History comes to life in southeast Arizona
Steely-eyed gunslingers, the rumble of galloping hooves and the sweet chill of sarsaparilla on a hot Arizona day may sound like items from a western movie but in Tombstone, these elements are still as alive as they were in the late 1800s.
Known as “The Town Too Tough to Die,” Tombstone is only a three-hour drive southeast from Luke, making it an ideal day-trip location.
Tombstone was originally founded in 1877 by a prospector. Soldiers warned him all he would find in the wilderness would be his own tombstone. So when the prospector found silver, he named his first mine “The Tombstone.”
Word about the silver strike quickly spread and prospectors, cowboys, homesteaders and business folk flocked to the area. A town site was laid out in 1879 on a level area close to the silver mines and was named “Tombstone.”
Today, the residents of Tombstone keep the spirit of the Old West alive through gunfight re-enactments, tours, museums and exhibits. Visitors walk the same streets gunslingers walked before and are transported back to a time when justice came from the barrel of a gun. Most of the town’s attractions, shops and restaurants can be found along Allen Street and its cross streets.
Movie fans and history buffs know Tombstone as the site of the famous “Gunfight at the OK Corral” where a bloody gunfight ensued between a cowboy gang and the Earp brothers. The incident has been depicted in various fictional and documentary movies and TV shows. Visitors can watch a live re-enactment inside the OK Corral on Allen Street at high noon, 2 and 3:30 p.m. most days. Ticket price is $10 and includes a free newspaper reprint, admission to two exhibits and admission to Tombstone’s Historama, a unique multimedia history presentation narrated by Vincent Price.
Visitors can watch another gunfight show at the Helldorado Town Western Park located at 4th and Toughnut Streets. The park also features a shooting gallery, mini golf and a restaurant.
The Big Iron Shooting Gallery offers visitors the chance to “shoot the guns that won the west.” A staff member guides visitors with handling the weapons and general gun safety. For a mere $3, patrons can fire six rounds of paint-loaded ammo in a safe environment. A variety of gun accessories is available for purchase.
Other attractions include the Tombstone Courthouse, the Bird Cage Theatre, an underground mine tour, haunted tours and a trolley tour. For an authentic touch, visitors can ride the Old Butterfield Stagecoach for a 20-minute tour. Several Tombstone attractions charge an admission fee.
Shopping options are abundant in Tombstone. Several shops such as the Tombstone Emporium and The Branding Iron offer western and Native American jewelry, clothing, books, souvenirs and gifts. A few of these shops also offer old time photos complete with period costumes and authentic backgrounds.
For on-the-go snacks, bottled water or personal health items, visitors can stop by the Tombstone Pharmacy and General Store. Prescriptions can be filled there and an ATM machine is available.
Tombstone features a variety of restaurants to satisfy even the biggest appetites. We stopped in at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon for dinner. The interior was very authentic, from the full bar to the costumed wait staff. Our waiter was quick with a joke as well as food and drink recommendations.
If you’re not in the mood to make a second three-hour drive on the same day, there are several hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, and even vacation rentals where you can rest your weary head. We stayed at the Larian Motel on East Fremont Street along Highway 80 and just a block away from Allen Street. It’s locally owned, very clean and quiet.
For more information on things to do or where to stay in Tombstone, visit www.tombstoneweb.com. Happy trails!