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Things to Do in Jerome, Arizona ~ Exploring America’s Biggest Ghost Town with Kids

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Residents in quirky Jerome, Arizona are proud to live in America’s largest ghost town. That’s an oxymoron, of course, because typically people don’t reside in a ghost town. A booming copper mining town at the turn of the 19th century, Jerome was once home to 15,000 inhabitants. After the mines closed in 1953, however, the population dwindled to less than 100. Slowly artists and free spirits moved in, seeking cheap housing and beautiful 180-degree views of the surrounding Verde Valley. In 1967, the town was designated as a National Historic District. Today about 500 people call Jerome home and welcome visitors with small town warmth. Tourists flock to Jerome in search of Wild West history, art galleries and ghost stories. Located between Prescott and Sedona, Jerome makes a great Arizona road trip destination. Take a look at 14 wicked fun things to do in Jerome, Arizona with kids!

Jerome, Arizona from a distance

Jerome’s precarious hillside position, from a distance (Photo credit: fotoluminate, Depositphotos.com)

1. Jerome Historic State Park and Douglas Mansion

A visit to the Jerome Historic State Park and Douglas Mansion gives a lot of historical background about the town, which will make your time in Jerome more meaningful and interesting. The wealthy Douglas family, which once 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 tourist destination. One room, the Douglas Library, has been restored into a period room. Meanwhile the rest of the mansion displays photographs, artifacts and information about the Douglas family, Jerome’s mining history, and the town’s unique geology. Also, models here show how Jerome is perched above a disconcerting Swiss cheese maze of mine shafts.

Douglas Mansion is the centerpiece of Jerome Historic State Park

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

While at the museum, you must watch a movie called, “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 Jerome’s history to life, even for kids. Plan to spend about an hour or two exploring Douglas Mansion, depending on attention spans and ages of your children.

The Douglas Library is the only room in the Douglas Mansion that has been restored as a period room in Jerome, Arizona

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. For families who like spooky tales, book one of their ghost tours for a blend of history and horror. You’ll visit sites of unsolved murders, fatal accidents and present day ghost sightings. Using provided electromagnetic field monitors, participants can supposedly detect paranormal presences.

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)

Since my kids and I don’t dig scary stuff, we embarked on a historic Ghost Town Tour instead. Choose from the Mining Days shuttle tour to focus on Jerome’s mining past, a Step Through Time History walking tour through Jerome’s downtown, or a Get the History shuttle tour. We chose the third option, which included a visit to Jerome’s mining sites and the long-closed Jerome High School, along with lots of stories about life in Jerome during its heyday. This tour typically provides a visit to the town’s cemetery, too, but we had to skip it due to snowy roads. (It snows about three times per year in Jerome.) Our Ghost Town Tour added much color and depth to our time in Jerome without needing to do lots of research on our own.

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

Included in the shuttle tours is a visit to Audrey Headframe Park. You can visit this park on your own, too. It features 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.

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 once 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 once 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 sink holes, earthquakes and landslides have rocked Jerome over the years. The best visible proof of these dangers is Jerome’s Sliding Jail. It began its slow slide downhill in 1938, following a mine blast. Until then, the concrete building was used to hold ruffians in a once notorious town that contained 24 saloons, 18 brothels and an opium den. Nowadays the jail can be found 200 feet from where it started, 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 to the world’s largest collection of kaleidoscopes? Of course you do! Stop by Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes shop to view a impressive array of scopes made of wood, metal and glass. You can even buy a kaleidoscope necklace to hang from your neck so no matter where you go, you can see the world through a bedazzled lens. 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.

My kids loved exploring the Nellie Bly Kaleidoscope store in Jerome, AZ

My kids loved exploring the Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes store (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The store is named after Nellie Bly, 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 will star in a horror film called Transparent 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

Find the largest kaleidoscope brick-and-mortar store in the world in Jerome (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

7. Art Galleries and Art Walk

You’ll find pottery, paintings, handmade jewelry and so much more in over 20 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, you’re in luck. Jerome First Saturday Art 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 is one of many art galleries in Jerome (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

8. La Victoria Glass Blowing Studio

Kids will get a kick out of watching artist and Jerome resident, Tracy Weisel, blowing glass to create beautiful, delicate works of art. Weisel is the owner of La Victoria Glass Blowing Studio, which is open noonish to 5-ish daily. Alas, at 4:45 we were too late on the day we visited to see him at work, but Weisel was happy to fake it for my photo! The 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.

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, but Jerome 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 but there isn’t much for them to do while mom and dad sip their vino. You can keep them content by ordering a cheese and fruit tray, if needed. 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

After parents sip their refreshments, it’s the kids’ turn for a treat. During our three-day visit to Jerome, we visited OJ’s Copper Country Fudge three times. Yes, it’s that good! Choose from a tantalizing selection of homemade fudge in flavors like Candy Cane, Orange Cream, and Chocolate Jalapeño, as well as more traditional options. Also, ice creams and hot cocoa (my choice!) are available.

