Tombstone, Arizona

Photo via Flickr

Where in the West Should I Go? • 52 Places to Visit in 2022

The Wild West lives in Tombstone. Its legendary characters and famous folklore past comes alive daily in this dusty Arizona town 34 road miles from the Mexican border. It’s as close to 1880s America as you can get in the 21st century. 

The town has restored and preserved many of the original buildings along Allen Street. Here, a covered boardwalk of museums, restaurants and stores have replaced saloons and brothels, but you’ll still find actors in period costume walking the streets or riding horseback. And it’s not unusual for staged gunfights to erupt. 

The flash in the pan boomtown saw its heyday after silver was discovered in 1877. It grew by the thousands attracted prospectors, mine workers, gunfighters, women and lawmen. This led to conflicts. None bigger than the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881. The showdown, which is renanacted daily, saw Doc Holiday and the Earps (Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan) gun down Billy Clanton and brothers Tom and Frank McLaury.

The men were buried with many of the town’s other outlaws in the small Boothill Graveyard. Roughly 250 folks, many unknown, lay in a sandy plot under rockpiles with wooden markers and epitaphs that read “Murdered,” “Hanged” and “Legally Hanged.” 

Many believe that some of those buried on Boothill still roam the haunts they died in, such as the Bird Cage Theatre. Built in 1881, it was run nonstop as a dance hall, saloon and brothel for eight years, collecting 140 bullets in its walls and ceiling. Ghosts of prostitutes and men in cowboy hats have been reported and some say they’ve heard laughter and music coming from the building at night, perhaps proof that Tombstone never died.