Top 12 Things to do in Tombstone – Experience the Wild West

Tombstone Western Actors - Things to do in Tombstone

When people travel to Arizona on vacation, they head to the Grand Canyon or Antelope Canyon. However, the state has much more to explore, especially in the Southeast, offering visitors a way to experience how the Wild West used to be. Where lawmen like Wyatt Earp roamed the West and helped patrol towns such as Tombstone against outlaws and gunslingers. Here are some of the best things to do in Tombstone to experience the Wild West on your next vacation.

Tombstone Western Actors - Things to do in Tombstone
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Tombstone Mine Landscape

The first settler recognized in the area was Ed Schieffelin. In the late 1800s, he was a prospector wandering through these hills. His friends told him he was wasting his time and wouldn’t find anything but his Tombstone. Even with the danger of the Chiricahua Apaches in the area, Ed found silver and lots of it. In 1877, Tombstone was founded as word spread about Schieffelin’s silver strike, and prospectors, cowboys, and even homesteaders followed in the hopes of striking it big. Tombstone, named after Schieffelin’s silver mine, became one of the fastest-growing cities, growing so large that it was between San Francisco and St. Louis.

Tombstone Main Street

It was an exciting Wild West town with gunslingers, outlaws, ladies of the night, and a large population of Chinese mine workers. Tombstone was home to over 100 saloons, numerous eateries, a huge red-light district, newspapers, churches, schools, and one of the original Arizona community swimming pools, still used today. You can still see the mining landscape in the photo above that Tombstone was founded on showing the mounds left over from the years of mining for silver, gold, lead, and copper.

Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park

One of your stops while exploring Tombstone should be the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park. This museum has many interpretative exhibits on Tombstone’s history and the surrounding Cochise County. I recommend starting on the second floor, which has an interesting display of local memorabilia and a courtroom where people can get married today. The first floor has rooms showcasing entertainment in Tombstone, displays on the mining industry, a sheriff’s office, a detailed accounting of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and the gallows/jail is in the grassy courtyard.

The Gallows at Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park
Gunfight Reenactment at the OK Corral

One of the infamous and, I would say, controversial gunfights happened at the Tombstone’s O.K. Corral. Four cowboys (Billy & Ike Clanton and Frank & Tom McLaury) consistently interacted with four lawmen (Doc Holliday and Wyatt, Virgil, & Morgan Earp), causing disturbances and threatening Doc Holliday. The daily re-enactment lets you see what historians believe happened on that fateful day, October 26, 1881. Within 30 seconds, 30 shots were fired, and three of the cowboys were shot dead.

Big Nose Kate watching the gunfight at OK Corral

Ensure you get your timed ticket first and show up early, as they let you in 15 minutes prior. You can explore the grounds and see the blacksmith, stables, the Cribs of Tombstone, C.S. Fly’s Photo Studio (early photographs of Tombstone and the Apache Geronimo), and Fly’s Boarding House, where Big Nose Kate witnessed the gunfight through the window in Doc Holliday’s room. Be aware that very loud and sudden gun noises will go off; even knowing it would happen, I still jumped. This is by far one of the best things to do in Tombstone.

Your ticket gives you a free visit to the Epitaph Museum and Tombstone’s Historama.

Stagecoach in Tombstone

If you are looking for a neat way to see the town of Tombstone, go on a stagecoach ride. Riding over the dusty dirt roads with the clip-clop sounds of the horses will take you back in time. The driver will narrate Tombstone’s history as you pass by certain establishments and give you fun facts about Tombstone’s early residents. The 20-minute ride will be another highlight of your visit to Tombstone. You can schedule and pick up your ride on the main street.

Old Tombstone Western Theme Park

Old Tombstone Western Theme Park offers many tourist attractions. Gunfights are held daily at 11:30, 1, and 3 pm. There is a Cantina & restaurant, shooting gallery, gift shop, mini golf, and you can pan for gold. Bring your camera, as there are several places for selfies, fun photos, and great landscape views of Tombstone’s surrounding areas.

