- Author: Laurie Davies
- Category: Travel
- Issue: Dec 2011
Featuring a Whiskey Row pub crawl, river rafting, holiday concerts, a steam train and a haunted hotel, these five Centennial-related escapes beat the heck out of history class.
Bisbee’s Mining Boom
Think Bisbee is just a footnote in Arizona’s history books? Think again: “Without Bisbee we would not have achieved statehood in 1912. This is where the horsepower of the state was. Copper made this thing go,” says Bisbee history buff and Lavender Jeep Tour operator Tom Mosier. More than 8 billion pounds of copper was mined in this boomtown-turned-artist-colony.
While copper lured miners – by 1900, Bisbee was said to be the biggest city between St. Louis and San Francisco – it was Bisbee’s bonanza of azurite, malachite and cuprite that may have won over statehood foes. Today, evidence of Bisbee’s mining past is everywhere, from the multi-storied homes that terrace the town’s limestone hills to the open mouth of the Lavender Pit mine.
On the Queen Mine Tour, guides tell of mining mules kept in underground stables for up to 15 years and miners who swung four-pound hammers for $3.50 a day. Don’t miss the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum, located in the shadow of the storied Copper Queen Hotel. You’ll learn about George Warren, the prospector immortalized on the State Seal of Arizona, who lost his wealth by betting he could outrun a horse. Find the Bisbee Deportation exhibit, which traces the day in 1917 when more than 1,200 striking miners were rounded up, condemned in kangaroo court, and shipped to New Mexico on boxcars.
Eat & Drink
Café Roka: 35 Main St., 520-432-5153, caferoka.com
St. Elmo’s: 36 Brewery Ave., 520-432-557
Queen Mine Tours: 478 N. Dart Rd., 520-432-2071, queenminetour.com
Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum: 5 Copper Queen Plaza, 520-432-7071, bisbeemuseum.org
Prescott Territorial History
Small-town Prescott was once Arizona’s political power epicenter, serving as the Territorial Capital from 1864 to 1867, and again from 1887 to 1889. Take a trip back to territorial times at Sharlot Hall Museum, a remarkably preserved four-acre campus of buildings. The crown jewel is the Territorial Governor’s Mansion, the oldest structure from Territorial Arizona still standing on its original site. Historians believe the first Territorial Legislature met there in 1864.
Furnished with period décor, “Arizona’s Mount Vernon” has a few original artifacts, including a pistol with a lead ball that belonged to Territorial First Lady Margaret McCormick. Hoping to dissuade her brother from moving to Prescott in 1866, she wrote: “There is mining to be sure, but that work is too rough… We can but think this is a hard country for people to live in. The Indians seem to be getting worse – indeed it would make your hair stand on end almost to hear of some of the murders they have committed recently.”
Stroll to the 1917 Yavapai County Courthouse, annually bedazzled in Christmas lights. (The 57th annual lighting ceremonies are held on Dec. 3 at 6 p.m.) For the Centennial, 100 trees on the plaza will be strung with lights. End your night by hell-raising on Whiskey Row. Hit Matt’s Longhorn Saloon, set in a 1901 building, and don’t miss the Palace Saloon, where Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp knocked back drinks. In a 1900 fire that leveled the town, Palace patrons carried the 20-foot 1880s Brunswick bar (and much of the liquor) across the street, pouring drinks while Whiskey Row burned. Now that’s getting lit.
Eat & Drink
The Palace Saloon: 120 S. Montezuma, 928-541-1996, historicpalace.com
Bistro St. Michael: 205 W. Gurley St., 928-776-1999, stmichaelhotel.com
Sleep & Stay
Hotel St. Michael: 205 W. Gurley St., 928-776-1999, stmichaelhotel.com
Hassayampa Inn: 122 E. Gurley St., 928-778-9434, hassayampainn.com
(Note: This 1927 hotel is rumored to be haunted.)
Sharlot Hall Museum: 415 W. Gurley St., 928-445-3122, sharlot.org
San Xavier del Bac, Tucson
The glory of Arizona’s and Northern Mexico’s trail of desert missions, Mission San Xavier del Bac has been called the “Sistine Chapel of North America.” The mission site was first surveyed by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino in 1692. In the years between 1687 and 1711, the “Padre on Horseback” explored the region, bringing exceptional map-making skills and a love for natives.
The Spanish Colonial building as it stands today was completed in 1797. From its Latin cross-shaped floor plan to the elaborate Creation story depicted behind the altar, its interior is a sea of symbolism.
Painstakingly restored in the 1990s, this National Historic Landmark withstood the fall of Spain, the fight for Mexican independence and the border-shifting Gadsden Purchase of 1854. It survived Apache war party raids, brutal desert weather, a tumultuous transfer from Jesuits to Franciscans, and years of neglect. Mission San Xavier is still a Catholic parish serving the Tohono O’odham community, for whom it was established in the 17th century. Visitors are welcome from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
A festive way to experience the mission is to take in a Sons of Orpheus Christmas at San Xavier concert, scheduled this year for Dec. 13-15 at 6 and 8 p.m.
