Backyard Discoveries: S.O.S. (or Seeking Out Superior)

What I meant to do: Drive out to Superior (about an hour and 20-minute drive out of Phoenix, southeasterly toward Globe) to spend at their annual Prickly Pear Festival. Spend a couple hours sampling jellies, candies, ice creams and more until my body is 90% prickly pear.

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Superior, Ariz.- come for the annual Prickly Pear Festival, stay for their small-town, old-school charm.

What really happened: Buy some prickly pear jellies and taffy and spend the rest of FOUR hours running around the town starry-eyed and snap-happy because, oh my god, the buildings, y’all.

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I don’t know if this was built as a market or when it stopped being one. Looks like most recently it was an antique shop, but now it’s empty. Either way, I love it.

It’s not my fault that the houses, the shops, the walls, etc. in the town of Superior have so much CHARACTER.

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Some excellent art to be found on the walls along Main St.

Lemme give you a little background on Superior. This little engine that could started as a mining town in about the mid-1870s thanks to the Silver King and Silver Queen mines. Although it was one of the richest silver mines in AZ, the Silver King shut down in the 1880s due to a decline in silver prices coupled with high costs in operation. However, the Silver Queen mine kept chugging along because of hella copper production. If you can believe it, copper mining in Superior didn’t end until 1995 – that’s 120 years, folks, give or take a few.

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Hotel Magma’s been out of commission for a while (it first opened around 1912), but restoration efforts were taking place last year with plans to re-open soon. Keep hope alive!

Even though mining has died out (though Resolution Copper has plans to start it up again in nearby Oak Flat), the town is still alive and kicking. I’ve curated a list of things to do and see below:

Notable Attractions

For people who enjoy history (especially mining history):

Magma Mine Copper Smelter

This is a huge smelting stack you can see from the road as you’re driving into town. It was operational from about 1914 to 1981.

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Smelter no smelting! (Because you’re full of dangerous chemicals – whoops.)

A resident told me that there was a good chance that the smelter would have to come down because it had become unsafe over the years and that the repairs were too extensive for the town or Resolution Copper to consider. So, visit Superior soon, because I’m not sure how long this stack will be around. The only caveat is that the road is 100% blocked to the smelter, so you’ll have to admire from afar or check in with Resolution Copper (they have an office on Main St.) to see if they give tours that allow you to get a little bit closer (not too close, because there may be arsenic and other fun mining chemicals in the stack??).

Bob Jones Museum

This is the small house-turned-museum of former early AZ governor, Bob Jones. Admission is free (though donations are accepted and encouraged) and it’s chock full of historical town artifacts and town residents who are more than happy to talk history and give you recommendations of places to visit, both historical and current.

Various Buildings Throughout the Town

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I’m preeeetty sure this bar is still open.
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But this high school is not. One of the Bob Jones museum docents said that this building was about 100 years old and no longer in use.
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This little church was tucked into a neighborhood amongst three houses. I probably wouldn’t have even seen it if I hadn’t take a wrong turn.

Seriously, do yourself a favor and set aside time to just walk and drive around town. There are some great buildings along main street, but others are hidden gems throughout the surrounding neighborhoods. Just remember to treat the areas with respect – because it’s a small town a lot what seems like public property blends with residential and public streets will suddenly turn into private drives. No trespassing means no trespassing, don’t be that guy.

For people who like plants (and other neat nature-y things):

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Established in 1923, the arboretum is about three miles just outside of Superior. It boasts more than 6000 plant species from every continent, and also refuge for 150 kinds of birds and 40 other wildlife species. I didn’t get chance to visit this time, but I have plans to drive back out and wander around there in the near future (once we’re past 100-degree temps).

Miscellany:

Shops

There were a few different little shops along Main St. – a couple antique shops, an art gallery, the Save Money Market (if you need to stock up on snacks, water, etc. this is a good place to go, plus it still has that 50s market feel) and others.

Eats

There are multiple places to eat around town, most of them on Main St. and very easy to find. The Philly Cheesesteak I got at De Marco’s Italian had homemade bread and it was GREAT.