Old Tombstone Western Theme Park Putt Putt Golf
The Rose Tree Museum

This surprising museum off a side street is a must-see Tombstone attraction. Inside, you’ll find a Tombstone 1880’s museum and the world’s largest rose tree. Walk around the Rose Tree museum, and you’ll marvel at this family-run business since 1880, when the Macia family moved to Tombstone. You’ll see furniture the family brought by a wagon train and the Guinness Book of Records, the World’s Largest Rose Tree.

World's Largest Rose Tree

Tombstone’s Lady Banksia Rose originated in Scotland and was planted in 1885 as a gift from someone lodging in the mining boarding house. Mr. Macia devised the trellis system to help the tree’s growing branches get bigger yearly. The rose tree now covers over 8,000 sq ft and is covered in small white blooms during April.

Roses from the Tombstone Rose Tree

You can stay at the Rosetree Suites or pay the small museum admission to see the Rose Tree. There is an elevated platform to walk up to see the Rose Tree from above. The best viewing times are early to mid-April. I went in early May and missed the full bloom, but I could still see thousands of small dried blooms on the ground and in the tree.

Tombstone Trolley Tours

This 25-minute history tour gives you a great overview of Tombstone. It takes you past all the major establishments and even to Boothill Graveyard. I recommend taking this trolley tour early in your visit as it takes you past many buildings that are not on the main street. You can purchase your ticket at the trolley depot.

Wyatt Earp's House in Tombstone

The Earp brothers, Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan, swooped into Tombstone in 1879, hoping to find their fill of silver and gold. Each brother started to set down roots, building houses at the corner of Freemont and First Streets, and put in a claim for a mine together. Unfortunately, the Earp brothers never realized their dream due to the fallout of the O.K. Corral gunfight. Virgil was ambushed, and Morgan was murdered on the streets of Tombstone. Pushing Wyatt to leave Tombstone that following March in 1882.

Wyatt Earp Statue
Boothill Graveyard sign

I’ve always enjoyed walking through cemeteries, admiring the intricate gravestones, and reading the inscriptions. This cemetery must be one of the most unique ones I have visited in my travels. Some of the crosses state how they died, like “Rook Shot by a Chinaman” and “John Heath Taken from County Jail & Lynched by Bisbee Mob in Tombstone.” Make sure to pick up a map that details many of the graves in Boothill and shares the history of the end of their lives.

The old West is everywhere in Boothill Graveyard; you’ll see early Tombstone life’s good and bad. You will see outlaws buried near their victims, people dying of sicknesses that would be curable today, attacked by Indians or by fellow neighbors. You can spend an hour or so walking around this sacred ground where as many as 250 Tombstone residents, who had died suddenly or violently with their boots on, are buried.

Boothill Graveyard

The most famous graves are in the corner of the graveyard on a raised mound of stones. Here you will find the gravestones of Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury, and Frank McLaury. Surprisingly, as cowboy outlaws, these guys had considerable support in the Tombstone community. Even today, you will find coins and trinkets left on the stones for these three cowboys.

Gunslingers Graves from the OK Corral

If you have time, walk down to the Jewish Cemetery and Memorial. It is a short hike to a peaceful spot where you can sit, rest, and think about all that happened in Tombstone.

Bird Cage Theatre

The spookiest attraction on the list of things to do in Tombstone is to tour the Bird Cage Theatre. On the most recent trip through time, I was the only person walking through the theater. To say that I was a little spooked is an understatement. After paying your admission, you can enter the theater. But first, take some time to admire Tombstone’s only historic landmark in its original 1881 state.

Bird Cage Theatre Lobby

The Bird Cage Theatre was known as the wildest, wickedest night spot. In its nine years of operating (1881-1889), it never closed its doors 24 hours a day. There would be 16 gunfights within the building, leaving 140 bullet holes in the walls and ceilings. You can see six of them in the Fatima painting in the lobby. Also, check out the original Cherrywood Bar and the dumb waiter system that lifted drinks to the patrons upstairs.

The Gambling Casino and Dance Hall in the Bird Cage Theatre

Once you enter the gambling casino and dance hall, your head swivels, looking for apparitions. You walk onto the main floor, looking above to the red-velvet-curtained cribs where the ladies would entertain their guests. After walking the main floor, you walk through the backstage area where even more memorabilia is displayed, including Tombstone’s most valuable individual antique, The Black Moriah. This is the original Boothill hearse trimmed in 24K gold and sterling silver.

Downstairs is where the real action occurred: the wine cellar, the ladies’ dressing rooms, and the poker room. Did you know this is where Western history’s longest poker game happened? The house game lasted eight years, five months, and three days, and players joined with a $1,000 buy-in.

If you want to up the creepy factor, you can sign up for one of their ghost tours every night. Are you brave enough to be in the Bird Cage Theatre with the lights out?

Tombstone Epitaph

Much of Tombstone’s history was written and preserved in the Tombstone Epitaph Newspaper. It is now a museum that displays the tools of the trade, like printing presses and ink plates. Several newspapers covering the gunfight and subsequent trial are displayed, as well as articles and photos of John Clum’s adventures, the first editor of the Tombstone Epitaph. Plan to spend a little bit exploring and reading these historic papers.

You get a free copy of an 1881 reprint of the actual “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” with your O.K. Corral ticket.

The Good Enough Mine

The Good Enough Mine Tour is one of the coolest things to do in Tombstone, especially in the heat of the Arizona summer. The 45-minute tour takes you 100 feet below the surface in one of the most profitable Tombstone mines. Discovered by Ed Schieffelin in 1878, the Good Enough Mine was known as “The Million Dollar Stope.” The Good Enough Mine and all the others extracted thirty-nine million dollars of ore from 1877 to 1930.

Underground Mine Tour at the Good Enough Mine

The tour is entertaining and informative. Being that far down was a welcome respite from the heat. Things to know:

  • You have to wear a hard hat, as some areas you pass under are very low
  • There are a couple of times when the lights will go out completely, but you will be sitting at that time
  • The ground is uneven; wear comfortable shoes to walk over rocks
  • There are bugs and bats; you are underground
  • Not ideal if you are claustrophobic
Good Enough Mine
Crystal Palace

This is a great spot to dine in Tombstone. Crystal Palace was one of the early Tombstone’s first saloons, originally known at the Golden Eagle Brewing Company. After being rebuilt after the 1882 fire, the Crystal Palace Saloon was lavishly furnished with a full wood bar, fountain, and goldfish pond in the center of the room. Today, it is a popular saloon and restaurant. They have great burgers if you are looking for suggestions.

Longhorn Restaurant

The Longhorn Restaurant is one of the newer restaurants as of 1968. Originally, it housed the Huachuca Water Company and Meyers Clothing in 1881. As it was being constructed, this is where the would-be assassins hid while ambushing Virgil Earp as he left the Oriental Saloon. Some of the businesses this establishment held were the popular Bucket of Blood saloon, the Warnekros building, a tourist hotel, and the Owl Cafe and Tourist Hotel operated here from 1928 until 1942, when a fire destroyed the original building.

They have a great food selection, from burgers and ribs to Mexican food that the whole family can enjoy. The decor has Tombstone history on the walls and tables of the infamous gunfight, the Earps, and the cowboys.

Wyatt Earp's Oriental Saloon & Theater

The Oriental Saloon was one of the most elegant establishments in Tombstone. It had crystal chandeliers, an ornately carved bar in white and gilt, elegant sideboards, and fancy carpets. Unfortunately, it didn’t survive the 1881 Tombstone fire but squeaked by a subsequent fire in 1882. The Oriental Saloon, where Wyatt Earp was a part owner, had a notorious reputation due to gunfights. Billy Claiborne and Charlie Storms were shot dead on the front walk. Doc Holliday had a gunfight with Milt Joyce that left Joyce shot in the hand and another man in the foot. Milt Joyce had numerous contentious interactions with the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday until he left Tombstone in 1884.

Big Nose Kates Saloon

This was one of the first buildings built in Tombstone in 1880. The three-story Grand Hotel was luxurious, with arched entrances, oil paintings, an elegant dining room, Brussels carpets, and walnut and silk furnishings. The building held the Tombstone Club on the second floor, which became the Cowboys’ hangout. Again, another Tombstone building didn’t survive the 1882 Tombstone fire, leaving only the adobe walls standing. It was rebuilt but destroyed in a second fire in 1924. When rebuilt for the third time, Big Nose Kate’s Saloon kept the charred wood beams, arches, and adobe walls intact.

Inside Big Nose Kates Saloon
Doc Hollidays Saloon

This is another saloon for you to stop in to enjoy some adult beverages and pub food. It is a lively place on the weekends, something Doc Holliday would be happy to see.

Tombstone OK Cafe

The O.K. Cafe is across the corner from the city park and the O.K. Corral. It is a great family restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch. Dine early as they close by 2 pm.

Suppose you are interested in more Tombstone dining options. In that case, there is Puny John’s BBQ, T. Miller’s Ice Cream and Sandwiches, Chuckwagon Restaurant, Silver Strike Winery, Tombstone Brewing Company, and Four Deuces Saloon and Grill.

There are plenty of places to lay your head at when you want to visit Tombstone; you only have to decide if you want to stay in town. Cities close to Tombstone are Sierra Vista, Benson, and Bisbee, and further away is Tuscon. Check out the map below to pick your next visit to Tombstone.


The Tombstone Wild West Days are held the third weekend in March. This event is a celebration saluting the men and women in the Armed Forces. Visiting Tombstone during this event, you can watch street entertainment, a USO Canteen Dance, and a Parade on Saturday. All proceeds are donated to the Universal Services Organization (USO).

Watching the Donkey Dash is by far one of the funniest things to do in Tombstone. It is held on the first Saturday in April. When I got there, the race had already started, but I could see quite a lot of excitement. I saw donkeys running away from their handlers, handlers running to keep with their donkeys, and donkeys being donkeys. The funniest parts were watching at the finish line and seeing the handlers practically dragging their donkeys across the finish line cause they had just stopped right before. If you stick around at the end, you can even take photos with these lovable animals.

The Rose Tree Festival is held the second weekend in April celebrating the blooming of the World’s Largest Rose Tree. Think of this as a mini Rose Bowl event, with a Rose Queen crowned, pancake breakfast, variety and fashion shows, old-fashioned box lunch auction, Pet Parade, Mariachi and Folklorico performances, a Rose Parade, and so much more. This is a wonderful time to visit Tombstone and see the Roses in bloom.

Tombstone Helldorado Days is a huge three-day event and one of Tombstone, Arizona’s Oldest Celebrations, held over the third weekend in October. It includes gunfight re-enactments, street performances, fashion shows, and the World-Famous Helldorado Parade.

Heather in jail at the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park

When the mining industry shut down, most mining towns in the Southeast area of Arizona became ghost towns, but not Tombstone. Tombstone is a fabulous place to visit to experience the Wild West. Besides the O.K. Corral gunfight, you’ll see people walking up and down the dusty street decked out in Western Wear or Ladies of the Night attire. Bring your camera and have your phone ready to capture the unexpected in Tombstone, The Town Too Tough to Die.

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Further Reading

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  • Sonia 9June2024 at 5:50 PM Reply

    We enjoyed a visit to Tombstone. October was a great time to be there, not too crowded, and not too hot. The kids really enjoyed the Wild West reenactments.

    • Heather 9June2024 at 5:52 PM Reply

      I agree with traveling in October – one of the best times to travel the US if you can. I’m glad to hear you all had fun!

  • Sharyn McCullum 8June2024 at 11:25 PM Reply

    This is so cool. I love visiting places that have loads of history and you can step back in time. Definitely visiting Tombstone.

    • Heather 9June2024 at 4:18 PM Reply

      You won’t be disappointed, it is worth a visit!

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