Set in the Sonoran Desert against the backdrop of the Tucson Mountains, Old Tucson Studios was the perfect location for a host of cowboy classics from Rio Bravo to Gunsmoke. And while it’s still used today for movies, TV productions, commercials and photo shoots, it’s also one of the best attractions in Tucson and all of Arizona for family fun and entertainment.
Lined with wooden boardwalks and arcades, the dusty streets of Old Tucson Studios are like a step back in time to the days of the wild frontier. Explore the old schoolhouse, the town jail, the mission church and other buildings for a glimpse of what pioneer life was like.
Panning for gold is a favorite activity for kids. With patience – and a little help from dad or mom – they can take away a sparkly fortune in a small vial. Older kids can take aim at the shooting gallery, while everyone enjoys a spooky walk through the haunted mine.
A leisurely ride on the C.P. Huntingdon train is a pleasant way to get an overview of the site and sets. Kids are thrilled to get behind the wheel of the antique cars and drive them around a track. Choose a colorful mount on the antique carousel, or for a few dollars more, there are pony rides and stagecoach rides.
Entertainment is one of the highlights of Old Tucson Studios. It ranges from gunfights re-enacted from the legends of Billy the Kid, to comedy stunt shows, to the rousing saloon musical Miss Kitty’s Can-Can Revue. Two films focus on the site’s movie history and pay tribute to John Wayne and the films he made here.
Western fans should be sure and take in the Old Tucson Historic Tour. This half-hour tour points out the settings of the famous films and TV shows that have been made here over the past 70 years, and is spiced with entertaining anecdotes as it follows in the footsteps of the many screen stars who have walked these streets.
Shows run throughout the day, with two or three choices every hour. Most last from 10 to 25 minutes. It can be hard to see them all and fit in the other activities, too, so a few minutes of studying the day’s show schedule upon arrival is time well spent. Choose your favorites and try to get to the set about 10-15 minutes before showtime on busy days to grab a good seat.
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