Bisbee, AZ

Take a Western Road Trip to Artsy Bisbee, Arizona

Rene Cizio

Bisbee, Arizona is near Tombstone, but most people never visit. That's unfortunate because it is artier, less touristy, and it has a big open pit as a claim to fame, plus, a neighboring town that is a real ghost town.

Most people have heard of Tombstone, Arizona. The famous ghost town where the shootout at the O.K. Corral happened. But not everyone knows there's another, maybe better ghost town just 30 miles further down the road hidden in the mountains called Bisbee.
Rene Cizio

Bisbee, Arizona and the neighboring smaller town of Lowell are two charming and somewhat strange (at least in the case of Lowell) little mountain towns. The towns, like many western places in the remote mountains, were built around mining operations that produced minerals, including gold, copper, silver and zinc. Because of mining, Bisbee and Lowell, were quickly built on the hillsides. From a distance, they look like little German villages nestled into the mountains. Today, the mining is gone, but the towns remain.

What's in the Small Town

I think it's better because it is more artistic, less touristy, and people still live there authentically, not for show, and run small businesses. Bisbee still has its original bustling main street with many small independent shops and restaurants selling arts, crafts and other fun stuff like stones, scones and clothes. None of it is commercial. You won’t even find a Starbucks, but you will find a locally roasted brew that's rather good.

I spent an enjoyable afternoon walking around the town, going in and out of storefronts and stopping for lunch at one of a few cafes and coffee shops. There’s a lot of history in the town and historical markers let you know what you’re seeing. What I liked best were the many little shops with unique arts and objects you won’t find anywhere else, often staffed by one proprietor/owner. But the most photographed part of the town is the pit.

Lavender Pit Mine

The “Lavender Pit” sits between Bisbee and the next furthest town, Lowell. The Lavender pit is a massive open pit mine that is now a big hole in the ground. Water that pools at the bottom is dark red, and people think it’s pretty. I think it’s fearsome. Either way, it’s an attraction, like the Grand Canyon, but less grand. Still, you might want to stand at the top and look down. It’s called the Lavender Pit, not for the color, but for a person who oversaw the operations there – as noted on a sign nearby.
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Beyond the pit is Lowell. Lowell, like Bisbee was once a bustling place, but now less so. There is still some housing and a few businesses, but the main street has become a ghostly ghost town. When the city folk left main street, they abandoned all the shops and vehicles. As you drive or walk down the road you’ll see old businesses, vehicles and signs from the 60s or older.
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It looks like everyone got up and walked away one day in the 1960s and never returned. Even the cars parked on the vacant street are old. You can tell they’ve been there for a while because the grass is starting to grow around their tires.

So, if you're going to Tombstone - or even skipping it because it's a tourist trap - you still might want to check out Bisbee and Lowell.

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Solo nomad writing about travel and experiences

Chicago, IL

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