Skip to content

Are visitors centers underrated?

Morgan Navas | February 16, 2024

Let’s talk about visitor centers. Almost every destination has one, but they are almost always empty if you wander into one. Why exactly is that? And should it be? 

In my opinion, visitor centers are vastly underrated. And hear me out, because I also used to look right past them. I was never a fan of having to awkwardly walk into a completely empty space, under the gaze of a desk employee, who was probably judging every single one of my pamphlet choices. But hey, that one is probably more on my anxiety rather than the actual thoughts of the employees.

First of all, they are not all just a room full of pamphlets, which you will quickly discover if you make a habit of stopping by them. If you make your way to Benson, Arizona anytime soon, you’ll find a visitor’s center that doubles as a historic railroad stop. To get guests even more involved, you have the opportunity to earn your very own Benson Train Engineer Certificate, by driving their model train around the building! As one of only three Amtrak in the entire state, it doubles as a train station/viewing area as well as a mini-museum. 

Others such as in Williams, Arizona double as gift stores, museums, and good photo op locations. Williams Information Visitor Center prides itself on being the gateway to the Grand Canyon, featuring many Route 66 and Forest Service regalia. (You’ll even find a full-size Smokey the Bear inside, even though I thought he was a tad bit creepy!). We learned a lot about the little tourist town and some of the struggles they were facing, in terms of housing and water crises in the area.

Lastly, the people are not scary at all! Once you get them talking, in my experience, you will always see why they are there- because they are passionate about helping others love the area as much as they do. Having an honest conversation is the best way to truly being to understand what the destination has to offer, and the people in it. Whether it be a small town like Benson, or a more popular site along the way, there is always something to see. And, something more to learn! 

Recently, I found myself wandering into the Golden Visitors Center, where I got to chat with Rose all about what the town had to offer. She was able to get me insider knowledge into what places had free admission during the day, student discounts, driving conditions, and coupons to use at local businesses (yet another perk of visitor centers). She clearly had a passion for the area and helping others enjoy it too! It made total sense when I later learned that everyone there is a volunteer for the town. 

So the next time you find yourself as a visitor, stop at the local visitors center. You never quite know what you’ll find. But you’ll always leave a little more informed than you started!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *