There’s no one best way to spend a day in Bisbee. Really. You could spend most of the day wandering around with no real destination and still have a great time. So, if you’re not an agenda person, your wild heart will love Bisbee, and you can use this list solely as a guideline for inspiration. If you are an agenda person, I hope this helps too!
Let it be known that Bisbee, founded as a mining town back in 1880, is nestled into a little valley, with houses climbing up the hillsides. The city was built around the landscape, not the other way around. So there are a lot of hills, and stairs. In fact, Bisbee is kind of famous for its stairs. If you’re a glutton for punishment, look up the Bisbee 1000: The Great Stair Climb. If not, you’ll still need a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
Bisbee Breakfast Club. You’re going to be glad that this name is so easy to remember, because they serve breakfasts that aren’t easy to forget. Classic, hearty breakfast plates will fuel you through a morning spent wandering through the town. Maybe you’re feeling the filet and eggs or chicken-fried steak, or maybe you’ll go for the French Toast or blue granola cakes, if you have a sweet tooth. The South of the Border section of the menu is a good way to really immerse yourself in the spirit of this southern Arizona town.
Patisserie Jacqui. If you’d rather feel like you’re way further east, this sweet little bakery is perfect. They restock at 10am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, so get in line a little before that. The morning bun is their special take on a cinnamon roll, featuring orange zested cinnamon sugar. Their tart selection includes options like lavender earl grey, prickly pear lime and matcha lemon. And they have savory items too, like a hatch chili croissant and a Tunisian chicken hand pie. You really can’t go wrong.
After breakfast, it’s time to do some exploring. And, when in the Copper State, you might as well learn a little bit about copper. The Copper Queen Mine is just a five-minute drive down the 80, the nearest interstate.
Heading 1,500 feet underground with Copper Queen Mine Tours is an excellent way to escape the Sonoran sun, and to head back through time to pretend you’re a miner at the turn of the 20th century. Back in those days, this baby, owned by Phelps Dodge, was the most productive mine in Arizona. It closed in 1985, but one of the coolest things about these mine tours is that the tour guides are retired Phelps Dodge employees who can share stories about what it was like working underground.
If you’re not in the mood for a formal tour, check out the Lavender Pit Mining Overlook, an open mine pit opened in 1950. It turned out one of the byproducts was turquoise—also known as Bisbee Blue. It’s worth driving up to and strolling around just to see how dang big open pit mines can be.
I went to Screaming Banshee after my friend and I had gotten so carried away exploring the sweet streets of Bisbee that we suddenly realized we were starving. It was a busy day, and the wait for our wood-fired pizza felt like forever—this might be a bit dramatic, but with a name like Screaming Banshee, it doesn’t seem that the restaurant is targeted at level-headed clientele in any case.
We sipped our beers and fantasized about how much happier we’d be when our Cadillac Margherita, featuring mozzarella fresca, Asadero, feta, and parmesan, arrived. And we were right. When the food came to the table, our dreams came true.
Not a cheese person? POCO, a restaurant and grocery that serves vegan versions of Mexican classics like nachos and chimichangas, is a fantastic choice too. Sit outside and watch the streets of Bisbee while you sip a mimosa or a fresh hibiscus tea.
Now it’s time to see the shops and galleries! This is best done at your own pace. You just might be able to see all of them if you move quickly enough and aren’t too full from lunch. Highlights include gems like Bisbee Fiber Shop, Bisbee Olive Oil, and Óptimo Hatworks on the shop side of things, and Art Home!, Sam Poe Gallery, and the Tang Gallery Cooperative on the art side.
I’m the type of person who is most likely going to be too full from lunch, and prefers to take their time meandering through stores in that dreamy post-lunch state. If you’re a meanderer, there are two places I think are especially worth wandering through.
First up is the Broadway Stairs Art Gallery. Like I said, you’ll hit a lot of staircases while you’re in Bisbee, but this one makes for one of the best photographs. This used to be a little bit of a dark corner in town, until someone decided to start hanging a bunch of art rescued from thrift stores and dumpsters all along the walls. Now it’s whimsical, wonderful and almost impossible to take a bad photograph of.
Acacia Collectibles is my favorite store in Bisbee, and one of the best antique stores I’ve found. I’m no antique aficionado, but I could easily spend hours wandering past displays of crystal decanters, flipping through first-edition book volumes and old polaroids, and pretending my apartment has room for an ornate dining set or armoire. I once bought a serving tray at this store for $12 that is still one of my most prized possessions.
There are a lot of great places to eat in Bisbee, and you’ll probably end up enjoying wherever you go. But if you can, definitely, definitely make reservations at Café Roka. As a 20-something who doesn’t usually splurge too much on restaurant meals, even I had to try Café Roka when one of my coworkers mentioned that it’s his favorite restaurant in the world.
This is Bisbee’s only casual fine dining establishment, serving four course dinners made with locally sourced ingredients. It was classy and sophisticated while still upholding the colorful, quirky spirit that makes Bisbee so lovable. The servers were kind. And they even had more than one vegetarian option on the menu!
If you’re staying in Bisbee and can stick around a little longer, you’ve got some options for the nightlife. The Old Bisbee Ghost Tour, led by the Boo Crew, is a little bit silly, a little bit spooky, and very much the kind of thing you only do on vacation. We didn’t see any ghosts on our tour, but others say they have! Maybe you will too.
For those who like to stay away from spooky stuff, maybe a drink would suit you better. The Brewery Gulch District, once home to dozens of saloons back in Bisbee’s more booming days, is home to several options. (Bisbee is also the sort of place that has ‘saloons,’ rather than bars. They’re the same thing, but you get to pretend you’re a cowboy when you talk about them.)
Options include Copper Queen Saloon, located in Bisbee’s oldest hotel, and the Bisbee Grand Saloon. Bisbee Brewing Company is a great place to enjoy some local beers over a board game and some free popcorn. And Room 4 Bar—the smallest bar in Arizona, a former hotel room with only four stools—is worth checking out as well.
Happy exploring, mine touring, ghost hunting, shopping, and eating!