Arizona : Safety by City
- Casa Grande
- Lake Havasu City
- Oro Valley
- Sierra Vista
Saddle up for a trip to Tombstone, Arizona, where the lawlessness of the old West left a legacy in this town of fewer than 1200 people.
Make no mistake about it, this is a tourist town.
Some might call it a tourist trap.
Every worker you meet will be dressed in Old West attire and it will be tough to get them to break character.
Tombstone got its name from the man who set out to find silver in the mountains.
He was teased by friends in Fort Huachuca, saying “You’ll only find your tombstone out there.”
Well, the man named Ed DID find silver, and also clearly had a great sense of humor as he named the town Tombstone.
As with most old West mining towns, it grew quickly, people prospered, and once the mines were dry or too dangerous, they took off, leaving a ghost town behind.
However, Tombstone was the county seat of Cochise County, so enough people stayed behind to rebuild the town (it burned down in a series of fires) and bring it to life as a tourist attraction and a tribute to the boomtowns that dotted the mountain landscape.
This is the famous sight of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and ironically, the gunfight wasn’t at the O.K. Corral.
It’s a city that is an American legend and a Hollywood classic thanks to several movies, including the 1993 movie Tombstone.
It has since been labeled “The City Too Tough To Die.”
Warnings & Dangers in Tombstone
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's low overall risk if you're protecting your valuables as much as you would in any busy tourist town. The city doesn't have a police department, but there is a Marshall's Office. The Marshall didn't provide crime data to the FBI, living up to the rogue law enforcement reputation of Tombstone, so I've calculated the data from Cochise County (pronounced: "Coe-CHEESE").
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
You'll need to drive to Tombstone or take a shuttle tour to get here. There aren't taxis in this town and the Trolly is a tour through town that will set you back $10. Kids and seniors get a discount. There's a low risk, but not many options in this town.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There was just one purse snatching in all of Cochise County in 2020, so there's low risk countywide and citywide. You still need to keep your purse or wallet secured, as there's just too much temptation when bags are left unattended.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
You've got wildfires as the biggest risk here and flash flooding as a secondary risk. Since Tombstone sits at 4500 feet above sea level, you won't get the extreme heat as you do in Phoenix or Tucson. There's a medium risk for wildfires because they can be very intense when they start.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Five robberies were reported in Cochise County, which is home to more than 125,000 people, so that's a low risk. The gunslingers and stagecoach robbers of the Old West are long gone.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of terrorism here. The closest hard target would be Fort Huachuca, which is about 30 minutes west.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of scams here, but there's a high risk of things that will get your money from you. I lived near Virginia City, a similar tourist-type town in northern Nevada. These cities have ways to spend money at every turn, from turning a penny into a souvenir (for a $2 cost) to appealing souvenirs to extra tours that you might not have budgeted to take. Don't get nickeled-and-dimed here if you are trying to stick to your budget.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women should feel safe traveling here. There's safety in tour group sizes and most of the people who work here are the only people who live here, so they want their city to stay safe, so the tourist dollars keep coming in. There's a low risk, but always be wary if you're walking around at night and be prepared if you're going hiking into the wild west desert.
TAP WATER RISK : MEDIUM
I'm going to have to call this a medium risk because there have been several pump failures or contamination concerns over the past few years. While the water might be safe today, you should check before your trip to see if there are any water emergencies. This is posted on the city's website. A state of emergency was declared in January of 2022 for a well failure that threatened the water. To be safe, you might want to stick to bottled water for drinking.
Safest Places to Visit in Tombstone
In town, there are a lot of places to visit, but not too many places to go.
That’s because the entire city spans just three blocks.
There are three very dense blocks of taverns, restaurants, stores, tour shops, and souvenir stands.
The Old Western Theme Park is a great place to spend a few hours.
You’ll see plenty of reenactments, get to pan for gold, and play some mini-golf.
The Boothill Graveyard is a solemn place to see the gravesites of fallen Tombstone legends.
You’ll see some pretty creative epitaphs too.
It’s named Boothill Graveyard due to the people who died and were buried with their boots on.
In downtown Tombstone, there are several theaters to enjoy performances.
The Bird Cage Theatre is the place to go if you want a ghost tour.
The Saloon Theatre and Wyatt Earp’s Oriental Saloon & Theatre have performances throughout the day and night among the living.
If you like flowers, you absolutely need to see the Rose Tree Inn Museum.
The exterior doesn’t do justice to the amazing rose tree found on its land.
It’s the largest in the world and it’s from the roots of a rose tree planted in Tombstone during its heyday.
It’s also worth a trip 23 miles south to the city of Bisbee to see more history and you’ll also get a few more “normal” amenities.
Places to Avoid in Tombstone
If you go exploring outside of the city of Tombstone, avoid going anywhere near an abandoned mine.
These things are found all across the open desert.
