Wine and Wonderment in the Verde Valley
The City of Cottonwood, once a sleepy town which travelers passed through when visiting the nearby communities of Sedona and Jerome, is now a tourist destination. In the heart of Arizona, nestled in a green valley near the base of Mingus Mountain, Cottonwood, once one of the best-kept secrets in northern Arizona, is now a successful bustling destination.
Cottonwood was one of the few communities in northern Arizona where the commercial industry actually grew during the recent recession. That is directly attributed to a forward-thinking city council, a visionary city manager and economic development director who had what it took to get it done.
Focusing on Old Town, city staff made it a goal to revitalize the area, with the first milestone being the wooing of entrepreneur Eric Jurisin, owner of the Old Town restaurants Nic’s Italian Steak & Crab House and the Tavern Grille. These two establishments gave Old Town the credibility needed to court other businesses. Cottonwood then opened a Business Assistance Center to help new budding small businesses with their needs. Seeing the potential of this diamond in the rough, local wineries began opening wine tasting rooms, and retail establishments followed. Soon after, neighboring Yavapai College’s Verde Campus took the plunge and incorporated a successful viticulture program into the curriculum.
The City of Cottonwood also recently went through an extensive rebranding process and is now known as the “Heart of Arizona Wine Country,” with a new logo and a renewed commitment to their community. Cottonwood also has an array of businesses, county offices, transit system, a major hospital and numerous medical facilities.
Cottonwood also opened a new Recreation and Aquatics Center, with state-of-the-art equipment, a dance studio, indoor leisure pool, community events hall, gymnasium, climbing wall, and electronic game room for the entire family. The facility attracts visitors from throughout the Verde Valley and is a quality of life attraction for those looking to relocate. In addition to this facility, the outdoor pool was also renovated and is now an AIA officially sanctioned venue for state swim meets.
Annual events such as the Old Town Main street Holiday Light Show, Walkin’ on Main, Chocolate Walk and the Tilted Earth Wine and Music Festival, plus the added attraction of Old Town Cottonwood with its historic feel along with wine tasting rooms, serving award-winning wines produced right here in the Verde Valley, now attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Cottonwood is a diverse, growing community nestled in the beautiful high desert of Arizona, inviting everyone to come and explore the many benefits Cottonwood and the Verde Valley have to offer.
Right up the road from the City of Cottonwood, sits the other gem of the Verde Valley: the town of Clarkdale.
The Town of Clarkdale, the place that makes sense, understands and fiercely protects its vibrant sense of history. Key to the revitalization in Clarkdale is the creative, passionate, and dedicated citizens, the leadership of the town council and staff, plus the property owners, both within the historic business and throughout the town, who believe in building a sustainable future on the foundation of the town’s history. Recognized as a registered historic district, Clarkdale is protective and proud of its history. With the two-acre town park in the center of the historic district, featuring a restored gazebo gracing the grounds, this park is home to the summer concert series in the park. The Town Hall Complex, itself a group of historic buildings features the first geothermal heated and cooled buildings in Arizona. In addition, many of the original homes are restored while retaining their historic charm.
In planning a sustainable future, the citizens overwhelmingly approved the updated Town General Plan in March 2012. Clarkdale’s citizens then completed the Sustainable Community and Economic Development Plan, a roadmap outlining the desired economic development directions for Clarkdale, with support from Arizona Public Service and town staff. The council set the plan into motion with its adoption in June 2013.
The commercial heart of Clarkdale, the first planned community in Arizona, has always been the historic business district along Main street. However, after the closing of the copper smelter in 1953, the town suffered from families moving away to find work. Now, Clarkdale is on an upswing.
Annually, 90,000 riders visit the Verde Canyon Railroad, enjoying the sights and sounds of the Verde River and its riparian areas. The award-winning Arizona Copper Art Museum opened in December 2013 and showcases the beauty, versatility and functionality of copper in all its forms. The new museum is located in the gloriously refurbished Clarkdale High School on the corner of Main and Ninth Streets; truly one-of-a-kind and a prime example of historic building revitalization.
Diagonally across the street from the museum is the charming Clarkdale Caboose and Gift Shop, offering fine pastries in the morning plus treasures created by local artists all tucked into the back of a restored train caboose. It’s not to be missed. Just up Main Street is the beautifully renovated 10-12 Lounge, so named because it open at 10 and closes at 12. There is always fun to be had there, especially on Saturdays and Sundays when live music and dancing fills the bar.
Just across the street is Four Eight Wineworks, with a nod to Arizona becoming the 48th state. Not only is this the only winemaker’s incubator offering wine tasting of luscious, locally-made wines, but also the business calls the former bank building home. Tastefully updated with historic photographs on the walls updated with contemporary surprises delighting visitors, the teller windows ae wine display cases and the former safe is the merchandise room. Just up the street, the former pharmacy has been revitalized and now serves as professional offices. Underway is the renovation of the two-story building across the street from Town Park. Turning into a boutique hotel, the former miner’s apartments are under construction now and the former theater is coming back to life with the return of the box office on Main Street in the building once housing the Grand Theater.
The streetscape is also coming back to life. Banners depicting various aspects of Clarkdale life line Main Street and signage with historic flare is under construction. The flag corps installs a river of flags down Main Street honoring military holidays throughout the year.
All Clarkdale stories are nurtured and preserved under the watchful eye of the Clarkdale Historical Society and Museum located on ninth Street. The museum offers a glimpse into Clarkdale’s past and showcases treasured artifacts. For more information on your visit, stop in and chat with folks in any of the businesses, museums or Town Hall. All have Clarkdale stories to share.
Whether visitors are looking for a leisurely wine tasting, a journey through history, or an exploration of the natural destinations of the Verde River, state parks and national monuments of northern Arizona, the Verde Valley has become the top attraction. The revitalization of the Clarkdale and Cottonwood downtowns has put these communities on the map!