11 Things to Do in Tombstone, AZ

Top Destinations Mar 18, 2024

Tombstone, Arizona, often heralded as "The Town Too Tough to Die," holds a legendary place in the American Wild West. Born from the silver mining boom of the late 19th century, this town has withstood the ebbs and flows of time, preserving a rich tapestry of history, heroism, and, of course, hauntings. With its infamous gunfights, legendary figures like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, and tales that seem to leap straight from the pages of a history book, Tombstone offers a unique glimpse into an era that shaped the American frontier. So the $100 question is, is Tombstone Arizona worth visiting?

Exploring Tombstone is like stepping onto the set of a Western movie, with its well-preserved buildings, dusty streets, and the echoes of cowboy boots ambling along wooden boardwalks. For those drawn to the allure of the Old West, the town offers a plethora of activities, attractions, and adventures, each telling a story of its tumultuous past and indomitable spirit. From the gripping reenactments of the O.K. Corral gunfight to the eerie silence of Boothill Graveyard, Tombstone invites visitors to immerse themselves in the living history that still thrives in its streets and structures.

Source: Tombstone Chamber

For the curious traveler, Tombstone is not just a destination; it's an experience. Whether you're drawn by the tales of lawmen and outlaws, the promise of ghostly encounters, or simply the desire to witness the enduring legacy of the American West, Tombstone does not disappoint. This guide aims to uncover the myriad things to do in Tombstone, Arizona, from its most famous attractions to hidden gems known only to locals. We'll explore the haunts of the town's most notorious characters, delve into the depths of its rich mining heritage, and even uncover the best spots to enjoy authentic Western cuisine. Along the way, we'll discover things to do in Tombstone AZ for free and weekend adventures that promise to enrich your visit.

So saddle up and prepare for a journey through time, as we explore the best things to do in Tombstone, Arizona. Whether you're here for a day, a weekend, or longer, you're sure to find that Tombstone's charm is as enduring as its storied past. Let's dive into the heart of the Wild West and discover the adventures that await in the town too tough to die.

1. Discover the Legendary O.K. Corral: A Journey into Tombstone's Heart

In the heart of Tombstone, Arizona, lies a landmark etched in the annals of American history: the O.K. Corral. This site, more than any other, is one of the Tombstone Arizona points of interest as it captures the imagination of those who wish to step back into a time when lawmen and outlaws faced off in the dusty streets of the Wild West. Visiting the O.K. Corral is not just about exploring a physical location; it's an immersive dive into the events that shaped the mythos of the American frontier.

The O.K. Corral's fame primarily stems from the infamous gunfight that occurred on October 26, 1881. This brief yet pivotal shootout involved legendary figures such as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Clanton-McLaury gang. Lasting only 30 seconds, it left an indelible mark on Tombstone and the wider narrative of the Wild West. Today, visitors are invited to witness this moment in history, brought to life through daily reenactments that showcase both the tension and the bravery of those involved. If you are thinking of a Tombstone vacation, you should visit here too.

Source: The History Channel

Walking through the O.K. Corral feels like traversing a boundary between eras. Every corner, every exhibit, speaks of the tumultuous times when Tombstone was a booming mining town, teeming with those seeking fortune and fame. The corral itself, now a meticulously preserved site, offers an array of experiences designed to educate and entertain. From historical tours that detail the events leading up to the gunfight to encounters with actors portraying the very figures who walked these grounds, the O.K. Corral serves as a bridge to the past.

2. Exploring the Bird Cage Theatre: A Portal to Tombstone's Theatrical Past

Nestled within the historic streets of Tombstone, Arizona, the Bird Cage Theatre stands as a captivating testament to the vibrant cultural life of the Wild West. This iconic establishment, once a hub of entertainment and notorious activity, now serves as a museum, inviting visitors to explore its rich history and the many stories that echo through its halls.

Opened in 1881, the Bird Cage Theatre quickly became known for its opulent entertainment, offering a mix of theater, gambling, and saloon services. It was named for its birdcage-style balcony, where ladies of the evening plied their trade, overlooking the main floor's gambling tables and stage. The theatre's reputation was as wild and untamed as the town of Tombstone itself, attracting a clientele that included miners, cowboys, and some of the era's most infamous figures.

