The historic sites and river wetlands are clustered near one another, and a stroll down 4-5 blocks on Main Street, then over to the river, venturing from the Quartermaster Depot up to the Territorial Prison, and you can see a lot of Yuma’s must see sights. Venture further afield for golfing, date groves, gambling, and agriculture; but use the central area as your go to point.
After years of bypassing, I spent a week in Yuma—and discovered it is more than a crossing point, more than a refuge for snow birds, more than the America’s winter vegetable capital. Yuma is history, even its prison is a window to a dustier, sweatier time. Yuma is for foodies—whether you seek hot Chilies, Tex-Mex, sushi, or fine steak. Yuma is an outdoor playground, with golf, a beach, wetland hiking, off road racing, and river sports. Yuma is an urban success, an easy shopping ramble with local art, even local wine. Yuma is, in short, a surprise. Yuma is gambling, Yuma is welcoming. Whether it’s a stretch break on a cross country drive, a weekend escape, or a months’ long respite from the cold; you deserve to spend a little time in Yuma. I would not, personally, spend that time in the sweltering summer—but October through April is very pleasant.
Come for the November date festival and take a tour of a local date grove. Walk out among the date trees, which from about a foot a year, and smell the vanilla spice as the dates are pollinated. Watered by the Colorado river, whether using traditional flood or drip irrigation, the dates are an oasis from the desert heat. Imagine lolling away an afternoon, reclined beneath the dates, like a Sheik.
Wedged between the Quartermaster depot and the beginning of the urban trail, you’ll find the Yuma siphon, built 100 years ago, 50 feet under the river, to transfer river water from the California side to Yuma’s agriculture; it still supplies water for over 100,000 acres of the richest desert farmland outside of the Nile valley, and is home to enormous catfish, some over 90 lbs have been found.
Only about 3 hours’ drive from San
Diego, Yuma doubles in population during the October to March season, with snow
birds flocking from Canada, the U.S., and even Germany. The world’s Winter Vegetable Capital (Yuma supplies lettuce and other vegetables across the country and the world), Yuma’s several block historic downtown houses a number of restaurants, bars, an Art Gallery, theater, and shops. Stop by Desert Olive Oil for oil, extra virgin and infused, from Brawley. Get dates, mementos, and date shakes at Basket Creations & More. The Art Gallery houses rotating exhibitions and a gift shop with local artist’s reasonably priced creations.
If you are looking for golf, Yuma offers 9 golf courses, including a municipal course. The municipal Desert Hills Golf Course abuts the Yuma Civic Center, where you may find weekly bridge and private celebrations. Sit down for a cocktail at the Hills Restaurant Patio & Bar, indulge in a birdbath sized shrimp cocktail and watch the sunset over Mexico.
Looking for a real casino? Just across the river, on the California side, you will find the Quechan Casino Resort, with a lazy river pool, over 30,000 square feet of gaming, 800 sq. foot suites, bars, restaurants, a food court, and slots and table games. For fine dining, you would be hard pressed to do better than Quechan’s Ironwood steakhouse, with entrees in the mid $30s. Quenchan is partnered with the Paradise Casino, which straddles Arizona and California.