend the entire stay in Williams – Arizona’s small wild west town with a big heart.
Colors of the West (201 W. Route 66) – combines the best of Route 66 kitsch and fashionable southwestern clothing. You can even pick up a souvenir bottle of Route 66 soda or pop, you know, the kind in a glass bottle with a label that doesn’t peel off.