Things to do in Oatman, Arizona: Burros, Shootouts, and More!

Last updated on April 21st, 2024 at 07:41 pm

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Route 66 runs right through Oatman, Arizona. The picturesque town is nestled inside the Black Mountains offering stunning scenic views. And, while there is plenty to love about this ghost town — historic buildings, kitschy businesses, panoramic vistas, fun surprises — it is one thing that draws in visitors about all else: the wild burros that own the town.

There are plenty of things to do in Oatman, Arizona, the gold mining ghost town. Come to see the burros, stay to witness a (staged) shootout, and grab lunch with a ghost. Here’s a little history of the Route 66 town, the best things to do while there, and some more information that will help you plan this part of your Route 66 journey!

Things to do in Oatman, Arizona
Things to Do in Oatman, Arizona - a plaque explaining the history of Oatman and the burros

A Brief History of Oatman, Arizona

Nestled within the rugged terrains of the Black Mountains in Arizona, Oatman boasts a rich history steeped in the allure of the Wild West. Oatman was named after a young girl from Illinois, Olive Oatman, who was captured by Indians.

The town flourished in the early 1900s, fueled by the discovery of gold in the surrounding mines. Prospectors and miners descended on the town, seeking their fortunes and transforming the remote area into a bustling gold mining hub along the famous Route 66. Oatman’s prosperity peaked in the 1920s before declining when the mines dried up and closed. Today, the town’s well-preserved historic buildings and the free-roaming wild burros serve as living remnants of its vibrant past, attracting visitors keen to experience the nostalgia and spirit of the Old West.

Located right on Route 66, a journey through Oatman was a must for drivers driving between Kingman, Arizona and Needles, California on the original route. Even if that route was a winding, turn-by-turn path along the side of a mountain. Later Route 66 was moved to bypass the mountains, but today visitors looking for a taste of yesteryear again make the trek that way.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an animal lover, or someone seeking a unique adventure, Oatman has something special to offer. This charming town, frozen in time, invites visitors to immerse themselves in that Wild West spirit. Plan your visit to Oatman, Arizona, and discover a slice of American history in this quaint and captivating destination on Route 66.

Things to do in Oatman, Arizona

Things to Do in Oatman, Arizona - feed the wild burros

Feed the Wild Burros

Oatman is famous for its resident wild burros, who are said to outnumber the people in town. While they live in the hills, on any given day you might find dozens of the furry creatures coming into town, wandering the roads in search of a snack. The donkeys are direct descendants of animals who carried supplies for local gold miners to in the early 1900s. When the mines were eventually closed down, the donkeys were sent free to roam.

The friendly creatures roam the streets freely, often approaching visitors in search of treats. Feeding them is not only allowed but also encouraged—just be sure to bring some carrots or apples to make new furry friends. Didn’t bring your own donkey feed? Don’t worry, many of the shops in town sell food pellets to feed to the animals! Just be cautious, they are wind animals after all!

Things to do in Oatman, Arizona - explore unique shops

Explore Unique Shops

Come for the burros, stay for the shopping. Step into the various eclectic shops that dot the town. From souvenir stores filled with Wild West memorabilia to art galleries showcasing local talents, Oatman offers an array of unique shopping experiences. Don’t miss the chance to grab handmade crafts, locally crafted jewelry, candy, leather, or a kitschy souvenir as a keepsake of your visit.

Be sure to check out the names of the shops you enter and have a giggle: most of them have punny names based on the famous residents. Here are just some of the stores you’ll find in town:

  • Oatman General Store
  • Classy Ass
  • The Ore House
  • Jackass Junction
  • Oatman Gift Shack
  • Fast Fanny’s Place
  • Dakota Leather & Gifts
  • New Digg’ns
  • Main Street Emporium
  • Burro Flats
  • Decco Rug
  • Yellow Hammer’s Place
  • Route 66 Leather & Gifts
  • The Mother Road RT66 Apparel
  • Gold Rush Candy Shoppe
  • Bucktooth Burro
  • Pinnacles

Enjoy a Good Old-Fashioned Shootout

Oatman hosts various entertainment shows that capture the essence of the Wild West, bring history to life, and offer an immersive experience for bystanders. Besides the burros, this Route 66 town is probably best known for the staged shootouts and gunfights that happen right in the middle of the road.

