The sun hangs in the sky, baking the dusty desert and majestic mountains below. A small desert town sweats in silence, awaiting the stroke of high noon.
Suddenly, a man dressed in black runs out of the bank, pistols blazing. The marshal is in hot pursuit, taking aim and firing carefully. The villain stops and calls the marshal out for a gunfight.
We can almost hear the theme of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly playing in the background…
The marshal gets a shot off first, then dodges the bullet aimed for him. The man and black goes down, face first, into the dirt, and doesn’t move. He fought the law, and the law won.
Is this a scene from an old western movie? Well, perhaps. This is actually one of the scenes you will see live when visiting Old Tucson Studios in Tucson, AZ. After all, “Old Tucson Studios is where the West was filmed!”
Located at 201 South Kinney Road in Tucson, AZ, Old Tucson Studios has been the setting for hundreds of major motion pictures. The studios hosted their first film in 1939 (for the movie Arizona), and opened as a studio / family fun park in 1960. John Wayne shot 4 films there, and became a part owner with Robert Shelton. (Shelton, incidentally, still owns Old Tucson Studios now.)
Now that you know a little history of Old Tucson Studios, let me give you a brief description about the experience you will have today at the family fun park.
There is nothing in Old Tucson Studios that is off limits. Sure, some sets are taped off so that things don’t get moved, but visitors are allowed – and even encouraged – to roam the park at their leisure, taking everything in. You’re even allowed to take pictures of EVERYTHING– something that is very rare for a movie studio.
Characters dressed in full costume walk around the dusty streets, approaching visitors at their leisure. Unfortunately, the only thing that makes these characters appear “authentic” is the western gear. Unfortunately, they have very contemporary haircuts. And, when the man playing the marshal found out that I worked on Deadwood, he wanted to compare acting resumes. Oh, well.Fortunately, all of the characters are camera hogs, and really ham it up for your photos. You’ll definitely have some good Kodak moments– Especially if you’ve got kids!
The sets are really cool, for any age! You can walk into virtually every building there, except for the church used in Tombstone and The Three Amigos. You can take a (free) walking tour of the park and learn about all of the different buildings and sets. We did this, and learned a great deal about Old Tucson Studios. The walking tour takes about half an hour. Unfortunately, there isn’t much shade until the very end. Be sure you wear your sunscreen!
Town Hall has been converted into an Old West Museum, featuring a display on the many different films that used Old Tucson Studios. The building is cool, so it’s a nice way to get out of the heat for a little.
The Saloon hosts a show several times during the day. Honestly, I don’t recommend this show. It’s a bunch of young adults country line dancing and singing country western songs. I truly wasn’t impressed. However, there is a functioning bar in there, which works as a snack bar. Go for the Souix City Sasparilla and a pretzel if you’re looking for a snack. That will run you about $5, but it’s a nice treat!
The only rides in the park are for the really little ones, like ages 4 – 10. No roller coasters; just a little boat ride, a small train ride, a carousel and a couple of other things. You can “sluice for gold” for a mere $1, which is a big thrill to little kids, too.
One last feature is the train that circles the park. You can board this at Backlot A and take a tour around the perimeter of the park. Craig and I wanted to do this, but never got around to it. Most of the time, the train was pretty empty when we saw it. Oh, well. I guess we had to leave something to do next time we visit!
For just $14.95 per adult (not including the AAA discount, which I JUST found out about), this is a great place to spend the day. Kids ages 4 – 11 are just $9.45. Children under 4 are free. You can find out more about Old Tucson Studios by visiting their website, located at www.oldtucsonstudios.com.
In conclusion, Old Tucson Studios is a terrific place to visit when in Tucson. just make sure that you have your sunscreen and water. Believe me, you’ll need it!