Tombstone Arizona: visit the heart of the American West

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Lluis Enric Mayans

Today we are featuring Tombstone, an American western town par excellence, where you can stroll among old saloons and gunslingers reliving the most authentic atmospheres of the gold rush and the Wild West. Here's how to plan a visit and what to see in Tombstone


  • Towards Tombstone ...
  • Tombstone Arizona: a bit of history ...
  • Shopping and some places for refreshment
  • Shows, museums and tours
  • Two curiosities about Tombstone
  • Where to sleep in Tombstone?
  • Nearby airports

Towards Tombstone ...

After leaving the Colorado River-carved gorges of the Grand Canyon and Sedona's stunning red rocks we head south via the capital city of Phoenix and the city of Tucson. Along the way the famous stand out saguaro cacti Sonoran Desert, even 21 meters tall, with a slender shape with lateral arms, and organ pipes, another variety of cactus typical of rocky deserts that resembles a set of arms that rise to the sky.

By car we are heading to Tombstone, in Cochise County, so named in reference to the famous Indian chief of the Chiricahua Apache tribe. But remember that Geronimo also lived here and that a quarter of Arizona is made up of Indian reservations. We are in south-central Arizona where the climate is characterized by hot and dry summers and winters are mild during the day and cold at night.

Tombstone is a small town with just over 1300 inhabitants, is located about 1400 meters above sea level and is 48 kilometers from the Mexican border. For this reason it is not surprising that 20% of the residents in Arizona you speak Spanish as your mother tongue and it is not surprising that police checks are carried out from time to time along the road that separates the two state lines.

Tombstone Arizona: a bit of history ...

Tombstone was founded in 1879 and was originally famous for its silver mines but now attracts tourists for its western charm and far west style atmosphere. You know the scenes of the homonymous film? Well, thehistoric district di Tombstone represents all this in full. Strolling under the wooden arcades, one wonders if the people who meet are all figures who complete the picture or if they are instead people who have dressed in theme for pure personal pleasure.

Some ladies wear long dresses with lace trim, gentlemen wear the inevitable embroidered bodice, while some cowboys cross the street (partially paved to maintain the dust effect) with the classic swaying gait under their stetsons, the typical hats . Tombstone's motto is the town too tought to die (the country too hard to die). In fact, after centuries of history, it still opens up before our eyes and those of all visitors who appreciate it for its history, culture and architecture.

Here they are proud to remember that this is the most authentic western city left in the United States, along whose streets legends such as Virgil Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday made history 130 years ago, protagonists of a famous event: the shooting that took place. on October 26, 1881, which saw them confronting bandits of the caliber of Ike Clanton and the Mc Laury brothers.

This city episode is remembered as gunfight at the OK Corral took place along Fremont street where at that time, near the rear entrance of the OKCorral, there was the horse shelter. The building still exists and the entrance is located along the main street called Allen street. This area of ​​the historic district is now the tourist and commercial heart of Tombstone where you can also find other noteworthy buildings such as the town hall, the courthouse with the hanging gallows and various saloons.

Shopping and some places for refreshment

The gallows and the courthouse are preserved as museums. To the shoppers we recommend the store Desert Eagle Trading Post (411 E. Allen St.) while Cochise Traders (439 E. Allen St.) e J. L. Silver Company (425 E. Allen St.) are more specialized in gift items and jewelry. For vintage photos go to Can-can old time photos (4tn & Allen streets).

Motorcycle lovers will be happy to visit the Harley Davidson shop at 403 E. Allen St. There is no shortage of dining options either. Most famous saloon of the town is the Crystal Palace (501 E. Allen St.). Here you can enjoy sandwiches, salads and the inevitable steak, and if you have to wait to be called to the table, stop by the bar for a drink. For a more exotic touch we recommend the coffee margherita (131 South 5th street) where you can enjoy Mexican cuisine with tacos, burritos and quesadillas, all in an evocative setting with live music on Fridays and Saturdays. [UPDATE: the venue is permanently closed in 2021].

