With well more than 100 years under its belt, the quaint and historic town of Douglas in far-southern Arizona is an out-of-the-way gem that shouldn’t be missed when visiting the area.
With an economy that once relied heavily on mining and cattle ranching, now much of its economic activity is generated by the visitors who flock to the area to see such towns as Tombstone, Tubac and Bisbee.
The town is full of historic buildings and museums, and is easy to get around in.
The large nature preserves in the area offer excellent hiking, bird-watching and photography opportunities, as well as access to underground caverns, abandoned mines and Native American sites too.
Below are 15 things to do in Douglas.
1. The Douglas-Williams House
As the former residence of James Douglas, after whom the town was named, the Douglas-Williams house is one of the town’s must-see historic sites and museums.
It’s located on D Avenue downtown, and is brimming with displays, exhibits, and historical items related to Douglas’ history, which was largely centered on the copper mining and smelting industries.
The museum also has one of the area’s most extensive records of genealogy, which may help you trace your roots to the area, especially if your family has been in Arizona for generations.
Tours are by appointment only, and the museum is only open a few days a week.
2. Cochise County Historical Society
Local historical societies are great places to get a crash-course in the history of the area which you’re visiting.
Located on D Avenue in Douglas, the Cochise County Historical Society is focused on promoting the area’s history and culture.
The society was founded in 1966, and contains exhibits, documents, photos, and memorabilia dating back to before Cochise County was founded in 1881.
It’s named after Cochise, the famous Apache Chief who ran the U.S. Army units tasked with forcing him from the land ragged.
Inexpensive memberships are available, as are volunteer opportunities, if you’d like to get involved and lend a hand to a good cause.
3. Douglas Arts Association
Arizona is home to more than its fair share of artists, many of whom flock to the area for its amazing scenery, broad horizons, and rural towns that are quiet and largely free from the distractions so common in big cities.
The Douglas Arts Association is like an artist’s co-op, exhibiting and selling various kinds of arts and crafts from local artists.
Recent exhibits include featured heirloom clothing and quilts, each of which was at least 25 years old.
They’ve got limited hours for visiting, and often hold special shows and exhibits throughout the year.
Take a look at their website before you go.
4. Grand Theatre
Douglas’ Grand Theatre opened in 1919 and also sported a tea room, barber shop and sweet shop.
Though remote, especially by early 20th century standards, the Grand Theatre hosted some big names in entertainment over the years, like Ginger Rogers.
In 1976 the theatre was deemed a national historic site, and until recently had fallen into disrepair due to a partial collapse and extensive water damage, though a restoration is in-progress, which will hopefully return the historic theatre to its former glory.
Check out their Facebook page to see what’s going on when you’ll be in town for a visit.
5. Cochise County Fairgrounds
The home of the Cochise County Fair, which recently celebrated its 94th year, the fairgrounds feature live entertainment, livestock shows and competitions, a carnival, and lots of tasty food.
The county fair is held at the end of September, and though there are parking and admission fees, they’re both cheap and well worth the fun and activities that you’ll get in return.
In addition to hosting the county fair, the fairgrounds offer live entertainment and a ton of other activities throughout the year, including horse races and 4-H events.
Some of the facilities are even available to rent for private parties.
6. The Gadsden Hotel
Though not exactly a town known for its skyscrapers, the Gadsen Hotel takes the top honor for Douglas’ tallest building.
The historic hotel has been around for ages, and is one of the icons of local history and architecture.
Sporting fancy touches like imported Italian marble stairs and stained glass, the hotel was pretty chic for its day, and the place for high-roller mining magnates and railroad men passing through the area back when Douglas was still wild.
The hotel is located on G Avenue and is still open for business like it has been for more than 100 years.
7. The Bisbee Séance Room
Located on Brewery Avenue in Bisbee, The Bisbee Séance Room is the place to go for a little history, a little magic, a little comedy, and maybe even some convening with the long-dead.
Magic Kenny Bang Bang will be your host, guiding you through a mesmerizing evening in one of the most haunted towns in the southwest.
The show is family friendly and all ages are welcome.
The Séance Room is a great way to spend an evening, and with a little luck you’ll meet other visitors who’ll be able to tell you what you shouldn’t miss when you’re in southern Arizona.
8. Slaughter Ranch Museum
There’s no better place to check out if you’d like to see how life on a real cattle ranch was in rural Arizona decades ago.
