There are many fantastic things to do in Bisbee AZ, one of the most popular mining towns in the Grand Canyon state.
But the rich past of Bisbee and its excellent location and all-year-round pleasant weather make it one of my favourite Arizona small towns.
Once a gold mine of trade and metals, the people of Bisbee, the city is also a haven for many artists and musicians today.
I have had the privilege of visiting Bisbee many times during different seasons, and each time, I discover something new.
Whether you want to savour a slice of the Old Wild West in Arizona or looking to plan a weekend trip with your kids, this post covers the best things to do in Bisbee, Arizona, including how to get there, some amazing tours I recommend, and useful tips for you to have a fabulous trip.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF BISBEE
Bisbee was accidentally discovered in 1877 by a group of US Army scouts and cavalrymen who stumbled upon significant amounts of lead, copper, and silver.
The word soon spread resulting in a large influx of migrants looking to make the most of these minerals.
In a few years, Bisbee became known as the “Queen of the Copper Camps,” with a mining settlement for over 20,000 miners, prospectors, and their families.
Bisbee became one of the richest mineral sites in the world, producing gold, copper, silver, and zinc, producing almost a quarter of the world’s copper.
It was the largest town in the Southwest between St. Louis and San Francisco.
After a century of a prosperous run, the mines gave away as the mineral reserves depleted, with the last mine being shut forever in 1975.
Today, most of the rich historic past of Bisbee is well-preserved, thanks to the efforts of the residents, offering its visitors plenty of attractions and activities to give peeks into the golden past of Brisbee.
HOW TO REACH BISBEE, ARIZONA
If you’re flying, the closest airport to Bisbee is Tucson International Airport in Tucson, Arizona, about 1.5 hours.
It is a 3-hour drive from Pheonix and about 3.25 hours from Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.
If you’d like to add a few other destinations to your drive, stop in the historic town of Tombstone.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT BISBEE?
The best time to visit Bisbee is during spring and fall when the temperatures are excellent for outdoors.
The summer can be hot if you aren’t accustomed to desert life, but compared to Phoenix or Tucson’s scorching heat, the weather is pleasant in Bisbee.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN BISBEE AZ
STOP BY THE VISITOR CENTER
One of the top 10 things to do in Bisbee AZ is stopping by Discover Bisbee Visitor Center to get a proper introduction to this historic town.
View informative displays about the mines that were the centre of wealth centuries ago, or better, take home a piece of mining history with you, shopping for many gems and minerals.
You can book tours, get information about the hiking trails, and weather, and collect maps and brochures besides meeting the guides that warmly welcome you to Bisbee.
STROLL IN THE OLD TOWN
Get glimpses of the town’s history by walking the streets of the old town, one of the best things to do in Bisbee Az.
Check out the many Victorian-styled buildings lining the streets.
The main thoroughfare, Tombstone Canyon Road, is packed with antique shops, jewellery shops, and mineral stores.
Downtown Bisbee is home to over a dozen art galleries, antique shops, and used bookstores, besides many cute cafes, restaurants and bars.
Whether you want to dine or shop or simply stroll, you will have fun exploring downtown.
JOIN ONE OF THE QUEEN MINE TOURS
One of the best things to do in Bisbee AZ, especially if you are visiting for the first time, is exploring the former largest copper mine in the world.
The Copper Queen Mine in Bisbee, in Cochise County, Arizona, was the world’s largest copper mine until its closure in 1985.
Located in the far southeast corner of Old Bisbee, the mine also produced millions of tons of silver and gold, and created employment for thousands of miners, leading to the development of Bisbee in the 1880s.
Although copper mining declined in the 1930s, the Copper Queen continued to be exploited from its open pit after World War II.
Today, groups of tourists can take a tour of the famous mine, going deep into the belly of the mountain to try to experience the efforts and hardships old miners endured to get the copper out.
Nothing is better than getting to the heart of Bisbee’s mining history on the Queen Mine Tour.
Collect a hard hat, a headlamp, and a yellow slicker and descend 1,500 feet into the hearts of the mountain through the former mine tunnels.
If you’ve never been into a mine under the ground, you will be in for a treat.
You will ride on a small train inside the cave tunnels as the guides(retired employees of the Phelps Dodge company, which owned the mine)tell you the tales of the mine.
Check out some of the trollies, tracks, old lanterns, and caves left intact, and learn about the techniques, dangers, and history of this mine on this exciting tour.
It is best to dress in layers as the air is chilly underground. No open-toe shoes or high heels are allowed for safety reasons.
