Benson is a small city located in the Cochise County of the state of Arizona, which has a population of around 5,000.
The largest nearby city is Tucson, located 45 miles away. Benson was founded as a rail terminal for the area in 1880. The name of the city comes from Judge William S. Benson, a friend of the president of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
While it’s a small city, there are still plenty of interesting things to do there. So if you happen to be in Benson (AZ), make sure to try some of these activities.
1. Ride a Horse at the Double R Guest Ranch
If you’re looking for a western adventure just like in the movies, then the Double R Guest Ranch is the place to go.
Whether you are an advanced jockey or a beginner who has never ridden a horse in your life, the ranch has a certain horse and a certain trail for you.
They offer amazing horseback riding in the areas surrounding the ranch. If you are a beginner, you can enjoy a leisurely ride on some gentle trails, while if you are an advanced rider you can try the fast-paced rides in the mountains.
2. See the Kartchner Caverns State Park
Whether you are passionate about the underground world or not, visiting this cave can make a great adventure for the entire family. The cave was discovered in 1974 and is now a major tourist attraction of the area.
It has not only the tallest natural column formation in Arizona, but also the longest stalactite formation in the world.
You will be guided by an expert who will explain everything, so you can better understand the mysteries of the caves and the formations and minerals that can be found here.
3. Visit Gammons Gulch
This location is just a bit north of Benson (12 miles away) and it includes an amazing movie set and a museum.
Here you can take a guided tour of the entire location, but you are also allowed to film, take videos and photos to create your own masterpiece.
You can see some awesome buildings, old cars and other objects that are found in western movies. Gammons Gulch is definitely a place to go for people who are passionate about the old west.
4. Steer A Train at the Benson Visitor Center
One-quarter info center, one-quarter museum, one-quarter gift shop and one quarter train simulator, Benson Visitor Center is definitely a great place to stop by.
It is located in an old railroad depot and you can stop here to get brochures and to find out about other places worth seeing.
But there are also various interesting items that you can admire, plus lots of souvenirs for yourself or for someone special back home.
And last but not least, you can also admire a large model train and even steer it (virtually, of course).
5. Find Out About The Thing
What started out as a location presenting a unique mummified mother and her child has now grown into a large museum and gift shop.
As you approach this location from the highway, you will see all sorts of interesting billboards making you curious to find out more about The Thing.
After you visit the museum and see the mummy, make sure to stop by the gift shop, as it has lots of interesting and unique items, for all tastes and budgets.
The entire place has been recently revamped and improved. You can get a drink or a snack nearby, or fill up your tank at the nearby gas station.
6. Watch the Stars at the Butterfield RV Resort Observatory
Located at an altitude of 3,600 feet, Benson is a great place from where you can watch the stars at night. Watch not just with the naked eye, but from a state-of-the-art observatory that includes an amazing telescope.
There is a show every night and an expert astronomer will first make a short presentation, introducing you to this awesome field, and then you will be able to observe stars and planets through the telescope.
The experience is both fun and informative and can be enjoyed by anyone, no matter the age.
7. Enjoy the Quarles Art Gallery
Sharon and Doug Quarles are a very talented couple of painters and their work can be found all over Benson, as well as in other cities of the US.
The location is both an art gallery where you can admire their work, and a shop, where everything is for sale.
Whether you decide to purchase something or not, this is still an interesting place to visit in order to support these great artists.
Most of the time, the owners are present in the store so make sure to have a chat with them as well, since they are very friendly people.
8. Visit the Benson Historical Museum
Travel back in time by finding the history of Benson and the surrounding area. Located in an old building from 1920, it displays all sorts of interesting items and antiques.
Here you will also find old maps of the area and see various tools and objects used many years ago.
There are also guides that will present all the facts and will gladly answer your questions. It’s a small museum, but it’s packed with lots of goodies, plus they also have a little gift shop with items made by locals.
9. Have Some Fun at the Arena Bar
If you see any billboards or hear about an event at the Arena Bar, you should definitely go and check it out.
There are lots of cool things happening here, including rodeo shows that can be viewed from grandstands or bleachers, outdoor bars, areas for food and an outdoor stage for bands.
So grab a drink and something good to eat, and enjoy the show while hanging out with the locals.
The staff is friendly and the beer is cheap so there’s no reason to not have a great time at the Arena Bar.
10. Get a Book from the Singing Wind Bookshop
Located a bit north from Benson, this bookshop has a wide variety of titles, from multiple authors and various genres.
Besides classic topics like history, nature, art, fiction, science and cooking, you will also find unique books about the cultures of the Native Americans and Latin Americans.
So whether you are passionate about reading or want to get a gift for someone who is, make sure to take a quick drive to the Singing Wind Bookshop.
11. Pet a Donkey at Forever Home Donkey Rescue
If you wish to admire some beautiful donkeys, horses and mules, then this is the place to go. The animals found at the Forever Home Donkey Rescue are very calm and friendly and they are used to hanging around people.
Kids can pet them and admire them in their natural habitat, while adults can help with the grooming process.
The owners of this place are very friendly and you can see their love for these animals. Make sure to give them a call or an email before visiting to make an appointment.
12. Take a Hike in the Whetstone Mountains
If you like hiking and outdoor activities, then you will love the beautiful scenery of these mountains. If you take the trails that start at the Kartchner Caves State Park, you can easily get to the Whetstone Mountains by foot. The highest peak in these mountains is the Apache Peak, found at a height of 7714 feet (2,351 meters), which is quite high.
13. Play some Golf at the San Pedro Course
Whether you are passionate about golf or have never played it before but wish to try something new, make sure to stop by the San Pedro Golf Course.
It features 18 holes with various levels of difficulty, all available at an affordable price.
As a useful tip, go to the Visitor’s Center first and get the brochure that offers you a discount at the golf course, plus a free lunch.
14. Enjoy the Endeavor Art Gallery
Here you will find a wide variety of paintings and other forms of art from local artists. New pieces are always added, so even if you visited the gallery some time ago, it’s worth seeing it again. The place has a friendly and relaxing vibe.
Plus, you can also buy the art pieces that you like and you will find a nice gift shop where you can get something to remind you of Benson and its Endeavor Art Gallery.
15. Eat Some Good Food at Mescal Bar & Grill
A reviewer was so pleased with the food and friendly people found here, that he said that the Mescal Bar & Grill should be the number one attraction in Benson.
The place has a wide variety of food and drinks to choose from, plus some good music in the background.
It is clean and tidy, with plenty of room for more people. Plus, they also organize various sports events, karaoke nights, bingo games and raffles with interesting prizes.