Source: Wikipedia

Walking through the doors of the Bird Cage Theatre is like stepping into another era. The stage, still intact, whispers tales of the past, from high-stakes poker games that lasted days to performances that entertained the likes of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. It's here that visitors can sense the exhilaration and desperation that once permeated the air, offering a glimpse into the lives of those who sought fortune and fame in the silver mines and beyond.

Today, the Bird Cage Theatre functions as a museum, housing an incredible array of artifacts that span the spectrum of Tombstone's history. Original costumes, personal belongings of the performers, and gambling paraphernalia are displayed with care, each piece telling a story of hope, ambition, and sometimes, infamy. The theatre's original bar, poker table, and bullet-riddled walls serve as silent witnesses to the tumultuous events that unfolded within its confines.

3. Boothill Graveyard: A Solemn Testament to Tombstone's Turbulent Past

In the shadow of the bustling life and legendary tales of Tombstone, Arizona, lies Boothill Graveyard, a somber reminder of the harsh realities of frontier life. This historic cemetery, resting on the edge of town, serves as the final resting place for many of Tombstone's early residents, whose lives tell the story of the Wild West in its rawest form.

Boothill Graveyard, established in 1878, became the burial ground for those who met their end—often abruptly and violently—in this tumultuous town. Named for the fact that many of its occupants "died with their boots on," the graveyard is a mosaic of Tombstone's diverse populace, from outlaws to miners, and from lawmen to innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire of a lawless era.

Source: Wikipedia

Walking among the weathered tombstones, visitors are greeted with epitaphs that range from poignant to grimly humorous, each telling a unique story. Notable graves include those of the McLaurys and Billy Clanton, who fell during the infamous O.K. Corral gunfight, their final resting places a stark reminder of the conflict that has defined Tombstone's place in history. Other markers bear names less known but equally evocative of the era's hardships, such as migrants seeking fortune, women of ill repute, and victims of the many diseases that plagued the mining town.

The graveyard offers more than just a historical overview; it provides a space for reflection on the fragility of life in a time when lawlessness reigned. The simple, often handmade markers contrast with the dramatic stories they represent, offering a poignant insight into the daily struggles and fleeting triumphs of those who called Tombstone home. It's a place where history is felt rather than simply learned, inviting visitors to contemplate the many narratives that wove together to form the fabric of the Wild West.

4. Allen Street: The Vibrant Pulse of Historic Tombstone

In the heart of Tombstone, Arizona, Allen Street stands as a living museum, a vibrant thoroughfare that captures the spirit and history of the Old West. This historic street, once the bustling epicenter of a thriving mining town, now invites visitors to step back in time and experience the legacy of Tombstone firsthand.

As you walk down Allen Street, each step takes you further back into the 19th century, with its wooden sidewalks, period architecture, and the unmistakable aura of an era gone by. The street is lined with buildings that have stood the test of time, each with its own story to tell, from saloons that once echoed with the sounds of revelry and conflict, to shops and businesses that catered to the diverse needs of Tombstone's inhabitants.

Source: Tombstone Chamber of Commerce

Allen Street was the commercial and social hub of Tombstone, a place where miners, cowboys, and entrepreneurs converged. Today, it remains the centerpiece of the Tombstone experience, bustling with activity as tourists explore its attractions. Saloons like the Crystal Palace and the Bird Cage Theatre offer glimpses into the past, while modern-day shops and eateries provide a contemporary twist on the Old West experience.

One of the most captivating aspects of Allen Street is its commitment to preserving and celebrating the history of Tombstone. Historical reenactments bring the street to life, with actors in period costume recreating famous gunfights and scenes from daily life, offering visitors an immersive glimpse into the past. These performances are not just entertainment; they are educational, providing insights into the complexities of frontier life.

5. Unveiling the Past at Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park

In the heart of the legendary city of Tombstone, Arizona, the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park stands as a monument to the rule of law in the Wild West. This majestic two-story building, constructed in 1882, now serves as a museum dedicated to preserving the legal and cultural heritage of Tombstone, offering visitors a unique glimpse into the life and times of this iconic town.

The Tombstone Courthouse, with its distinctive Victorian architectural style, was once the center of legal affairs for the entire Cochise County. Within its walls, justice was served in a region known for its lawlessness and tumult. The courthouse saw the resolution of disputes ranging from mining claims to criminal offenses, playing a pivotal role in the establishment of order in the burgeoning mining community.

