Where to find the Wild West in southern Arizona:
Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Geronimo, and Cochise. The names are familiar, the stuff of Hollywood movies. Yet, these people were real and one thing they all had in common was that they called southern Arizona home. Several days spent exploring between Tucson and the southeast corner of the state will put you in touch with the ghosts of cowboys and Indians, miners and ranchers, soldiers and prostitutes. Fact and fiction sometimes get jumbled up together in this wild west landscape, but there's no denying that southern Arizona is where the west was once.
To prime yourself for your wild west tour, start with a visit to Old Tucson Studios, where Hollywood history overshadows the region's real history. At this amusement park/movie studio set on the western outskirts of Tucson, you can walk the streets where countless movies, TV westerns, and commercials have been shot over the years, the same streets that John Wayne once strode in such movies as Rio Bravo and Rio Lobo. The stage shows can be fun and there's lots for the whole family to do. For a brief glimpse of some real history, stop by Fort Lowell Park, which is northeast of downtown Tucson. Here you'll find a small museum and the ruins of a cavalry outpost.
Now, saddle up the rental car and head east into the heart of the wild, wild west. Up the San Pedro River valley, you'll find the legendary Tombstone, the town too tough to die. Today, the town made famous by a brief shootout at the OK Corral is one of the west's most famous historic sites and though the town has all the trappings of a tacky tourist trap, it also has its authentic aspects. Yes the OK Corral is still here (and there are regularly staged shootouts to entertain visitors), but you'll also find the Boot Hill Graveyard, the Bird Cage Theatre, the Tombstone Courthouse (complete with gallows), and several fully operational saloons. Also, be sure to visit G.F. Spangenburg, a gun shop that sells the sort of side arms that Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday once carried.