During a short trip across part of Arizona, we decided to stop a night in Yuma Arizona, we like visiting cities that might not get as much attention as other cities. As far as being vacationers there is not a lot of things to do and a couple of days is probably more than enough, but those couple days will be full, fun, and kid-friendly.
Yuma is famous for being the sunniest and warmest city in the USA, to no surprise our visit at the end of May was both sunny and hot. After speaking with several locals, they state that the temperature rarely gets below mid 80 in the daytime in the winter and can hover around 115-120 in the summer. This is something to take into account when visiting the area, as many of the must-see attractions are outside.
We started our day with a visit to the Yuma Prison State Historic Park. This prison was closed over 100 years ago and much of the prison is gone but what is left is more than enough to give you a great experience. I am a sucker for strange history and this museum does a spectacular job of filling that need with unusual stories of many of the prisoners, escape attempts, and even some of the odd jobs and skills the prisoners had. This prison is famous for the detailed records it kept. The best part is most of the information was written in simple and attractive formats, including the pictures of the actual inmate the story is about, keeping even the youngest reader’s attention all kept in an air-conditioned building, a great way to escape the heat.
Next, we ventured outside, where we got to tour the prison cells, the ones the prisoners built themselves. This short walk down the few remaining cells helps understand why the prisoners called this prison “hell hole”. The cells are small, dark, cramped, and hot, not to mention that when it first opened there was no indoor plumbing so you knew that they must have smelled terrible as each cell had only a pee pot. The most desired spot to see is the solitary confinement area, a dark small cell used as punishment. Honestly, if you don’t take a chance to read what the actual conditions of solitary confinement it seemed like just a dark room. It was probably the only spot in the whole prison where you get “creeped out”. It’s recommended that give 1-2 hours to tour the whole prison, we spend around an hour, but we have younger kids that lose attention quickly.
Next, we walked along the East Wetlands park and ended up in Gateway Park where the ocean-to-ocean bridge is. It was a hot weekend and people were enjoying family time in the Colorado River, the area under the bridge is like a little beach. We were hot from walking around the wetlands area and to stop and put our feet in the water felt amazing. The kids begged to go swimming even though we didn’t have their suits but knowing how frustrating it is to walk around with wet and sandy kids we made them keep their clothes dry. The water felt so nice we could have stood there all day, but we had a few more stops to make.
We tried to go to the Yuma Proving Ground Heritage site but honestly, after a few minutes of driving around trying to find it we decided to just go to the Colorado River Historic Park instead. This park is mostly outdoors but gives you a feel of the importance of the Colorado River to this area and the incredible history of the area. There is so much to learn about from this park, much of which was lost to heat, hunger, and a need to rest after chasing young children around. I can say I believe we enjoyed this park as much as the prison. I just wish we had not left this to the end of the day.
On our second and last day, we spend the entire morning in West Wetlands Park. This incredible little gem was the perfect way to close our time off. It has two great playgrounds for the kids, some cute little ponds to sit by, and a few cute walks. I admit we spend longer than we had planned but it was so comfortable to just enjoy it was hard to tear ourselves away. Overall we really enjoyed our time in Yuma Arizona and would recommend it for anyone traveling through.