On the Road: Bisbee, Arizona

The West's Best Small Town to Live

Copper ore mounted in front of the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum.

The charming town of Bisbee, Arizona is proclaimed as “The West’s Best Small Town to Live.” This isn’t idle speculation.

In recent years, Bisbee has been voted the Best Historic Small Town in America by both USA Today readers and Sunset Magazine. It’s also been named as an “alive” place to retire and one of America’s quirkiest towns by the AARP publication Modern Maturity.

My daughter Jill and I spent a few hours there while I was visiting with her family a couple of weeks ago.

Jill in the doorway of the historic Copper Queen Hotel Saloon.

The day was lovely, not too warm and not too chilly. The sun shone upon us so eating lunch on the patio of the Copper Queen Hotel was perfect.

But first we visited the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum. The town, founded in 1880, was home to copper, gold, and silver miners. Since 1929, Bisbee has been the county seat for Cochise County.

I could have spent most of the day in the museum. The exhibits were fascinating. Here are two of my favorites: first a photo collage of one of my favorites–a lunchbox showing what a miner might have taken home with him at the end of the day; second a “movie in the window” showing what it was like for children to grow up in a 19th century mining town.

As we window-shopped the main street of the historic downtown area, I found this storefront. Jill had never heard of Woolworth’s but I remember when it was one of the stores frequented by my parents (though that was in Columbus, Ohio–many miles from Bisbee).

Though we browsed through a couple of thrift and antique stores, and found some really cool vintage items, I think our favorite place was the used bookstore.

Jill found a huge yet very inexpensive tome about Oscar Wilde and I picked up a copy of Blue Highways: A Journey Into America by William Least Half-Moon. We picked up three or four other books, too.

As I needed to add anything else to my “to be read” stack.

But back to Bisbee and a few trivia notes.

A view of Bisbee from the Copper Queen Hotel patio.

John Wayne was a frequent visitor to the Copper Queen Hotel.

Remember Wilson Wilson, the neighbor behind the fence on Tim Allen’s Home Improvement? That was actually Earl Hindman who was born in Bisbee.

The town has been used for several movies and television shows, including both the original and 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma and Young Guns II.

The town’s official motto is: An American Original.

Your Turn

Jill and I enjoyed our visit to Bisbee, and we joked about moving there while enjoying hot chocolate at a local café. What place would get your vote as the “Best Small Town in America” and why? If it’s not your hometown, would you move there given the chance?

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One thought on “On the Road: Bisbee, Arizona

  1. Loved the visit to Bisbee as I probably will never get there. As for my favorite small town, it would be Collierville, Tennessee. It looks just the way I remember when I visited my cousin for two weeks every summer.