It's Quirky, It's Artsy, It's Funky, It's Our Favorite Small Town ~ Bisbee, Arizona

{Date of Visit: Dec 15, 2014 - Jan 15, 2015}


For those of you who follow our Facebook page and/or Instagram it will come as no surprise when I tell you I LOVE Bisbee, Arizona. I didn't intend for it to happen but when we first visited this little, artsy town back in the winter of 2013 it was love at first sight. So, when Clark suggested we spend the holidays there I didn't hesitate to make reservations at the one and only RV park in town, Queen Mine RV Park. This little park is a no frills (unreliable wifi, no playground, no clubhouse, no pool, no hot tub), somewhat crowded, 25 space gravel lot which sits atop a hill above the Queen Mine. But, at $350 per month it's a great deal because it's only a 5 minute walk to the historic area, which I went to almost every single day of our month long stay.


IF, by some weird chance you decide to make Bisbee "just" a day trip then the best way to get to know, and really appreciate this town, is to climb its' stairs. As part of an effort to get people back to work, the WPA oversaw the building of these stair over what were once mule trails. Someone got a wild idea to make the 4.5 mile route an athletic challenge and the event has grown ever since. Called the Bisbee 1000, the annual event has been held every October since 1900 and registration sells out every year. Now, you don't have to participate in the Bisbee 1000 to see the town but I would highly recommend you grab a copy of the map from the Visitor Center (or download one here) and hit the stairs. The beauty of doing it on your own is that you can decide to go down the stairs instead of up or break the route up in what ever way suits you (we did it over the course of two days, revisiting favorite spots throughout our stay).

Almost all of the stairways...
Taking the stairs will offer up some of the best views of the town and bring you to areas you most likely never would have known about had you just walked down the main drag called Tombstone Canyon Road leaving you with the thought that this is *just* a touristy town. There's really no good way to describe the historic houses, exposed water and gas pipes, murals, unique gardens, whimsical gates and fences, mosaic walls found at the bottom of dead end streets or the memorable characters you'll meet along the way.






Pretty much everywhere you look you'll find something (or someone) of interest.


I ran into Bisbee local Jace and his dog, Hap, while hiking the back half of Bisbee. I'll always remember Jace as the guy that told me what I take with my camera are photographs, what I draw on paper are pictures. That makes me a photographer. He is too.

Coffee

Prior to our visit in 2013, I had never heard of Bisbee and it was only through an online search for coffee (while visiting Tombstone) that we found out about it. Clark always jokes that the coffee is the only reason we go back. It's not the only reason...but it's a big part of my love for the town. Note: Don't confuse Old Bisbee Roasters with Bisbee Coffee Company. They are two very different entities.

Seth showing off his delicious Sumatra at his store front on Main Street.
In Peddler's Alley brewing up some espresso.
Old Bisbee Roasters: My favorite coffee roaster to date is owned and operated by Seth Appell, It sits on Main Street next to Thuy's. Here you'll find an almost warehouse type establishment where a variety of beans are roasted, packaged and mailed to coffee connoisseurs around the world. Seth is happy to make you an espresso and talk (for hours if you're willing) about coffee (and photography and video making). You can buy beans to your hearts content. On weekends you'll find him in Peddler's Alley, where he will provide you with espresso after espresso until you pull yourself away...hopefully with a few bags of coffee still warm from the roaster.

Bisbee Coffee Company!
Bisbee Coffee Company: Located across from the library and post office where Main Street becomes Subway, or Tombstone Canyon, I'm not sure which since they are the same street (this is where grabbing a map is useful). This is a cozy cafe where one can get a mocha, latte, traditional macchiato or Mexican hot chocolate. They roast their own beans right upstairs which are available for purchase in the cafe. This is where you go to sit and enjoy a coffee while you grab a paper and learn about everything happening in town. Between the coffee shop and the library is a huge bulletin board where you can find everything from concerts to rooms for rent. Be sure to check it out.

Restaurants

We didn't eat everywhere...but we almost did. Bisbee actually has some really good restaurants...and not in a "for the middle of no where" kind of way). I was impressed with the pizzas (they even have a vegan version) at the Stock Exchange (bar and grill side) but not so much with the atmosphere and drinks. But here are the standouts:


Delicious lunch at Poco.
Poco: This little place can be found in Peddler's Alley. If you can't find it do yourself a favor and ask someone. Don't leave Bisbee without eating here and grabbing some coffee from Old Bisbee Roasters, who is also here on weekends. A few things to note: they are only open Fri-Sun and they are plant-based (aka vegan). Please, do NOT let that sway you from eating here. The food is exceptional and every omnivore who has tried it seems to have loved it (just check out the Yelp! reviews). We both preferred this Mexican food over the other option in town, which really caters to tourists.

The menu board at Thuy's. The Iced Jasmine Tea is worth a stop itself.
Thuy's Noodle Shop: I'm still not sure what Pho is but these are the best damn noodles and spring rolls I've ever had. Clark agrees. While the restaurant itself is a tiny shoebox the service and food quality make up or it. Of course, it wasn't high season when we were there so, it may be in your best interest to get your food to go if the place is busy. We had food from here several times because it's sooooo good.

