The legendary Wild West town of Tombstone lies 22 miles south of I-10 on US-80. More than a century has passed since its mining days came to an end, but "The Town Too Tough to Die" clings to an afterlife as a tourist theme park. With its dusty streets, wooden sidewalks, and swinging saloon doors, it's surprisingly unchanged. While it's much more commercialized than its counterpart in New Mexico, Lincoln, it's also more fun. The moody gunslingers who stroll the streets these days are merely rounding up customers to watch them fight, but there's enough genuine rivalry between groups to give the local council ongoing headaches, and give the place an oddly appealing edge. The ideal time to visit is during Helldorado Days in late October, when the air is cooler and the sun less harsh.
Tombstone began life as a silver-boomtown in 1877, and by the end of the 1880s it was all but deserted again. However, on the day that gave it the notoriety that's kept it alive, its population stood at more than ten thousand. It was 2pm on October 26, 1881, when Doc Holliday, along with Wyatt Earp and his brothers Virgil and Morgan (who all served as local sheriffs), confronted a band of suspected cattle rustlers, the Clantons, in the legendary Gunfight at the OK Corral. Within a few minutes, three of the suspects were dead.
Although the gunfight in fact took place on Fremont Street, the OK Corral itself remains the major attraction, especially for its 2pm gunfight (daily 8.30am–5pm; $5.50; Web: www.ok-corral.com ).
Just off the main drag at Toughnut and Third streets, the one-time seat of Cochise County now serves as Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park (daily 8am–5pm; $3). Several well-known trials of the time took place in its little-changed courtroom. Excellent exhibits include two detailed alternative versions of what might have actually happened at the OK Corral.
Central motels include the Tombstone Motel, 502 E Fremont St (Tel:520/457-3478 or 1-888/455-3478, Web: www.tombstonemotel.com ; Price: $51-75), while the classier Holiday Inn Express is a mile north on US-80 W (Tel:520/457-9507 or 1-800/465-4329; Web: www.ichotelsgroup.com ; Price: $76-100). Among old-style saloons serving burgers and beer in a raucous atmosphere are the Crystal Palace at Fifth and Allen streets, and Big Nose Kate's at 417 E Allen St.