Road trips are the quintessential American summer activity, so when the temperature begins to warm up, I start planning. I’m exploring Arizona this year, visiting the little towns along the highway that have a lot of character and are off the beaten path.
Jerome: The Most Happening Ghost Town
Take Jerome, for instance. I’ve been going to Jerome with my family since I was a kid. It’s a great day trip. Set on Cleopatra Hill, the entire town of Jerome overlooks the mine that hasn’t been in use since 1953. The town prides itself on being an historic ghost town with a population of roughly 450 living souls, but this number doesn’t count the loads of ghosts that allegedly haunt the town. This makes every building you go into a potential ghost tour.
Fear not (or fear a lot, ghosts are scary), if you really want to catch a spirit, there are plenty of places to do that in this old mining town when historian Ron Roope takes you out on a tour of the vertical town’s buildings, where old ghostly residents are said to still roam. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, so I was excited when I got the chance recently. The tales told along the tour are spooky, but don’t take the tour if you are afraid of the dark, as Roope will lead you deep into a supposedly haunted mine shaft that seems like it’s straight out of a summer horror movie. If this doesn’t appeal to you, and you’re looking for a spirit of a different kind, visit the Spirit Room, which offers up plenty of delicious cocktails for the thirsty, including my favorite Sedona beer on tap from Oak Creek Brewery. This bar surely has spirit, with live music and dancing most nights, it might be the stop you need to make before or after the delicious meal you should have at The Haunted Hamburger. My suggestion? Try their barbeque chicken. You will not be disappointed.
Stick Around Quartzsite
Where Jerome is filled with ghosts, Quartzsite is filled with gum. Joanne Brunet has been collecting gum since the 1940s and giving backyard tours of the over 4000 packs inside her Gum Gallery museum behind her house for years. Her gallery will quickly become one of your favorite road-trip memories. Just call ahead (928-927-7566) to make sure she’s home, we made the mistake of forgetting to call the first time my friends and I were in town and that really popped our bubbles, so to speak.
However, while waiting for Brunet to return home, my friends and I drove around Quartzsite, admiring the Dome Rock Mountains overlooking the town to the west and then found ourselves in the Quartzsite flea market where we were able to pick up a few souvenirs to help us remember the trip. If you have some extra time, also make sure to get your photo taken beside Hi Jolly’s tomb, the only known tomb in Arizona dedicated to camel handling . It’s one of those “when in Quartzsite” sort of things you just have to do.
A traveler has to eat, and the Quartzsite locals at the flea market told us we had to head to Mountain Quail Café (928-927-8890) for their bread pudding or, if you’re starving like I was, their bread pudding and a grilled cheese sandwich with their perfectly seasoned fries. I guess shopping makes me hungry.
Wicked Good Ice Cream in Wickenburg
On a recent trip to Wickenburg, I scooped up some ice cream at Chaparral Homemade Ice Cream. Make sure you get a different flavor than your friends so you can try more than one, because with ice cream like boysenberry and Hassayampa mud (chocolate and coffee ice cream with nuts), you’re gonna wanna try more than one. I promise you.
Once your tummy has filled up on sweet treats, give your eyes some candy and to sneak a peak at the Gem and Mineral Collection at the Desert Caballaros Western Museum. You can even pick up some authentic western wear so you feel at home when you stroll the recreated Wickenburg of 1915, including a general store and Victorian home. Be sure to take in the surrounding beauty of the foothills, too, before you leave.
Wherever you end up visiting this summer, let us know! We love photos and stories of your Arizona travels!
Stephanie S. is a native of Arizona who attended Arizona State University. You can usually find her somewhere in downtown Phoenix with her head in a book.