Some are formally sealed off, but some might have nothing more than a “no trespassing” sign.
The mines are unstable from the top, bottom, and sides.
Take a certified mine tour in Tombstone or Bisbee if you really want to see one.
Avoid waiting until the last minute to book a room in Tombstone.
There are only about 5 hotels nearby and they can fill up quickly.
You can also stay in Sierra Vista or Bisbee and still won’t have a far drive.
Some people like to dress up in western clothing when visiting Tombstone, but I’d recommend avoiding purchasing that clothing in the city.
You might be able to save money by buying it ahead of time online or in your local community.
The tourist towns tend to raise the price far above what you’d pay at home.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Tombstone
- Gunslingers are still allowed in Tombstone, as Arizona is an open-carry state, but there might be businesses where you cannot have a weapon on you to enter. Check ahead of time to avoid any conflicts.
- Cochise County has an emergency alert system available in the app stores. It’s from a vendor called AlertSense. This way you’ll get criminal, civil, and weather emergency notifications during your stay.
- For planning purposes, it’s good to know when the really busy weekends will be in Tombstone. Annual city festivals are held on President’s Day weekend, Memorial Day weekend, 4th of July, and Labor Day weekend.
- Parking in Tombstone can be found in public lots or on the street. Only Allen Street is closed off to vehicles for three blocks, otherwise, if you can find a place on the street, take it! There are some free lots, but most are just open dirt areas with no lines and nobody checking you in or out.
- There are a lot of saloons to check out here and you might be tempted to sample every special drink. Pace yourself as the desert air mixed with too much alcohol can leave you with more than a hangover — you can get dehydrated!
- Even with all the modern amenities, the old West is still dusty. If you are sensitive to dust, it might be a good idea to grab a few of those COVID masks and bring them with you.
- You’re going to do a lot of walking here, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Of course, you’ll probably want to wear cowboy boots if you’ve got them, but make sure you can handle walking in them for hours at a time. A pinched toe or blisters can make a touring day quite miserable.
- Tombstone isn’t the oven that most of southern Arizona is and temperatures in the winter can get down to freezing. You might even see a light dusting of snow. The highs will be around the 60s during the day. Just make sure you don’t only pack tank tops and shorts or else you might be too cold to cowboy up.
- Stop by the Marshall’s office at 315 E. Fremont Street to buy an authentic law enforcement badge of Tombstone. That’s a great way to meet local law enforcement too and ask safety questions.
- This is such a small town that the Marshall’s Office website is very skimpy with little good information for tourists. Follow them on Facebook to get more updated information on crimes. I’m laughing as I write this because a recent post said they had retrieved maroon curtains from a robbery suspect and wanted to get them back to their rightful owner. That’s really a safe small town when law enforcement can focus on getting your curtains back.
So... How Safe Is Tombstone Really?
It’s a “City Too Tough To Die”, remember?
Seriously though, the crime statistics for the city aren’t available, but even when we look at all of Cochise County there’s a low risk.
Here’s how it breaks down:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 182 chance
- Theft: 1 in 90 chance
- Robbery: 1 in 6602 chance
You’ll find in some travel forums people telling you to stay away since it’s just a “tourist trap” and it’s “dirty” and the people are “rude.”
However, some people complain about visiting Disney.
You have to accept Tombstone for what it is — a small town that had a short life span during the Gold Rush but made such a huge mark on history.
It’s just three blocks long and it’s in the middle of nowhere.
It’s surrounded by the beauty of the desert with hundreds of miles to hike.
It’s 30 minutes to any other town and it’s going to be dusty and nothing fancy.
It’s also going to be a very cool experience to walk in the same footsteps of Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp.
How Does Tombstone Compare?
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- Visas - If you've made it to Tombstone, we're assuming you got here by providing your Visa along the way and won't ask for additional proof. If you are planning to cross the border into Mexico, which is just an hour south in Agua Prieta, bring your passport or visa with you.
- Currency - Unfortunately, they don't let you pay in gold dust or silver nuggets here anymore. You'll use the U.S. Dollar. In my research, I've found there are several attractions, like the Western Town and Trolley Tour, that you can buy ahead of time online. Try to avoid carrying a lot of cash and just a credit card for all purchases.
- Weather - We talked about this a little earlier, but winter is going to have highs in the 60s and lows in the 30s or 40s. The hottest part of the summer gets up to the mid-90s and the lows settle in around the mid-60s. Be sure to pack sunscreen as there's a lot of sunshine here with a high UV index.
- Airports - Tucson's airport is the closest commercial option and it's about an hour northwest. If you want to go to the bigger Sky Harbor International Airport in Pheonix, it's going to be just under four hours in the car or shuttle.
- Travel Insurance - You'll want travel insurance for a trip to Tombstone because while it's too tough to die, it isn't tough enough to stop wildfires or severe weather from impacting travel.
Tombstone Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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