15 Wicked Fun Things to Do in Jerome (AZ Ghost Town)

Residents of quirky Jerome are proud to live in America’s biggest ghost town. A booming copper mining town at the turn of the 19th century, Jerome was once home to 15,000 inhabitants. Those numbers have plummeted, leaving a mostly deserted city behind. Today, tourists flock to this Central Arizona community in search of Wild West history, art galleries, and ghost stories. Take a look at 15 wicked fun things to do in Jerome, AZ!

Jerome, Arizona from a distance
Jerome, Arizona (Photo credit: fotoluminate, Depositphotos.com)

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Jerome, AZ History

After Jerome’s underground mines closed in 1953 the population dwindled to less than 100. Slowly artists and free spirits moved into the abandoned town. This eclectic bunch was seeking cheap housing and beautiful 180-degree views of the surrounding Verde Valley.

Once known as the Wickedest Town in America, now about 500 people call Jerome home and welcome visitors. In 1967, the town was designated as a National Historic District.

Although hundreds of people now live in Jerome, long-empty buildings remind visitors that this truly is a ghost town
Although hundreds of people now live in Jerome, long-empty buildings remind visitors that this truly is a ghost town (Photo credit: filedimage, Depositphotos.com)

1. Jerome State Historic Park and Douglas Mansion

A visit to Jerome State Historic Park and Douglas Mansion gives a lot of historical background about the town. Stop at this Arizona State Park first to make your time in Jerome more meaningful and interesting. Plan to spend about an hour or two exploring Douglas Mansion.

Douglas Family

The wealthy Douglas family, which owned the town’s copper mines, built the mansion in 1916. The home opened as a museum and center of the Jerome Historic State Park in 1965. This helped establish the town as a tourist destination.

One room, the Douglas Library, has been restored into a period room. Other rooms of the mansion display photographs, artifacts, and information about the Douglas family.

Douglas Mansion is the centerpiece of Jerome Historic State Park
Douglas Mansion is the centerpiece of Jerome Historic State Park (Photo credit: AZStateParks.com)

Jerome’s Mining History and Geology

Learn also about Jerome’s mining history and the town’s unique geology. Miniature town models demonstrate how Jerome is perched above a disconcerting Swiss cheese maze of mineshafts.

A Ghost Town Film

While at the museum, be sure to watch, “A Ghost Town Tour of Jerome, Arizona.” The nearly 30-minute film runs on a continuous loop, starting on the half-hour. Narrated by an old-timey Jerome “ghost,” the movie does a good job of bringing the history of Jerome to life, even for kids.

The Douglas Library is the only room in the Douglas Mansion that has been restored as a period room in Jerome, AZ
The Douglas Library is the only room in the Douglas Mansion that has been restored as a period room (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Ghost Town Tours

Ghost Town Tours hosts historic and haunted tours of Jerome. Along the way, you’ll hear lots of stories about life in Jerome during its heyday. A Jerome Ghost Town Tour adds much color and depth to your time in Jerome without needing to do lots of research on your own. Both public and private guided tours are available.

Haunted Tours

For a blend of history and horror, book the Original Ghost Adventure, Spirit Walk, or Jerome Haunted History Shuttle Tour. You’ll visit the sites of unsolved murders, fatal accidents, and present-day ghost sightings. Using provided electromagnetic field monitors, participants can supposedly detect paranormal activity.

Choose a historic or haunted Ghost Town Tour of Jerome with kids
Choose a historic or haunted Ghost Town Tour of Jerome (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Get the History Shuttle Tour

If you shy away from spooky stuff, then do as my family did and embark on a Get the History Shuttle Tour instead. The focus of this guided tour is less on ghosts and more on Jerome’s historic sites. It included a visit to Jerome’s mining industry sites and the long-closed Jerome High School.

This tour typically provides a visit to the town’s cemetery, too. Unfortunately, we had to skip it due to snowy roads. (It snows about three times per year in Jerome.)

Jerome High School, which opened in 1906 and closed in 1951
During our Ghost Town Tour, we stopped at the Jerome High School, which opened in 1906 and closed in 1951 (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. Audrey Headframe Park

Picture what it was like to live and work as a miner in Jerome at Audrey Headframe Park. You’ll see historic mining equipment and a 1,700-foot mining shaft. Step on the plexiglass cover and imagine riding two hours down to work each day.

