Bisbee has joined three southern Arizona communities who ranked high in USA Today’s “Best Small Towns in the Southwest.” Bisbee ranked second, behind Ajo, respectively.
USA Today 10Best editors compiled a list of 70 towns with populations less than 10,000, and narrowed those down to 20 for the vote. According to 10best.com, nominees were “travel-worthy for their beauty, culture, shopping, dining, entertainment and lodging options.”
Bisbee has a population of about 5,500 and is known for its affluent art community and preserved historic architectural heritage.
Last year, Bisbee was chosen by Sunset Magazine editors as the “Best Small Town in the West to Live” and USA Today readers voted Bisbee as the “Best Historic Small Town in America.”
The city of Bisbee was established around 1877 when a detail of U.S. Army scouts and cavalrymen were sent to the Mule Mountains to search for renegade Apaches. It resulted with signs of mineralization indicating the presence of lead, copper and possibly silver discovered by civilian tracker Jack Dunn.
Signs of the once-mining boom are still present in Bisbee with several pits, including the Lavender Pit along west Highway 80.
Its daily newspaper, the Bisbee Daily Review, owned by Wick Communications, once provided “mining news from every county in Arizona” and was “published in the best mining city on earth.”
Mark Goldstrom, manager of Pussycat Gelato, made Bisbee home permanently last year from Baltimore, Maryland. He said over the decades he’s watched the city grow to a vast community it is today.
“The best kept secret is getting out,” Goldstrom said. “Its nice to see people figuring it out that Bisbee is not just a place for old hippies.”
Jen Luria, tourism manager of the Bisbee Visitor Center, said on average, the city greets about 7,000 visitors — between both visitor center locations — during the spring months.
“During the summer and winter months we usually track about 2,000 visitors,” Luria said. “This number is tallied from the visitors that come into the center to get information. There are many more that visit Bisbee without coming into the visitor center so it’s likely these numbers are higher.”
David Russell, owner of The Bisbee Tour Company, said his business conducts 250 tours monthly.
“It’s not just kinda cool, but really cool people are finding out about Bisbee on a national scale,” he said. “Bisbee is a hidden gem that is being discovered. Some people may want to keep it hidden but for obvious reasons, it is here to shine.”
Mayor David Smith said he has lived in Bisbee for at least 17 years.
“I moved here for the weather, the people and it’s unique,” he said. “I travel often and Bisbee is that calming place to come home to. I am slightly disappointed we ranked second and not first for a second year in a row, but I guess everyone has to have their chance.”
“Prettiest Town in Arizona”
In addition to its newly-found status as one of the “Best Small Towns in the Southwest,” city has achieved even more travel news this month.
Daily Meal, ranked top website for its reviews on restaurants, recipes and drinks, named Bisbee as the “Prettiest Town in Arizona.”
Luria stated the tourism department didn’t submit any materials in order to be nominated for these titles.
“I am notified by email with a link to the voting contest and encouraged to share the contest through email and social media links. USA Today works with travel experts to help originally put the top 20 list together,” she said. “I believe it’s Bisbee’s more recent marketing efforts and relationship with travel writers that help keep it in the public eye and in the news.”
Cristina Plascencia, owner of 55 Main Gallery, said it is nice for the city to receive such positive news.
“It has brought us national attention that is positive in nature,” Plascencia said.
Betty Krug, manager of Killer Bee Honey, agrees with Daily Meal of Bisbee being a “pretty town.”
“This is a diverse community, all of Cochise County is,” she said.
“I moved here for the weather, the people and it’s unique…I travel often and Bisbee is that calming place that is nice to come home to.”
— David Smith, Mayor of Bisbee
Every year in October the city hosts a 5K race named the “Bisbee 1000” because incorporated in the 5K course are 1,000 stairs. It is billed as the “5K that feels like a 10K”.
The town was named after Judge DeWitt Bisbee, a financial banker of the Copper Queen Mine. He never visited the town.
The Bisbee Deportation of 1917 was not only a pivotal event in Arizona’s history, but one that had an effect on labor activities throughout the country. The notorious anti-labor crime involved the illegal kidnapping and deportation of about 1,300 striking mine workers, their supporters, and citizen bystanders by 2,000 members of a deputized posse on July 12, 1917. This year marks its 100th anniversary.