By Kathy Condon
With a friend in tow, I decided to visit and stay a few nights to take a closer look. With the help of Visit Yuma, the Historic Coronado Motor Hotel graciously hosted me for two nights so I could take a closer look.
After a few stops, it became evident that this community near the California and Mexico border attracts visitors and urges them to look closer at the area’s history. Smiling, I also learned they know how to devise every excuse possible to have a party or a festival. Numbers support that events brought 250,000 visitors to the area to help partake in activities, which most certainly include all family members.
One can only imagine the community coming out for BBQ and the Brew Festival. First Fridays are Historical Days, where more history is revealed. The word is that the Date Festival is fun and provides activities for the entire family. Cinco De Mayo is behind them, and attention is turning to create a family-oriented 4th of July celebration. Fireworks against the dark black desert sky should be spectacular.
Historic Coronado Motor Hotel
One turn off US Highway 8, and you will see the Historic Coronado Motor Hotel on your left. It is impossible to miss it, for it sprawls over an area a couple of blocks long. One of the most surprising features of this hotel is that it was the first under the banner of Best Western Hotels. It remained that way for 65 years, all the while it stayed independently owned by the founding family.
Yet, there is something even more surprising, Yonne Peach, owner of the hotel, has a lifetime collection of Best Western memorabilia. She transformed her husband’s parents’ former home into a delightful museum you can visit by requesting an appointment.
Glass cases protect the smaller objects, while the walls are covered with various Best Western artifacts used throughout the years. As you view the collection, you cannot help but notice the signs capture the subtle changes made to the logo throughout the years.
Even though the hotel suite I stayed in dates back to 1938, it had the most advanced awareness of technology I have ever seen in a hotel and plug-ins everywhere. The bed had swans made of towels, which made me smile as I walked in. The “little things” at this hotel are considered when thinking about making a guest feel welcome while catering to the needs of a road warrior or a family.
When you think of a charming US town, you will not be disappointed as you turn down the broad Main Street. Wide streets, independent retail shops with unique storefronts, and restaurants draw you in to take a closer look.
I love the giant sculpture at the entrance of the street. Peeking into the Historic Art Center doors, it looks like a time capsule, for it retains its grandeur. It once was home to silent movies and vaudeville acts and still proudly hosts audiences regularly.
Next door, the Yuma Arts Center serves as a gathering place for the artists that find the lighting and desert landscape conducive to their creativity. Walk a little further, and there you can enter the door of Visit Yuma, where you can access information on the area and buy locally created souvenirs.
Date Farms Dot the Countryside
Another surprise. I had no idea large date farms were found in the area. You cannot see the date farms from the Highway or when you are downtown. I thought Coachella Valley was the only place they were grown for commercial use. To prove to myself they existed, we headed out into the countryside. Before long, a large sign pointed to the road to Martha’s Gardens Date Farm. They had me when the sign added, “We have date shakes.”
We parked the car beside a delightful little park with sculptures and picnic tables gracing the front of the retail store. We immediately headed in to get our shake. It was different from anyone I had ever had since it had large chunks of dates and was thick enough to be eaten with a spoon.
While eating the shake, we watched a movie on the production of dates. Then as it pointed out, I took a closer look at the sample blossoms on display in the retail shop showing the different stages of the growth of the dates. This date farm specializes in Medjool dates only.
Bridge to Nowhere
If something is mentioned more than once, I pay attention and decide it is something I want to check out, especially if it is unusual. Of course, a Bridge to Nowhere seemed intriguing. In 1929 a narrow bridge was built over the Gila River. In 1968, deemed too narrow for traffic, the new bridge was built. Officially called the Mcphaul Suspension Bridge, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Rumors are it was a prototype for the Golden Gate Bridge. Standing there on dry land since the river has been rerouted, looking up once can definitely see the resemblance.
Farmland Surrounds the City
I learned the area produces 93% of all the leafy green vegetables grown in the United States on the expansive nearby farms. Driving through the countryside, ribbons of various shades of greens revealed fields of lettuce not far from being harvested. Small fruit and vegetable stands dot the countryside. Such fun buying directly from the farmer and hearing his stories as he proudly bags my chosen array of vegetables.
Colorado River Offers
Water Sports Opportunities
Since I’ve been back, I have asked many people, and they, too, had no idea Yuma was located directly on the Colorado River. Raft tours and tubing activities are abundant, while kayakers find quiet estuaries to float along the riverbanks, often spotting wildlife.
Birdwatchers flock to the area in the spring and fall to join others for the great migrations along specified trails through the West Wetlands Park and the East Yuma Wetlands. They take their birdwatching seriously and even developed the Bird Festival of Yuma.
Walkers, runners, bikers, and skateboards share the designated paths for miles. Do you need to rest? No problem, lots of beautiful views with benches waiting for you to catch your breath.
Indians in Yuma lived undisturbed until the Spaniards arrived in the late 1680s. With Mexico nearby, the area’s history continuously evolved for its strategic location on the river. Take time to read the historical markers. You will be surprised by how important Yuma was to developing the Western United States.
Restaurants in Yuma
Love Italian food? You will want to be sure to dine at DaBoyz. This large restaurant in the heart of Main Street is a local favorite. I was warned that the seven-layer lasagna, with three kinds of cheese, was enough for two. Thankfully I took the suggestion and shared the entrée. However, maybe the fabulous garlic toast that came with it was also the culprit for why I was so full.
Yuma Landing Bar and Grill is owned by Yvonne Peach, who runs the Historic Coronado Motor Hotel. It is built on the site where the first airplane landed in Arizona in 1911. Not only was the breakfast traditional and plentiful, but it was also excellent. It also appeared this is a local favorite, for people walked in and greeted others as they were escorted to a table.
My visit to Yuma was cut short because a storm was approaching, and I needed to make the three-hour drive back to Palm Springs. I will certainly be back to explore more of the history of Yuma and walk along the mighty Colorado River.