Many people picture the entire Southwest as being a prime destination that offers nothing but warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine. This presumption is only partially true, because, depending on the elevation, winter can be sunny and warm or it can be downright icy cold. Williams, Arizona is an example of a historic Southwestern town that has a very busy summer season that comes to a screeching halt when winter rolls around. This is because Williams is the “Gateway To The Grand Canyon” and this high elevation region can be icy cold when old man winter knocks at the door.
Williams is a historic Route 66 town and the related tourism peaks during the warm summer months. From November till early March, the Route 66 tourism slows down to nothing, simply because the winter season can be brutally cold in this region. Williams is practically a ghost town during the winter season and the only exception is when a holiday weekend creeps up on the calendar. Likewise, the tourism flow at the neighboring Grand Canyon also declines.
A few years ago I did a seasonal job at a ski resort near Salt Lake City, which turned out to be a dud because of daily avalanches. After wasting plenty of time in Utah, I was hired at the Grand Canyon. I had three weeks worth of time to kill before starting the Grand Canyon job, so I packed up and headed toward Williams, Arizona. On the drive south, I ran into an unexpected white-out blizzard and got stuck on the side of the road. By the time I got to Williams way after sunset, the town was knee deep in snow from the same winter storm.
The weather in Williams was much warmer than in the Utah mountains, but even so, there was plenty of snow on the ground when I first got to town. I visited Williams the previous year during the peak summer tourist season and I simply could not get over how quiet this town was during winter. The prices were slashed to draw tourists in and the motel rates were about one fourth of the summer season rates, which made for a cheap three week stay.
The morning after arrival, I actually had to ask if there was any place open to get a bite to eat in this sleepy little town. As it turned out, there were a few good dining options and there were also a couple of saloons that never close. During the slow winter season, the bars and restaurants on the Route 66 strip cater to the locals and plenty of discounts are offered.
Being cooped up in a motel room for a few weeks before starting a new job actually was not all that bad. I had plenty of quality time to catch up on writing and I was able to sort things out for attending a college masters degree program, before heading off to my new residence at the Grand Canyon. The peace and quiet of the Route 66 Strip in Williams during the off-season was kind of inspirational too.
Williams is located near Sedona, Meteor Crater, several ancient pueblos and a few interesting ghost towns. When things got a little boring during the long wait, I just hopped in the car and went on a picture taking mission to gather material for new travel destination articles. As I found out, Williams is the gateway to much more than just the Grand Canyon, so this town actually is a good basecamp choice for adventures in this region.
Williams, Arizona is a great little sleepy town to visit during the winter season when the Route 66 and Grand Canyon tourism is slow. There is plenty of fresh air to breathe and nostalgic thoughts of an age gone by do fill the mind when strolling down the empty Route 66 Strip. In this modern age, finding some peace and quiet is inspiration enough for checking out Williams during the winter season when business is slow!
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