Source: Arizona State Park

Today, the courthouse has been meticulously restored and transformed into a museum that chronicles the history of Tombstone and its surroundings. Each room and exhibit tells a part of the story, from the silver mining boom that gave birth to the town to the infamous gunfights that cemented its place in American folklore. Visitors can explore artifacts, photographs, and documents that provide insight into the lives of Tombstone's residents, from miners and merchants to lawmen and outlaws.

Nestled on the outskirts of the legendary town of Tombstone, Arizona, the Goodenough Mine stands as a testament to the silver rush that once swept through the American West. It's here, beneath the rugged landscape, that miners toiled in pursuit of the precious ore that promised wealth and transformed Tombstone into a thriving hub of industry and intrigue. Today, the Goodenough Mine Tour offers a unique opportunity to step back in time and explore the underground world that was pivotal to Tombstone's rise and enduring legacy.

The Goodenough Mine, established in the early 1880s, quickly became one of Tombstone's most productive silver mines, contributing significantly to the town's prosperity. The mine tour begins with a journey into the earth, where the cool, dimly lit passages reveal the harsh realities faced by miners over a century ago. Visitors are guided through the network of tunnels, experiencing the conditions under which miners worked and learning about the techniques and tools used to extract silver ore from the hard rock.

6. Echoes of the Past: Experiencing a Gunfight in Helldorado Town

In the heart of Tombstone, Arizona, amidst the backdrop of historic buildings and desert landscapes, lies Helldorado Town, a place where the Old West is not just remembered but vividly brought to life. One of the most thrilling experiences for visitors to this iconic town is witnessing a gunfight reenactment, a spectacle that captures the essence of Tombstone's wild and tumultuous history.

Helldorado Town is designed to transport visitors back to the 1880s, a time when Tombstone was a bustling silver mining community, infamous for its lawlessness and legendary gunfights. The town's meticulously recreated buildings and streets set the stage for a journey into the past, where the line between history and entertainment blurs, creating an immersive experience unlike any other.

Source: Flickr

The highlight of a visit to Helldorado Town is undoubtedly the gunfight reenactment. These performances are not mere theatrical displays; they are carefully choreographed events that strive for historical accuracy, from the authentic costumes to the period-correct firearms. The actors, embodying the famous (and infamous) characters of Tombstone's past, engage in dramatic showdowns that recreate the tension, strategies, and outcomes of the gunfights that once echoed through the streets of Tombstone.

While the gunfights provide thrilling entertainment, they also offer a deeper understanding of the conflicts that shaped Tombstone. Through engaging narratives and detailed backstories, visitors gain insights into the lives of the figures involved, from lawmen like Wyatt Earp to outlaws such as the Clanton gang. These reenactments serve as a living history lesson, illuminating the complexities of frontier justice and the moral ambiguities of the Wild West.

7. Celebrating Tradition: Tombstone's Local Events and Festivals

Tombstone, Arizona, renowned for its storied past and enduring legacy as "The Town Too Tough to Die," is not only a monument to the Wild West but also a vibrant community that celebrates its history and culture through a myriad of events and festivals. These gatherings are not merely Tombstone tourist attractions; they are heartfelt celebrations of Tombstone's heritage, bringing together locals and visitors in a shared experience of entertainment, education, and commemoration.

The Heartbeat of Tombstone

Throughout the year, Tombstone's calendar is dotted with events and festivals that pay homage to various facets of its rich history. From the raucous revelry of Helldorado Days to the reflective remembrance of the Vigilante Days, each event is a thread in the tapestry that tells the story of this iconic town.

Helldorado Days

Perhaps the most famous of these events is Helldorado Days, a festival that encapsulates the spirit of the Wild West with a blend of historical reenactments, parades, and a wide array of Western-themed activities. Established to commemorate the founding of Tombstone, Helldorado Days invites participants to step back in time and experience the excitement and challenges of frontier life. The streets come alive with the sound of music, the sight of period costumes, and the thrill of live performances that celebrate the town's indomitable spirit.

Wyatt Earp Days

Honoring one of Tombstone's most legendary figures, Wyatt Earp Days is a tribute to the lawman and his contemporaries who played a pivotal role in the town's history. The event features gunfight reenactments, stagecoach rides, and a host of tombstone activities that highlight the courage, determination, and complexity of the people who sought justice in a lawless land. It's an opportunity to delve deeper into the lives of those who shaped Tombstone's legacy.

