Wandering in Wickenburg

Did you know that you can be in downtown Wickenburg within one to one-and-a-half hours from most places in the Valley? What awaits you is an authentic Western experience filled with history, art and a storybook town. 

How easy is it to get to Wickenberg for a day, overnight or family vacation? Simply drive north up the I-17 to the Carefree Highway (SR74) headed west, which connects with U.S. 60 West. In 10 miles, you’re at the roundabout that dumps you into downtown via East Wickenberg Way.

Start with coffee and breakfast with the local cowboys. The locally owned Horseshoe Café and Nana’s Sandwich Shoppe have hearty offerings to fuel your day. From there, head to the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, a nationally recognized Smithsonian Affiliate. This very special place is two museums in one and boasts something for everyone. The street-level floor is filled with art exhibitions and pieces from their permanent collection.

The 2022-23 season includes a Mexican folk art exhibition opening in late October and a lecture with Lynn Downey, author of “Ranchers, Dudines, Writers and Riders: The Story of Women in Dude Ranching” in November. The permanent collection galleries include a rotation of Frederic Remington, Charles Marion Russell, Thomas Moran and other Western greats, thanks to an effort led by past trustee Aiken Fisher in the early 1970s.

Each March, the iconic Cowgirl Up! exhibition and sale arrives, highlighting contemporary works by female artists in the Western genre. The museum started the show to shine a spotlight on the often undervalued work of female artists — the other half of the West — and it has reached national fame.

The collection of paintings and sculptures fills more than four galleries, offering something for both savvy collectors and those looking to buy their first piece of art. Expect to see serene landscapes, rugged horses and whimsical flowers at every turn. Both the exhibit and sale together are the museum’s signature fundraiser, and buyers are encouraged to leave their purchases on display through the summer for visitors to enjoy.

There’s also some unexpected retail therapy. For the ladies, make time to stop in Serape Bleu, a vibrant clothing and gift boutique owned by Theresa Dunn with the tagline “sweetness for your soul.” When Dunn moved to Wickenburg in 2013, she brought her love of fashion, shopping and Arizona style. The shop is filled with breezy dresses, Western-inspired tops, jeans in all shades and, of course, boots and turquoise jewelry. There is a darling kids’ section, baby gifts (think tiny moccasins) and locally made gifts that any hostess would appreciate.

Looking for some authentic Western gear to add to your closet? Mosey on over to the Double H Custom Hat Company. Wickenburg is a walking town where you can discover finds in several antique stores and little shops filled with pottery, vintage finds and unique Western décor.

The Webb Center presents Western performances, as well as other genres. “There are so many unexpected things going on here,” said Cathy Weiss, the Webb Center’s CEO. Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives will kick off the season in December, followed by country singer Mark Wills in January. In March, Kathy Mattea and Suzy Bogguss will team up for two performances timed to kick off Cowgirl Up! You can also catch the Doo Wop Christmas Project, the Irish group We Banjo 3, a radio play called “Lucy Loves Desi” and more. “After a good show at the Webb Center, there is a buzz in town. People are like, ‘Oh, I wish I was there,’” Weiss said.

To stretch all this fun into a weekend trip and a place to hang your hat between adventures, My Place Suites and Los Viajeros Inn are downtown, and several dude ranches are just around the bend. Customize your trip with golf, horseback riding, a Jeep tour, a hike into the Hassayampa River Preserve or the ultimate Western experience at the Everett Bowman Arena watching bull riding, bronc riding, barrel racing or team roping!

Travel Notes:

Desert Caballeros Western Museum: westernmuseum.org

Serape Bleu: serapebleu.com

Sahuaro Theater: saguarotheater.com

Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts: dewpac.org 

Walks, Talks and Rodeo Events: outwickenburgway.com/special-events

Home on the Range:

Arts and culture, great shopping, incredible terrain — Wickenburg makes a wonderful getaway. For a truly Western experience, many guests opt for a dude ranch. Here are three:

Flying E Ranch

The Flying E Ranch is a must-visit if you want to appreciate breathtaking scenery and interact with genuine cowboys. Along with the horseback riding and other activities, the ranch serves excellent food, has comfortable rooms and features an outdoor stage where they program country music. flyingeranch.com

Kay El Bar Guest Ranch

One of the first dude ranches in Arizona, the ranch welcomed its first guests in 1926. Today’s guests can experience the same Western ambiance, sleeping in adobe-walled buildings, walking among stately trees and riding the same trails as those first guests from almost 100 years ago. kayelbar.com

Rancho de Los Caballeros

Celebrating 75 years of horses, hats and hospitality, this luxury dude ranch has something for everyone, from award-winning golf course to a peaceful spa and, of course, Western activities like horseback rides, nature hikes, trap/skeet shooting, archery and off-property Jeep tours. ranchodeloscaballeros.com

About Andrea Evans

Andrea Tyler Evans is the Publisher of Frontdoors Media. She can be reached at publisher@frontdoorsmedia.com.
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