The Valley’s Western culture is fading fast, but if you poke around at the outer edges of the Valley, you’ll find a couple of Hollywood-style cowtowns. These are basically tourist traps, but, hey, if you’ve got the kids along, you owe it to them to visit at least one of these places.
Cave Creek, founded as a gold-mining camp in the 1870s, still has a Wild West facade, a mile or two of cowboy saloons, Western art galleries, restaurants, souvenir shops, and the like, about 20 miles due north of downtown Scottsdale. By day, anyone can park, poke into the stores (don’t miss The Dump, a gigantic indoor-and-outdoor purveyor of crazy Western statuary and related ornamentations), and grab a bite at one of the local burger joints, Mexican restaurants, or cafes. Tourist ground zero is Frontier Town, 6245 E. Cave Creek Rd. (www.frontiertownaz.com; tel. 480/488-3317), a sort of mock cowtown with lots of little shops, a restaurant, and a saloon. By night, things get wilder, with a cluster of cavernous Western watering holes—the Buffalo Chip, the Horny Toad—offering everything from local country bands to bull-machine riding, along with endless bars and large-portion bar food. To learn more about the history of this area, stop in at the Cave Creek Museum, at Skyline Drive and Basin Road (www.cavecreekmuseum.org; tel. 480/488-2764), open from October to May on Wednesday through Sunday from 1 to 4:30pm (on Fridays it opens earlier, at 10am). Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students 12 and older, and free for kids 11 and under.
On the east side of the Valley, just 4 miles northeast of Apache Junction on Ariz. 88, Goldfield Ghost Town (4650 N. Mammoth Mine Rd.; www.goldfieldghosttown.com; tel. 480/983-0333) is a reconstructed 1890s gold-mining town—more or less a tourist trap, with gift shops, an ice-cream parlor, and the like. Goldfield’s Historic Museum (tel. 480/677-6463) does have some interesting exhibits on the history of the area, particularly the exhibit on the Lost Dutchman gold mine, the famous lost gold mine that may or may not exist. Museum admission is $4 adults, $3 seniors, $1 ages 5–12. Goldfield Mine Tours provides guided tours of the gold mine beneath the town for $9 adults, $8 seniors, $6 ages 6–12. You can pan for gold, watch a gunfight, and ride the Superstition Narrow Gauge Railroad that circles the town (train rides $9 adults, $8 seniors, $6 children 5–12). If you’re here at lunchtime, you can get a meal at the steakhouse/saloon. The town is open daily (except Christmas) from 10am–5pm; museum, tour, and ride hours vary.
Sadly, the beloved longtime attraction Rawhide at Wild Horse Pass (5700 W. North Loop Rd., Chandler) is open now only for special events and on certain holidays, like Thanksgiving, when in addition to a buffet meal you can see the site’s Western accouterments, try the amusement-park rides, and so forth. Check the site’s website, www.rawhide.com, for any upcoming openings.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.