Show your kids how the West was fun in Old Tucson. (Photo: Getty Images)
Your kids might need a bit of Netflix time to catch up on the classic Westerns you love, but Tucson offers plenty of real Old West attractions to fire up their imaginations. So, pack up the young’uns and giddy up to these five historic outposts to experience fun frontier days, so interactive they won’t miss the video games back at the homestead.
Watch an Infamous Gunfight
Head to the real O.K. Corral in Tombstone, about a 90-minute drive southeast from central Tucson. Best known for its daily reenactments of the notorious 1881 gunfight, you can watch the “lawmen” Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp, and Doc Holliday fight the “outlaws” Tom and Frank McLaury, and the Clantons. Discover the story behind the battle that took three lives in 30 seconds. Spend the rest of the afternoon visiting the town’s Old West museums and saloons, taking a ghost tour or riding a stagecoach.
Be a Miner for a Day
In Bisbee, delve into Queen Mine, one of the richest copper deposits in history. You’re given hard hats, yellow slickers and headlamps before hopping a train that takes you down into the now-inactive mine. If that’s a hit with the kids, head to the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, a Smithsonian Institute affiliate showing you what life was like for miners in Bisbee’s heyday, back when it was “The Queen of the Copper Camps.”
Ride the Desert on Horseback
Star in your family’s own Western with a horseback ride past towering saguaro cacti along a desert trail. Colossal Cave Mountain Park offers guided trail rides, a petting zoo and tours of the crystal-filled cave. If your kids are too young for horses, try the park’s leadline pony ride.
Time Travel at an Old West Theme Park
Walk in the footsteps of your favorite heroes of the classic Western. More than 300 movies and TV shows, including “Rio Bravo,” “Tombstone” and “Little House on the Prairie” were filmed in the dusty streets of Old Tucson. But there’s more to Old Tucson than a stage set: For thrills, try the Iron Door Haunted Mine and the Wild West Carousel. Shoot wax bullets from an actual Colt 45 revolver at Dead-Eye Dan’s Shooting Gallery. Witness gunfights in the streets, can-can dancing in a saloon and “living history” presentations by sheriffs and shopkeepers. In the general store, gently steer your kids away from the cap pistols and toward the much safer cowboy hats.
Chow Down on Cowboy Steak
Pinnacle Peak steakhouse and saloon is one of those Tucson attractions famed for its authentic Old West atmosphere. No ties are allowed at this checkered-tablecloth restaurant. Judging by the cut-off cravats hanging from the ceiling, many customers learned this the hard way.
The local hot spot specializing in mesquite-fired meat has “lil’ cowboy steaks” for the kids. The restaurant is located in Trail Dust Town, a Tucson amusement park, where your cowboys and cowgirls can watch the Wild West Stunt Show and check out pint-sized, Old West-themed rides.