Why Small Little Tourist Towns (Like Oatman, AZ) are Awesome

Sorry ya’ll, I finally broke my once a week posting initiative. But honestly, with good reason. Without getting too sappy or serious, my ex mother-in-law was hospitalized while on vacation in Laughlin, Nevada and has been sedated to the point of basically being in a medical coma for the past two weeks. So on top of my normal schedule of school, writing, working, driving, and being a single mom, I am suddenly in charge of (along with her awesome daughter) making sure her bills are getting paid, her nursing staff is on top of everything, her family and work’s kept up to date, the house is taken care of, AND she’s my primary babysitter… If there was a “pulling your hair out” emoji, I would insert it here.

But the biggest hassle of all, is that she is stuck in a hospital five plus hours away in the Laughlin/Bullhead area on the border of Nevada and Arizona, respectively. As lovely as the drive through nothingness and  sand dunes is, it can get pretty exhausting, even for a seasoned driver such as myself.

Growing up Laughlin, Nevada was often described to me as the “Vegas of old people” like Reno or some of those small retirement towns in Florida. But having spent way to much time there lately, I’ve found that there’s actually a ton of fun stuff to do. My favorite thing by far is to visit the little old west town of Oatman, Arizona. It’s about 15 miles outside of Bullhead.

Just a small FYI… DO NOT LISTEN TO GOOGLE MAPS!!! Take Boundary Cone Road straight into town. Do not, unless you have a four wheel off road style jeep, take Silver Creek rd. 15miles bouncing down a desert dirt and rocky road was fun…once. But it would’ve been nice to know we were doing it before set out.

Anyways, twice a day at noon & 2:30, the local “bandits” put on a show in the middle of town (they stop traffic through Main St, so if you get stuck, just get out and watch and then hop back in the car) It’s a cute little bank robbery skit with loud gunshots and goofball comedy. After the show they pass a hat around for donations benefiting the Shriners Children’s Hospital. To date their shows have raised over a quarter million dollars for the hospital.

Another unique thing you might notice while walking around the town is the number of wild burros that have taken over the town. During your visit, here are are some Do’s & Don’ts of Dealing with Donkeys:

Do: Watch your purse or any bag you may be carrying, especially if it has food it in. They will grab it out of your hands and tear it to shreds. We once watched a burro grab a kids lunch pail out the back of an open minivan. The screaming and chaos that ensued was kind of hilarious. (They have especially learned that people standing in the crowd watching the show are usually not paying attention, this is when they strike).

Don’t: Feed the burros people food. If you really want to feed them most of the stores sell little bags of feed. But Do take the food off of the porches and walkways, away from the businesses before feeding. The young ones will often have stickers on their heads, warning you not to feed them. They are still milking and if they get the taste to feed before they are weaned it can be very bad for their health (See pic above).

Don’t: Stand directly behind them. While they are crazy acclimated to the land of people and hardly ever spook (even with the gunshots and craziness of the shows) They are still wild animals and have been known to kick when threatened.

Do: Feel free to pet them and take pictures, especially if you enjoy the smell of animal on your hands for days to come.

Don’t: Try to ride them or put your kids on them. As docile as they are, they are still wild and will put up with none of that nonsense.

While all of this might seem like crazy common sense… you’d be surprised the things we’ve seen.

One last neat thing about the town of Oatman, is that way back when it was part of the hay day that was Route66. It had its fair share of celebrity guests, including Clark Gable; he honeymooned there with Carol Lombard. The hotel has set up the room exactly how it would’ve looked,, with memorabilia etc. as sort of a shrine. If you are classic movie nerd like me, it’s worth the walk up the stairs to take a peek.

While there are many other things to do in Laughlin (rent a jetski, catch a show, check out the Pints Brewery in the Colorado Belle, take a river cruise, ride the water taxi back and forth) Oatman is definitely worth the quick ride out of Bullhead.

P.S. stop in and grab a sandwich at Olives in Oatman, best food in town!

What other small tourist towns do you love to visit? Let us know in the comments!




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