With its rich but short history, evident in landmarks like the London Bridge and McCulloch Boulevard, Lake Havasu City was only established in the mid-20th century. But what it lacks in years, it makes up for in activities to fill an entire weekend getaway. While, like most places, Lake Havasu City may have its popular spots, I wanted to focus on those frequented by locals.
Lake Havasu Tourism hosted me. My request before I arrived was that they help me explore the area by sending me to places the locals go. Here are six things to do in Lake Havasu City, according to locals.
1. The English Village At The Foot Of London Bridge
It is easy to understand why the English Village is a first stop on any tour of Lake Havasu City.
If you haven’t been to London, here’s your chance to get a feel of what a London Street might look like today. There is a telephone booth, pubs serving fish and chips, and stores with trinkets honoring British royalty, tartans, and beautiful English China. It also explains why the English influence seems to be everywhere in this city.
2. Lake Havasu’s Parks
When you ask a local what they love about living in Lake Havasu, they invariably bring up the parks. After driving through some of them, it was easy to see why they play such a prominent role in people’s daily lives. Water sports are a way of life for residents. From the shores of Lake Havasu, you will see kayaks and jet skis launching from the many boat ramps scattered along the lakeside. Competitive fishing tournaments are also held, which attract competitors of all ages.
Parks, such as Cattail Cove State Park, Sara Park, and Lake Havasu State Park, are plentiful and have manicured landscapes and creative jungle sets for children to exercise. It was a delight to see families having picnics and children playing under the Arizona sun.
Frankly, I was a bit jealous when I saw a stage constructed on the water’s edge for a concert later that night. Upon further investigation, I was told this particular space frequently has events, allowing visitors and residents to appreciate the climate and the star-filled evening sky.
3. Lake Havasu Museum Of History
One would expect to find the history of an area in a building called the Lake Havasu Museum of History, but you would not expect it to be a community gathering place for locals.
Located in a strip-like mall, you have to have the address to find it, for it is not near any places frequented by tourists. I met the executive director at the door, and her energy and enthusiasm for this place were instantly evident. The space, though not large, has made a creative use to share the area’s history. Keep in mind: This is a young community, and without the vision of industrialist Robert P. McCulloch, one wonders if it would exist.
Tucked in an enclosed glass case was a display of various rocks. It was a statement by the executive director that stopped me in my tracks. “You have to understand we are in an area where we could not go out and pick berries,” she said. “Instead, we picked up rocks.” Since I grew up in Wisconsin, where berries were plentiful, it hadn’t occurred to me other children had to find different ways to keep themselves busy.
It turns out that a regular meeting that occurs at the museum is the geological society. They do it in a way whereby young people are invited to be a part of this organization, so the environment surrounding them is more clearly understood. Plus, a regular Saturday event hosts young people to learn about the area’s history and how to honor it.
4. McCulloch Boulevard
A short car ride from the north of London Bridge, this street is lined with retail stores and restaurants. I immediately wished I had more time to explore.
This area is referred to as the Downtown District. Boutique shops line both sides of the wide boulevard. Unlike the English Village, nary a touristy souvenir item will be found in these small, independently owned stores. Instead, displays of gourmet olive oil, spices, vintage clothing, and art grace their showcases. Artists have found ways to make empty walls come alive with vivid, colorful designs, making strolling down the street a fun adventure. Admittedly, I was enthralled with the array of items in one of the antique stores, for thoughts of my childhood kept popping into my head.
5. Havasu Landing Resort & Casino
Even if you are not a casino fan, you will not regret taking the ferry to Havasu Landing Resort & Casino. After a long day of learning and exploring, it would have been easy to head to the hotel room, yet, Visit Lake Havasu insisted that we take the ferry ride at sunset. I’m so glad we listened to them.
The 17-minute ride costs $4 round-trip on the open deck Tecopa ferry. Surrounding us were several locals. Some were heading to the casino for an evening of gambling or dinner. Others told us they love to take their family for a quiet, peaceful ride that often results in seeing sea life frolicking around the boat.
We were quickly going to check out the casino and head out on the next ferry a half hour later. However, we saw the sign for the TuKuKAN Restaurant and noticed they had buttermilk-fried chicken on the menu. We couldn’t pass it up and decided to stay for dinner. It was just like my grandma used to make it and the portion would easily serve two hungry people.
6. London Bridge Resort
Much to my surprise, when I walked into the lobby of the London Bridge Resort Havasu, there was a large golden carriage, a replica of one used for British Royalty. I smiled, thinking, Wow, Lake Havasu takes its connection to England seriously.
If you are looking for a place with all the amenities you could need, London Bridge Resort Havasu is the right place for you and your family. If you get a suite with a kitchen, you could easily cook full meals, but with so many nearby restaurants, it is way too tempting to go out.
For night owls, the Martini Bay is an elegant lounge. My sense is it would be a place where conversations flow easily. However, I have to say the balcony was where I spent a good amount of time since the view of the water and the famous London Bridge was breathtaking.
Best Restaurants In Lake Havasu
Papa Leone’s Pizza
Hungry for Italian food, we were directed to Papa Leone’s Pizza, within walking distance of our hotel. With a patio overlooking the lake and perfect perch to watch people participating in water sports, we perused the menu. With the order in, sipping wine underneath the canopy shelter proved to be the perfect place to slow down. I hadn’t had spaghetti and meatballs in ages. Sincere compliments to the chef, for they were magnificent.
Campbell Cove 1-STOP & Deli
Imagine my surprise when a gas station deli was suggested to me two times. The Campbell Cove 1-STOP & Deli is located in the industrial district near the water. It was not the most accessible place to find but definitely worth the effort.
I parked the car and walked through the convenience-like aisles to the back. The cashier took my order, a turkey/cranberry sandwich on sourdough bread. I was then handed a number and suggested I shop the aisles for my sides. I wandered the aisles, chose Kettle chips and an unsweetened iced tea, then sat at a high-top table while I waited for my number to be called. The verdict? A perfect sandwich to enjoy on a beautiful sunshiny day.
Locals take pride in everything being homemade, including the waffle cones at their favorite ice cream shop. Smiling, I cannot tell you how many times I was told to be sure to go to Scoops. It is impossible to miss finding the store with artful ice cream cones and a bench in front of it. If you are looking for a nod back to your childhood, this is it, and the pecan ice cream cone was superb.
Pro Tip: Lake Havasu City Visitor Center
Just a few steps away from the English Village, the Lake Havasu City Visitor Center clears up many of the questions guests might have, for this well-appointed center holds displays and information to learn more.
Sadly, a night and a day were not enough to explore Lake Havasu City. Now I have been there two times and I definitely will be back. If you are traveling to Las Vegas, Parker Dam, Grand Canyon, or even Phoenix, I suggest you plan your route through this modern, planned city. When you get there, I encourage you to strike up conversations with locals and ask them about their favorite places. There are year-round activities and they will be able to share more special places in this desert community.