Perfect for: Cowboys and cowgirls and those who wish they were
Past & Present
According to dubious legend, the town’s namesake, a California Gold Rush washout named Henry Wickenburg, discovered the nearby Vulture Mine in 1863 when a vulture he shot fell out of the sky on the claim. The mine produced much gold until its closure in 1942, and the town grew, despite a history of bloody conflict with the Yavapai.
One Day in Wickenburg
First: Have a late breakfast of chilaquiles at local Mexican fave Anita’s Cocina (anitascocina.com). Do some shopping at Tegner and Apache streets; take the kids into The Old Livery Mercantile (oldlivery.com) for cool Southwestern souvenirs, from scorpion lollipops to prickly pear taffy; get your frilly on at Sweet Somethings and Whatknots (sweetsomethingsandwhatknots.com); step into Stoney Saddlery on Apache (stoneysaddlery.com) just for the leather smell.
Next: Check out the statuary across the street in front of the city hall. First, note the tragically countenanced bust of Henry W. himself; then cheer yourself up with the jollier statue of Everett Bowman, “All-Around Champion Cowboy of the World, 1935 and 1937,” and his beloved mules. Track down each of the colorful “Downtown Characters” statue series by J. Seward Johnson, ranging from a prospector leading a donkey to a schoolmarm carrying a suitcase to smaller pieces like Gila monsters and rattlers.
Then: Wander the exhibits at Desert Caballeros Western Museum (westernmuseum.org), presenting world-class Western-themed art, historical artifacts and photographs, and recorded oral history of the town and the region.
Finally: Sneak out of downtown long enough to get some late lunch – or dinner, depending on how long you’ve wandered – at knock-your-socks-off good Mexican joint El Ranchero. (elrancherowickenburg.com). Follow it up with a movie at the old-school Saguaro Theater (saguarotheater.com).
Get Your Bearings
Wickenburg’s tidy, four-block downtown rests between Frontier and Valentine streets, north of Wickenburg Way
Fun for Free!
If you only see one of the “Downtown Characters,” make it the forlorn “Jail Tree Felon.” Be sure to push the green button and hear the jocular narrative.
On the Calendar
The 32nd Annual Cowboy Christmas Poetry Gathering is (at this writing) scheduled for December 4-5, with an opening reception at 6 p.m. Friday at Desert Caballeros Western Museum and a full-on performance by the bards of the saddle at 6:30 p.m. the following evening at Wickenburg Community Center.
According to Mike Wallace of the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce, the cool, vintage, single-screen Saguaro Theater has used the closure to undergo construction. “All new seats; revamped; they just did a mural on the outside.,” says Wallace. “The inside is almost done, and it won’t just be for movies; they’ll have kids in there to learn acting, stuff like that.” The theater hopes to reopen this year.
2020 Population: 8,500
2050 Population: 9,800 (est.)