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Williams is a small historic town in northern Arizona with plenty of things to see and do. It is known as the gateway to the Grand Canyon, it is situated on Historic Route 66, and just off the main Interstate 40. It is the perfect stop to go to the Grand Canyon or explore Route 66.

Williams is more than just a pit stop along Route 66 or en route to the Grand Canyon - it is a worthwhile destination all by itself. If one is planning to explore Route 66 or the Grand Canyon, then plan on spending a day or two just exploring in and around Williams, Arizona.

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Williams, Arizona - The Ideal Stop On Route 66

Williams is located in Coconino County and has a population of only around 3,000. It is the southern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railway (which ferries visitors to the Grand Canyon Village). It is home to numerous restaurants, accommodations, and gas stations that cater to the large influx of visitors during the holiday season.

  • Population: 3,000
  • Known: As The "Gateway to the Grand Canyon"

Williams was one of the last communities on Historic Route 66 to be bypassed by Interstate 40. Today the community continues to thrive off tourism and is home to seven fishing lakes, numerous hiking trails, skiing in the winter, lots of wildlife, and outdoor adventure parks.

William's Historic Downtown District covers six square blocks and blends the histories of the Old West with Route 66. The town preserves the feel of its heyday years of the 1950s and 1960s.

Related: This Is The Best Month To Visit The Grand Canyon, And Which Tour To Take While You're There

Top Things To Do In Williams, Arizona

The Grand Canyon Railway:

One of the top things to do in Williams is to have a ride on the Grand Canyon Railway. As the gateway to the Grand Canyon, what better way to get to the canyon than by an old-timey railway? The Grand Canyon Railway goes to the South Rim and offers a trip back in time to the 1900s.

  • Duration: 2.25 Hours
  • Terminus: Grand Canyon Village

While on the train ride, keep an eye out for mule deer and elk. On the way back one may even encounter an old-fashioned and family-friendly train robbery.

Bearizona Wildlife Park

Another of the star attractions in Williams is the Bearizona Wildlife Park. This wildlife park is not a normal zoo where there are concerns about the animals not having enough space. The animals are free to roam around in large paddocks while visitors are the ones penned up in their cars as they drive through and explore the park.

Bearizona enables visitors to get up close to the animals and specializes in North American fauna. One will see black bears, wolves, bison, mountain goats, otters, jaguars, elk, grizzly bears, porcupines, Burmese pythons, and more.

  • Type: Drive Through Conservation Park
  • Season: Year-Round
  • Days Open: 7 Days A Week
  • Times: 9.00 am to 4.00 pm

One can explore the park with one's own vehicle along the three miles of tracks running through the park.

Historic Route 66

Route 66 once cut straight through the heart of Williams. Today it remains a great location to learn about the history of the venerable route and feel the nostalgia of the Golden Age of driving.

One will find many Route 66-themed gift shops, restaurants, and historic spots in the town. Look out for the brass plaques on the sides of some buildings.

Attractions include the fire stations, bank, old post office, and other historic buildings - some have been converted into quirky shops. At night see all the original neon signs come alive together with music from the 1950s coming out of historic diners.

Related: Your Guide For Exploring The Grand Canyon's Havasu Falls

The Kaibab National Forest

Another outdoor attraction around Williams is the Kaibab National Forest. Here one can enjoy hiking or other outdoor activities and excursions. The Kaibab National Forest borders the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon and is divided into three major sections.

The forest spans 1.6 million acres and is managed by the Forest Service.

  • Size: 1.6 Million Acres
  • Trail: Hike The Keyhole Sink Trail in The Forest

In the forest, one can find prehistoric attractions of people who lived there over 1,000 years ago. Hike through pine forests and see ancient petroglyphs carved into the canyon walls.