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Bisbee is renowned not only for its scenic beauty but for its fascinating history, quirky character, and its street art. This colorful, historic mining town turned funky artist haven is a delight to explore, situated a mile high in the Mule Mountains of southern Arizona. Its streets are lined with Victorian-era homes that sit perched precariously on the steep hillsides. Many can only be reached by climbing the old, deteriorating stairways that are built right into the mountainside, including some that can be rented for short stays.
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Once you’re here, what’s the best way to explore it?
There’s arguably no better way than to embark on an exploration of its history, in fact Bisbee was ranked the No. 1 historic town in the entire country in 2016 by both USA TODAY and Sunset magazine.
Bisbee has a colorful history, but not all of it is rosy, or so they say. In 1880, it was founded as a copper, gold, and silver mining town, named in honor of Judge DeWitt Bisbee, one of the financial backers of the Copper Queen Mine. Fortunately, newer development hasn’t wiped out the charms of the town’s many early structures. One of the best ways to see it is to simply wander through the alleys, and climb up and down its more than 350 staircases, of course, you don’t have to climb them all.
There are notable historical attractions as well, like the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum which does a great job in revealing the town’s past.
Be sure to take the Queen Mine Tour, donning a hard hat and riding on an ore track into the underground mine that was in operation as late as 1975. Your guide will regale you with the tales and tragedies the work miners endured.
If you’re interested in both history and the paranormal, the Old Bisbee Ghost Tour is a must. One of the top ghost tours in the country, you’ll hear some eerily fascinating stories, many of which happen to involve the legendary Bisbee Grand Hotel, which reportedly houses more than a few resident ghosts, like a female spirit that’s described as wearing a Victorian-style dress. She’s said to carry a tea tray and occasionally stands at the foot of the bed in Room 2 or 3. The typically silent piano starts playing a few notes on its own at times too when all is quiet and few are around.
Bisbee’s art is truly a sight to see, spread throughout the city and around nearly every corner. You’ll even see cars that have been transformed into works of art. There are beautifully painted murals, mosaic walls made using a kaleidoscope of colorful glass bottles and broken tiles, and so much more. Bisbee is also home to a good collection of art galleries and artist studios, tucked in between the antique shops, museums and eateries.