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Posted by on Feb 12, 2017 | 98 comments

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

Sometimes, you have a unique experience in the place you are least expecting it.

For example, my husband experienced his first snowfall in Arizona.  Yes, you read that correctly.  He saw snow falling from the sky in a place associated with extreme heat and deserted environment.

We were in a small, hard to reach town in Southern Arizona at a 5, 538 ft elevation (1,688 m).  This place has a population of about 5,000 and it is located in the heart of the Mule Mountains.

Now, you will ask what we were doing in such a remote place.  That is not difficult to answer.  In a way, we were following the lead of those who got established in the area, in search of riches, more than a hundred years ago.

The complex mining infrastructure and huge pits left by them are big draws to modern visitors.  However, it is not only that.  The town has developed a distinct character, like no other place in the United States.

Here are 8 reasons why you should consider visiting Bisbee.

One of the Most Famous Mining Towns in the West

Bisbee was founded as a copper, gold and silver mining town in 1880. Even though thousand of sites like this exist in the world, Bisbee proved to be one of the riches producing nearly three million ounces of gold and more than eight billion pounds of copper (silver, lead and zinc were extracted from the soil too). Because of that, the town is known as the “Queen of the Copper Camps.”

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

The town’s rowdiness put it in the map too.  The notorious Brewery Gulch had about 50 saloons and brothels.  This bad reputation exalted it to Arizona’s hall of fame. With its two sisters, Jerome (the wickedest town in the West) and Tombstone (The town too tough to die), it completes the trilogy of dishonorable mining towns (that everybody wanted and wants to visit).

Bisbee fame continues to grow.  In 2016, it won the title of Best Historic Small Town in both Sunset magazine and a USA Today online reader poll.

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

Beautiful and Colorful Old Town

The old part of the city surprised me.  I love to visit small towns and this one is like no other I have seen.

The area is notable by Victorian houses and art deco buildings painted in bright and cheerful colors. The streets are walkable and the center can be explored in several hours.   What is more, small businesses offering all sorts of good can be visited.  This feels like a breath of fresh air in a time when everything is so commercialized.  Plus, do not forget about the food!  I am licking my fingers thinking about the delicious dishes and strong coffee I had in the area.

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

The Fly Contest

When I was walking around the center, I noticed several buildings were decorated with big flies.  That didn’t look normal, so, I said to myself: “Something is going on in here.”

Finally, I found a sign explaining the reason.   In 1912, after years of battling with typhoid fever problems, the Commercial Club of Bisbee created a contest to get rid of flies.  Contestants had to kill the flies and save them in order to show proof of how many they have killed.  Supposedly, the winner killed within 5,000 to 50,000 flies (as reported by the Bisbee Daily Review).

I have a lot of question concerning the contest but I have not been able to find a lot of information.  For example, I cannot find facts linking typhoid to flies.

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

IMG_0278

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

Unique Hotels

The Copper Queen Hotel is an architectural gem and the longest continuously operated hotel in Arizona.  It was constructed to provide lodging to mining investors and dignitaries.  Nowadays, the hotel is renowned by its paranormal activity (it has been features in TV shows).

We stayed at the Bisbee Grand Hotel which features antiques, fine art and Old West touches.  No two rooms in this place are equal.  We stayed in the bird room and it was quite the experience (stuffed birds served as ornaments).

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

Street Art

It was interesting to find street art on different spots in town.  Some paintings were nothing special but others had charged political and social themes. Bisbee is located about 15 miles from the Mexican border.  As you can imagine, the movement of people from one country to another has been a topic of conversation for many years.

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

IMG_0311

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

Quirkiness

A lot of places want to show to the world how cool they are by painting its streets with colorful art.  They may be cool but that doesn’t mean they are quirky, authentic and free-spirited.  Bisbee is all that and more! I do not think I have to convince you of this one.  The pictures will talk by themselves.

IMG_0303

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum

Do not overlook this museum!  I am going to tell you why.

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

This place is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and it has an exhibit that looks into the lives of the settlers of the town.  The displays are so interesting that I ended up reading each description.  Once precious metals were extracted from the soil, the fame of Bisbee spread as a wild fire.  People from many races and countries came to the area searching for a piece of the pie.  Exhibits describe who dominated the camps and who had the lower paying jobs.  All I am going to say is that they had the problems we have in the present.  Sadly, we have not progressed a lot.

