Bisbee, Arizona

OK, everybody get this song in your head… Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana, not Louisiana, Paris, France, or Rome.   OK… now substitute Gary Indiana with Bisbee Arizona.    Everybody got it in his or her head?  I will proceed then.

Bisbee, Arizona is a small artsy town south of the tourist trap Tombstone, Arizona.   The town made its money off of copper mining while Tombstone was all about silver.  We never would have known about Bisbee if the Tombstone/Bisbee combo weren’t listed in “500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up”  (the book I always mistakenly refer to as “500 Places to Take Your Kids Before You DIE” – which is really morbid).

First, we have to discuss Tombstone.  Let’s get it right out there that the kids loved the OK Corral reenactment of the famous gunfight complete with actors and booing and cheering of the ‘heroes’ and ‘bad guys.’  It was loud (real blanks in those guns) and hokey and overdone and all that would have been fine, but the admission was 10 bucks each (no discount for kids).  (Video link not filmed by me and I don’t actually have the bandwidth to watch it all, but it looked right) I looked around the audience and calculated they made about $1500 from our half filled show on a quiet Tuesday.  They do these performances THRICE daily – probably more on the weekends.  The show lasted about 30 minutes AND then the actors were asking for tips.  Someone is making out like a bank robber from the Old West on that business.

The rest of Tombstone is souvenir shops and old-timey photo booths – BUT they are all set on a cute boardwalk with western looking storefronts.   There seem to be a plethora of folks walking around in period costume also.  The kids got to shoot 6 paintball bullets out of a real gun in one of the stores ($3 each).  Woo-hoo, the excitement just doesn’t end. One highlight was a diorama narrated by Vincent Price that was so 1950s it was fun.  I don’t want to give away too many plot points, but the little plastic cowboy figure falling down after he was shot and then springing back up again as the diorama turns was a hit with David and me.  Lord knows, I love a good diorama. *  In summary, David and I weren’t huge fans of Tombstone, but the kids had fun.

The next day we drove a short 30 minutes down to Bisbee, Arizona (cue chorus from song above).    I loved this town!  I want to move here.  David is a little scared I’m serious, and likely I will forget about it in a few months, but the whole place just gave off a great vibe.  It was finally summed up for me when I saw this bumper sticker.

Bisbee – It’s like Mayberry on Acid

Everybody was super friendly (but not in a ‘we are here to take your money so we have to be nice to you’ way), there was a ton of fun artsy shops**, a great mining museum, Bennett and I ate a fantastic deli called the High Desert Market***, there was art everywhere you looked in every random corner, AND the town doesn’t get boiling hot in the summer.  (They have a small monsoon problem, but what place doesn’t have some faults?).  Everybody seemed to know each other and stopped to have a conversation.  How can you not like a town that has this statue for the “Virile Copper Miners” or that their big fundraising event is the Bisbee 1000 that makes you run all the outside stairs around town?


We didn’t even do the big tourist attraction, the Queen Anne’s Mine Tour, because we still felt a little entertainment budget ripped off from the day before, and it was also pricey.  However, it does get good reviews and the tour guides are mostly retired miners.

We stumbled onto a glass blowing shop where the artist had a sign on his chair that said, “Please don’t hesitate to interrupt me.”  He was actively making a glass piece over the flames but he took the time to answer all of our questions even though it was pretty clear we weren’t real customers.  He also had two nice dogs guarding the shop that we got to pet for a quick dog fix.

In short, if you are ever in this area, glance around Tombstone and then drive on down and embrace the warmth of Bisbee.  If David leaves me for a younger model when I’m 65, I’m moving down there.


*I HATE homework assigned dioramas – especially when they are assigned to students as a mandatory project to describe a time in history or book or whatever.  They can be on a list of 20 options of how to do a project, but never mandatory.

** David reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from a 5th grade student of mine long ago… “If everyone is an artist, who buys the art?”

*** Carter and David ate at a nice Mexican restaurant across the street.  Although the owner of the deli tried ever so hard to find something gluten free/nut free/egg free for Carter, the choices left were a little too fancy or spicy for him.  After we ate, Bennett told the owner that it was the best sandwich he had ever had.  My eyes rolled back into my head after I tasted her coconut Thai soup.  (Our review might be tempered by the fact that we have either been eating my cooking or Costco deli for a while, but it WAS good.)

8 thoughts on “Bisbee, Arizona

  1. Holy buns of steel! … I mean copper…
    Jake is now adding Bisbee to his list of towns to visit on the cross-country trip he’s planning. Thanks to your family and blog, he has planned a trip from Oregon to Maine. And he’ll be super upset if we don’t do it SOON.


  2. How fun!! We did Tombstone yesterday and I think the BEST part was meeting up with two other traveling families and touring the town together. Didn’t make it to the graveyard yet, but I’m thinking we need to go before we leave. Excited to check out Bisbee tomorrow!


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