Best small town: Bisbee, AZ
The main approach to Bisbee, southeastern Arizona’s mining town turned arts colony, is through a tunnel in a mountain. Once you pop out on the other side, you’ve entered a funky Shangri-la, a free-spirited community marked by a tangle of narrow streets streaming down the canyon and 19th-century cottages clinging precariously to the hills, along with a historic Main Street bristling with galleries.
Prospectors discovered copper, then gold, in the surrounding Mule Mountains, and by the 1880s a boomtown developed. When the mines played out in the 1970s, counterculturalists, artists, musicians, poets, and writers moved in, drawn by the scenic canyon setting, cheap rents, and preserved-in-amber historic architecture.
That’s when Bisbee coalesced into a proudly weird (to use a favorite local adjective) and quirky community—an outpost of liberalism in an otherwise conservative state. Local theater, community radio, yoga classes, reiki therapy, and vegan eateries took root. At the same time, Bisbee also evolved into a popular tourist destination. Galleries, pubs, boutiques, inns, and restaurants popped up. A monthly art walk, as well as annual craft beer, blues, and Americana music festivals now fill the calendar.
Newcomers today are largely drawn by not only the boho vibe, but also by affordable housing. Bisbee’s sense of community is also a big magnet for those considering relocating here.
Population: 5,575. Median home price: $100,200.
Vestiges of the pastThis sprawling view of the town provides a glimpse of its mining heritage. In the distance one can see the Lavender Pit mine, a large and very deep open-pit copper and turquoise mine dug and operated by the Phelps Dodge Corporation between 1950 through 1974.
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