The mining camps were settled for gold, silver and copper but other precious minerals were unearthed.  For example, turquoise is a byproduct of copper.  The museum has outstanding samples of what was taken out of the mines.

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

I8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

The Mines

Last but not least, if you come to Bisbee, you have to visit the Copper Queen Mine. The development of this mine led to the growth of the town and its surrounding suburbs.  Guided tours are offers by former employees and you get to dress as a miner.  We weren’t able to visit the mine because of the snow but I have heard rave reviews about it.

In addition, it is nice to stop by the Lavender Pit, an open pit copper mine located south of town.

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

Bonus: 1,000 Stair Climb

The town is famous for a bizarre physical challenge: a five kilometer run through the city’s 1,034 stairs.  For what I read, the event gets very lively and visitors even sing to the participants while they are running.

8 Reasons to Visit Bisbee, Arizona

It is difficult for me to stop writing about Bisbee.  It is a town I enjoyed a lot.  If you are in the Tucson area, make some time to stop by this historical and quirky town!

Would you visit Bisbee?

Ready to Pin? Let’s do this!

Bisbee (Arizona) is known as the "Queen of Copper Camps" since it proved to be one of the riches mineral sites in the world. Nowadays, it is quirky, authentic and free-spirited. Here are 8 reason why you should visit.

 

98 Comments

    • Yes, that was a house covered in buttons. I meant to include a comment but I forgot. Go figure!

  1. Fascinating history and still a vibrant community from all your photos. I’d love to visit and stay in your hotel. Wonder what the other rooms are called.

    • You know, I am curious about the other rooms too. I should have asked.

  2. We loved Bisbee — the quirkiness, the mine tour, the restaurants — we had a great time there.

    • I am with you! All those were great! So bad I couldn’t stay longer.

  3. What a lovely majestic hotel you found to stay in, whilst in a really interesting quirky town with its button doorways, large fly sculptures and colourful street art.
    Sally’s Tips 4 Trips recently posted..How to Save Money to TravelMy Profile

    • If you want to stay in town, then you will have to stay in one of these unique hotels. I guess that is a plus.

  4. Sounds like an interesting place, I love small towns in remote areas. It looks like the perfect place for me to walk around and take photos. I don’t know about the bird room though, haha. I hear AZ is great for those of us who like to bike with no hills.

    • I love small towns too and seems like Arizona have tons of them. There are still several I want to visit. Not sure what is the flatter part of the state (maybe the Phoenix area?). I know there are several mountains chains scattered around.

    • That is right! It wouldn’t be fair to have this town in ruins when so much wealth was extracted from the surrounding areas.

  5. Fabulous and colourful!

    • Thanks! Glad you liked it.

    • I think not a lot of people make the trip down to Bisbee and that is a shame. To me, this feels like a really authentic town.

  6. Wow! What amazing photos, and what a story Bisbee has to tell.
    I remember that someone in my family visited Bisbee some years ago, but I have to check with my brothers to find out who was there.
    Meanwhile, I enjoyed your photos very much and am going to send my husband a link to your page, in hopes we might visit there one day.
    Kay
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travels

    • Kay, hope you make it some day! I am sure you are going to enjoy the offerings of this small town.

  7. I’m Kay’s brother and indeed, we did visit Bisbee in January, 2009, when we were on an RV adventure S.E. Arizona. Like the surprise snowfall mentioned in the original post, we awakened to a frozen water line not once, but twice. (We quickly learned to disconnect & drain overnight.)

    • So great you stopped by! Seems like Bisbee gets cold very often. I am assuming it is because of the location (surrounded by mountains).

  8. re: Kay’s comment above. It was her brother Clint (me) who was there. Driving eastbound across Arizona from Phoenix, we didn’t notice the increasing elevation. like the snowfall surprise mentioned earlier, our RV water line froze several times (we learned to disconnect and drain overnight).

  9. Interesting post. I don’t know anything about Bisbee (until now), but I’ve always been fascinated by old mining towns. The Fly contest is so random! Pinning this for later in the event I make it out that way soon 🙂 #wanderfulwednesday

    • Mining towns are a favorite of mine too. I have visited some and the history behind them is fascinating. Plus, you often found weird things like the fly contest.