A visit to Audrey Headframe Park is included in the shuttle tours led by Ghost Town Tours. You can visit this tourist attraction on your own, too.

Standing above a 1,700-foot mine shaft at Audrey Headframe Park in Jerome, AZ with kids
Standing above a 1,700-foot mine shaft at Audrey Headframe Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Little Daisy Hotel

From Audrey Headframe Park, you can see Little Daisy Hotel on the hill above the mineshaft. Miners once resided here in hot bunks, sleeping in beds in shifts between long hours in the mines and overindulgent play in the city.

Today you can only look at Little Daisy Hotel from a distance. The 40-room hotel is now privately owned and has been transformed into a luxurious personal residence.

Visit Little Daisy Hotel in Jerome with children
Little Daisy Hotel was the residence of many of Jerome’s miners {Photo credit: Marine 69-71 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons}

5. Jerome’s Sliding Jail

Built into the side of a mountain smack along the Verde Fault and situated over mines blasted by dynamite, Jerome’s position is precarious indeed. It’s no wonder sinkholes, earthquakes, and landslides have rocked Jerome over the years.

The best visible proof of these dangers is Jerome’s Sliding Jail. This building began its slow slide downhill in 1938, following a mine blast. Until then, the concrete structure was used to hold ruffians in a once notorious town that included 24 saloons, 18 brothels, and an opium den. 

Nowadays the jail can be found 200 feet from its original location, along the main street of Jerome beside a parking lot. The jail has been stabilized by retaining walls but can’t be entered. An on-site plaque tells the history of the jail.

Jerome's Sliding Jail
Jerome’s Sliding Jail (Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor)

6. Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes

Want to visit the world’s largest collection of kaleidoscopes? Of course, you do!

Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes is worth visiting to view an impressive array of scopes. These works of art are made from wood, metal, and glass.

Visitors are welcome to touch and peek, but families with very young children should be careful in this shop. Kaleidoscopes range in price from novelty to downright extravagant.

You can even buy a kaleidoscope necklace to hang from your neck. Then, no matter where you go, you can see the world through a bedazzled lens.

My kids loved exploring the Nellie Bly Kaleidoscope store in Jerome, AZ
My daughter exploring the Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes store (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Who Is Nellie Bly

The store is named after Nellie Bly. She was a journalist and world traveler made famous in the 1800s for an exposé she wrote about the horrific conditions of a New York mental institution.

Christina Ricci and Judith Light starred in a horror film called Escaping the Madhouse about Bly’s time spent posing as a patient in the asylum while researching her story.

My kids loved visiting the Nellie Bly Kaleidoscope shop in Jerome, AZ
The largest kaleidoscope brick-and-mortar store in the world (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

7. Art Galleries and Art Walk

You’ll find pottery, paintings, handmade jewelry and so much more in over 25 art galleries in this ghost town. For many travelers, meandering through these galleries is the primary purpose of a visit to Jerome.

If visiting on the first Saturday of the month, then you’re in luck. Jerome First Saturday Art & Wine Walk takes place monthly in the evening (5 to 8 pm).

Get an Art Walk map and go it on your own. Or, catch a free shuttle from the old Jerome High School, where some art studios are located. Live music and refreshments often add to the festivities.

Raku Gallery is one of many art galleries in Jerome
Raku Gallery, one of many art galleries in Jerome (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

8. La Victoria Glass Blowing Studio

Kids and adults alike get a kick out of watching Jerome resident and artist, Tracy Weisel, blowing glass. He creates beautiful, delicate works of art at La Victoria Glass Blowing Studio.

My kids begged me to buy a small glass pumpkin to add to our Halloween decoration collection, and I happily obliged. You can also buy bird feeders, glassware, and other glass goodies here.

La Victoria Glass Blowing Studio is open noonish to 5-ish daily. Alas, at 4:45 we were too late on the day we visited. But Weisel was happy to fake it for my photo!

Artist Tracy Weisel gives demonstrations at his La Victoria Glass Blowing Studio in Jerome, Arizona
Artist Tracy Weisel gives demonstrations at his La Victoria Glass Blowing Studio (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

9. Laura Williams Park

After touring art galleries and learning Arizona history lessons, reward kids with some playtime. Laura Williams Park offers a playground and grassy space.

