Lake Havasu City converts desert dust to tourist gold

Upon first arriving in Lake Havasu City, it seemed like any other dusty desert town in Arizona, in need of a good hose-down and a fresh coat of paint. The town was incorporated in the early 70s and it looked like it hadn’t been touched since.

But first impressions are often wrong and this one definitely was. Just below that dusty surface is a whole treasure of experiences to be had.

For starters, there’s the London Bridge. You read that correctly. Lake Havasu City is the proud owner of the original London Bridge. It was brought brick by brick from London to Lake Havasu by Robert P. McCulloch, a chainsaw magnate and the town’s founder, to act as a draw for tourism–and it worked! There are boat tours, walking tours, and Segway tours, all based around the bridge as a focal point.

London Bridge in Lake Havasu Arizona

The London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

We were there to walk the 5K in the annual London Bridge Half-Marathon and 5K. The race trail took us over the bridge twice and we got to see other parts of town as well.

London Bridge Half Marathon and 5K

Team Dryja ready to walk the London Bridge 5K!

The lake is what really brings people to the area, though. It is a big boating community, so you can bring your own, rent one, or take a tour on one. We were told by several locals that Lake Havasu is the second-most visited place in Arizona, thanks to the lake. The Grand Canyon is the first, of course. But for the lake, the bridge probably wouldn’t be there either. It is a reservoir lake, made up of water from the Colorado River which is contained by the Parker Dam.

Since the water is why people visit the area, most of the activities revolve around it, but boating isn’t the only way to experience it. There are hot air balloon rides, helicopter rides, and ultralight aircraft tours. Hikers can explore the surrounding hills. Gamblers can check out the casinos. Campers can roll out their tents and sleeping bags in one of the campsites dotting the lake. If you like lighthouses, take a tour that points out the many replicas of North American lighthouses around the lake. There’s lots to do.

Lake Havasu lighthouses

Lake Havasu is dotted by replicas of lighthouses that can be found in their original forms in other parts of the world.

Did you know that this town of just over 50,000 people is also home to three pretty spectacular breweries? One of our favorite things to do while in Lake Havasu City was the brewery tour we took through Arizona Brewery Tours. Mike Moreno, Regional Salesman for Northern Arizona at College Street Brewerhouse and Pub was our tour guide. He made us feel like VIPs as we rolled from brewery to brewery in our private SUV. Mudshark, Barley Brothers, and College Street all made us feel like honored guests as the owners and brewmasters shared their stories, served tastings of their current offerings, and showed us where the magic happens.

Beer tastings at Mudshark Brewery

Just six of the 14 tastings Scott Stocking at Mudshark served.

Scott Stocking with tour group at Mudshark Brewery

Scott Stocking with our little tour group at Mudshark Brewery.

Tour group with brewmaster of Barley Brothers.

The tour group with Keith, Barley Brother’s brewmaster. We think he looked like George Carlin.

Colby Hansen, head brewer at College Street Brewery with tour group

The tour would be incomplete without a bearded brewmaster and Colby Hansen at College Street Brewery fit the bill to a tee!

Table of beer tastings at College Street Brewery.

Our table of tastings at College Street! We were the talk of the restaurant.

Mike Moreno gave a tour of Lake Havasu City breweries.

The tour would not have been as enjoyable if our guide had been anyone other than Mike Moreno. Thanks, Mike!

Let this be a lesson. Don’t let the “vintage” look of a place fool you, especially this place. Lake Havasu City is a first-class charmer. Whether you’re there for the gorgeous lake, the London Bridge Half Marathon and 5K, the busy brewery scene, or any of the other activities around town, this is a place worth visiting more than once.

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