  10. You seriously always find the best street art in the cities and towns that you visit! I don’t think that I’ve ever heard of Bisbee, but it looks so cute and colorful! I would love to visit some of the old mines too!

    • I guess street art follows me! I was not expecting to find so many cool murals in Bisbee.

  11. What a wonderful and colorful town! I will have to amke a point to visit it the next time I’m in southern Arizonia.
    Pat recently posted..Ruby Princess Cruise ShipMy Profile

    • I recommend if you are in the area. There is so much to see and do.

  12. It definitely has the street art and the quirkiness covered. This was literally a very colorful tour of a very unique town!

    • Thanks Sharon! So bad the weather didn’t cooperate. The views from the entire town are wonderful but I wasn’t able to capture them with good light.

  13. Oh, Bisbee is so colorful! I’ve only been in northern Arizona – Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon – where we also saw snow like your husband. Thanks for sharing – I would never had known about Bisbee had you not!

    • I love Northern Arizona but have to say the southern part has a lot of nice areas too. My next trip would be to the northern part though.

  14. Wow, what a surprise this town is. It’s charms are right up my alley, will bookmark this in case I find myself around these parts someday.

    • Like you said, the town surprises visitors. It has a bit of everything and definitely not what you were expecting.

  15. Wow, I can so envision a ghost town/western style “hold em up” scene happening here!

    • Ha, ha! That is true. The town has appeared in movies and TV shows.

  16. I think there’s a Death Cab For Cutie song called Bisbee, I never knew it was an actual place. The mine and the street art look awesome!

    • Have not heard the song but it will be nice to search for it. Glad you liked the town!

  17. It looks like an interesting place. I’ve seen snow in Arizona a couple of times, it’s fairly common in the winter in the higher elevations.

    • That is right! However, not a lot of people associate Arizona with snow.

    • The town is as Western as it can get! I think it is a perfect place for all those who wan to get a movie like feeling.

  18. Am glad I was finally able to link up (to several sites that require a thumbnail link – it gave me an error message every time I hit the “done” button). Anyways, I have only passed AZ on our way to Utah, but this is interesting – colorful, like the South West! Am a fan of gem stones, so your images are a treat! Thanks for hosting:)

    • Oh, I know what you mean. There is a stretch of Arizona you have to pass when you are driving on the I-15. On another trip, you have to make time to stop in Arizona. You will find it very inspiring.

    • Thanks Sharon! I am glad I stopped by.

    • You are right, it is a great place to visit!

  19. This is so interesting and nothing like how I’ve imagined Arizona to look. The colourful buildings are lovely, not to mention pleasant surprises. 🙂

    • I am curious, what is your idea of Arizona? I like to hear how people imagine certain places.

  20. Arizona is definitely my favourite state! Must explore more next time – thanks!

    • Great to hear that! Hope you can stop by Bisbee on day. I am sure you are going to love Arizona even more.

  21. Looks like a cute little town, reminds me of Leadville, Colorado. I’ll be spending a month or more in Arizona next fall/winter, so I’ll be sure to check this out.

    There’s a book series based in Bisbee – they talk about the Copper Queen Hotel – J.A. Jance is the author and it’s the Joanna Brady series.
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted..Product Review: Ruffwear Palisades PackMy Profile

    • Leigh, thanks for the info about the book series. I need to check those out. I will like to visit Colorado in the future. I have never been.

    • I agree with you. Visiting these towns is like going back in time. I think that is why I like them so much.

  22. I loved this entire post Ruth! The colours of the buildings in the Old Town area are amazing, and the Fly Contest is brilliant, bonkers and fun – I would have spent hours taking lots of photos of them too. Love the variety of street art you spotted too. Beautiful photos here Ruth! – Tasha

    • Thanks Tasha! Everything is so crazy in this town! But, I guess locals and visitors like it like that. It is one of the most unique places I have visited.

  23. I visited Bisbee but it was many years ago. I don’t remember much about it but I do remember it being a cute town. From your pictures it looks like it has become a lot more artsy. I would love to go back and visit to see how it has changed. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard
    Anisa recently posted..What to See When You Visit Killarney National ParkMy Profile

    • I am sure locals have used arts to revitalize the town. I imagine I would find it different if I visit again.

