On my last day in Arizona, Drew and I decided to head up to Tucson and check out Old Tucson. We have friends who suggested that we had to check this place out. I wasn't sure what to expect. Drew told me that it was an old movie studio turned theme park. I didn't even know that was a thing! It was built in 1939 for the movie Arizona. Since then it has been used for the filming of several movies and television westerns, such as Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, El Dorado, and Little House on the Prairie. It was opened to the public in 1960, and historical tours are offered about the movies filmed there, along with live cast entertainment featuring stunt shows and shootouts.
If you read my Tombstone post, you know that I'm not a fan of Western's, but Drew is, and he was so excited to see everything, that made it worth it for me. (Especially because it was over 100 degrees that day!)
Old Tucson, was founded to offer engaging educational programs about the people and cultures in the Arizona Sonora region from 1850-1912. The Arizona Sonora Western Heritage Foundation is helping Old Tucson evolve into a setting for truly understanding the human interactions of the time period commonly known at the “old west” or roughly from the Mexican-American War through Arizona statehood.
We arrived at Old Tucson just after 1pm. Be fair warned, the park opens at 10am-6pm and it does cost a bit to get in, ($18/adult $11/child) but it includes tours, most rides and even shows! Thankfully, there are free iced water stations throughout the park, they do provide cups, but feel free to bring your own water bottle preferably one of those double insulated ones that keeps the water cool.
Since we weren't sure where to begin, we took a look at the map they provided us on entry and saw that there was a 30 minute guided walking tour at 1:15. We be able to explore the streets that many television and movie stars have worked over the last 75 years.
On the map, you are given a schedule of activities that are provided with your entrance fee. I'd take advantage of all the shows, especially since you've already paid for them! The best part about these performances is that they don't overlap, when one show ends, you have enough time to walk on over to the next show.
One of my favorite shows was at the Grand Palace Saloon, not only was it Air Conditioned, but we watched Lady Vivian and her girls perform a rip-roarin’, high kickin’, can-cannin’ good time! Drew was even able to join in the fun and be a part of the act on stage! He was the most energetic one on stage, minus the girls. It was a good time, the girls even posed for pictures after the show was over.
Since it was so hot out we decided to skip the stunt performance, since it was outside directly in the sun. The performers knew we weren't from Arizona, they said it's because all the natives know that it's too hot to be out, I told them that we're Floridians, we're no strangers to the heat. We decided to grab some food instead or trekking through the heat. There are a lot of places to chose from, we decided to eat at the Pony Express. For a theme park, and the amount of food we got I was pleasantly surprised to see that prices were pretty reasonable, maybe I was just expecting Disney prices. If you want to save a bit of money, pack a lunch, there are bench areas around the park that would be perfect to have a picnic on.
There are so many things to see and do here, since it's only open on Saturday and Sunday, I can see how and why people spend the whole day there. There are a lot of photo opportunities, take advantage of it, see a show, grab some food, but make sure you take the train.
The train will take you around the park in 8 minutes. It was a nice to see the old studio lots and be able to go out further and not have to walk in the heat. There is a specific spot where you get on the train, and it's not at the front entrance where it says "Train Station" Drew and I made the mistake and thought that we got on the train there, you don't. Follow the signs that say "Train Ride." They'll take you to the actual place where you can get on the train.
If you've got the time, make sure to stay till the end of the day. One of my favorite shows was the last show of the day. It's called "Rage Along the Railway". It recounts an actual event in which Arizona Ranger, Harry Wheeler steps in to protect travelers from a belligerent madman out for revenge. It's a gun fight (these are really cool to watch) and it's not as corny as Tombstone. Haha. I love that they all invite you to take photos with them! Even though, this time around I couldn't hold a gun. I casually mentioned that they let me hold one at Tombstone, the actors laughed, but still said no.
If you're looking for something fun to do in the Tucson area, make sure to check this out. Sure it's a little corny but it's the good corny that makes you laugh and feel like kid again. Besides, how many Old Western studios turned theme Parks are there in the world?