The Tombstone Rose Festival

The Tombstone Rose Festival celebrates a different aspect of the town's heritage, focusing on the natural beauty and resilience of the desert. Centered around the blooming of the world's largest rosebush, planted in the late 1800s, the festival is a testament to the community's ability to thrive in the harsh conditions of the Arizona desert. The event features garden tours, floral displays, and activities that reflect the town's connection to its natural environment.

Source: This is Tucson

Vigilante Days

Vigilante Days takes visitors on a journey into the complex moral landscape of Tombstone's past, exploring the thin line between law and lawlessness. This event commemorates the efforts of those who took it upon themselves to establish order in a chaotic world. Through historical demonstrations, storytelling, and interactive exhibits, Vigilante Days offers a nuanced look at the challenges of governance and justice on the frontier.

8. Exploring the Wild: Hiking Adventures Around Tombstone, AZ

Beyond the historic streets and legendary tales of Tombstone, Arizona, lies a landscape teeming with natural beauty and untamed wilderness. The rugged terrain that once challenged pioneers and outlaws now invites modern adventurers to explore its vast expanses. Hiking in the surrounding wilderness of Tombstone offers a unique opportunity to connect with the natural world and discover the serene beauty that contrasts sharply with the town's tumultuous history.

The area around Tombstone is part of the larger Sonoran Desert, known for its distinctive flora and fauna, dramatic rock formations, and wide-open skies. This environment provides a stunning backdrop for a variety of hiking trails that cater to all skill levels, from leisurely walks to challenging treks that ascend into the nearby mountains.

One of the most popular hiking destinations is the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, which lies just a short drive from Tombstone and is one of the most popular Tombstone AZ attractions. Here, the San Pedro River winds its way through a lush riparian corridor, a stark contrast to the surrounding desert landscape. Trails along the river offer the chance to spot a wide array of birdlife, making it a favorite spot for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Source:Tripadvisor

For those seeking more rugged adventures, the Dragoon Mountains to the east of Tombstone offer challenging hikes with rewarding views. The Coronado National Forest encompasses these mountains, providing trails that lead to breathtaking overlooks, secluded canyons, and historic sites, including the legendary Cochise Stronghold, once the refuge of the Apache chief Cochise and his warriors.

Hiking in the Tombstone area is not just about the physical journey; it's an immersion into the unique ecosystem of the Sonoran Desert. The trails reveal a landscape dotted with saguaro cacti, mesquite trees, and a variety of desert wildlife. The beauty of a desert sunset or the quiet majesty of the mountains provides a moment of reflection and connection to the natural world.

9. The Voice of the Frontier: Exploring the Tombstone Epitaph

In the heart of Tombstone, Arizona, amidst tales of gunfights and legends of the Wild West, stands a testament to the power of the written word: the Tombstone Epitaph. Established in 1880, this historic newspaper has chronicled the triumphs, tragedies, and everyday life of Tombstone, serving as both witness and narrator to the unfolding saga of this iconic town.

The Tombstone Epitaph was founded by John Clum, a man whose own story is interwoven with the fabric of the American West. Under his guidance, the Epitaph became known for its fearless reporting, covering everything from the infamous O.K. Corral gunfight to the daily happenings that defined frontier life. Today, the Epitaph continues to be published, making it one of the oldest continuously operated newspapers in Arizona.

Source: Tombstone Chamber of Commerce

Visiting the Tombstone Epitaph's original building is like stepping into a time capsule. The presses and typesetting equipment of yesteryear remain on display, offering a glimpse into the labor-intensive process of newspaper production in the 19th century. Each piece tells a story of dedication to the craft of journalism, even in the face of the challenges and dangers that came with reporting in a lawless land.

10. Beneath the Canopy of History: The Rose Tree Museum of Tombstone

Nestled within the storied landscape of Tombstone, Arizona, the Rose Tree Museum is a sanctuary of beauty and history, home to the world's largest rosebush. This living monument, a testament to the resilience and elegance of nature, intertwines with the rich tapestry of Tombstone, offering visitors a serene counterpoint to tales of gunfights and silver mines.

The Lady Banksia rosebush, planted in 1885 by Mary Gee, a bride from Scotland, has grown to cover an astonishing 8,000 square feet of the museum's garden. Its sprawling canopy offers shade and beauty, creating a natural cathedral that blooms with white roses each spring. The sight of thousands of delicate flowers cascading over the trellis is a spectacle that draws visitors from around the world, eager to witness this botanical marvel.