Slaughter Ranch Museum is an easy and scenic drive from Douglas, and is part of the Johnson Historical Museum.
The grounds include renovated buildings like the ranch house which was made of adobe, an ice house, granary and even a mechanic’s garage and shed.
The Ranch is named after ‘Texas John Slaughter,’ who was a lawmen with a reputation for impatience and a quick temper.
Admission is dirt-cheap for adults and free for the little ones.
9. Old Bisbee Ghost Tour
If you believe in myths, legends, and lore, then the southern Arizona desert is crawling with ghosts of dead villains, lawmen, and prospectors who disappeared in the hills.
Located on Howell Ave, Old Bisbee Ghost Tours will lead you on a wild, informative, and downright spooky tour of the town of Bisbee, which is more than a century old.
No closet, alley, or dark stairwell will be left unexplored, and if you’re particularly brave, consider one of their after-dark tours, which will really have you looking over your shoulder for the remainder of your time in Arizona.
The tour hours vary with the season, so check it out before you go.
Like many of Arizona’s rural towns, sites and attractions, Bisbeeland is quirky, unique, and one of the things to do near Douglas that shouldn’t be missed.
Located on Brewery Avenue, Bisbeeland is an aesthetically pleasing hodgepodge of art and materials that are crazy, colorful and expressive.
If you’re an artist looking for some inspiration, a photographer looking to capture something distinctly different, or just a lover art, the Bisbeeland artist’s community is worth the drive.
There’s very little information about it online, so ask a local in town and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.
11. Double Adobe Campground and Shotgun Sports
Not far from Bisbee, Double Adobe Campground and Shotgun Sports gets more sunny days per year than nearly anywhere else, and is much cooler than many of Arizona’s infamous infernos like Phoenix and Yuma.
The grounds are open year-round for campers and trap shooters, and sport the kinds of amenities that’ll make your stay comfortable.
There’s a restaurant and banquet hall, and for the campers there are restrooms with showers, RV spaces with hook-ups, a laundry room and even a game room.
The area is a favorite for bird-watchers too, and even if you’re not in to shooting, you’ll want to check out the shooting range.
12. Border Air Museum
Located on East 10th Street in Douglas, the Border Air Museum received its first incoming flight in 1911.
Despite its rural location, the airport was among the most modern and well-equipped in the state, and was the first with enough lights for airplanes to take-off and land at night.
The museum is full of old equipment, uniforms, photographs and personal accounts of pilots and air crew, all connected to the budding aviation industry that was a real novelty back then.
The museum is free, includes a small, locally made airplane that no longer flies, and is staffed by knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers.
13. The San Bernardino Wildlife Refuge
Located about 20 minutes east of Douglas, The San Bernardino Wildlife Refuge is full of outdoor activities, like bird-watching, hiking, biking, and even hunting, which is seasonal and requires a special permit.
Sporting nearly 300 species of animal life, the park is a desert and riparian zone which is largely why the area draws so many diverse birds, including hummingbirds, herons, falcons, ducks and hawks.
There are many, well-marked trails throughout the park, and the best times to see the animals are mornings and afternoons.
The refuge has a great website that you’ll want to check out before you go.
14. Leslie Canyon National Wildlife Refuge
Established in 1988 to preserve and protect the area’s vital flora and fauna, Leslie Canyon National Wildlife Refuge lies in Arizona’s Cochise County not far from the Mexican border.
The refuge includes nearly 3,000 acres, and a few of its most important and endangered inhabitants are small fish that call the Rio Yaqui Watershed home.
Recent refuge activities included a leopard frog reintroduction plan, which succeeded in establishing the largest wild population in years, which had suffered badly due to the ongoing drought.
Admission to the park is free, and their website is full of great information, so check it out.
15. Sunsites Farmers Market
Located on Irene Street in nearby Pearce, Arizona, Sunsites Farmers Market is held every Saturday until noon, according to their website.
With its relaxed aura, spectacular scenery, and all around cool vibes, the town of Pearce is full of retirees, free spirits, and those looking for a break from their big city lives in Phoenix and Tucson.
The market is full of organic, locally grown produce, body-care products, art, crafts, and lots of other great stuff, nearly all of which is made by locals with local materials, making them one of a kind.
So get out there and support the local economy.