Note that this tour is not for the faint of heart or if you are claustrophobic!
Find more details about this fun tour and book yours here.
CHECK OUT LAVENDER PIT
The Lavender Pit was part of the massive Copper Queen Mine, run by the Phelps Dodge Corporation from 1879 to 1975.
This massive open-pit copper mine just outside of Bisbee was constructed to compensate for revenues as the ore was reduced in the Copper Queen Mine.
The Lavender Pit was exploited in 50-foot-long shelves or benches blasted to a 60-foot depth. The pit covers an area of 300 acres and is 900 feet deep, large enough to consume most of the adjacent town of Lowell.
Unfortunately, the pit closed in 1975 as copper prices dropped, and there was no demand.
Today, it is one of the popular things to do in Bisbee Az.
A large pull-off and parking area leads to the Lavender Pit Mining Overlook.
You can observe the giant 300-acre hole in the ground from a series of platforms built along the pit’s rim. They have fences up, for your safety. Head to the cutout areas of the fence and take some photos or videos.
VISIT THE BISBEE RESTORATION MUSEUM
One of the free things to do in Bisbee Az is the Bisbee Restoration Museum in the Fair Store building located on historic Bisbee’s Main Street.
This 3-story museum showcases the history of the town, especially ranching.
Run by a group of volunteers, you can check out an extensive collection of textiles like exquisite quilts, vintage clothes, exquisite pieces of furniture, nostalgic toys and lavish wedding dresses.
STOP AT THE MUHEIM HERITAGE HOUSE MUSEUM
The Muheim Heritage House Museum, which opened to visitors in 1915, is located in the former home of Joseph and Carmelita Muheim on a hill overlooking Old Bisbee and offers a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.
Take one of the guided tours of this Registered National Historic site, famous for its Victorian architecture, to know the town’s heritage.
You have to take an appointment to tour this museum, where you can check out photographs and antique furniture.
STAY OVERNIGHT IN A HERITAGE HOTEL
If you want a unique stay experience on your trip, one of the fun things to do in Brisbee AZ is staying at one of the heritage or historic hotels.
Among the famous ones is the Copper Queen Hotel, an architectural gem and the longest continuously operated hotel in Arizona.
It is also one of the most haunted places in Arizona, so if you want an eerie experience, you may even get it.
Among the heritage places to stay in Bisbee AZ is Bisbee Grand Hotel known for its luxurious architecture, Old West style and antique decor in different-themed rooms.
GET TO KNOW BISBEE HISTORY
One of the top attractions in Bisbee and the best place to know the town’s history is the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, a small local museum in the former headquarters of the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company in downtown Bisbee.
One of the first official Smithsonian Affiliates, the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum showcases the role in the industrialization of America.
The museum’s permanent exhibit, “Bisbee: Urban Outpost on the Frontier,” gives you details of 40 years of Bisbee through artefacts, photographs, tools, and everyday objects.
The museum, with the help of the Smithsonian, also often organizes temporary exhibits combining art and history.
The museum is open from 10 AM to 4 PM daily. General admission is $10 per adult.
FUN THINGS TO DO IN BISBEE AZ
CLIMB THE COLORFUL STAIRS
One of the top things to do in Bisbee Az is climb the iconic stairs.
Like many mining towns developed before the production of cars, Bisbee is built on a steep hillside with no roads straight to the top.
Hence you will find dozens of metal and concrete staircases connecting the homes and businesses along Bisbee’s hillside.
These colourfully painted and decorated staircases, scattered all around the town are hard to miss, with some only a flight or two, while others go up for what seems like forever.
One of the most popular staircases in Bisbee worth checking out is at Brewery Gulch next to 24 Brewery Avenue.
The staircase is covered with over 100 art pieces, including paintings, photographs, and more, like unusual drawings and paintings of aliens, cats, and even some aesthetically displeasing portraits.
If you are daring, try the famous 5k race held in Bisbee every October.
Every October, Bisbee hosts the 5K race the Bisbee 1000, where you race on those steep staircases, gaining almost 1,200 feet of elevation.
This race is 4.5 miles long and they allow both runners and walkers. They only have online registration, and they sell out of spaces very quickly, so plan ahead.
GO GHOST HUNTING
The 130-year-old town has its share of scary stories and the Bisbee Historic Ghost tour is a trip to Bisbee’s famous haunted spots.
One of the fun things to do in Bisbee AZ, you will learn all about the famous ghosts in town through Old Bisbee’s dark, narrow alleys, stairways, and houses.
