Anyone visiting Tucson should consider a day or overnight trip to Bisbee, which lies just 90 miles southeast. During its heyday as a mining town in the early 1900s, Bisbee was one of the richest mineral sites in the world: its mines produced copper, gold, silver, and minerals such as turquoise, malachite and azurite. It was 1975, nearly 100 years after copper was first mined here, when mining operations were no longer profitable and ceased production.
With a history so deeply connected to mining, the city decided to “repurpose” the mine to keep its history alive and bring tourists to the area. A section of the famous Queen Mine was cleaned and structurally reinforced, before opening to visitors in 1976. According to the mine’s website, more than a million visitors have toured the mine since it opened. The tour takes about an hour, and reservations are recommended. Before taking the train 1,500 feet into the side of the mountain, visitors are equipped with a hardhat, a bright yellow slicker, and a miner’s lamp. The guides are former miners who share firsthand knowledge of the mine’s history and operation, and all of it is fascinating. Bring a sweater, since the temperature underground is about 50 degrees.
After the tour, learn even more about mining at the nearby Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum. And after that? Bisbee has fantastic art galleries, shops, restaurants, and restored Victorian neighborhoods. Don’t miss the Cochise County Courthouse, a stunning Art Deco building.