70 miles SE of Tucson; 181 miles SE of Phoenix; 24 miles N of Bisbee
All it took was a brief blaze of gunfire more than 125 years ago to seal the fate of this former silver-mining boomtown. On these very streets, outside a livery stable known as the O.K. Corral, Wyatt Earp, his brothers Virgil and Morgan, and their friend Doc Holliday took on the outlaws Ike Clanton and Frank and Tom McLaury on October 26, 1881. Today, Tombstone, "the town too tough to die," is one of Arizona's most popular attractions, but I'll leave it up to you to decide whether it is more of a tacky tourist trap or a genuine historical attraction.
Tombstone was named by Ed Schieffelin, a silver prospector who ventured into this area at a time when the region's Apaches were fighting to preserve their way of life. Schieffelin was warned that all he would find here was his own tombstone, so when he discovered silver, he named the strike Tombstone. Within a few years, the town of Tombstone was larger than San Francisco, and between 1880 and 1887, an estimated $37 million worth of silver was mined here. Such wealth created a sturdy little town, and as the Cochise County seat of the time, Tombstone boasted a number of imposing buildings, including the county courthouse, which is now a state park. In 1887, underground water flooded the silver mines, and despite attempts to pump the water out, the mines were never reopened. With the demise of the mines, the boom came to an end and the population rapidly dwindled.
Today, Tombstone's historic district consists of both original buildings that went up after a fire in 1882 destroyed much of the town and newer structures built in keeping with the architectural styles of the late 19th century. Most house souvenir shops and restaurants, but adults raised on Louis L'Amour, John Wayne, and the outlaw aesthetic seem to love the town.