As you drive through the picturesque Sonoran Desert you can enjoy the beautiful view of the hundreds of Saguaros that cover the valley. After a curvy road through the Tucson mountains, you finally approach the Old Tucson Studios. During our drive over it was impossible not to look around and imagine a scene from a western movie where the cowboy and his horse ride away in the sunset…..
For our Fall break getaway we wanted to rediscover a bit of the Wild West. We decided to venture to one of Arizona’s top Wild West attractions in Tucson: the Old Tucson Studios. Here while walking around the town you can get a feel for what the West was all about. You will find rides, live action stunt shows, musicals and live entertainment.
One of the lessons we have learned from traveling with kids is that wherever you go, you always have to find something fun for them to do too. This seemed like the best choice and believe me it was!
A bit of history
The Old Tucson Studios is a movie studio as well as a theme park. It was originally built-in 1939 for the movie Arizona (1940). It was used for more than 400 movies and television westerns since then. A few are: Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), Rio Bravo(1959), El Dorado (1966), and Little House on the Prairie TV series of the 1970s-1980s. Still today it is one of the most active locations for western movies, television, cable shows and commercials in the United States.
In 1959, entrepreneur Robert Shelton leased the property from Pima County and began restoring it. Old Tucson re-opened in 1960, as both a film studio and a theme park. The park grew building by building with each movie filmed on its dusty streets. The park also began adding tours, rides and shows for the entertainment of visitors, such as gunfights staged in the “streets” by stunt performers.
In 1995, the Old Tucson Studios was set ablaze by arson. Buildings, costumes and memorabilia were lost in the fire. But only 18 months after the devastating blaze that destroyed nearly 40% of the buildings, the park reopened. As you walk through the streets of this little town you could never tell that something so devastating happened.
Drive an antique car: jump behind the wheel of a miniature antique car. No driver’s license required, my kids loved it, they must have gone on it at least 5 times. On the last ride I went with Cosimo. He was so proud that for once he could be the one driving me somewhere!
The C.P. Huntington Train: all aboard this beautiful train that takes you all around the property. You can just sit back and enjoy the ride. You can also get off at the only stop along the way to explore another part of the little town.
West & Dead-Eye Dan’s Shooting Gallery: you can stop here and test your skill with an actual Colt 45 revolver! My kids tried and tried but could not get the target. Finally the cowboy working there offered to show them how to do it and what happened when they actually got the target! This is not included in admission price.
Wild West Carousel: This historical is a reproduction of a classic American carousel. You can ride it as many times as you like! My daughter tried most of the horses, she just couldn’t stop!
Pan for Gold: try to find the gold and you can also take it home with you as a souvenir! My kids were so busy trying to find as much gold as they could, that it was really hard to convince them to go do something else. A cowboy there explained to them tricks and techniques to find as much gold as possible. There was no limit, we could stay as long as you wanted! This is not included in admission price.
Old West Stagecoach: another way of exploring the town Old West Style, is by riding an old stagecoach. It departs from OK Corral and goes all through the town and pretty fast! This is not included in admission price.
Old West Shows: definitely Luca’s favorite part of the day was watching Lady Vivian and her girls perform on saloon stage. The can can was probably the highlight of his day! Out on the streets instead there were gunfights and stunt shows based on traditional Western themes. The performers were really good. It felt like being part of one of those Western movie scenes!
As you can see there is plenty to do at the Old Tucson Studios and no time to just sit around! It was a full day for our little family and we enjoyed every moment of it!
If you want to see more about our travels in the United States click here!
Check out the lovely hotel we stayed at The Lodge at Ventana Canyon!!!