Visiting Bisbee, Arizona in Winter Time

Genie Davis December 28, 2011 No Comments

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We found a great winter get away in the old mining village of Bisbee, Arizona. Less than a hundred miles south of Tucson, there’s historic buildings, a fun small town vibe, a great old hotel, and mountain scenery touched with snow in the winter time. With art galleries, small shops full of unique second hand goods and ”antiques,” and a colorful mountainside setting, Bisbee makes for a fun trip.

Bisbee Arizona Tourist Spot

Bisbee was once a miner's delight - now it's a great spot for family tourists, especially for the holidays.

Bisbee Ghost Tours

My son always loves hearing ghost stories, and those abound in Bisbee, too. While we didn’t witness any signs of the paranormal here, the elegant old Copper Queen Hotel is reputedly very haunted as stories written by guests and kept in a front-desk log will attest. Our room included a small parlor, and a rollaway bed to supplement two doubles, but no ghosts. To satisfy my son’s curiosity, we did take the truly fun Old Bisbee Ghost Tour, an evening walking tour through alleys, up mountainside staircases, and inside other reputedly haunted buildings. Unlike a similar tour we took in San Antonio, we didn’t spy any ghostly apparitions. This was fine by both me and my daughter, and we loved hearing the history and ghost stories of certain eerie stair cases and back alley buildings; but my son was a bit disappointed. If you don’t want to walk, there is also a hearse ride ghost tour that takes you past some of the same sights.

Bisbee Lavender Jeep Tour

No one was at all disappointed by the cities Lavender Jeep Tour. This is a great way to experience the town’s sights, as the many steep streets and narrow stairs make difficult climbing whether you’re an adult or a small child. And if you drive through town yourself, the narrowness of the roads will keep you from getting a good look at all the funky cottages and Victorian era bungalows, gracious old bank buildings, and more that mark the city’s one time competition with San Francisco for grace and commerce. Plus, riding around in a lavender jeep is just fun. While we took the ninety minute Backroads of Bisbee tour, they too offer a ghost tour, a tour of historic churches in the area, and an adventurous tour of the surrounding area that takes you up steep mountain passes.

Bisbee Arizona Main Street

Bisbee Arizona main street

Bisbee Mines

Kids over the age of five will love putting on a hard hat and a miner’s lamp and taking a train tour of Bisbee’s famous copper mine, the Queen Mine. Smaller children may find the extended time underground a little scary – if you think otherwise, the train is a comfortable ride. The mine once produced a massive quantity of copper, but it closed in the mid-seventies. In place of copper mining came tourist mining, and the public tours are led by miners who once worked in the property, and can offer many interesting stories about working as a miner. If your kids haven’t had enough mining lore, or if you decide to eschew the tour, check out instead the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum in town. Accessible and well laid out, you’ll learn everything from how to mine to the quality of copper ore. We found Bisbee’s colorful past well presented here, in a museum that’s proud to be a National Registered Landmark as well as an affiliate of the Smithsonian. The building was once the  headquarters of the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company.

More of Bisbee’s Rich History

Nearby, the Muheim Heritage House Museum is another historic building, a home built between  1898 and 1915. Fully restored and furnished, this Victorian home offers a great view of Bisbee from its perch on a hilltop, and we spent a fair amount of time after the guided tour just taking pictures of the mountain view and the sprawl of the town below.

We also explored the kitschy aluminum Airstream Travel trailers that offer an alternative accommodation to the Copper Queen. We didn’t stay, but we did look inside the Shady Dell’s Airstream collection which is supplemented by a yacht and a bus. The kids were fascinated and voted to stay here next time; as much fun as it looked we thought the Copper Queen offered better accommodations for a family.

Bisbee Shops and Dining

In town, there were plenty of Santa Fe-style small art galleries, and eclectic shops, many featuring copper jewelry and turquoise in a uniquely bright shade of blue. And there were also fun restaurants. Bella Roma’s organic-sourced pizzas and salads were delightful and very reasonably priced. Cafe Roka’s upscale, super cool modernity served up a reasonable, Italian-themed four course meal with wonderful vegetarian soups, and an emphasis on plant based cuisine that we really appreciated. And we loved the historic, multi-leveled setting in a former department store.  The kids enjoyed getting their choice of dining spots on the ground floor or mezzanine.

Bisbee During the Holidays

In November and December, holiday decorated historic homes are opened for tours, Santa visits downtown, and lights are strung merrily throughout the quaint streets. We came specifically for the Small Town Holiday weekend just after Thanksgiving. A homey carnival like atmosphere reigns downtown with face painting for the kids, balloon animal crafting, and plenty of music playing on every corner. Best of all were free horse and carriage rides for the family, and for the adults, wine and appetizers offered in shops and galleries. As dusk fell and the lights twinkled on, carolers sang; many of the downtown shops and restaurants decorated their windows festively, too. We’ve heard another family-friendly event is the Halloween celebration with costumes and hayrides. But, whatever time of year you visit Bisbee, you’ll have busy days in this beautiful old mining town.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

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