During our winter visit, a portion of the park was lit with holiday lights. When the weather is nice, local artists sell their creations here.

Laura Williams Park in Jerome, AZ with tween and teen
The lower level of Laura Williams Park, where artists sell their creations when the weather is nice (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

10. Wine Tasting

Wine tasting may not spring to mind when planning an Arizona vacation. Jerome, however, is home to several tempting tasting rooms.

This is because Jerome sits above Verde Valley, which is known as Arizona wine country, thanks to its temperate climate. Take a look at a list of Jerome wine-tasting venues available in Jerome.

While in town, I stopped into Cellar 433 (for research, of course!). Kids are welcome. You can keep them content by ordering a cheese and fruit tray. This tasting room spans two floors and has sweeping views of the valley below. If beer is more your bag, they offer microbrew tastings as well.

Wine tasting at Cellar 433 in Jerome with kids
Wine tasting at Cellar 433 (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

11. Jerome Candy Shops

Choose from a tantalizing selection of homemade fudge at OJ’s Copper Country Fudge. Look for flavors like Candy Cane, Orange Cream, and Chocolate Jalapeño, as well as more traditional options. Ice cream and hot cocoa are also available.

OJ's Copper Country Fudge is a favorite stop for families in Jerome, AZ
OJ’s Copper Country Fudge in Jerome (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Another sweet option in Jerome is Rickeldoris Candy & Popcorn Company. Buy treats like popcorn, gourmet chocolates, and novelty candies. This shop makes its own popcorn in such flavors as Prickly Pear, Cheddar, and Mixed Fruit.

Rickeldoris Candy & Popcorn Company in Jerome, Arizona with kids
Rickeldoris Candy & Popcorn Company (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

12. Gold King Mine Museum

A short drive just 1 mile from downtown Jerome, the Gold King Mine Museum is the perfect place to get a taste of life in the Wild West. Miners searching for copper here struck gold back in 1901 and set up their own town called Haynes. It even had its own post office for 14 years before the gold ran out and the mine was closed.

Rediscovered in 1981, visitors can now wander through a recreation of the mining camp. View mining equipment, old buildings, a working sawmill, and a blacksmith shop. Best for families, you’ll find a petting zoo and gold panning.

History buffs and car lovers will appreciate an array of 180 vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles on display, including Studebakers and classic Harleys.

Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum
Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum (Photo credit: filedimage, Depositphotos.com)

13. Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum

The Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum is supposedly open seven days a week, but was closed (or getting ready to close) every time we stopped by.

That’s partially because we tried to visit this non-profit museum during the off-season in January. And it’s partially because an independent Wild West town like Jerome does things as it sees fit!

According to their website, “The Museum and Gift Shop were opened in the early 1950s. With displays depicting the timeline of Jerome’s past to its present, items such as old miners’ equipment to remains of gambling in saloons can be seen within the Museum.”

Jerome Historical Museum
Jerome Historical Society Museum (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

14. Unique Jerome Restaurants

Mostly gone is the era of late-night debauchery in Jerome. In fact, nowadays nearly everything in town closes around 6 pm in winter. Choose from an eclectic bunch of family-friendly restaurants in town for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The Mine Café

The Mine Café is a wee breakfast/lunch joint with small but tasty, portions. As a gluten-sensitive eater, I was happy to find they offer gluten-free bread (Canyon Bakehouse).

They provide a 20 percent off coupon through Yelp. But be sure to show it before you pay because our waitress didn’t want to honor it afterward.

The Garden Scramble at the Mine Café
The Garden Scramble at the Mine Café (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Haunted Hamburger

The two-story Haunted Hamburger is a fun restaurant with a hip gift shop and great views of Verde Valley. Open for lunch and dinner, expect ghostly decor along with greasy burgers and hot dogs.

The kitchen is located on the second level. They use a dumbwaiter to send meals to diners downstairs. (Ask to see it and you just may be invited into the kitchen for a peek!)

Start your meal with deep-fried pickles and end it with huge, shareable desserts. This is not the place to skimp on calories!

The skeleton-bedecked Haunted Hamburger in Jerome, Arizona for families
The skeleton-bedecked Haunted Hamburger (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Vaqueros Grill & Cantina

You might just find the best meal in town at the only Mexican restaurant in Jerome. Enjoy traditional dishes like tamales, enchiladas, and tacos at Vaqueros Grill & Cantina.

