Known as "The Gateway to the Grand Canyon", Williams is a tourism-oriented town located at the interchange of Arizona Highway 64 and Interstate 40. Highway 64 is the main route to the Grand Canyon, about 50 miles to the north. Williams is also the southern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railway, which in 1901 was the first convenient access for tourists to the reach the Grand Canyon, a vast improvement over the previous 12-hour stage coach ride. Many Grand Canyon visitors stay in Williams and ride the train to Grand Canyon Village.
Historic Route 66 also passes through the Williams' downtown area, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places December 30, 1984. The streets are lined with old western style shops and numerous motels and restaurants.
At 6,754 feet amidst the peaks of the volcanic region of central northern Arizona, Williams enjoys a spot at the edge of forested hillsides at the feet of Bill Williams Mountain. Ponderosa pines are the dominant trees, while a small grassy valley lies to the north. Forested hills dot the landscape further north.
Williams was settled in 1874 and has a population of 2,842, as of the year 2000.