Cave Creek Frontier Town photo

Visit the Wild West

Cave Creek Frontier Town photoIf you’re interested in visiting some of the iconic Old West sites, there are definitely some places worth paying a visit in Arizona. For example, a kid-friendly attraction, Rawhide is a fun destination. This theme park is styled after a real Wild West frontier town, complete with a general store, a saloon, a blacksmith, and a photo emporium. There are also attractions such as a petting zoo, hay rides, gold panning, a shooting gallery and live-action stunt shows. While there is no charge to enter Rawhide, there is a price per attraction (or you can buy an all-inclusive wristband). Rawhide closes for the summer, but is now open during the fall, winter and spring seasons.

A few hours south of the Valley of the Sun is the town of Tombstone. Known as “the town too tough to die”, this historical town is centered around the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park. This two-story museum houses several historical documents and memorabilia which describe the O.K. Corral gunfight between Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp and the cowboy fugitives. The museum also is home to a reproduction of the sheriff’s office, courtroom and gallows. Also in Tombstone are the Bird Cage Theatre and the Boothill Cemetery (with its humorous headstones). Every second, fourth and fifth Sunday of the month, the Tombstone Vigilantes re-enact gunfights on Allen Street, and on the fourth Saturday of the month, shops stay open late for Tombstone at Twilight. Consider also stopping at Old Tucson Studios on your way back home. This 320-acre Western town/movie set and theme park recreates the Wild West as seen in more than 300 TV shows and movies, including 3 John Wayne westerns. You’ll have your choice of performances and stunt shows, you can pan for gold, take a trail ride around the property or watch living-history presentations. Old Tucson Studios is open only on the weekends from October 1 through September 5 (closing for the month of September).

If you’re interested in more natural views of the Wild West, check out Monument Valley, located on the Arizona-Utah border. Monument Valley, located on the Navajo reservation, features scenes of breathtaking natural beauty that will be recognizable to anyone who has watched a Western movie. Check out Goulding’s Lodge & Trading Post, which has a free (donations accepted) museum featuring movie stills, call sheets, movie posters and other memorabilia, as well as a detailed map featuring specific movie locations around Monument Valley.  You can also hire a Navajo guide for a personal tour, who will share the stories and legends behind each rock formation. For more history about mining in Arizona, head to Goldfield Ghost Town, located in Apache Junction at the base of the Superstition Mountains. You can take a 25-minute tour of a mine shaft, and also tour the town with its museum, bordello, a church, livery stables as well as a reptile exhibit. Other activities include a zip line, a shooting gallery, panning for gold, riding a train and horseback rides. Gunfights are held on Saturdays and Sundays. Finally, the Yuma Territorial Prison is located in a State Historical Park, and is home to a museum which details what life was like for those incarcerated at the turn of the 20th century. The first prisoners in 1876 were the ones who built the cells in which they were imprisoned. You can visit the former mess hall and walk around inside of the original cell block.