3 Not-To-Be-Missed Historic Towns of Southern Arizona

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Slide 1 of 10: With its awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, magnificent Red Rocks of Sedona, painted deserts and unforgettable sunsets, Arizona is a travel lover's nirvana.But there’s more to Arizona than just its spectacular scenery. The state is rich in history and its delightful small towns are filled with fascinating stories and legendary characters.Here are three must-see fun and delightful historical Southern Arizona destinations well-worth a visit. Here’s why.
Slide 2 of 10: Arizona ghost towns were not uncommon after the mineral-rich mines closed and workers moved on to more lucrative prospects. But unlike other towns that disappeared entirely in the desert dust, Bisbee lived on, thanks to an influx of creative free spirits and burned-out urban dwellers drawn to this once raucous mining town. Through their innovative efforts, Bisbee’s been restored into an eclectic art town full of galleries, restaurants and fascinating boutique hotels.As a result, Bisbee remains one of the best-preserved historic towns in the Southwest. Old homes still perch precariously on the towering hillsides of Tombstone Canyon. The locals are a quirky mix of hippie jewelry makers, enterprising entrepreneurs and boutique owners from all over the world. With its vintage Victorian architecture, it’s as if we’d wandered into a time warp seamlessly connecting today with yesteryear.
Slide 3 of 10: A visit to Bisbee’s famed Copper Queen Mine is a true adventure. Tours are led by Bisbee’s own retired miners. Donning yellow slickers and hardhats with miner’s headlamps, we ventured 1,500-feet underground by rail car to a cool 47-degree mine shaft containing old workings of the famous mine.Bisbee’s Western mining-town legacy is also being preserved by the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum located in the center of town. A Smithsonian affiliate, the museum housed in an 1897 red brick building provides visitors a glimpse into Bisbee’s early years.
Slide 4 of 10: Mailing a postcard from the Copper Queen Post Office is a must. This historic relic of the past is a natural gathering spot for residents who come to pick up their mail in lockboxes as Bisbee has no home mail delivery.Shopping in Bisbee is an eye-candy experience. The variety of galleries, boutiques and eclectic shops situated in this small town is impressive. And Bisbee’s 40 restaurants offer a myriad of choices from quaint cafes and cantinas to saloons and fine dining.
Slide 5 of 10: Located a mere 20 miles from Bisbee, Tombstone is rooted in Wild West infamy—home to the famous Shootout at the OK Corral in 1881. It’s well worth spending a day in this fascinating destination known as “The Town Too Tough to Die.”Rugged, mountainous Tombstone became a hotbed for miners in 1887 and while there wasn’t “gold in them thar hills,” there was silver—and plenty of it. Tombstone quickly attracted not only the miners, but gamblers, outlaws and other ne’er-do-wells, all before the town even had a sheriff or laws on the books.
Slide 6 of 10: Yes, it kitschy, but we had to do it–the Gunfight at the OK Corral, Tombstone’s number one attraction. In the Streets of Tombstone Theater, daily re-enactments of that gunfight pit Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Virgil and Morgan Earp against the unlawful McLaurey and Clanton cowboys.The fully-narrated 30-minute Old Tombstone Tour, led by a period-costumed guide on a horse-drawn stagecoach, transports visitors through time along its dusty downtown district. It’s the perfect way to introduce visitors to all there is to see and do in this rabble-rousing town.Bird Cage Theater is the Victorian establishment that operated as a theater, saloon, gambling parlor and brothel from 1881 to 1889 during the height of the mining boom. Over 120 bullet holes bear witness to the wildness of this once raucous establishment. The theater houses many untouched artifacts dating back over 100 years.
Slide 7 of 10: A great place for lunch or a cool-down is Big Nose Kate’s Saloon named after Doc Holliday’s common-law wife and partner-in-crime. It’s a fun rowdy cowboy bar with live music and drink specialties that include Sex in the Desert and Cowboy’s Dream.
Slide 8 of 10: Just on the outskirts of town on a rocky, windswept hill, Boothill Graveyard is the Old West’s most famous cemetery. The dry and dusty graveyard was so-named for the numerous gunfighters who died with their boots on, including the infamous bad boys from the OK Corral shootout.Painted ladies, gamblers, miners, and cowboys are all buried here. The graveyard’s main attraction is the headstone markers, each with epitaphs naming the occupant, date of death, often cause of death, or even who they were shot by. Each tombstone is an authentic piece of true western history.
Slide 9 of 10: Art and history blend in perfect harmony in Tubac, nestled in the fertile Santa Cruz River Valley 45 minutes south of Tucson. Founded in 1752, this historic destination of the arts boasts over 100 eclectic shops and galleries along its meandering streets dotted with quaint hidden courtyards.But it’s the town’s colorful past and fascinating Southwest architecture that also bring visitors to this picturesque location year-round.
Slide 10 of 10: Southern Arizona’s longest running art venue, the Tubac Festival of the Arts is held each February and features over 200 visiting artists displaying everything from turquoise jewelry and gems and repurposed upcycled art to metal work and sculptures.Remnants of the old fort exist today on the grounds of Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. The 11-acre park with its eight magnificent gardens is preserving the ruins and history of the oldest Spanish Presidio site in Arizona. Elvira’s Restaurant originally established in Nogales, Mexico in 1927 brought its award-winning Mexican cuisine to Tubac much to the delight of its residents and visitors. Classic entrees like Chiles Rellenos and Steak Molcajete are superb. We had to top off our lunch with a Holy Tequila Shot–an Elvira tradition.