Tours start place almost every day at 7PM. On this tour averaging around 1.5 hours, the guide will take you through the narrow lanes and dark valleys of the old Bisbee town, listening to some gory and dark, infamous incidents in the town’s history, including roaming spirits and murders.
Check out the reviews, prices and other details to book the tour here.
SPEND HALF A DAY EXPLORING LOWELL
One of the unique things to do in Bisbee Az is spend a few hours exploring another smaller mining town Lowell.
Lowell was a small mining town incorporated into Bisbee in the early 1900s. This borough is only about 10 minutes outside Bisbee and will transport you back in time.
In 1899 Frank Hanchett of Lowell, Massachusetts purchased a property and started the Lowell and Arizona Copper Mining and Smelting Company in Lowell.
Erie Street was initially established as a business and social centre near the Lowell mine.
The population of Lowell grew rapidly as local mines expanded. Still, as the Lavender Pit open copper mine expanded, over 250 homes and businesses had to be moved for the continued development of the Lavender Pit.
Although much of Lowell was lost to mining, Erie Street has been saved and beautifully preserved by business owners and locals and left the way it once was.
The abandoned area along Erie Street reminds you of the 40s and 50s.
On this two-block-long street, you will see classic cars, abandoned businesses, an old, abandoned gas station with cool, historic gas pumps, old billboards, banners, shops, old ads, and an old Greyhound bus parked there.
Do not miss the Harley Davidson repair shop, and a department store called Sprouse Reitz Co.
The street also boasts one of the best restaurants in Bisbee, The Bisbee Breakfast Club, famous for its excellent huevos rancheros, and other excellent cuisines with huge portions.
SHOP FOR CUTE SOUVENIRS
One of the best attractions in Bisbee Arizona is this cute shop Finders, Keepers, Antiques, and Collectibles, which, as the name suggests is a fantastic place to buy an antique piece in Bisbee or even just a souvenir.
This large, curious shop is more than an antique store, and you can find unique home furnishings, jewellery – natural and costume, Bisbee turquoise, local art, handcrafts, furnishings, locally mined minerals, supplies for beading and making jewellery, and Mexican and Native American handcrafts.
VISIT THE BISBEE SEANCE ROOM
Spend an evening at the Bisbee Séance, one of the fun things to do in Bisbee Az.
This theatrical performance was created by Magic Kenny Bang Bang of Tucson, Arizona, in his Victorian parlour, and combines Victorian parlour magic with Bisbee’s haunted history.
Located in a historic location in downtown Bisbee, Kenny, with magical sleights of hand, and audience participation, takes you back in time and introduces you to some of Bisbee’s oldest, well-deceased, residents in his one-hour show, paranormal events, and haunted houses.
This 1-hour performance/magic show is not scary and is one of the most fun activities in Bisbee you can enjoy with your kids.
CHECK OUT THE PRETTY STREET ART
In addition to Bisbee’s colourful staircases, one of the vibrant things to do in Bisbee Az is check out the unique street art and murals around town.
While the galleries in Bisbee give you proper accounts of the artists’ community, some of the town’s best works are found on the sides of buildings and in abandoned lots.
GO ON A SHOPPING SPREE
A small town may not be the first choice for shopping, but it is one of the fun things to do in Bisbee Az.
Head to Downtown Bisbee, home to a unique assortment of locally owned shops and thrift stores, from vintage fashion and antique decor to artisan oils, hand-crafted soaps, and beautiful jewellery.
End your Bisbee trip with plenty of unique gifts, souvenirs, and decor items for your home. Here are some of my favourites that I recommend –
For Antiques, Clothes, Jewelry and Souvenirs
- Miners and Merchants Antiques – A true antique shop, known for its well-curated assortment of antiques available in all budgets and sizes.
- Classic Rock Couture – This vintage shop is the best place for vintage clothing.
- Optimo Custom Hatworks – If you like hats, visit this cute shop for Hand-formed, hand-finished hats.
- Tumbleweed Mining Company – A unique shop where you can buy jewelry and gifts handcrafted from tumbleweeds and other desert plants.
- Bisbee Oil & Vinegar Company – A must-visit if you love Olive oil on your plate. This tasting store offers 35 different flavours of olive oil.
- Mile High MunCheese – All cheese lovers should try some specialities at this premier independent cheese shop. Try their bulk cheese, charcuterie, and smoked fish that go well with wine and beer.
TASTE THE LOCAL BREW AT BISBEE
Nothing is better than winding down with cold brews after exploring the outdoors. Old Bisbee Brewing Company is one of the best things to do in Bisbee Az.
