The first stop east of the Colorado River, just across the state border and 20 miles south of I-40, Lake Havasu City is a thoroughly modern vacation town built around a thoroughly odd centerpiece: London Bridge, brought here stone by stone between 1967 and 1971. Terribly tacky souvenir shops and faux London pubs congregate around the foot of the bridge, which spans an artificial channel to a large island, but the bridge itself is an impressive sight.
Unless you plan to retire here—or simply rent a houseboat and relax on the water—there’s not a lot to do at Lake Havasu. That said, the area has become a popular spring break destination for Western college kids, thousands of whom flock to Lake Havasu State Park (928/855-2784) for fun-in-the-sun and who-knows-what after dark. For the rest of us—have an English muffin and a cup of tea, pay your respects and take a photograph or two, then hit the road again.
It may not have stood out as the finest piece of engineering art when it spanned the Thames, but London Bridge is a marvelous sight in the middle of the Arizona desert. A replacement for a series of bridges that date back to medieval times, inspiring the children’s rhyme, “London Bridge Is Falling Down,” this version of London Bridge was constructed in the 1830s. When it was no longer able to handle the demands of London traffic, the old bridge was replaced by a modern concrete span and its stones were put up for sale in 1967.
Bought by property developer Robert McCulloch for $2.4 million, the 10,247 blocks of stone were shipped here and reassembled at a cost of another $7 million. After a channel was cut under the bridge to bring water from the Colorado River, the Lord Mayor of London flew in to attend the rededication ceremonies in October 1971. The bridge now stands as the centerpiece of Lake Havasu City, a fast-growing retirement and resort community that’s home to more than 53,000 residents.
There’s no admission charge to see this oddly compelling sight. If you have a taste for surreal experiences, walk across the bridge and sample the Ye Olde England ambience of Barley Brothers brewery. Even more schizoid is the adjacent, all-suite London Bridge Resort (928/855-0888, $139 and up), where the “original” medieval turrets and Arthurian design flourishes have been redecorated with palm trees for that unforgettable tropical island experience.