Take your kids on an adventure out west–where cowboys and gunslingers ruled! Check out this guide to touring Tombstone, Arizona.
by Heather Raulerson | Heather is a freelance writer and photographer from Detroit, and the owner of Raulersongirlstravel, a travel website sharing her adventures and photographs from around the world. She loves SLOW travel, getting to know the local culture, and always exploring with her camera. Follow Heather on Instagram @raulersongirlstravel.
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Pack up the family and head out west to Tombstone, Arizona, where gunslingers walk the streets, ladies of the night beckon from the saloon doors, and ghosts roam freely.
This small Sonoran desert town doesn’t seem like a likely family vacation. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Tombstone is truly a family-friendly destination where you can witness the historic gunfight at the OK Corral, walk down the gravel main street next to horse-driven stagecoaches, and experience what it was like to live in the old west in “the town too tough to die.”
Ed Schieffelin was a prospector who braved the hot, arid desert sun and dealings with Apache Indians, to search for silver. Ed was continually warned that his search was pointless and the only thing he would find was his tombstone. He proved all the doubters wrong and struck it rich with silver. Tombstone became a booming mining town after discovering silver and gold in 1877. Most mining towns become deserted ghost towns when the mines dry out. However, Tombstone continued to reinvent itself for years, preserving its early history as a film location for westerns and, most recently, a tourist destination. Here are all the fun-filled Tombstone activities for your family on your next wild west vacation.
Hop on the Tombstone Trolley Tour
Taking a tour is one of the first things I love to do when traveling to a new destination, and Tombstone has numerous options from which you can choose. There are walking tours, mine tours, ghost tours, and my favorite, the Tombstone Trolley Tour.
This tour is fabulous for a family that wants to get out of the beating sun in the afternoon, sit, relax, and hear all about Tombstone’s wild west history. The trolley will take you around town and to the outskirts to see Wyatt Earp’s and Morgan’s homes, and even Boothill Grave Yard. Your trolley ticket can get you discounts for other activities, like the OK Corral.
Watch a gunfight at the OK Corral
The adventure begins before the first shot is taken. Walk down Main Street, and you can interact with Doc Holliday, Wyatt, Morgan, and Virgil Earp as they drum up spectators to watch their re-enactments later that day. Inside the Corrall, you can explore the Cowboy’s Bunkhouse, C.S. Fly’s Photo Studio, and the Fly’s Boarding House, where Big Nose Kate witnessed the entire gunfight from her window. The gunfight itself is highly entertaining–be forewarned, though, there are loud noises. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen due to limited shade.
Take a Stagecoach Ride
Experience the wild west by hopping into a stagecoach driven by two horses around Tombstone. Leaning out the windows and looking at the historic buildings while the horses clip-clop down the gravel streets is something that every kid will be smiling about for hours. You can pick up the stagecoach in front of the OK Corral.
Experience being jailed at the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park
This is an unusual spot, but one you definitely have to explore. Visit the courthouse and experience being jailed. Then go see the gallows, browse the Tombstone’s artifacts and memorabilia in the museum, and read all about the town’s notorious citizens.
Wander among the ghosts at the Birdcage Theater
This is reportedly one of the most haunted buildings in Tombstone. After buying your ticket, you can wander through the main area, looking up to the cribs where patrons used to watch the nightly entertainment on stage. Then you can walk up and behind the stage before descending below. Look out for ghosts. They might show up at any time within the theater.
See how Newspapers were printed at the Tombstone Epitaph
From 1891 to 1974, Arizona’s oldest continuously published newspaper was created here. You can walk around the museum and see newspapers about significant events in Tombstone, including the gunfight at the OK Corral. This is also where to pick up your copy of the 1881 newspaper describing the gunfight.
Have some fun at the Old Tombstone Western Town
Off the main street toward the mountains, you’ll find a smaller old west town with quite a lot for families to enjoy. This mini town has the longest-running professional gunfight show, shooting gallery, and cantina & restaurant. You can play mini-golf with the kiddos, get their picture taken in jail, and even pan for gold. You could easily spend some time exploring this Instagram-worthy old west town.
See the first Silver Strike on the Good Enough Mine Tour
The Good Enough Mine is where Arizona’s first huge silver strike happened. You will see where the miners worked and what silver ore looks like on the 45-minute walking tour. It will also take you 100ft below the ground, where you can see a part of the 300 miles of mine tunnels below Tombstone.
Walk under the World’s Largest Rose Tree at the Rose Tree Museum
This is a little out of the ordinary for Tombstone, but this museum is dedicated to one of the town’s pioneer families. A Scottish Tombstone bride planted it in 1885, and what started as a small rose bush, has grown over 8,000 sq. ft. If you visit in April, you will be able to see over a million white blossoms on this spectacular rose tree.
Pay your respects in the Boothill Graveyard
Many of Tombstone’s earliest pioneers are laid to rest in this beautifully laid-out cemetery. Boot Hill graveyard gets its name because many of these graves were filled with people who died suddenly or violently with their boots on. Some of the most famous residents to visit are Billy Clanton, Tom, and Frank McLaury from the OK Corral gunfight battle. Make sure to pick up a map to find unique and fascinating residents.
Wet your Whistle or Grab Some Grub
Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, or what was the original Grand Hotel, was one of the first structures erected in Tombstone. This luxury three-story hotel had all the infamous Tombstone guests, such as the Earp brothers, the Clanton Gang, and the McLaury brothers.
The second floor was known as the prestigious Tombstone Club, where the Cowboys hung out smoking cigars, and drinking the finest liquor. After the fire of 1882, it was rebuilt like many other buildings in Tombstone. Today it holds Big Nose Kate’s Saloon. You can still see charred wood beams and adobe walls throughout the saloon, while eating great food and enjoying the western vibe. Check out the basement gift shop, where you can still see the original tunnel to the mine shaft.
The Crystal Palace is one of Tombstone’s earlier saloons. The upstairs held offices for U.S. Deputy Marshal Virgil Earp, and after the devastating Tombstone fire of 1882, the rebuilt saloon held a fountain and a goldfish pond in the center of the saloon. Today, it has one of the largest mahogany wood bars and still offers beer and beef, just like in the old days.
Step into Doc Holliday’s Saloon to see where the 1880s morgue used to be. Today it is where the locals come and get a Whiskey, play Texas Hold’Em, and sing Karaoke.
Tombstone has so much to offer your family that you might need to stay a couple of days to see it all. Walking around the town and seeing the people dressed in full western wear from the 1880s, will feel like you stepped back into time. With gunslingers, gunfights, saloons, ghosts, stagecoaches, and so much more, Tombstone makes a wonderful family destination on your road trip out west.