This small, modern microbrewery is in the historic Brewery Gulch, just off Brewery Avenue. It is known for its range of beer including root beer, native hops, Sonoran limes, and Sonoran wheat.
Relax sipping the best brews watching the magnificent mountains and some excellent pub grub.
DINE AT THE POPULAR RESTAURANTS IN BISBEE
There are many fantastic restaurants in Brisbee and if you are a foodie, one of the best things to do in Brisbee Az is taste some of the delicious things at the many eateries.
Patisserie Jacqui – This is a restaurant famous for more than its delicious cuisine. You should try their popular desserts after a fulfilling lunch and dinner including eclairs, croissants, and Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treat.
Cafe Roka – It is one of the top Bisbee restaurants loved by locals and visitors. Apart from their delicious cuisines, check out their lovely art deco atmosphere.
Le Café Cornucopia – This is a cute little café, with rustic decor and they also have plenty of vegetarian, and vegan cuisines as well.
TOUR SAM POE ART GALLERY
Located on the lively historic main street, the Sam Poe Gallery is a modern art space with kinetic sculptures and fascinating tabletop mechanical contraptions such as tipping ducks, disappearing mice, and yakking crows, all made from everyday materials.
One of the unique things to do in Bisbee AZ, you can relive the past of the town via the creative works of the artist and the founder of the gallery via drawings, paintings, and prints.
Also, stop at Bisbee Council On the Arts, where you can check out unique artefacts, including plenty of rocks, and minerals.
STOP BY THE J.F. GALLERY
The J. F. Gallery is located in the heart of Bisbee, Arizona, and features the works of a renowned artist John Thammm, a portrait and landscape painter who likes to spend winters painting Bisbee.
It is one of the fun things to do in Bisbee Az to see and appreciate the beauty of the town through the eyes of art.
CHECK OUT BELLEZA FINE ART GALLERY
The Belleza Fine Art Gallery, located on Old Bisbee’s Main Street is one of the worth-visiting places in Bisbee to check out contemporary artworks of well-known artists including David Berridge, Gerald Becker, Mary Martin, and Sandra Mears.
Check out multidimensional artworks, from oil pastels to Moran Brown’s copper work, oil and media work.
The gallery is open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN BISBEE AZ FOR OUTDOOR ADVENTURES
GO BIRD WATCHING IN BRISBEE
One of the top things to do in Bisbee AZ for outdoor lovers is bird watching.
Not many know that this mining town is one of the best spots for bird watching in Arizona. There are three places to add to your Bisbee itinerary if you are here during the fall and winter.
If you are traveling to Brisbee from October to March, you can watch over 20,000 sandhill cranes at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, 13 miles east of Bisbee.
The Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory at Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary in Hereford is about a 40-minute from Bisbee.
The bird observatory, a non-profit organization, is a fantastic place to enjoy bird watching with your kids as there are many guided tours and trips, bird walks, and hummingbird band sessions held here.
There is also guided hiking that will lead you through the rich wildlife in the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory, making it worth a half-day trip.
Or, head 45-minute drive west of Bisbee to see different species of hummingbirds in the beautiful Ramsey Canyon Preserve.
PLAN A DAY TRIP TO CHIRICAHUA NATIONAL MONUMENT
Located 1.5 hours from the town, one of the best things to do in Bisbee Az is planning a day trip to Chiricahua National Park, one of the best places for outdoor lovers.
The Chiricahua National Monument is one of the best Arizona National Monuments known for its unique geological natural wonders, abundant wildlife and rugged landscapes.
Located in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona, the monument was established in 1924 and is home to stunning volcanic rocks that form pinnacles, hoodoos and narrow canyons, unusual plant species, unique wildlife, beautiful drives and paved hiking trails.
If you love rocks, Chiricahua is your kind of place.
The large park spread over 12,025 acres of wilderness, with its two unofficial names, the Wonderland of Rocks and the Land of Standing Up Rocks, tell you why it’s one of Arizona’s most popular hiking destinations.
Twenty-seven million years ago, ash from the volcanic eruption nearby Turkey creek compacted into rock, creating a thick layer of rhyolite.
They got eroded and fissured, shaped and sculpted over the millennia by the wind and rain.
They formed fascinating rock formations into towering rock needles, with their stunning hoodoos making for spectacular sights.
These precariously balanced rock towers have colourful names today, like Grottoes, Wall Street, and Big Balanced Rock, accessed via many hiking trails and drives.