OJ's Copper Country Fudge is a favorite stop for families in Jerome, AZ

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

Another sweet option in Jerome is Rickeldoris Candy & Popcorn Company. Kids get their pick of popcorn, gourmet chocolates and novelty candies. This shop makes their own popcorns with such flavors as Prickley Pear, Cheddar, and Mixed Fruit.

Rickeldoris Candy & Popcorn Company in Jerome, Arizona with kids

Rickeldoris Candy & Popcorn Company (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

12. Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum

The non-profit Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum is supposedly open seven days a week, but was closed (or getting ready to close for lunch) every time we stopped by. That’s partially because we visited during off-season in January and 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.”

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13. Jerome Restaurants for Families

Mostly gone is the era of late night debauchery in Jerome. Nowadays almost everything in town closes up around 6 pm — including restaurants. Thankfully, a few do remain open. Choose from an eclectic bunch family-friendly restaurants in town for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Mile High Grill

Recommended to us over and again, Mile High Grill appears to be the primo choice of locals. It’s open for breakfast and lunch daily as well as dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. We hoped for a late brunch on our last day in town but found that breakfast ended at 11 am (five minutes before our arrival). Still, my “breakfast” salad was tasty and the kids enjoyed their meals as well. Think diner standards like corned beef hash or biscuits with gravy for breakfast. Burgers, sandwiches, soups and greens rule later in the day. Kids 14 and under can choose from a very limited children’s menu. Old fashioned, humorous advertisements adorn the walls and make good conversation starters.

Soup and salad at Mile High Grill

Red Pepper Bisque and Sonoran Chicken Salad at Mile High Grill (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The Mine Café

The Mine Café is a wee breakfast/lunch joint with wee, 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 afterwards.

The Garden Scramble at the Mine Café

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

Haunted Hamburger

Haunted Hamburger is a two-story restaurant with a hip gift shop and great views of Verde Valley. The kitchen is located on the second level. They use a dumbwaiter to send meals to diners downstairs. (Ask to see it and you may be invited into the kitchen for a peek!) Open for lunch and dinner, expect ghostly decor along with greasy burgers and hot dogs. Start you 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

Perhaps the best meal in town, with definitely the most festive decor, can be found at the only Mexican restaurant in Jerome. Vaqueros Grill & Cantina‘s colorful Day of the Dead theming fits the town’s obsession with all things ghostly. Enjoy traditional dishes like tamales, enchiladas and tacos. 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)

Asylum Restaurant

Located at the Grand Hotel Jerome (which was once a hospital), the amusingly named Asylum is the fanciest restaurant in town. The ambiance is old school dinner club. There’s no need to dress up, though, if you don’t feel like it. Jerome is casual, even here. Although the standard menu is spendy, young diners can choose from an affordable kids’ 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)

14. Historic Jerome Hotels

A lot of times when our family travels, I look for an ultra modern hotel with a fabulous pool. Or, I’ll seek out a vacation rental with lots of space and a kitchen. But in Jerome, my goal was to stay somewhere very centrally located and historic.

The Connor Hotel

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

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)

The Connor consists of 12 rooms, decorated to transport you back in time to the early 1900s. At ages 10 and 13, my kids no longer want to sleep in the same bed when we travel. That’s why I chose Room 2, with a king bed for parents in the bedroom and a twin bed with 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. The ceiling fans were extremely dusty and one of our blankets was dirty, but everything else seemed clean and orderly.

This hotel is supposedly haunted by “The Lady in Red.” Apparently she makes most of her appearances in Room 1. We didn’t see any sign of this apparition. Honestly, I didn’t tell my kids about her, either. If your kids like spooky ghost stories, though, they might enjoy being on the lookout for a ghostly visitor!

Keep in mind that 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, you can 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. 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 ghost 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.

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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 home owners rent out their places, too, giving families even more choices. Here’s a selection of rental properties available in Jerome via HomeAway.

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)

If you’re considering an Arizona vacation, I suggest taking a look at my extensive tips for visiting the Grand Canyon and all there is to do in Prescott with kids.

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Wicked Fun Things to Do in Jerome, Arizona with Kids ~ America's Biggest Ghost Town

Would you like to visit Jerome, Arizona with kids? 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.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. 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.

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. Bill Sweeney says

    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.

  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. Wendy Polisi says

    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.

  8. Emmanuel Damian says

    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.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      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.

  9. Annemarie LeBlanc says

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

  10. Elicitfolio says

    I love ghost town tours! We will add this one to our family’s list for sure!

  11. I never heard of Jerome.AZ. Looks like a new vacay spot for people who are spontaneous travelers!

  12. Becca Wilson says

    This definitely looks like it would be an amazing experience. I love towns like this that have a history.

  13. 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!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      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.

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