In 1966, Chuck Mabery bought a cattle ranch that dated back to the late 19th century, planting the seeds of the Blazin' M Ranch. After stints herding and growing vegetables, the flood of 1993 forced the Mabery family to start over, inspiring them to show off their musical talents at a traditional chuck-wagon dinner staged on the property. Fully renovated in 2010, the ranch now hosts an authentic Arizona frontier town where visitors can experience the cowboy life through such activities as lassoing mechanical steers, shooting wax bullets out of a real Colt .45, and learning how to easily covert ten-gallon hats into metric. A selection of shops fits customers out in Western-themed apparel, the copper Spur Saloon serves local wines and microbrews, and a museum delves into the history of the ranch, pioneer-era Arizona, and the Yavapai-Apache Nation. An old-time photo studio, "Pistols and Petticoats", allows groups to have their likeness captured while wearing Victorian costumes. At the museum, the unique Wood'n West Gallery enthralls visitors with moving dioramas of Western life, hand carved over 30 years by a master whittler.
In about a century's time, the city of Cottonwood has gone from mining to artisan cheese making, Al Capone to craft beers. Once known as the bootleg capital of Arizona, it later served as a location for Wild West films before becoming a destination for fine foods. Old Town fixture Crema Cafe reaches out to neighborhood pubs, bistros, bakeries, and chocolatiers to assemble afternoons of strolling, sipping, snacking, and soaking up history for vacationers and hungry locals alike.
On a roadside in the Verde Valley, a restaurant beckons to passersby with the scents of hearty, home-cooked Southern and Southwestern cuisine. Nate's Cowboy Cafe relishes in its charming frontier aesthetic, a place where guests can sink their teeth into a well-marbled, charbroiled ribeye, sip margaritas from mason jars, or say "consarn it" without attracting any funny looks. Friendly, cowboy-hat clad servers roll out pints of frosty beer and plates laden with country-fried steaks, smoked-salmon tacos, and succulent, slow-cooked baby back ribs.