Cottonwood, Arizona, is not a super well-known destination. However, this charming town makes the perfect getaway from Phoenix. Cottonwood is filled with excellent wine tasting rooms, fabulous restaurants, cute boutiques, and an awesome state park. Plus, it’s nestled between Sedona and Jerome. What more could you ask for? 

Here’s why you should consider taking a day trip to this charming town, and if you do, the best things to do in Cottonwood, Arizona!

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Best Things to Do in Cottonwood, Arizona 

1. Dead Horse Ranch State Park 

Dead Horse Ranch State Park is a beautiful park outside Old Town Cottonwood. There are dozens of walking and hiking trails and tons of other fun activities, including camping, mountain biking, fishing, and horseback riding! Exploring the outdoors here is one of the best things to do in Cottonwood, Arizona.

You’ll be surprised you’re still in Arizona after visiting Dead Horse Ranch State Park. It’s so lush and green! If you’re interested in staying here, they have spacious campgrounds or log cabins you can rent in the park. 

2. Jail Trail 

The Jail Trail is a hiking area located just off Main Street in Old Town Cottonwood. If you don’t have time to drive into Dead Horse Ranch State Park, I’d recommend taking some time to walk the Jail Trail! 

This 1.6-mile loop is short, easy, and ends with beautiful views of the Verde River. It likely won’t take you very long to complete, maybe a half-hour, but it’s a great way to immerse yourself in scenery after wine tasting and walking around Old Town Cottonwood. 

Best Things to Do in Cottonwood, Arizona - The Jail Trail - Travel by Brit
Best Things to Do in Cottonwood, Arizona - The Jail Trail - Travel by Brit

3. Old Town Cottonwood 

Old Town Cottonwood spans just a few blocks, but there are tons of local retailers, restaurants, and wineries jam-packed along Main Street! 

You’ll find antique stores, adorable boutiques, and an olive oil store (with free samples!). You can even visit the Hippie Emporium, a store packed with memorabilia from the 1960s and 1970s. I’d definitely recommend spending an afternoon walking through Old Town Cottonwood to see all it has to offer. 

4. Wine Tasting Rooms 

It’s no secret that one of the best things to do in Cottonwood, Arizona, is wine tasting! 

Cottonwood is one of the stops along the Verde Valley Wine Trail—a collection of wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms in Northern Arizona. Jerome, Clarkdale, Sedona, and Cornville are also stops along the Verde Valley Wine Trail. 

While you’re walking along Main Street in Old Town Cottonwood, take some time to pop into the following tasting rooms for a flight or glass of wine: 

  • Burning Tree Cellars—Burning Tree Cellars sources grapes from across the state to produce boutique wines. You can enjoy your glass in the tasting room or the outdoor patio along Main Street. 
  • Arizona Stronghold—Arizona Stronghold’s vineyards are in Wilcox, Arizona, but only serve their wines in their two tasting rooms in Old Town Cottonwood and Old Town Scottsdale. 
  • Pillsbury Wine Company—Pillsbury Wine Company produces estate-grown, vegan wines, and their tastings are by reservation only, so call ahead! 
  • Winery 101—Winery 101 serves wines from SouthPaw Cellars & Gallifant Cellars. I recommend trying their sweet, delicious, and strong wine called Poolside Pink! 
  • Carlson Creek Vineyard—Carlson Creek Vineyard has three tasting rooms in Cottonwood, Scottsdale, and Wilcox. Their family-owned vineyards are in Wilcox, and they produce a wide range of white and red wines, from Chardonnay and Riesling to Grenache and Malbec.  
  • Merkin Vineyards—Merkin Vineyards has tasting rooms in Scottsdale and Cottonwood, and they source their grapes from vineyards in the Verde Valley and Wilcox, Arizona. 
  • Tantrum Wines—Tantrum Wines is a female-owned winey in Old Town Cottonwood. The retro-style tasting room serves flights, glasses of wine, and tapas. 
Best Things to Do in Cottonwood, Arizona - Winery 101 - Travel by Brit
Best Things to Do in Cottonwood, Arizona - Winery 101 - Travel by Brit

5. Day Trip 

Although there are plenty of great things to do in Cottonwood, Arizona, to fill a trip all on its own, there are tons of great nearby destinations you should check out. 

While you’re staying in Cottonwood, plan one day trip (or more!) to the following cities: 

  • SedonaIf you love to explore the outdoors and go on an adventure, head to Sedona to hike through the red rocks. 
  • Jerome—Explore the largest ghost town in the United States, filled with tons of history and great local shopping and dining. 
  • Cornville—Spend the afternoon at the only vineyards along the Verde Valley Wine Trail. If you only have time for one, I’d recommend D.A. Ranch! 
  • Prescott—Take a walk down Whiskey Row to explore the local shops, restaurants, saloons, and other establishments in the western-style time. If you’re visiting during the spring or summer, spend the afternoon kayaking in Watson Lake! 
Best Things to Do in Cottonwood, Arizona - Day Trip to Sedona - Travel by Brit

How to Get to Cottonwood 

Cottonwood is a two-hour drive from Phoenix. If you’re flying into Arizona to visit Cottonwood, I’d recommend flying into Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (PHX) and driving from there. 