Source: Tombstone Chamber of Commerce

The Rose Tree Museum, housed in the historic adobe building that once belonged to the Macia family, pioneers of Tombstone, goes beyond the story of the rose bush. Through a collection of artifacts, photographs, and personal memorabilia, the museum chronicles the life of Tombstone's early residents, offering insights into the daily challenges and triumphs of those who sought to make a home in the Wild West.

Exploring the Rose Tree Museum is like stepping back in time. Each room tells a part of Tombstone's story, from the mining boom that brought prospectors flocking to the Arizona desert, to the diverse cultures that mingled in this frontier town. The museum not only celebrates the beauty of the rosebush but also honors the spirit of community and perseverance that defined Tombstone.

The annual blooming of the rosebush is celebrated with the Rose Tree Festival, a tradition that encapsulates the joy and renewal of spring. The festival features music, crafts, and storytelling, inviting visitors to partake in a community event that highlights the importance of heritage and natural beauty. It's a time when the history of Tombstone and the legacy of the rosebush merge, creating a vibrant celebration of life.

11. A Taste of the Wild West: Sampling Authentic Western Cuisine in Tombstone

In the heart of the American Southwest, nestled among tales of outlaws and gunfights, Tombstone, Arizona, offers a culinary journey back in time. Sampling authentic Western cuisine in this legendary town is not just about eating; it's an immersive experience that connects diners with the rugged spirit and rich traditions of the Wild West.

Tombstone's culinary scene is a reflection of its storied past, blending influences from Native American, Mexican, and pioneer cuisines. This fusion creates a unique flavor profile that is hearty, rustic, and deeply satisfying. From savory stews and grilled meats to fresh tortillas and spicy chilis, the food of Tombstone is a testament to the town's resilience and diversity.

Dining in Tombstone is like stepping into history. Many of the town's restaurants and saloons are housed in buildings that date back to the silver mining boom of the 1880s. Places like Big Nose Kate's Saloon, named after the infamous companion of Doc Holliday, offer not only a taste of authentic Western cuisine but also a glimpse into the daily life of Tombstone's early residents.

Source: Big Nose Kate's Saloon

One of the must-try dishes in Tombstone is the classic chuckwagon meal, a staple of the cowboy diet. These simple, hearty meals typically feature beans, beef, biscuits, and coffee, cooked over an open fire. For a more contemporary take on Western cuisine, many Tombstone eateries offer dishes like mesquite-grilled steaks, green chili stew, and Sonoran-style enchiladas, each bursting with flavor and history.

What makes dining in Tombstone truly special is the sense of community and tradition that infuses every meal. Local chefs and restaurateurs take pride in their culinary heritage, often using recipes that have been passed down through generations. This commitment to authenticity ensures that every bite is a direct link to the past, offering diners a taste of the resilience, ingenuity, and spirit of the Old West.

Conclusion

In concluding our exploration of "Things to Do in Tombstone, AZ," it's clear that this iconic town offers a rich tapestry of experiences that transcend the usual tourist itinerary. Tombstone is not merely a relic of the Wild West preserved in the amber of history; it is a living, breathing community that invites visitors to step into a narrative that is as complex as it is captivating.

From the echoes of gunfire at the O.K. Corral to the serene beauty of the world's largest rosebush at the Rose Tree Museum, Tombstone provides a multifaceted journey through time. Each attraction, whether it be the haunting depths of the Goodenough Mine or the vibrant festivities of Helldorado Days, serves as a portal to the past, offering insights into the lives, struggles, and triumphs of those who carved a community out of the Arizona desert.

Source: The Faiolas

The enduring legacy of Tombstone is not just found in its historic sites and museums but also in the flavors of its cuisine, the tales of its residents, and the quiet moments of reflection in its natural surroundings. The town's ability to celebrate its heritage while welcoming the future is a testament to the resilience and spirit of its people.

As visitors wander the streets of Tombstone, they are invited to not only observe but to participate in the ongoing story of "The Town Too Tough to Die." It's a place where history is not just remembered; it's experienced. Each visit, conversation, and shared meal adds another layer to the rich mosaic of Tombstone's legacy.

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Emily Carter

With over 10 years of experience, Emily has extensive experience planning bespoke tours across the United States and Canada, specializing in eco-tourism and adventure travel.