Looming enormously in our sacred American folklore, it is almost possible to forget that the O.K. Corral is an actual place. While “The West” has grown considerably tamer, your imagination can go wild as you imagine face-offs with six shooters in the dusty streets of Tombstone, AZ. Indeed, it is for a mere 30-second gunfight in a back lot that the corral is famous, as the Earp Brothers with Doc Holiday confronted members of an outlaw gang called The Cowboys. Three villains were left dead and two of the do-gooders were wounded, while a legend was born. This incident is one of countless from the rugged days of the old west, but it captivated the public forever with its clear division of good and evil forces.
Tombstone, Arizona was founded as a silver mining town (the founder was told he’d find his tombstone there before he‘d find silver) and quickly gained the type of reputation that followed many prospecting communities, with scam artists, bandits, and murderers lingering closely over the hard-working miners. A state of emergency was eventually declared to deal with Tombstone’s outlaws.
A visit to Tombstone and the O.K. Corral today offer a good immersion into the Old West. We love playing around the corral pretending to fire our ancient, make-believe revolvers, as the kids scream gleefully around the nine life-size statues of the famous gunfighters.
The O.K. Corral itself is open for guests to explore in its original 1880’s appearance, and probably most fun, mock gun fights take place here everyday between the famous figures at 2P.M. Guests can also pay a visit to The Tombstone Epitaph and learn old time printing techniques while poring over actual newspaper reports from the gunfight and papers detailing the life of Holliday, Earp and the town’s, excuse us, “working” ladies.
The history of Tombstone is our country’s history and makes a fascinating story as it moves from the days of the Apache people to its current place in our culture. In addition, the town hosts C.S. Fly’s photo gallery where his original portraits of Apache Chief Geronimo and Tombstone’s daily life are hung. After the silver boom, Tombstone served the country for decades as a mining town, though its fortunes are mostly left to legacy. Still, it is called “The Town Too Tough to Die” for a good reason.
Tombstone is currently a working town that hosts over 400,000 visitors a year, full of several variations on gunfight and dancing shows, hay rides and the like. We recommend staying at Trail Rider’s Inn, which has a pleasant country atmosphere perfect for enjoying the beauty of the desert landscape of the San Pedro Valley. There are a ton of touristy, fun places to eat in Tombstone, but we like getting Mexican-inspired Southwestern food at Top of the Hill restaurant right across from legendary Boot Hill cemetery.
The gunfire might have stopped over a century ago. The silver might be gone. But music is still ringing from the saloons and men and women can still walk in the middle of the street. Today, the O.K. Corral and Tombstone are open for making memories of your own.
Tombstone, AZ, O.K. Corral, 326 East Allen Street, Tombstone, AZ, (520) 457-3456, Trail Rider’s Inn, 622 E Fremont St, Tombstone, AZ , (520) 457-3573
Top of the Hill Restaurant, State Highway 80, Tombstone, AZ, (520) 457-3461