If you’re driving from Phoenix, the drive is extremely easy. Just head north on the I-17 until you reach Camp Verde, then head west on the 260, and you’ll drive right into Cottonwood! 

Where to Stay in Cottonwood 

Although there are plenty of places to stay in Cottonwood, I can’t recommend staying at The Tavern Hotel enough! We had a fantastic experience staying here. Here are a few reasons I’d recommend staying at The Tavern Hotel

  1. It’s located in Old Town Cottonwood, so it’s within walking distance of all the restaurants, shopping, and attractions listed on this guide, which is so convenient. 
  2. The rooms are classy, comfortable, and spotless, which is sometimes rare when traveling through small towns like Cottonwood. 
  3. They have tons of amenities, like a swimming pool, restaurant, and gym. 
  4. They have excellent packages, like the Sip & Stay Wine Package. My husband and I loved doing this package for my birthday. We got a welcome drink at The Tavern Grille, a complimentary wine tasting at three tasting rooms in Old Town Cottonwood, a voucher for breakfast at Crema Craft Kitchen, and a $50 gift card for dinner at Nic’s Italian Steak & Crab House, Pizzeria Bocce, or the Tavern Grille. This package is worth the cost! 
Best Things to Do in Cottonwood, Arizona - The Tavern Hotel - Travel by Brit
Best Things to Do in Cottonwood, Arizona - The Tavern Hotel - Travel by Brit

Where to Eat in Old Town Cottonwood 

You may be surprised to discover that a small town in Northern Arizona is packed with so many trendy restaurants with great food—but Cottonwood is! 

I’d recommend checking out the following restaurants during your time in Old Town Cottonwood. All these restaurants are located conveniently on Main Street and are highly recommended: 

Crema Craft Kitchen & Bar 

Crema Craft Kitchen & Bar is a lovely breakfast and lunch restaurant in Old Town Cottonwood. They have a full-service espresso bar, tasty menu items like Pumpkin Pancakes, and tons of delicious pastries. 

I’d recommend sitting on their outdoor patio if the weather is nice. It’s partially enclosed, and it’s such a lovely area, especially while the morning sunlight hits! They also have an outdoor bar where they serve breakfast drinks, like mimosas, that’s adorable. 

Best Things to Do in Cottonwood, Arizona - Crema Craft Kitchen & Bar - Travel by Brit
Best Things to Do in Cottonwood, Arizona - Crema Craft Kitchen & Bar - Travel by Brit

Tavern Grille 

Tavern Grille is located in Old Town Cottonwood on The Tavern’s property. They serve bar-style food, like appetizers, as well as Street Tacos and Lavosh.  

We didn’t eat here, but we did come for a drink, so I can vouch for the Prickly Pear Margarita! You can’t come to Arizona without trying something flavored with prickly pear, and I’d say this margarita is just the thing. It was so tasty and refreshing! 

Best Things to Do in Cottonwood, Arizona - The Tavern Grille - Travel by Brit

Nic’s Italian Steak & Crab House 

If you’re looking for somewhere that’s a bit more upscale to enjoy dinner, check out Nic’s Italian Steak & Crab House in Old Town Cottonwood. 

They serve seafood, steak, pasta, chicken, and other tasty entrees. They also make tons of cocktails (martinis are their specialty) and have a long list of wines! 

Pizzeria Bocce 

We loved Pizzeria Bocce for dinner! This restaurant serves Italian-style specialties, like pizza, salads, and paninis. We ordered the Pomodoro Pizza with olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, basil, and hand-stretched mozzarella, and it was so tasty. 

If you can, I recommend sitting at the bar. We watched the chefs throw the pizzas and other dishes in the wood-fired oven, and it was fun to watch. 

Best Things to Do in Cottonwood, Arizona - Bocce Pizzeria - Travel by Brit
Best Things to Do in Cottonwood, Arizona - Bocce Pizzeria - Travel by Brit

Merkin Osteria 

If you’re looking for some lighter bites, I recommend visiting Merkin Osteria inside the Merkin Vineyards tasting room. While they have a brunch and lunch menu, they also have cheese, meat, and charcuterie boards that look great! 

When to Visit Cottonwood 

Cottonwood is located at a higher elevation than Phoenix and Tuscon, so while the summers are still hot, they are bearable. Winter is also an excellent time to visit, although Cottonwood and Sedona can still get snow in the winter, making hiking and exploring more challenging. 

I’d recommend visiting Cottonwood during the spring or fall. The weather is usually warmer than the rest of the country, and you’ll be able to enjoy the outdoor patios, tasting rooms, and outdoor recreation to the fullest. 

If You Have More Time…

If you have more time, check out these additional things to do in Cottonwood, Arizona!

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Brit! I'm a writer from Phoenix, AZ who loves coffee, golden retriever puppies, and obviously, travel! I help ordinary women (like me!) dream, plan, and do extraordinary travel experiences.