A couple of times per day the Oatman Ghost Rider Gunfighters descend on the streets for an old-fashioned brawl. See whose six-shooter is fastest and whether good or evil prevail in these staged performances where they act out a heist and shoot booming blanks. Visitors young and old agree that it is one of the best things to do in Oatman.

Things to Do in Oatman, Arizona - Oatman Jail

Go to Jail (and Other Fun Activities)

There are plenty of other activities and tourist attractions in Oatman, Arizona for visitors of all ages. Check out the old-time jail, wander into a mine shaft, have an old-fashioned sepia-toned photo shoot or play some fun arcade-style games!

Oatman Hotel Restaurant & Bar in Oatman, Arizona

Stop for Lunch with a Ghost

Savor the flavors of the Old West by dining in one of Oatman’s charming eateries. While the town does not have an extensive selection of bars and restaurants to choose from, what they lack in quantity they make up for in Western charm.

Check out the Oatman Hotel Restaurant & Bar for classic American fair in a historic (and haunted) building. Originally the Durlin Hotel, this property was built in 1902, rebuilt after a fire in 1924, and rechristened the Oatman Hotel in the 1960s. The eight-room hotel housed local miners who would cover the hotel’s walls and ceiling with signed and dated one-dollar bills (a practice still seen here today) and is rumored to have been the honeymoon spot for Clark Gable and Carole Lombard after their 1939 wedding in Kingman. It is said they loved their stay so much that they returned to haunt it! While the property no longer serves as a motel you can check out a museum, peek into that honeymoon suite, grab a bit to eat, and leave behind a signed dollar bill.

If you’re looking for a liquid lunch Judy’s Saloon has cold drinks to sooth you on a hot day. They also sometimes host live performances. And for those with a sweet tooth, stop by Gold Rush Candy Shoppe for some candy for the road!

Things to do in Oatman, Arizona - Photo ops with burro murals

Take Photos with the Murals and Photo Ops

While most people coming to town probably want a picture with their famous resident burros, there are plenty of other things to take photos with! Look for funny murals of funny donkeys on buildings throughout the town and silly cutout photo ops, perfect for portraits that will serve as a memento of your time on Route 66!

Things to do in Oatman, Arizona

How to Get to Oatman, Arizona

Oatman is located in northwestern Arizona right on on Route 66. It’s about 130 miles (a 2.5 hour drive) from Las Vegas, Nevada. If you’re driving Route 66, the closest cities are Kingman (29 miles away) and Topack (21 miles away).

For those traveling west on Route 66 from Kingman you will take Route 66 the whole way there. But, be warned, the harrowing journey takes you on the Arizona Sidewinder, an eight-mile stretch of road that contains 191 turns on the side of the mountain with no guardrails. It is not a drive for the faint of heart or those afraid of heights!

You can only get to Oatman by car (or motorcycle) so, if you’re flying into your destination, you’ll need to rent a car. You can also take a tour and travel by shuttle from Las Vegas or select other locations.

Parking in Oatman

Street parking is available, but your best bet for finding parking in Oatman is to head straight to the lot at 20 Co Hwy 10.

Where to Stay Near Oatman, Arizona

While there is an AirBNB in town, you’ll probably want to spend the night in nearby Kingman. Complete your travel itinerary and get a good night’s rest on your road trip with a stay at one of these hotels near Oatman, Arizona on Route 66.

The Oatman Rock House

One of the only places you can stay in Historic Oatman, Arizona, this AirBNB is a secluded desert getaway located on Route 66’s most famous western ghost town. The property features one double bed and one bunk bed and is close to all the sites and burrows on Oatman.

El Trovatore Motel

El Trovatore Motel is located in downtown Kingman and offers themed rooms dedicated to Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, John Wayne, and more. Outside the property boasts many fun murals, including the world’s longest map of Route 66. Look for the famous neon sign!

Ramada by Wyndham Kingman

Ramada by Wyndham Kingman might be a chain hotel, but it embraces the Route 66 spirit with decor and themed murals. The pet-friendly hotel has free WiFi, a gym, an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, and free parking.


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Last modified: April 21, 2024
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