You can also find many excellent pinnacles and natural bridges beside balancing boulders and rugged volcanic rocks.
RECOMMENDED – TOP 10 SUNSET SPOTS IN SEDONA YOU SHOULD NOT MISS
Once a haven for the Chiricahua Apaches, the monument is today’s paradise for hikers, outdoor lovers, adventure seekers and photographers.
Its location and limited access mean that only a few people visit, so if you want to camp under the stars with fewer or no crowds, you will love your trip to Chiricahua.
The park, home to many wildlife and plant species only found in this monument, has 17 miles of hiking trails and an 8-mile paved scenic drive.
through the national monument at a 6,500-ft high Massai Point, overlooking the gorgeous pinnacles, wildlife, plant species and rare cacti.
Popular hiking trails include Echo Canyon, the Upper and Lower Rhyolite canyons, and the Heart of Rocks Loop.
The 3.3-mile Echo Canyon Loop trail is more straightforward and can be done in a few hours, taking you to the heart of the rock formations, including Wall street, the Grottoes, and Echo Park.
If you are game for an adventurous and challenging hike, the 9.5-mile Big Loop covers all the main attractions, including the Echo Canyon, Upper Rhyolite Canyon, Sarah Deming, Heart of Rocks, Big Balanced Rock, Inspiration Point, and Ed Riggs trails.
If birdwatching or wildlife viewing interests you, get on the Bonita Creek Trail to spot deer, coatimundis, and migrating birds.
If you’d like to spend more time here, camping is one of the best options to explore more of Chiricahua National Monument and enjoy stunning stargazing. There is a campground with 25 sites and a group site surrounded by beautiful landscapes.
Visit Faraway Ranch Historic District on the east side of the park to join their weekend tours to learn about the pioneer life in this brutal landscape.
The park is open year-round, and summer is bearable, although not the best time to be here. There is occasional snow in the winter.
HAVE FUN ON CART TOURS
If you are short on time and can’t explore the whole city, opt for the Golf Cart Tour of Bisbee, Arizona.
One of the fun things to do in Bisbee Az with kids is the tour starts from the Bisbee tourism centre and takes you to the city’s historical landmarks and attractions, where you will get to know the town’s history.
You can select from their 30, 60, and 90-minute tours running throughout the day and the evenings.
At night, they sometimes also organize ghost tours.
HIKE IN THE SAN PEDRO RIPARIAN NATIONAL CONSERVATION AREA
The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area comprises nearly 57,000 acres in Cochise County, Arizona, bordering Mexico and St. David.
It is one of the best things to do in Bisbee AZ for outdoor lovers.
Only about 30 to 45 minutes west of Bisbee, it is one of the best day trips you can plan for hiking, bird watching and exploring historic ruins.
Check out the historic and archaeological Murray Springs Clovis Site, over 40,000 years old.
EXPLORE RAMSEY CANYON PRESERVE
Ramsey Canyon and the Upper San Pedro River Basin are located within the Apache Highlands ecoregion, spanning central and southeastern Arizona, and bordering southwest New Mexico.
Ramsey Canyon Preserve-Nature Conservancy is one of the best places to visit if you are fond of animals, hiking trails, and hot springs.
Ramsey Canyon Preserve in southeastern Arizona is known for its abundant plant and animal life, including Apache and Chihuahua pines, sycamores, maples, columbines, yucca, agaves, ridge-nosed rattlesnakes, lesser long-nosed bats, elegant trogon and Rivoli’s and Anna’s hummingbirds.
Located about 45 minutes west of Bisbee, it is one of the fun things to do in Bisbee Az for outdoor lovers.
If you are traveling from November through March, attend one of their guided tours.
WHERE TO STAY IN BISBEE AZ?
Here are the best options if you wonder where to stay in Bisbee, AZ.
Letson Loft Hotel – Letson Loft Hotel is one of the best hotels in the town. Rooms also offer a kitchenette with a fridge, a microwave and a toaster. You can also enjoy activities in and around Bisbee, like hiking and cycling. Find more details to book here.
The aparthotel provides guests with a terrace, mountain views, a seating area, cable flat-screen TV, a fully equipped kitchen with an oven and a microwave, and a private bathroom with bath and a hair dryer. Find more details here to book.
Hotel San Ramon – Hotel San Ramon is a 3-star property situated in Bisbee. Each accommodation at the 3-star hotel has city views and free WiFi. I highly recommend this for couples as it is one of the best reviewed hotels in the town. Check more details here.
If you are looking for a motel, Jonquil Motel is a great choice.