Bisbee has long been high on our list of places to visit. Not because of some childhood dream, or cool story we read in national geographic, or even because we knew anything about the town, but because everyone told us how great it was. Seriously. Everyone who has ever been to Bisbee said things like, “I love Bisbee, it’s my favorite town, Bisbee is awesome, Bisbee is funky, Bisbee is fun, You’ll adore Bisbee, You have to go there!” and so on and so on. Okay, okay, we get it, Bisbee is cool. We need to go there. And because we’re suckers for a good recommendation we did. Here we are in Bisbee.
At an RV Park! What you don’t see in this photo is that our neighbors Fifth-Wheel slide is just barely outside of the frame on the left hand side. Here’s the real story.
Despite the tight squeeze the Queen Mine RV park is actually a nice, small park set high on a hill above the city. They offer up a few basic amenities in the form of a small laundry room, large, clean showers, and some slow WiFi. It’s also one of those places that doesn’t hand you a long list of rules when you check in – which I hate. The sites are arranged in a semi circle and you either back up to a wall of rock, a deep hole in the earth (otherwise known as a pit mine), or a ledge that over looks the town and road below. We have the latter view.
Staying here is really not about the park. Instead it’s all about the town, which is only a quick 5 minute walk away. Sadly, we have that work thing going on during the day, which means we do spend a good amount of time in the RV park. But every afternoon we wander down for some exploration. The first day we walked around main street admiring the old victorian buildings, curious alley ways, and crazy looking stairs (more on this later). It was evening so all the stores were closed, but we did peek in the windows of the main street store fronts. Lots of art galleries and antique shops.
After our walk we ended up at a Mexican restaurant called Santiagos, where we enjoyed some HUGE margaritas and a delicious dinner. I can’t remember exactly what we each ordered, but I do know that we cleaned our plats. I also remember that we both enjoyed our side dishes as much as the mains, which is rare at a Mexican restaurant. You know how so often you get a scoop of bland, dried out rice, and beans that taste like they went straight from the can to your plate? That was not the case at Santiagos. The rice was fresh and flavorful, the beans didn’t even have a hint of tin can flavor, and they offered up some super tasty roasted corn. A win win all around for food, drinks, service and atmosphere!
Another evening we strolled around town admiring murals, interesting wall art, eclectic fences and all sorts of other fun & interesting stuff. Bisbee is known as a haven for artists, and as you walk around town the artist vibe comes through loud and clear.
Once again we found ourselves enjoying some libations after our walk. This time we stopped at the Old Bisbee Brewing Company for a few drinks on their very nice outdoor patio. The beer was pretty good. Not the best ever (I fear that night at the Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. has forever ruined me for all other breweries), but we each liked the beer we tried. Mine was their seasonal brew, the Mountain Lime Lager, which did have a nice lime zing, but was a tab bit too light for my taste. Tim had the Double Hopped IPA, and said given the name he expected it to be hoppier. Still a good time, and we especially enjoyed the second story outdoor environment.
For a completely different view of town we climbed up to the top of Chihuahua Hill, or as we prefer to call it, the “B Mountain.”
The trail we took climbed up a short, steep valley and then along the ridge to the pointy part of the mountain above the B. From there we blazed our own trail through the scrub brush over to the top of the B. The white that you see at the bottom of the photo below are the painted rocks that form the B.
Since we were already up there, we blazed another trail over to the edge of the mountain for a wide open view of the RV park below along with the landscape to south, including some Mexican mountains off in the distance.
You can’t walk around Bisbee without seeing signs for the Bisbee 1000 Great Stair Climb. This annual event, held every year in the middle of October, is exactly what the name implies – a great big stair climb. 1034 stairs to be exact. The route snakes around town, down narrow side streets, and around the back of buildings, all with the goal of making sure all 9 stair cases are “enjoyed” going up, instead of down. Each stair case has a number painted on the bottom indicating the order you must climb them, along with the number of stairs. The longest staircase is 181 stairs! Well, after reading about this stair climbing craziness on the Wheeling It blog, and then seeing the stairs all over town, we knew we had to give it a shot.
It was certainly challenging at times, especially the longer, steeper stairs which offered up a thigh workout like no other, but it was also a really cool way to see the town. We followed the stair climb map which not only led us to all the stairs, but also took us into some parts of town we hadn’t yet explored. We were definitely NOT in racing mode as we strolled down the streets between the stairs, enjoying the views from the roads carved into the canyon high above the town. The whole thing took us about 3 hours, although to be fair we did start and end at the RV park which added some distance to the course. By the way, I looked up the results from last year’s race. The first place winner completed the race in about 31 minutes! And the last place contestant did it in 2 hours 51 minutes – he was 87 years old. Not sure what that says about us.
For our final excursion in Bisbee we went underground. Fifteen hundred feet into the side of a mountain to be exact. The Queen Mine here in Bisbee began offering underground tours in 1976 – only one year after all mining operations in Bisbee closed down. Guess it was a good idea because since then more than a million visitors have taken the tour. Who are we to argue with a million people? So it was off on the tour we went. I absolutely loved everything about this experience. From the ride on the authentic mini mining train (pretty sure that’s not the correct terminology), to the cool slickers, hats and mining lights we got wear, to the fascinating details about mining history that our guide shared with us, it was a blast. Not to discount all the factual stuff we learned from our guide, who was an actual retired miner, but my favorite part by far was the train ride. The thrill of riding through the narrow tunnel deep into the earth with the only light coming from our tiny battery operated lamps was awesome! It was kind of like an amusement park ride, except we were some of the few people on the ride under the age of 65 – and there was no screaming. A highly recommended adventure should you ever find yourself in Bisbee.
So, is Bisbee as great as everyone said? Will we now be the ones telling anyone we meet with the slightest interest in southern Arizona, “You have to visit Bisbee, you’ll love it, Bisbee is cool, and funky, and awesome”? Yes and yes. We can now confirm that Bisbee is all those things everyone said, and maybe even a little more.