by | May 13, 2024 | Travel

There have been many movies depicting Tombstone, Arizona, most notably 1993’s Tombstone, starring Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Powers Boothe, and a host of other actors. Great Arizona scenic shots, capturing towering rock formations, the desert terrain, the reddish-orange hues of the landscape, marked the film.

The town of Tombstone has a population of around 1,300, and is just 30 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. A big part of the appeal of the desert town from a tourism perspective is its old west atmosphere. Tombstone gained fame during the silver boom of the late 19th century, a bustling center of activity, filled with miners, cowboys, and outlaws. The infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, involving Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, depicted in the movie, took place here in 1881, adding to its legendary status.

If you believe the surveys, more and more people are looking for authentic experiences when they travel. They want to experience what the locals experience. They don’t want the standard fare as much anymore – fly to a nice hotel, lie on a beach, back to the room, dress for dinner. Repeat.

Try this, then: Fly into Tucson, get a rental car, and head south on Interstate 10, then south on State Route 80, into the historical town of Bisbee, Arizona (a 97-mile drive).


Arizona landscape

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Downtown Bisbee

Travellers seeking unique experiences

Bisbee is a town steeped in history, a mining town with origins in the late 19th century, located just 11 miles north of the Mexico border.

When you drive into Bisbee, with a population just under 5,000, located in the Mule Mountains of the state, and head through its quaint downtown, you’re first struck by its Victorian-style buildings and preserved architecture, and the colourful homes built into the hillsides. It’s like driving into a time machine, tapping into Bisbee’s mining heritage, going back to the late 1800s.

For those travellers seeking out American history, first stops would be the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum and the Bisbee Restoration Museum, detailing the town’s copper-mining past. The Queen Mine Tour, which takes you underground, really gives you an up close insight into the harsh condition miners went through back then, and the process of extracting minerals.

TOMBSTONE Clip - "Huckleberry" (1993) Val Kilmer

The Carrick Hotel in Bisbee is a good place to drop your bags and base your stay. The quaint hotel offers the comfort and amenities offered by modern hotels, and is for those who prefer the warmth and ambiance of a small, 16-room hotel. At the Carrick, you’re in the heart of the historical district, just steps from The Bisbee Seance Room, and Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum.


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Image of Tombstone by Pixabay

Bisbee has something for everybody

Rental cars? You’re in the middle of the Arizona desert, with temperature soaring north of 100 degrees, so keep that in mind. I took that four-hour drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas once, never having done it before, actually thinking I could do a good portion of the drive in a convertible car I rented in L.A., with the roof down.

One of the things I remember from that drive were the pieces of rubber strewn over the highway all the way to Las Vegas, from the car tires that burst due to the heat, with a public phone situated every few miles or so in case you found yourself in such a situation. I can’t remember the cell phone signal strength, since this was back in 2006. Anyway, go with an SUV – even a Jeep Wrangler, if there are off-roading opportunities in the Bisbee area (there’s even a cool jeep tour you can take, that gets into the history and architecture of the town). Just make sure the AC works.

Tombstone is a quick skip up the highway from Bisbee. While staying in Bisbee, there’s plenty to do – shop, galleries, quaint dining establishments, a full calendar of events. The Sidepony Express Music Festival in November is a celebration of independent artists. The Car and Bike Show in August is a celebration of exotic vehicles, raising money for the Boys and Girls Club of Bisbee. There’s no better time to be anywhere in America than July 4 – check out the Coaster Races, Parade and Fireworks event that day in Bisbee.

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Tombstone image by Pixabay

And Tombstone itself? Even if you just grab a coffee and wander the streets, exploring the historic sites, browsing the shops, selling Western-themed souvenirs and memorabilia, you won’t regret it. You can check out the re-enactments of famous gunfights from the Wild West days. There’s horseback riding and stagecoach tours for those who are looking for another level of the authentic. Tombstone boasts a selection of restaurants and saloons where tourists can enjoy hearty Western cuisine.

Tombstone has special events and festivals happening all year, such as Helldorado Days, celebrating the town’s history with parades, gunfight reenactments, street entertainment.

Step into one of Tombstone’s historic saloons oe check out the Boot Hill grave site – the final resting place for old west outlaws like Billy Clanton and Tom McLaury, who were involved in the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Many of the gravestones at Boot Hill feature unique and often humorous inscriptions, providing insight into the lives and personalities of those buried there. There’s also of course the natural beauty of the desert landscape for hiking and scenic drives.

If you’re feeling really adventuresome – it’s 200 miles from your base in Bisbee north to Phoenix, and 320 miles to picturesque Sedona.

Top image by Pixabay

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Tombstone, image by Unsplash

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