The Wickedest History of Wholesome JeromeBy Nina Kolodij
Visit Jerome, AZ, to relive the grueling history of a mining town in modern luxury
When the era of westward expansion came to an end, many of the pop-up mining towns across the countryside were abandoned. Not so for Jerome, Arizona, where business is still booming despite the desert heat. Rich with the stories of those who sought fame and fortune, the once “Wickedest Town in the West” has evolved into an intriguing blend of the past and the present. In Jerome, thrilling ghost hunts and mysterious mine shafts meet amazing shopping and delectable dining.
Head back into history
Jerome was born in the late 1800s as your average mining camp, but in just a few decades, it chugged past other settlements in both technological advancement and safety standards. When expansive deposits of copper, silver, and gold were unearthed in the mines, individuals from all over flocked to Jerome to claim their share—and take part in the Wild West debauchery.
Remnants of the establishments that earned Jerome its wicked title are still standing, intermingling with younger installations. Tours of Jerome is more than happy to show you the sights on one of its three historic tours, including stops at relics of the red-light district: the brothel and the ladies’ jail. You can also check out the infamous sliding jail, a lock-up that was built on unstable land and slid down the hillside in the midst of mining explosions.
If you’re looking for something spooky, search for spirits with Ghost Town Tours and experience Jerome’s paranormal activity in hidden tunnels and historic buildings. Some of the tour stops, such as an old haunted hospital, have been converted into hotels, offering rooms for guests who aren’t afraid of lingering personalities.
Leave no stone unturned
Montezuma Castle National Monument and Prescott National Forest are just around the corner but don’t underestimate the beautiful spaces downtown. While trekking the inclined streets of Jerome can be a hike in and of itself, there are plenty of other adventures to be found outdoors. State parklands, trails, and old mining roads branch out in every direction.
Although the mines are no longer active, families can still pan for gold and visit a working sawmill and blacksmith at the Gold King Mine & Ghost Town. The property proudly displays more than 180 vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles, as well as oodles of mining and farming equipment. Kids will also enjoy playing with critters in the petting zoo.
Gaze down into the Audrey shaft and headframe, then learn more about where James S. “Rawhide” Douglas—the mine’s owner for much of Jerome’s history—made his fortune, at the Mine Museum. The museum features old mining equipment as well as gambling paraphernalia and displays on the town’s ethnic diversity over time. At the Jerome State Historic Park, you can even tour Douglas’s mansion estate.
Something for the road
If you want a souvenir to take home with you, Jerome’s shops and boutiques have you covered. Whether you want something to remember the mining aura of the town or a curio from another century, there’s bound to be a shop for you.
Inspired by the geology? In addition to the regular gems and fossils, The Miner’s Pick Rock Shop carries local woods and minerals begging to become a part of your collection. Not to be outdone, the Turquoise Spider offers authentic Native American goods, from museum-quality jewelry to one-of-a-kind handmade crafts. Or, if the other kind of rock is more your style, step into Tommy Rocks to satisfy all of your rock n’ roll needs.
Sample treats at Rickeldoris Candy & Popcorn, ignite your palate at the Jerome Ghost Pepper Co., and refresh your kitchen at Jerome Olive Oil Traders. For something more unusual, shop for Christmas decorations and goodies all year round at Mooey Christmas and Udder Things, or peep at patterns at the largest dealer of kaleidoscopes in the world. The Liberty Theater no longer shows silent films, but they do have some interesting film antiques on their shelves.
So hungry you could eat a horse
Jerome’s old-timey residents probably weren’t eating horses, but they did have an appetite for boisterous parties and laudable libations—a tradition that exists today in the town’s wealth and variety of restaurants and vineyards.
Keeping with the ghostly spirit and hospital theme, The Asylum Restaurant is located on the first floor of the Jerome Grand Hotel. Their menu features a plethora of tempting dishes from seafood to steak to sesame tofu. The burgers and other signature dishes at the Haunted Hamburger will make you feel as though you’ve died and gone to heaven. Plenty of other cuisines are also available: barbeque, café-style, Mexican, and more.
Your throat won’t stay parched for long when presented with the many wineries in Jerome. Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room, owned by Maynard James Keenan (the lead vocalist of Tool), produces more than 4,500 casks of high elevation wines created from grapes grown in the southeast part of town. Pick at a pizza while sipping from an immense wine menu at Grapes Restaurant & Bar. And, of course, no trip to Jerome is complete without a sample of local Arizona wines at Vino Zona, Passion Cellars, or Cellar 433.
Keep traveling off the beaten trail and plan a road trip through the West.