I don’t know what it says about me, but the view below is my idea of breathtaking. After several days of Arizona’s majestic and endless skylines, I came across the familiar: a tiny slice of Appalachia in the middle of a desert. Childhood visits to my grandmother in Steubenville, Ohio, combined with my college years in Athens, Ohio, have embedded visions like this—aging hillsides littered with houses and an urban landscape—within my heart. Home.
Jerome, Arizona, of course is very, very far from home, but it’s also decades away from our December visits to Phoenix, Sedona and Cave Creek. Jerome is a revitalized ghost town, an artists’ haven and a pretty amazing example of what can happen when people organize. When the mining companies vacated the area, so did most of the town. But a strong and active historical society helped keep Jerome’s buildings intact and its story alive. This place is a must-see and an easy day trip from the Phoenix area.
We lunched at the Haunted Hamburger, a hillside restaurant that has built an identity and a tourist following out of the story of how its tools disappeared during its renovation. With its outdoor deck overlooking the town, this place could easily have terrible food and still be a destination. But it didn’t. The place served a decent hamburger and a nice twice-baked potato (spiked with some smoky spices to give it a southwest feel).
The menu consisted almost entirely of bar food, making it reliable, unpretentious and perfect for traveling families. Baseball Boy’s grilled cheese didn’t change our lives, but it served its purpose: a bite or two to fuel our day hiking the streets of Jerome.
For a place built around mining, many of the views of Jerome were unexpectedly and delightfully colorful, a trait that is most likely attributed to the artists that consider the historical buildings and side streets their homes and studios.
Any neighborhood inundated by the creative community needs its own locally owned coffee shop, and Jerome’s Flatiron Café fits the bill. I stopped into this aptly named triangle-shaped building twice during our visit to caffeinate and warm myself up with its timeless decor and delicious coffee.
Truth be told, I’m kind of kicking myself for not pestering Baseball Boy into enjoying a second lunch there. I remember thinking that the menu looked promising. The desserts, of course, were too enticing to ignore, so I did talk myself into a cookie.
A beautiful and buttery cookie, it turns out. It’s amazing how sprinkles can make anything taste better.
With coffee in hand, we wandered the rest of Jerome and found ourselves drawn to a dirt road on the edge of town. Although it was not officially condoned by any of the local maps and information centers, Haynes (and its recreated King Coal Mine ghost town) is clearly a popular destination for the area’s visitors.
We fell in love with the junkyard-turned-Disneyworld that is Haynes, Arizona, and wandered through the shacks, vehicles and chicken coops left by the long-vanished. Like jumping into an unguarded lake in the rural midwest or hiking non-cemented paths in the northeast, climbing through this unregulated, largely under-marketed and understaffed historical playground was a joy.
Lucky for us, it seems that a lawsuit has yet to hit the ghost town. And it seems that so far, neighboring Jerome has escaped the negative aspects of a tourist spot as well. The prices are still reasonable and the people are still genuine, real. It’s tough to know how long it will stay that way, if the people strong enough to save the town from desolation will be strong enough to save it from Starbucks and Jeep tours. For right now, though, it’s just right.
416 Main Street
410 N Clark Street