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If going to the the World’s Smallest Museum is on your bucket list, you know where to go.

Fuel/When Nature Calls

There’s also Circle K gas station and rest stop right as you drive into Superior, so you’re good for bathroom breaks and fuel.

Believe me, I could go on, in the words of that one farmer guy from Babe, “That’ll do pig, that’ll do.” Join us next time for another Arizona find!

Explore more,
Katie

superior redux

 

 

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56 thoughts on “Backyard Discoveries: S.O.S. (or Seeking Out Superior)

  1. You are so correct! What a fabulous place for photo ops and quirky history. Love your writing style – but inquiring minds want to know…. what does prickly pear really taste like? Greetings from this Oregon Girl in Copenhagen!

    1. tigasngulo

      Thank you! I took sooooo many photos – it was hard to pick which ones would make it into this post. So the prickly pear fruit is actually pretty sweet! I think you see it most as jelly/jam or candies. The nopales or the prickly pear pads are also used in dishes, but I don’t think I’ve ever had it. Best way to find out is to try both! : )

  2. This is the cutest town to wander! So much history and personality from one little place. I reeeeally want to know if the bar is open for business, I bet it’s amazing inside!

  3. carrieemann

    Superior looks so interesting! I had no idea there was such a charming little town so close to Phoenix. The Prickly Pear Festival sounds like a good excuse to visit, too.

    1. tigasngulo

      There are so many great little towns dotting the edges of Phoenix – Crown King, Florence, Jerome, Wickenburg, to name a few. I plan to keep visiting and featuring these smaller towns in the near future.

      Also, the Prickly Pear Festival was great! The whole town was into it and they had a lot of fun vendors, foods and demos.

  4. I’m especially loving the fact that you went out in search of a Prickly Pear festival. In Spanish we call them TUNAS. They are delicious cold, cut up and with a dash of Sea Salt and Lemon squeezed on top. What character indeed in this Arizona town.

  5. Trailing Abroad

    Amazing place full of rich history and definitely a perfect place for photo ops. I was always fascinated with the mines being reading tin tin and watching Indiana Jones movies..
    Would love to go to here.

  6. siarraturner

    What I love about Arizona’s architechture is that it differs so wildly from the South. I can’t wait to head West in two months!

  7. Kyla Matton Osborne

    When I read “Superior,” I was thinking of the lake! It looks like a nice place for a quiet getaway, though. Reminds me a bit of the town where I went to college.

    1. tigasngulo

      Haha, I’m sure most people do. It was bustling because of the Prickly Pear Fest, but I think it would be an excellent place for a little weekend getaway.

    1. tigasngulo

      I’ve recently gotten into exploring the local cities and towns here and I’m having a blast! (It’s a little easier on the wallet than international travel, too.)

  8. Oh my ok my favorite things about this is how there was the painting of Lady of Guadalupe as I type that I’m looking at her here my home (I have a painting a friend gave as a gift!) This was an awesome post. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. tigasngulo

      I’m finding that even though these towns I’m visiting are small, they are definitely not lacking in personality. So glad I went!

    1. tigasngulo

      For sure! That’s why I love traveling – even if it’s not far from home. There’s always something that will surprise you.

    1. tigasngulo

      A good percentage of my trips have been traveling on a whim – I find it really relaxing when I can somewhere with no agenda and just enjoy myself.

    1. tigasngulo

      You’re very welcome! I’m not sure what fundraising avenues they’ve tried, but from what info I could find, they’ve been struggling with this for a while and repairs for the smelter would be VERY costly. Way too much for the town to take on. It’s a very unfortunate situation. 😦

  9. Elizabeth O

    It was such fun to see this historic town through your lens. I would love to visit the area some day and venture beyond Superior to other towns.

    1. tigasngulo

      I’ve never been to New Mexico, but Nightborn is definitely considering a trip there in the future. We’ve heard good things and if you have similar awesome sites to visit, it sounds like it would be a perfect fit for us!

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