Vaqueros boasts the most festive decor. Colorful Day of the Dead theming fits the town’s obsession with all things ghostly.

You need to pay for chips and salsa but there’s a free offering on Yelp. (Note: this does NOT count towards the guacamole, chips, and salsa appetizer.)

Day of the Dead décor at Vaqueros Grill & Cantina pleases kids in Jerome, AZ
Day of the Dead décor at Vaqueros Grill & Cantina (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Bobby D’s BBQ

Don’t let the huge “English Kitchen” signs painted on the adobe walls at Bobby D’s BBQ confuse you. Established in 1899 by Chinese American immigrant, Charley Hong, the English Kitchen served the best Chinese food in Jerome to miners who hailed from around the world.

The original restaurant closed in 2007, but the painted signs remain. Bobby D’s took over the historic building as a smokehouse in 2011.

Bobby D and his sister, Kathryn, have been smoking ribs, sausage, chicken, brisket, pork, and more in an ole hickory smoker daily ever since. Pull up a seat on their patio for a delicious grilled or barbecued meal when in Jerome.

Hickory smoked ribs at Bobby D's BBQ
Hickory smoked ribs at Bobby D’s BBQ (Photo credit: Bobby D’s BBQ)

Asylum Restaurant

The Grand Hotel Jerome was the United Verde Hospital, built by the United Verde Copper Company to care for sick and injured miners. Now it is home to the amusingly named Asylum, the fanciest restaurant in town.

The ambiance is old school dinner club. There’s no need to dress up, though. Jerome is mountain town casual, even here.

Although the standard menu is spendy, young diners can choose from an affordable children’s menu. For dinner, choose from such selections as Grilled Achiote Rubbed Pork Tenderloin, Sonoran Spiced Chicken, and Prickly Pear Barbecue Pork Tenderloin.

Be on the lookout for the leg lamp à la A Christmas Story, on display in the bar year-round.

Dinner club feel at Asylum Restaurant in Jerome, Arizona
Dinner club feel at Asylum Restaurant (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

15. Historic Jerome Hotels

Jerome doesn’t offer slick, modern hotels with indoor pools and room service. The focus of this must-see destination is on lodging in historic buildings and ghostly sightings. Sure, you could swing through town during a day trip but to really get a sense of the historic town of Jerome, I recommend a long weekend getaway.

The Connor Hotel

I chose the Connor Hotel for my stay in Jerome with my kids. It’s situated right on Main Street in downtown Jerome, near the Mine Museum and most of the restaurants and shops. You really can’t find a better location for exploring.

The hotel was originally built in 1898. Then it burnt down, not once, but twice. It was rebuilt a final time with brick in 1899.

The hotel closed in the 1930s, but the Spirit Room bar downstairs remained open. After the turn of the 21st century, the Connor Hotel was remodeled and restored. The Connor consists of 12 rooms decorated to transport guests back in time to the early 1900s.

The Connor Hotel with Laura Williams Park holiday lights in the foreground in Jerome, AZ
The Connor Hotel with Laura Williams Park holiday lights in the foreground (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

This hotel claims to be haunted by The Lady in Red. Apparently, she makes most of her appearances in Room 1. (We didn’t see any sign of the apparition.)

Rooms 1 – 4 are located above the Spirit Room, which has been named the Best Small Town Bar in Arizona by Thrillist. Since this historic bar offers live music four nights a week, expect to hear some noise in those rooms. Typically, the music stops by 11 pm or midnight and we didn’t find it overly raucous. If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler, though, then you might want to choose a different room. 

Families wanting more space should book Room 2. It features a king bed for parents in the bedroom and a twin bed with a pull-out twin trundle for the kids in the attached sitting room.

Private baths come with each room. Our suite also contained a mini-fridge, wet bar, and microwave. The hotel even gave us free microwave popcorn and nightly chocolate mints.

Read reviews and book the Connor Hotel via TripAdvisor.

The king bed in the bedroom portion of our Room 2 suite at the Connor Hotel
The king bed in the bedroom portion of our Room 2 suite at the Connor Hotel (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Jerome Grand Hotel

Opened in 1927 as a hospital, Jerome Grand Hotel is the largest lodging option in town. After the hospital closed in 1950, the building stood empty for over four decades.