Bars/Wine Tasting



We did a Santa Pub Crawl right before Christmas and then went bar hoping on New Years Eve so we got to sample pretty much all of the bars in town. There are a few that are easily spotted while "touristing" and they might draw you in due to their size and historical value but be forewarned, they aren't necessarily the best. One exception would be the Copper Queen Saloon where our bartender went out of her way to learn how to make my favorite cocktail, the Hemingway Daiquiri and then gave us a run down of cool places in town. Here a couple of solid choices we liked:

St. Elmos: This is a locals place (aka dive bar) with friendly bartenders and live music. It does get mixed reviews so don't blame me if the place is overrun with unruly motorcycle "gang" members and/or unhelpful bartenders. Our experience was great as was our bartender.

Room 4 Bar: Dubbed Arizona's Smallest Bar this joint sits in a tiny room upstairs in the Silver King Hotel. It's definitely worth a visit. We went on New Years Eve where Emily, the chef from Poco, and her husband, Gregor (who was our pourer at the Flying Leap Wine Tasting Room), were performing under the name Tin Can Tourists. A very unique bar.

Gregor at Flying Leap Tasting Room.
Flying Leap: Arizona is making a name for itself as a new wine region. So strange since it seems to grow cacti pretty well, but grapes?? I don't know how they do it but the wine is pretty damn good and Flying Leap is a great example. Gregor was our pourer and provided a ton of information and entertainment. It was such a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Hikes



Bisbee 1000: This is the number one "hike" to do if you're short on time. It's truly the best way to see the town and the many, many murals painted throughout. (Pet friendly).


The "B" on Bisbee Hill: Yes, there is a way to hike to the big B on the mountain. It's quite a climb but man does it offer a fantastic view of the town. There are also some cool shines up top. (Pet friendly but be mindful of sharp rocks on some paws).


San Pedro River Trail (about 16 miles toward Sierra Vista): A birder's paradise and a nice hike for getting back to nature the San Pedro River Trail offered a nice break from town. (Pet friendly).

Museums & Things To Do


Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum: Personally, this would be our number one choice for those with limited time who might be debating between this and the Queen Mine Tour. Why? Well, it's part of the Smithsonian Institution's Affiliations Program which means it is really, really well done. It's only open from 10am-4pm (cost $8 for adults and $3 for kids) so be sure to plan accordingly.


Queen Mine Tour: It was only during our last few days in Bisbee that we finally broke down and took the tour of the mine we had been sleeping on top of for a month. We were handed a hard hat, slicker and headlamp then hopped on a little rail car that took us 1500 feet underground. It was kitschy and completely touristy. I'm not exactly recommending it but hey, maybe this is your kind of thing.






Mulheim Heritage House: This beautiful home was completed in 1900 and is open for tours from 10am-2pm daily. It's offers gorgeous views too.



The Lowell Neighborhood: Walking down Erie Street is like stepping back in time. Old cars and vintage motorcycles line the streets where store fronts still display the wares of 1950. It's as though time stands still here. It's also home of the Bisbee Breakfast Club which seems to have a reputation for being the place to go for breakfast but we were slightly underwhelmed. While the restaurant ambiance is amazing and the plates of food are overflowing it just didn't blow our skirts up.



The Bisbee Royale: The perfect movie theater is one that serves beer, wine and food during the show...and the Royale does just that with a speakeasy kind of feel. They also host live entertainment, presidential debate showings (followed by lively "discussions") and other events. Seating is more like a club and less like a theater so get there early for a booth seat or you might end up sitting at a table for the whole show.

The Mimosa Market is several blocks up Brewery Ave. We wouldn't have known it existed if we hadn't done the Bisbee stairs. A cute grocery store with a friendly staff.
High Desert Market and Cafe offers gourmet groceries (like fine cheese, wine, pasta, etc) as well as food to dine in or to go. They also specialize in dinners, made on-sight, for visitors who are staying in hotels or B&Bs to take home.
As you can see, there's a lot to do in Bisbee and really, this post just touches on a few of the highlights. As small towns go, this one is pretty special. The town is a crazy mix of old cowboys and miners who seem to be very welcoming of the "hippy", artsy, progressive types (at least from a tourist perspective). St. Elmos might be filled with some hardened bikers rocking out to Lynyrd Skynyrd while next door, at Whyld Ass Cafe (now located in Flagstaff), the rainbow flag flies proudly and vegan meals are prepared from scratch with songs of love and peace playing in the background. This is the type of town where you have to venture off of the main drag to really appreciate the diversity, the history and uniqueness of the place.

If you make it there say "hi" to Seth, Emily and Gregor (Tin Can Travels and Poco) and Jace. I hope you enjoy Bisbee as much as we do.

Comments

  1. Hey, we just missed you in Bisbee! We arrived at the end of January and have spent the last month at the Queen Mine RV park. Love your take on the town - we feel the same way about it. The first night we arrived, a local warned us that we should be careful....she arrived 15 years ago as a visitor and never left. As much as we love full-time RVing, Bisbee is on a very short list of places we've been tempted to stay for good, and we will certainly be coming back.

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  2. Thanks for the pre-publication Bisbee pointers earlier today so that I could know where to go on today's adventure. Loved the town and a few hours isn't nearly enough time to soak all of Bisbee in. Tempted to actually stay in a commercial RV park for a bit so that I can spend more time there...

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  3. Thanks for the post! We just got to Bisbee today and love it already! Unfortunately, we only have two nights here, so we are going to make the most of it. Thanks especially for the coffee recommendation - will be going to partake tomorrow!

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