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Tombstone, AZ

1 rating: 3.0
Tombstone, Arizona

The town of Tombstone was founded in 1879, taking its name from the mining claim, and soon became a boomtown. Fueled by mineral wealth, Tombstone was a city of 1000 by the beginning of 1881, and within another year Tombstone had become the seat of a … see full wiki

Tags: Tombstone, Az Tourist Attraction
1 review about Tombstone, AZ

They didn't just paint the town red -- they redecorated it.

  • Jun 20, 2009
  • by
When I arrived to Tombstone, I saw a welcome sign that seemed to have been there for ages. That is to say, it didn't seem like the handiwork of a clever designer who knew how to "age" wood. This seemed like the real thing. Sun, rain and time had its way with this sign and I was convinced that the rest of this town would appear the same way. I was wrong.

The shack like buildings are all shoulder to shoulder as seen in movies, but for the most part the whole place seems to have been refurbished to look like an aged replica of itself. I felt as if I were at a Disney tourist attraction, which I suppose is exactly what that was. Tourists were everywhere, and I quickly realized that I was among them. That feeling also cheapened my experience. So much has the placed been effectively sanitized, that they've created a park for kids just outside the OK Corral where the legendary gunfight went down.

The OK Corral is advertised on its exterior as the location of the legendary fight,  making the place feel all the more like an over-sized souvenir.  This seems unnecessary, since from what I could tell everybody there  already knew about the history of tombstone -- which is why they were there in the first place.

The Big Nose Kate Saloon was also a bit of a disappointment.  It feels less like you're walking into history, and more like you've entered a themed restaurant and bar. Actors dressed up as Cowboys and miners stand on corners inviting you to go on tours. No thanks.

To be fair, parts of Tombstone have the feeling of a museum, which is more acceptable than the whole tourist attraction thing. When you get inside the OK Corral, there are placards informing us that the gunfight between Doc Holiday and the Earps and members of the Clanton gang didn't actually take place at the OK Corral. A sketch of the fight location, done by the hand of Wyatt Earp himself, is reproduced both photographically and using life-sized mannequins. That was cool.

The small plots of Tombstone that are "less interesting" to tourists and therefore received less refurbished attention are the real attraction. The houses remained, from what I can tell, left as is and so looking at them feels as if you're looking at history as opposed to a reenactment of it.

After my visit, I took a look at a few online photographs of Tombstone, and raalized just how much the camera really can lie. The stage coach rides, which are available, give the photographs the appearance of authenticity. However, when you get there it all feels like one big outdoor play performance. So deflating was all this that I passed on the idea of visiting Boot Hill. Those poor souls have been tortured enough by tourists. I didn't need to add to that.

In the end, I don't consider the visit to be a waste. At least, now I know what's there. Being a fan of the movies, I always wanted to see the place and at least now I wont go to my own tomb feeling that I missed something.
Stage Coach Ride at Tombstone

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February 28, 2011
Thanks for the comment. I don't have answers, either. Your excellent review just precipitated the questions.
February 28, 2011
This review was definitely thought-provoking. What DO you do with old historic buildings that people want to visit but need to be kept up? One option is to create businesses (restaurants with singing cowboys, gift shops with Native-American jewelry) in them. That's what Tombstone has done. We recently visited there, and felt some of the cowboy ambiance. If the owners of the area had fenced this whole place off and charged to enter, there would have been something to complain about. However, visitors can just stroll through the town, visit what they want, and learn a little something. And that's OK.
February 28, 2011
Unfortunately, I don't know enough about historical preservation to propose an alternative. In my own city we have buildings and homes that have been adopted by the city for their historical value. One in particular is a Church that was part of the Underground Railroad in route to Canada. Somehow they've managed to maintain the authenticity of these relics without re-defining them as consumer novelty. I saw something similar in Boston. The atmosphere of these places is closer to that of a museum than a gift shop. However, these are cities pulling this off as opposed to small towns, so I don't know if these strategies can apply across the board. As far as what you're proposing as being OK, I guess it goes without saying that what is acceptable depends on the person. Even fencing off the whole place and charging to enter would be OK to an opportunist who sees no problems with maximizing profit potential while still giving people the chance to stroll through the town, visit what they want and learn something. So how do we know where do we draw the line?
June 20, 2009
Very good.....I always wanted to know what was there....now I know! I've done a of travelling, so know what you mean about being disappointed. Nice review...different!
June 25, 2009
Thank You. From here on I'll visit Tombstone through the movies. They leave a much better impression.
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