Looking out to the Arizona desert, one might think that dust and cacti are all that make up this state. However, if you really look, you can stumble upon some pretty fun and unique adventures. From ghost towns to architectural experiments, Arizona has some pretty whacky adventures. Check out these odd destinations for distinctive and exciting experiences that will cost you less than $50 in gas round trip!
First of all, if you haven’t seen the 1993 movie “Tombstone” starring Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer, you need to stop what you’re doing and watch it right now. Now that you’ve done that, we can all be excited about how close this place is to the Valley. This quintessential Western town is just a few hours south of town and it completely plays into its theatrical reputation. The town is obviously well-known for the historical gunfight at the OK Corral, where Wyatt Earp and his posse gunned down a group of infamous bandits, and today actors recreate the battle daily. Once you’ve witnessed that, check out some of the most haunted places in Arizona such as the Birdcage Theatre. Maybe you’ll see Doc Holliday’s ghost.
Another classic Arizona location, Jerome was once the biggest copper mining town that eventually ran dry and became a ghost town. Now the tiny town has transformed into a fun cultural center complete with a mining museum and a very eclectic group of citizens. Located high on top of Cleopatra Hill, Jerome is known as “America’s Most Vertical City” and is a huge attraction for tourists and artists inspired by the surrounding countryside. Check out this fun destination and bring back some beautiful, handmade jewelry for your friends.
In Yavapai County is a hidden experimental town called Arcosanti. This unique gem was began by Italian-American architect Paolo Soleri in 1970 to demonstrate ways urban conditions could be improved while minimizing impact on the earth. Today, it’s a community of molten bronze bell casters and architects inspired by Soleri’s striking architectural work. For those inspired by architecture and natural landscaping, this one is for you. Also, those looking for your next most-liked Instgram, you’ll find this whole place is photogenic.
CASA GRANDE RUINS
Native Arizonans will have heard of this place their whole lives and those of you from out of state will surely be wondering why locals refuse to pronounce it the way it should be pronounced. That is almost as big of a mystery as to how people made this huge house so long ago. Halfway to Tucson, the Casa Grande Ruins are a testament to Native American engineering. The structure is essentially a large, two-level house (as the name describes) made of clay that was the center of a community about 700 years ago. It’s an interesting piece of history less than an hour away.
Near the southern border of the state, Bisbee is an authentic historical town famous for its local art galleries, gourmet restaurants and ghost haunts. With dozens of ghost tours, it’s a prime spot for day-trippers looking for a spooky encounter this time of year. If you need to settle your nerves a little after one or two of those tours, the Old Bisbee Brewing Company is a great place to ease any frights. There’s also an in-depth tour of the Queen Copper Mine where you don a miner’s hat and traverse the underground on a mine train.
The famous caverns need little introduction. Kartchner has captured the imagination of spelunkers and tourists alike with its magnificent Throne Room, home to one of the largest water-constructed columns in the world, Kubla Khan. The caves are also ecological wonders, inhabited by bats, insects and rare microbes. You get to choose from a few different tour options, but we are excited to live out our old timey explorer daydreams with the helmet and headlight tour.