Shows, museums and tours

Tombstone shouldn't be missed O.K.Corral Gunfight Reenactment (the re-enactment of the aforementioned shooting) at 326 E. Allen St. with the possibility to choose between three times: at 11, 13 and 15. In the same complex is theHistorama Theater inside which you can learn the history of Tombstone from the times of Geronimo's Apaches to modern times and the price of which is included in that of the ticket for the OKCorral attraction. In the same area there are also five museums open from 9am to 17pm. The Tombstone Epitaph (11 S. 5th Street) is the museum of Arizona's oldest newspaper that is still published today. Here you can find the article about the famous shooting and you can see how the newspaper was printed in those days.

Those interested in memorabilia related to the world of wild west gunfighters should visit the museum Gunfighter hall of fame (4th Toughnut St.). Among the exhibits are some that the museum owner bought from John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.

Tombstone 1878 underground tours (501 Toughnut street) is a journey back in time to a mine purchased in 1878 and started up the following year. Day tours offer visitors the opportunity to see a real silver mine inside. On this adventure you go down more than thirty meters into the Goodenough mine and observe the equipment that miners were equipped with to extract silver more than a century ago. The 45-minute tour also includes an explanation of the mining process, the history of the mine, and a circular walking trail of just under 2 kilometers.

Those who still have time available can go to Old Tombstone western theme park (339 S. 4th street). In an 1880s set, cowboys put on an electrifying show full of thrills, thrills, laughter, stunts and of course, gunfights! There is also a shooting range and mini golf.

Tombstone can be appreciated in various ways; from the classic walk along the city streets, to historical tours in stagecoach or horse-drawn carriages but for the more adventurous there are tours that tell legends and ghost stories. Then there is a famous event, called Helldorado days, which is held every year on the third weekend of October to commemorate the date of the OKCorral. To entertain the spectators there are re-enactments of firefights, street performances and parties for the whole family. The impressive annual Helldorado parade takes place on Sundays at 11am.

Two curiosities about Tombstone

The first is that here, imported from Scotland in 1885, grows the largest rose bush in the world, impressive for its size: 743 square meters. The second concerns the meaning of the name Tombstone, which means tombstone, which is well associated with the consequences of the various shootings. Given its notoriety and its evident western style, some films have been shot here. We mention a couple; 1957 "Gunfight at the OK Corral" with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas and 1993 "Tombstone" with Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer. Even the world of music has dedicated a song to her with the melody of Bob Dylan entitled "Tombstone blues".

Where to sleep in Tombstone?

Despite the small size of the town, there are still possibilities to sleep in the village. T. Miller Tombstone Mercantile & hotel (530 E. Allen St.) as well as 4 lovely deluxe rooms offers a small restaurant and even a shop. For a grand hotel one mile from the center of the historic district, book at the Tombstone Grand hotel (580 W. Randolph way) with its spectacular desert views and scenic sunsets. The rooms are equipped with modern amenities. It is an ideal location for weddings.

A ranch cannot be missing; three miles from the town we recommend you to stay overnight at Tombstone Monument ranch (895 West Monument road) to feel fully immersed in the epic of the far west, with its typical buildings, themed rooms, the saloon, the rides, the lasso and shooting range, evening entertainment and its great extension in the heart of Cochise County.

All accommodations available in Tombstone

Nearby airports

This area is connected to the Tucson and Phoenix airports. The closest is Tucson, about 1 hours from Tombstone via I-10 west and AZ-80 west, while about two and a half hours from Tombstone via I-10 west. Welcome to Arizona! Fascinating land of enchanting natural spectacles, history, native Indians and pretty towns. This is just a little taste. Turn and discover every corner of the state. Don't forget to visit its most famous jewel, the Grand Canyon; it's not for nothing that Arizona is called the Grand Canyon state.

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