1) The Benson Visitors Centeris great for information on the area’s attractions, and is housed in a replica train depot. The iron horse history is strong in Benson, once the shipping point for the raucous town of Tombstone in the late 1800s and, even earlier, a stop for the Butterfield Overland Stage. Then, visit Gammon’s Gulch, an Old West movie set, to relive some great Wild West moments of movie history. In need of appropriate attire? Head to Spur Western Wear to find all the cowboy fixin’s. Then, see if there are any happenings at the Arena Bar and Rodeo Grounds, where a rodeo or roping might be going on. If you’re in town in October, don’t miss the Butterfield Overland Stage Days and Rodeo.
2) Another not-to-miss event is held inWillcox. Going on for 65 years, Rex Allen Days is held each fall and features a rodeo, concerts, and fun for the whole family. Even if you miss the event, you can still revel in the honorary cowboy’s glory at the Rex Allen Museum & Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame. Or, if you’re traveling in April, be sure to check out the Willcox Wild West Fest & Chuck Wagon Cook-off. As an agricultural center of Arizona, Willcox provides residents and guests alike with no shortage of good food and drink, no matter what time of year.
3) In fact, pick up some farm-fresh goods and wines and load up for a trip to the historic Slaughter Ranch—home of the “Meanest Good Guy in Arizona.” Sheriff John Slaughter was awarded his badge in 1886 and was known throughout the area as a soft-spoken man whose actions demanded respect. The Slaughter Ranch continues to be an Arizonan treasure and memorial to the man.
4) Step back into the present with a stay in modern Bisbee,where shopping opportunities abound. Don’t miss visiting the museum-like Optimo Custom Hatworks for a glimpse into the step-by-step craftsmanship required to create a custom piece. If you’re a hankering craftsman yourself, consider signing up for a leathermaking workshop at the renownedBisbee Craft School.
5) No trip is complete without visiting Tombstone, home of the OK Corral, where daily reenactments portray the most widely known gunfight in cowboy history. Events are held throughout the year, so see if your plans lines up with Wyatt Earp Days,or even the Wyatt Earp Vendetta Ride, in which a group of riders relives the history horseback.
6) Conclude your wanderings in Sierra Vista,where the Buffalo Soldiers took on the famed Apache warrior, Geronimo, while they were based at Fort Huachucain the mid-1880s. Don’t miss February’s CochiseCowboy Poetry & Music Gathering. And whether you’re there in February or not, do plan to eat at either Daisy Mae’s Stronghold,known for serving up a great steak with a healthy side of Wild West history you won’t soon forget.