It reopened as the Jerome Grand Hotel in 1996. The 30,000-square-foot building sits atop Cleopatra Hill, the mountain into which Jerome was built. Numerous apparition sightings lure ghost hunters to this hotel.

For families, Jerome Grand Hotel boasts all sorts of room configurations, including 1- and 2-bedroom suites as well as connecting rooms.

Even if you don’t stay here, I recommend making the 7-minute walk up the hill from Main Street to dine one night at the Asylum Restaurant.

Read more about the Jerome Grand Hotel and make your reservation via TripAdvisor.

Jerome Grand Hotel
Jerome Grand Hotel

Other Hotels, B&Bs and Rental Homes

There are a handful of other hotels and bed & breakfasts in Jerome, none of which are chains. Take a look at accommodation options in Jerome via TripAdvisor.

Many Jerome homeowners rent out their places, too. This gives families even more choices. Here’s a selection of rental properties available in Jerome via VRBO.

View of the Verde Valley from Tuzigoot
View of the Verde Valley from Tuzigoot (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Explore More of Arizona

Looking for more easy Arizona road trips? Head to the intriguing Montezuma’s Castle and Tuzigoot National Monument.

Discover all there is to do in Arizona’s former territorial capital, Prescott with kids.

Take a look at my helpful tips for visiting the Grand Canyon.

Read about the best things to do in Flagstaff in northern Arizona.

If you’re considering a move to the desert, read about what it’s like to live in Arizona.

Things to Do in Jerome, AZ

Save These Jerome, AZ Activities

Intrigued by the biggest ghost town in the United States? Then sure to save this list of top things to do in Jerome, AZ. Just pin the image above to Pinterest. I hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Would you like to visit Jerome, AZ? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: My family paid full price for everything mentioned in this story. I will always let you know if I receive anything for free or at a discounted media rate. All opinions are mine, as always.

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    1. Hi Jackie – For sure! I went alone with my kids when they were ages 10 and 13 or so and felt very safe. There are not enough people here for there to be a lot of crime! According to BestPlaces.net, Jerome gets a score of 23 (out of 100) for violent crime, while the U.S. average is 22.7 so it’s very average in terms of safety.

  1. How about the hang gliding launchpad, on top of Mingus Mountain? I betcha kids are fascinated by that. I can’t imagine jumping into the Verde Valley hole. One person I talked to said he once made it as far as Albequerque! But most flyers just land in Cottonwood.

  2. Just make sure you have a good car and a full tank of gas while driving thru Jerome. There is no gas station in town and the road with its hairpin turns can be dangerous if not careful!

    1. Margaret – Thanks for the tips! Those roads are a little daunting, for sure. Thankfully, Jerome is so small, we really didn’t drive much at all after we arrived. We never had to get gas in town, either, so I didn’t notice the lack of gas stations. Thankfully, there are gas stations nearby in Cottonwood and Clarkdale.

  3. This is a cool vacation destination. Although my children are grown, they still would love to explore Jerome. The food looks fantastic too!

  4. First thing I always pop in my mind when I hear Arizona is big trees! Now, upon reading this blog, a different picture comes into mind now. La Victoria Glass Blowing Studio is one place I really want to visit. I hope it will be soon.

    1. That’s a new one for me! Most people picture cactus, the Grand Canyon, golf courses and spas when they think of Arizona! Jerome is definitely a unique place to visit in this state.

  5. I used to go to Jerome every summer when I was younger. My grandpa grew up there and I loved listening to his stories as we explored the town.

  6. What a smart way to revive a ghost town! I would love to visit and hear about the history. It looks so interesting!

  7. I know my older kids and my wife and I would love this. Our youngest might need some education about ghost towns. This is a great family trip, with beautiful places to stay.

  8. Wow – thats a LOT of really unique and fun things to do in Arizona! I’d def be a part of the Ghost Town Tours, because ghosts! And all that popcorn in the candy shop looks delish!

  9. My family loves to explore ghost towns! I’m sad we missed this one when we were in Arizona 2 summers ago, but we’ll definitely add it to our list for when we go back. The Ghost Town Tours sounds like it would be an interesting way to learn more about the town.

  10. What a cool experience! I’ve heard of this place but haven’t seen such detailed pictures. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Oooh. I ghost town sounds like so much fun! I’ll be the kids would have a great time there. It looks like an adventure for sure.