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Gunslingers & Saloons: In Search of The Wild West

As portrayed in novels, movies, and TV shows, the shootout has come to epitomize the Wild West, and nowhere is this great American phenomenon more glorified than in Tombstone, where the star attraction is the famous O.K. Corral, 308 E. Allen St. (tel. 520/457-3456; www.ok-corral.com), site of a 30-second gun battle that has taken on mythic proportions over the years. Inside the corral, you'll find not only displays on the shootout, but also an exhibit focusing on local photographer C. S. Fly, who ran the boardinghouse where Doc Holliday was staying at the time of the shootout. Next door is Tombstone's Historama, a kitschy multimedia affair that rehashes the well-known history of Tombstone's "bad old days" and has a recorded narration by Vincent Price. The O.K. Corral and Tombstone's Historama are open daily from 9am to 5pm, and admission is $6 (free for kids 5 and under); for $10, you can visit both attractions and take in a shootout reenactment almost on the very site of the original gunfight.

If you aren't able to catch one of the staged shootouts at the O.K. Corral (daily at 2pm), don't despair -- there are plenty of other shootouts staged regularly in Tombstone (usually between noon-4pm). Expect to pay $6 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $3 for children at any of these shows. For a little fun and games, try to catch the Tombstone Cowboys shootout at Helldorado Town, Fourth and Toughnut streets (no phone). These shootouts, which are staged two to three times a day, are more hysterical than historical.

When the smoke cleared in 1881, three men lay dead. They were later carted off to the Boot Hill Graveyard, 408 N. Ariz. 80 (tel. 520/457-3300), on the north edge of town. The graves of Clanton and the McLaury brothers, as well as those of others who died in gunfights or by hanging, are well marked. Entertaining epitaphs grace the grave markers; among the most famous is that of Lester Moore -- "Here lies Lester Moore, 4 slugs from a 44, No Les, no more." The cemetery is open to the public daily 8am to dusk. Enter through a gift shop on Ariz. 80.

When the residents of Tombstone weren't shooting each other in the streets, they were likely to be found in the saloons and bawdy houses that lined Allen Street. Most famous was the Bird Cage Theatre, Allen and Sixth streets (tel. 800/457-3423 or 520/457-3421; www.tombstonebirdcage.com), so named for the cagelike cribs (what most people would think of as box seats) suspended from the ceiling. These velvet-draped cages were used by prostitutes to ply their trade. For old Tombstone atmosphere, this place is hard to beat. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $8 for children 8 to 18; the theater is open daily from 8am to 6pm.

When it's time for a cold beer, Tombstone has a couple of very lively old saloons. The Crystal Palace Saloon, 436 E. Allen St. (tel. 520/457-3611; www.crystalpalacesaloon.com), was built in 1879 and has been completely restored. This is one of the favorite hangouts of the town's costumed actors and other would-be cowboys and cowgirls. Big Nose Kate's, 417 E. Allen St. (tel. 520/457-3107; www.bignosekate.com), is an equally entertaining spot full of Wild West character and characters.

Tombstone has long been a tourist town, and its streets are lined with souvenir shops selling wind chimes, dream catchers, and loads of cowboy souvenirs, and, of course, there are places where you can dress up in old-fashioned clothes and get your picture taken. However, there are also several interesting little museums around town. At the Rose Tree Inn Museum, at Fourth and Toughnut streets (tel. 520/457-3326; TombstoneRoseTree.com), you can see the world's largest rose tree. Inside are antique furnishings from Tombstone's heyday in the 1880s. The museum is open daily from 9am to 5pm (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas). Admission is $5 (free for children 13 and under).

Tombstone Courthouse State Park, 223 Toughnut St. (tel. 520/457-3311; www.azstateparks.com), is the most imposing building in town and provides a much less sensationalized version of local history. Built in 1882, the courthouse is now a state historic park and museum containing artifacts, photos, and newspaper clippings that chronicle Tombstone's lively past. In the courtyard, you can still see the gallows that once ended the lives of outlaws. The park is open daily from 9am to 5pm (closed on Christmas); the entrance fee is $5 for adults and $2 for children 7 to 13.

At the Tombstone Epitaph Museum, Fifth Street between Allen and Fremont streets (tel. 520/457-2211; www.tombstone-epitaph.com), you can inspect the office of the town's old newspaper and learn about John Clum, the original editor of the paper. The museum is open daily from 9:30am to 5pm; admission is free.

The Tombstone Western Heritage Museum, Fremont (Ariz. 80) and Sixth streets (tel. 520/457-3800; www.thetombstonemuseum.com), a privately owned museum, holds the town's most fascinating collection of Tombstone artifacts and ephemera and should not be missed. Included in this impressive collection are artifacts that once belonged to Wyatt and Virgil Earp, rare photos of the Earps and the outlaws of Tombstone, and all kinds of original documents that date to the days of the shootout at the O.K. Corral. The museum is open Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday through Saturday from 9am to 6pm and Sunday from 12:30 to 6pm; admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children 12 to 18 ($13 for families).

For more Tombstone history, stop by the Wyatt Earp House & Gallery, 102 E. Fremont St. (tel. 520/457-3111; www.wyattearphouse.com), a tiny adobe house that may once have been the home of Wyatt Earp and was lovingly restored a few years ago. The old house now serves as a small art gallery.

Andrea's Museum of Victorian Fashions, Third and Toughnut streets (tel. 520/457-2387), is a tiny private museum exhibit with displays of gorgeous gowns from Victorian times. There are also displays of men's and children's clothes from the period. The museum is usually open daily from 9am to 5pm, and admission is free.

To further immerse yourself in Tombstone's Wild West history, take a walk around town with a guide from Tombstone Walking Tour (tel. 520/457-9876; www.tombstonewalkingtours.com). Tours cost $15 for 1 hour and $25 for 2 hours. Alternatively, take a 20-minute stagecoach ride around the town's historic district ($10 for adults; $5 for children). Stagecoaches leave from in front of the O.K. Corral, which is also where you buy tickets for the Tombstone Ghost Hunters Tour (tel. 520/457-3456; www.spiritsoftombstone.com). These tours of haunted Tombstone are offered on Friday and Saturday nights at 8pm and cost $8. With all the outlaws and lawmen who were gunned down on these streets, it's not surprising that ghost tours are popular.

To see some of the landscapes once roamed by the Earps and the Clantons, get out of town on a Jeep tour. Tours are offered by Guided Discovery Tours (tel. 330/819-1041; www.guideddiscoverytours.com) and Into the West Jeep Tours (tel. 520/559-2151 or 520/559-2228; wwwintothewestjeeptours.com). Expect to pay $75 to $100 for a tour (two-person minimum).

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.