Now, more than ever, travelers are seeking new adventures, distinct locales, and destinations that are off the beaten path. This is partly why the mountain of Bisbee, Arizona has become such a popular travel hotspot. The other reason is that Bisbee has tons of activities, great food, a fascinating (and sometimes haunted) history, and much more.
Located less than 20 miles north of the Mexico border, and more than 5,000 feet above sea level, Bisbee is a town that’s full of surprises, great weather, and a bustling LGBTQ scene. Here are five reasons why Bisbee has become such a popular destination.
1. It’s Mining History
Bisbee was founded in the 1800s as a mining town, specifically for metals like copper, gold, and silver. Thanks to the booming industry, the town’s population exploded. In 1890, Bisbee was home to 1,535 residents. By 1910, that number had skyrocketed to above 25,000.
Nowadays, visitors can learn about the town’s fascinating history and what mining was like in the late 1800s at the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum. The complex houses unique rocks and priceless gemstones that were found in the mines, as well as historic photographs, old mining tools, and interactive experiences to help tell the story of a once booming mining town.
For those who want a more adventurous historical experience, why not take an actual trip into the mines? Queen Mine Historic Tours ventures 1,500 feet into the old mine and tour guides share stories of what it would have been like to work inside an active mine. From the daily drama of miners to the very real danger that comes with the job, the tours are exciting ways to not only learn about the past, but to do so while partaking in an immersive and exciting adventure.
2. Haunted Happenings
Naturally, as a boomtown, Bisbee became home to a few notable incidents. With the miners came lots of alcohol, prostitution, and even murder. The famous Old Bisbee Ghost Tour visits some of the town’s most historic sites, all of which have their resident ghosts that visitors have been spotting, hearing (and sometimes even feeling) for years. From a miner who couldn’t pay his debts to a local “lady of the night”, the ghost tour not only provide some excellent scares, but it examines the real lives of some of the town’s most infamous residents.
For a truly haunted stay, you can even sleep with the lady of the night herself at the Copper Queen Hotel. It was here that Julia Lowell would bring her clients for long nights of fun. However, legend has it that Julia fell madly in love with one of her regulars. So much so that one day she professed her love to him…only to be rejected. In a passionate rage, Julia took her own life at the hotel, and to this day residents (especially male guests) report hearing Julia whisper in their ear and even seeing her dance in the stairwells. But Julia is just one of many guests who checked in, but never checked out of the Copper Queen Hotel, giving it the reputation of being one of the most haunted lodgings in the whole country.
3. It’s an LGBTQ Hotspot
Many might be surprised to learn that Bisbee is actually a haven for the gay community. The local arts and craft scene naturally coincided with the growth of the town’s LGBTQ population. Nowadays, it’s known as one of the most diverse destinations in all of Arizona. Pride takes place each year in June, attracting thousands of visitors from around the Southwest. On top of that, they also hold the Mineshaft Weekend, which is a full weekend filled with LGBTQ parties (some of which are rather indulgent…). The event takes place every September.
If you’re looking for the town “gay bar”, you probably won’t find one. That’s because 60% of Bisbee locals identity as LGBTQ and state that “every bar is a gay bar”. However, if you’re looking for great activities like burlesque shows and drag brunches, the place to visit is the Bisbee Grand, which is always hosting live music, entertainers, and parties.
4. Fantastic Shopping & Nightlife
Bisbee’s gorgeous scenery and unique history have been attracting artists and artisans for decades, giving the town a wonderful collection of distinct, one-of-a-kind shops. At Bisbee Soap & Sundry, soapmakers are crafting wonderfully fragrant and rejuvenating soaps, bath bombs, and lotions using natural desert ingredients local to the area, like prickly pear cactus and the creosote bush. There’s also the LGBTQ-owned Finders Keepers, which sells fine antiques, as well as jewelry, including pieces made from the famous Bisbee Turquoise, which was found in the region’s copper mines. Turquoise from the Bisbee region has become world-famous and is even known as “Bisbee Blue”. For a full list of the town’s unique shops, click here.
For nightlife, the Bisbee Social Club is a sleek and sexy cocktail bar that takes inspiration from old speakeasies. Cocktails span from the Foghorn Leghorn (Southern Comfort, Cointreau, citrus, and cherry) to the Thai One On (a boozed-up Thai iced tea), and more. You can also head over to St. Elmo Bar for a classic dive experience where you can hang with the locals and enjoy a band playing on Saturday night.
5. Outdoor Paradise
Being a mountain town, Bisbee is naturally surrounded by miles upon miles of majestic beauty, making it the perfect launching point for day trips and outdoor getaways. Nearby must-see destinations include the Chiricahua Mountains, which contain the Chiricahua National Monument, a stunning landscape filled with towering, naturally occurring monoliths. Other nearby getaways include the Ramsey Canyon Preserve and the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area. Birders have likely heard of Whitewater Draw before, as it’s where 20,000 sandhill cranes migrate to during the winter, creating an epic sight to behold. Best of all, because of the lack of artificial lights, most locations in the area make for excellent stargazing.