  24. Great timing, some companies are talking to us about visiting Arizona, and we are certainly reading and noticing how appealing this state could be.

    • Paula, it would be great if you can visit Arizona. It is a state with a lot of diversity. You would love the cities, landscapes and gastronomy.

  25. I’ve heard about Bisbee, but never had a chance to visit it. We go pretty often in Arizona because my sister lives there, so I’ll add this cute town to my list too. Those minerals look gorgeous. I can’t believe all those colors! Very interesting place to visit. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • I am sure you will enjoy this town. You have to visit Southern Arizona one day.

  26. Ruth, What a colorful town! I love its name, its artwork, even, its flies!

    • The flies are pretty cool! I like them too.

  27. Mining towns were such a part of American history, I think it’d be great to go visit one. Especially since this one is so iconic and colorful. It looks fascinating!

    • Ava, agree with you! I still have not visited the gold mining towns of California. I have to stop by them for sure.

  28. What a quirky place! I have never heard of it before, but it seems like an interesting place to visit. I love all the colourful buildings, and also the interesting reasoning behind the fly decor!
    Bryna | Dotted Line Travels recently posted..A Day Trip to CapriMy Profile

    • I am glad you liked it! It is a very unique place. I liked everything about this town.

    • So surprised to find so much color in this town. It helped us to deal with the cold weather.

  29. Bisbee looks like suh a fun and quirky town. I especially like that doorway decorated with bottle caps/buttons (I couldn’t tell which one) but also the old-fashioned prettiness of your hotel room. I had no idea that turquoise is a byproduct of copper. I’ll have to read up on that more. #WkendTravelInspiration
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..Spy vs. Spy at the International Spy MuseumMy Profile

    • The doorway is covered in buttons. That immediately got my attention. I think a lot of things in town are cute and well ornamented. No doubt I want to go back.

  30. What a wonderfully strange, yet endearing, town. Obviously not too rowdy these days, which I guess is a good thing. The flies are most certainly bizarre but seem to fit its weirdness. Definitely a great find Ruth!

    • Yes, it is not that rowdy anymore. Moreover, I can say it is very peaceful and quiet. All the bizarre things in here complement each other.

  31. Those flies are disturbing to say the least, haha. But the hotel looks nice, I love Victorian houses. The cupcake shop is adorable, I wouldn’t have resisted not buying one….or a dozen!
    Vlad recently posted..Wandering In Budapest (Part 1)My Profile

    • Ahh, I guess the flies are disturbing to people who feel disgusted by them. I thought they were very funny. I mean, they look like toys (at least to me).

  32. Minus the flies :), what a great place to visit. I love the street art. Your hotel room looks very cozy. Thanks for co-hosting this week. #TPThursday

    • Seems like the flies are not popular with some readers :0( Maybe they are too weird.

  33. Beautiful and very colourful town.

    • Thanks Rajesh!

    • Lisa, I am glad you enjoyed the post!

  34. i have never heard of Bisbee, But you make a good case for why it would in best historical town. it does look worth a visit. THough I would avoid the giant flies on the walls. They are a little too real looking. yuck!

    • Really? Do you think they look real? Maybe I have not seen a lot of flies lately!

  35. What a cool old town! I’d never heard of this place! I’m not so sure how I feel about GIANT flies, but I do love street art, quirky, and history! #theweeklypostcard
    Hilary recently posted..London: An Afternoon in KensingtonMy Profile

    • So glad you liked it! This is one of the most unique places I have visited.

  36. Wow, such a colorful town (in more than one sense of the word)! Thank you once again for taking time out to compile all the interesting tidbits into a post for us.

    • I am glad you find this post colorful. These are the king of places I like.

  37. What a delightful place Bisbee ~ so creative and colorful ~ thanks,

    Wishing you a Happy Week ~ ^_^

    • Have a wonderful week too!

  38. What a cool and colorful town! Thanks for sharing! never heard of this place before!

    • Thanks for stopping by!

  39. Very nice photo series of that colorful and cool town!
    Birgitta recently posted..Long shadowsMy Profile

    • Glad you liked it!

  40. Hi! All of things are colorful in Arizona, bothbuildings and various things of art. I enjoyed your photos very much. Thanks for sharing.

    • Yes, that is true! Arizona is full of color.

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