Eat & Drink
Arizona Inn Dining Room: 2200 E. Elm St., 520-325-1541, arizonainn.com
El Charro Café: 311 N. Court Ave., 520-622-1922, elcharrocafe.com
Sleep & Stay
Hotel Congress: 311 E. Congress St., 520-622-8848, hotelcongress.com
Arizona Inn: 2200 E. Elm St., 520-325-1541, arizonainn.com
Mission San Xavier: 1950 W. San Xavier Rd., sanxaviermission.org
Christmas at San Xavier concert tickets: 520-407-6130
Route 66, Williams
Route 66 has seduced road-trippers with its siren call since the asphalt artery first connected Chicago to L.A. in 1926. Now “America’s Main Street” harkens to a simpler time when Americans relished the journey as much as the destination.
But the “Mother Road” is a motherlode to tackle in toto. For a weekend-sized slice of the highway, beeline to Williams, which serves up Western history along with sodas, shakes and steaks, plus ample helpings of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Betty Boop. Retailers slap the iconic Route 66 logo onto everything from corkscrews and snow scrapers to hot pads and hair brushes. Visit Wild West Junction for a kitschy taste of the Wild West and swing through Bearizona for an up-close look at the wildlife.
This December, take a ride on the Polar Express, the Grand Canyon Railway’s roundtrip from Williams to the “North Pole.” Or, if you’re lucky enough to snag a $7.50 1912 fare on the Grand Canyon Railway, you can celebrate Arizona’s 100th birthday in style. Pulled by a historic steam locomotive, the Arizona Centennial Train will depart Williams Depot at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 14 to the Grand Canyon.
Photos - Clock-wise from top left: Bearizona, Williams • Polar Express train from Williams • steam-powered Grand Canyon Railway at El Tovar; Williams
Eat & Drink
Rod’s Steakhouse: 301 E. Route 66, 928-635-2671, rods-steakhouse.com
Cruiser’s Café: 233 W. Route 66, 928-635-2445, cruisers66.com
Sleep & Stay
Red Garter Bed & Bakery: 137 W. Railroad Ave., 928-635-1484, redgarter.com
The Downtowner Motel: 201 E. Route 66, 928-635-4041, thedowntowneronroute66.com
Grand Canyon Railway: thetrain.com
Wild West Junction: wildwestjunction.com
The Colorado River has been explored, romanticized and politicized. Western states have squabbled over her water, while dams to control floods and satisfy recreational needs have changed her ecology. A political football as much as a topographical marvel, the Colorado cuts through Arizona for more than 500 miles. Notable historic points include:
Lee’s Ferry: Located about eight miles southwest of Page, Lee’s Ferry was a heavily-trafficked Colorado River crossing in the 19th and 20th centuries for pioneers traveling between Arizona and Utah. The ferry was operated by John D. Lee, a friend of Mormon founder Joseph Smith who had 19 wives and was eventually executed for his part in the Mountain Meadows massacre. Today, the location is the main launch for rafters. It’s a great spot for fly fishing with Lee’s Ferry Anglers, or just to get your toes wet.
River rafting: Follow in the wake of John Wesley Powell’s 1864 “journey into the Great Unknown” by rafting the Colorado. Numerous outfitters will make your adventure smoother than Powell’s – they’ll set up camp, cook and navigate the rapids for you. Two top companies are Arizona River Runners and Outdoors Unlimited.
Hoover Dam: This Depression-era Art Deco dam impounds Lake Mead and contains enough concrete to pave a two-lane road from San Francisco to New York. View it from the Hoover Dam Visitor Center, then houseboat on Lake Mead with Forever Resorts, which launches houseboats from Calville Bay in Nevada and small boat rentals at Temple Bar Marina in Arizona.
Yuma Crossing: Arizona’s “West Coast” boasts many interesting stops, including fish-rich Lake Mohave and Lake Havasu. But no discussion of the Colorado is complete without paying homage to Yuma Crossing, a natural crossing used by prehistoric tribes, Spanish explorers, gold rushers and military men. It is now part of a wetland and riparian restoration project. Learn about the crossing at Pivot Point Interpretive Plaza, a colorful outdoor museum. A 1907 Baldwin locomotive sits on the original track alignment, and after dark, two laser beams trace the railway where the first locomotive entered Arizona in 1877.
Photos - From left: Cliff Dwellers restaurant; pastrami and Swiss sandwich from Cliff Dwellers
Eat & Drink
Cliff Dwellers Restaurant (Lee’s Ferry): Highway 89A, 15 miles northwest of Bitter Springs turnoff, cliffdwellerslodge.com
River City Grill (Yuma): 600 W. Third St., 928-782-7988, rivercitygrill.com
Sleep & Stay
Visit arizonaguide.com/hotels-lodging for lodging options statewide.
Lee’s Ferry: nps.gov/glca/historyculture/leesferryhistory.htm
Lee’s Ferry Anglers: leesferry.com/services.html
Arizona River Runners: raftarizona.com
Outdoors Unlimited: outdoorsunlimited.com
Hoover Dam: usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/index.html
Lake Mead: nps.gov/lake/index.htm, foreverresorts.com
Yuma Crossing: yumaheritage.com, visityuma.com/pivot_point.html