Bisbee vs. Jerome: Arizona Ex-Mining Town Smackdown

22 Mar
2012

We loved Bisbee, Arizona. We loved Bisbee so much we can’t wait to return. We loved Bisbee so much we were really looking forward to exploring another of Arizona’s ex-mining towns, Jerome. But did we love Bisbee too much to enjoy Jerome? Were our love-struck eyes too cloudy to appreciate another tiny town in Arizona? Maybe. That’s why I’m going to make this very scientific. There are categories. There are points. The city with the most points will be crowned Arizona’s best small former-mining town. Simple.

This be Jerome, AZ.

This be Jerome, AZ.

Parking

Jerome gets +1 for having so many lots. There are a lot of places to park and they’re convenient. But there are serious crowds here and because nobody knows the layout, people end up fighting over the parking spots right at the beginning instead of going to the big lots farther along the road. We saw somebody try to wait out a parked minivan only to be dicked-over by the driver who refused to leave until the person got off his back. It was brutal, so -5 for that, Jerome.

Bisbee has enough parking and it’s calmer. The main road bypassing the town does just that — it bypasses the downtown and doesn’t clutter things up with pass-through traffic. You can park on the street in Bisbee because nobody is breathing down your neck trying to sneak into the space ahead of you. Bisbee, +1 for you.

Jerome: -4
Bisbee: +1

Look at this lot! Everybody crowds the one a block away.

Look at this lot! Everybody crowds the one a block away.

Wineries / Breweries

Jerome has wineries! +5, Jerome! But -1 for the tasting-room feel. Too much like Temecula and not enough like Paso Robles. The tasting rooms feel like spots designed to just grab a few more tourist dollars from the retirees roaming the streets.

Bisbee has a couple local brews, most notably, Old Bisbee Brewing Company, a place so tiny they have to pump the beer from the brewing room across the street to the tiny aging and serving room. +2, Bisbee!

Jerome: +4 (0 overall)
Bisbee: +2 (+3 overall)

Old-timey Bars

Bisbee has our favorite Arizona dive bar, St. Elmo’s, so +10 for that. It’s going to be tough to compete with that, Jerome. But Jerome answers back with the Spirit Room, a great place to grab a drink and listen to live music. Not as great as St. Elmo, but pretty good. Jerome also has a place called Paul and Jerry’s Saloon, one of the oldest bars in Arizona. +8, Jerome.

However, below the surface, Bisbee is just more of a drinking town. It still feels like the wild west. It’s wonderful, so +5 more, Bisbee. Meanwhile, if Bisbee is a drinking town, Jerome is a drinking-with-grandpa town. There are a lot of old people here. There’s a much, much older crowd here. -1, Jerome.

Jerome: +7 (+7 overall)
Bisbee: +15 (+18 overall)

The Spirit Room, Jerome, AZ.

The Spirit Room, Jerome, AZ.

View

Jerome has an amazing view of the surrounding mountains. It’s majestic. The only knock is that it also overlooks the sprawl of Cottonwood, AZ as well. Still good enough for +10. Nice work, Jerome.

Bisbee’s view is more ~urban … if that makes any sense. You’re in the bottom of the valley here instead of on the side of a mountain. Still beautiful, though, and you can see the mountains. +5, Bisbee.

Jerome: +10 (+17 overall)
Bisbee: +5 (+23 overall)

Jerome perched on the side of a mountain.

Jerome perched on the side of a mountain.

Park Proximity

Jerome rocks this round. It’s right next to a couple Arizona state parks and within spitting distance of Sedona. +10, Jerome. Bisbee can’t hang. There’s beautiful land around the town, but nearly none of it is parkland. -5, Bisbee.

Jerome: +10 (+27 overall)
Bisbee: -5 (+18 overall)

Stairways

We loved the stairways in Bisbee, but only because they seemed like they were trying to harm us. -1, Bisbee. In Jerome, the stairways are safe enough for grandma and grandpa, also -1.

Jerome: -1 (+26 overall)
Bisbee: -1 (+17 overall)

Safe stairs.

Safe stairs.

Houses and Architecture

Jerome has some great buildings, but there’s a lot of evidence of demolition along the upper roads. There are old foundations present and old stairways that vanish into the ground. A lot of the town is gone, but there’s still a lot of great-looking buildings. +5, Jerome.

Bisbee’s old buildings and shanties have been rehabbed by artists and weirdos driving decorated cars. Sure, there are a couple of empty lots, but a lot of the houses are occupied — and they’re occupied by residents. The populations differ by about 20x — Bisbee is just bigger but it still feels very, very small. +10, Bisbee.

Jerome: +5 (+31 overall)
Bisbee: +10 (+27 overall)

Empty lots above Jerome.

Empty lots above Jerome.

Hot Dogs

Bisbee gets +1 for having a Chicago-style hot dog place. 0 for Jerome.

Jerome: 0 (+31 overall)
Bisbee: +1 (+28 overall)

Visitors / Residents

Jerome loses -1 for having nearly no actual residents. The place seems to just open up for the tourists that stroll the town. -1 for the RV-driving tourists as well.

Bisbee gets +1 for its wonderfully friendly residents that chatted us up whenever they had the chance. And because we weren’t the youngest tourists in the town, Bisbee gets another +1.

Jerome: -2 (+29 overall)
Bisbee: +2 (+30 overall)

Nobody live here. I still want to live in Bisbee.

Nobody live here. I still want to live in Bisbee.

Winner: Bisbee. Arizona’s Best Small Town.

  • Camack53

    … and Lisa thought the condo in Chicago needed a lot of work!

    • http://drivinginertia.com/ Paul David Olson

      Ha!

  • Mark

    I lived in the gulch in Jerome for 6 months in mid 90′s.  Then a cabin south of Sedona on 100 ac, east of Page Springs Road for 2 years after that. Jerome was just too small, anything went sidewise and everyone knew about it. I just moved back to Phx from Bisbee after 10 months. Jerome is/was about 500 residents, Bisbee about 5000. headed back to BZB today for a small project. But similar thing about personal business as in Jerome. That’s typical small town.The wineries in S AZ are around Elgin and Sonoita, about 45 minutes west of Bisbee. If want to see a very beautiful landscape, similar to Napa or Sonoma, take the exit south off 10 to Sonoita/Patagonia. The wine industry in AZ is still fledgling compared to Cal. I know some very nice people in both places. (and some kooks) -marc-architecture

    • http://drivinginertia.com/ Paul David Olson

      Cool — we’ll have to check out those wineries!