Arizona: A State Brimming With History

With its awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, magnificent Red Rocks of Sedona, painted deserts and unforgettable sunsets, Arizona is a travel lover’s nirvana.

But there’s more to Arizona than just its spectacular scenery. The state is rich in history and its delightful small towns are filled with fascinating stories and legendary characters.

Here are three must-see fun and delightful historical Southern Arizona destinations well-worth a visit. Here’s why.

Bisbee

Arizona ghost towns were not uncommon after the mineral-rich mines closed and workers moved on to more lucrative prospects. But unlike other towns that disappeared entirely in the desert dust, Bisbee lived on, thanks to an influx of creative free spirits and burned-out urban dwellers drawn to this once raucous mining town. Through their innovative efforts, Bisbee’s been restored into an eclectic art town full of galleries, restaurants and fascinating boutique hotels.

As a result, Bisbee remains one of the best-preserved historic towns in the Southwest. Old homes still perch precariously on the towering hillsides of Tombstone Canyon. The locals are a quirky mix of hippie jewelry makers, enterprising entrepreneurs and boutique owners from all over the world. With its vintage Victorian architecture, it’s as if we’d wandered into a time warp seamlessly connecting today with yesteryear.

Copper Queen Mine

A visit to Bisbee’s famed Copper Queen Mine is a true adventure. Tours are led by Bisbee’s own retired miners. Donning yellow slickers and hardhats with miner’s headlamps, we ventured 1,500-feet underground by rail car to a cool 47-degree mine shaft containing old workings of the famous mine.

Bisbee’s Western mining-town legacy is also being preserved by the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum located in the center of town. A Smithsonian affiliate, the museum housed in an 1897 red brick building provides visitors a glimpse into Bisbee’s early years.

Explore the Town History

Mailing a postcard from the Copper Queen Post Office is a must. This historic relic of the past is a natural gathering spot for residents who come to pick up their mail in lockboxes as Bisbee has no home mail delivery.

Shopping in Bisbee is an eye-candy experience. The variety of galleries, boutiques and eclectic shops situated in this small town is impressive. And Bisbee’s 40 restaurants offer a myriad of choices from quaint cafes and cantinas to saloons and fine dining.

Tombstone

Located a mere 20 miles from Bisbee, Tombstone is rooted in Wild West infamy—home to the famous Shootout at the OK Corral in 1881. It’s well worth spending a day in this fascinating destination known as “The Town Too Tough to Die.”

Rugged, mountainous Tombstone became a hotbed for miners in 1887 and while there wasn’t “gold in them thar hills,” there was silver—and plenty of it. Tombstone quickly attracted not only the miners, but gamblers, outlaws and other ne’er-do-wells, all before the town even had a sheriff or laws on the books.

OK Corral Re-enactments

Yes, it kitschy, but we had to do it–the Gunfight at the OK Corral, Tombstone’s number one attraction. In the Streets of Tombstone Theater, daily re-enactments of that gunfight pit Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Virgil and Morgan Earp against the unlawful McLaurey and Clanton cowboys.

The fully-narrated 30-minute Old Tombstone Tour, led by a period-costumed guide on a horse-drawn stagecoach, transports visitors through time along its dusty downtown district. It’s the perfect way to introduce visitors to all there is to see and do in this rabble-rousing town.

Bird Cage Theater is the Victorian establishment that operated as a theater, saloon, gambling parlor and brothel from 1881 to 1889 during the height of the mining boom. Over 120 bullet holes bear witness to the wildness of this once raucous establishment. The theater houses many untouched artifacts dating back over 100 years.

Cool Down at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon

A great place for lunch or a cool-down is Big Nose Kate’s Saloon named after Doc Holliday’s common-law wife and partner-in-crime. It’s a fun rowdy cowboy bar with live music and drink specialties that include Sex in the Desert and Cowboy’s Dream.

Boothill Graveyard

Just on the outskirts of town on a rocky, windswept hill, Boothill Graveyard is the Old West’s most famous cemetery. The dry and dusty graveyard was so-named for the numerous gunfighters who died with their boots on, including the infamous bad boys from the OK Corral shootout.

Painted ladies, gamblers, miners, and cowboys are all buried here. The graveyard’s main attraction is the headstone markers, each with epitaphs naming the occupant, date of death, often cause of death, or even who they were shot by. Each tombstone is an authentic piece of true western history.

Tubac

Art and history blend in perfect harmony in Tubac, nestled in the fertile Santa Cruz River Valley 45 minutes south of Tucson. Founded in 1752, this historic destination of the arts boasts over 100 eclectic shops and galleries along its meandering streets dotted with quaint hidden courtyards.

But it’s the town’s colorful past and fascinating Southwest architecture that also bring visitors to this picturesque location year-round.

Tubac Gems

Southern Arizona’s longest running art venue, the Tubac Festival of the Arts is held each February and features over 200 visiting artists displaying everything from turquoise jewelry and gems and repurposed upcycled art to metal work and sculptures.

Remnants of the old fort exist today on the grounds of Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. The 11-acre park with its eight magnificent gardens is preserving the ruins and history of the oldest Spanish Presidio site in Arizona.

Elvira’s Restaurant originally established in Nogales, Mexico in 1927 brought its award-winning Mexican cuisine to Tubac much to the delight of its residents and visitors. Classic entrees like Chiles Rellenos and Steak Molcajete are superb. We had to top off our lunch with a Holy Tequila Shot–an Elvira tradition.

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