A city built on the railroad and ranching, Benson remains true to these roots to this day. Upon exiting the I-10 onto Historic Highway 80, you will look out upon a lush, green valley and will more than likely hear the whistle of a train or two passing through. Buildings from the 1800s line each side of Highway 80, suggesting a typical old west town on a river, where the cowboy way is still a part of who Benson is today. Known as “the place where everyone asks how to get to Tombstone”, those who are traveling through often end up staying to explore Benson’s wild west past, to experience some of the best birding in the world, venture into a cave, drive the semi-modular train, and so much more.
Whether you are a snowbird coming to experience all that the region has to offer for the cooler winter months or have family that dates back four or more generations, Benson is welcoming to all and excited to share what their little city has to offer. A perfect place for families, many come to Benson from afar where they close their garage doors behind their car and don’t know their neighbors. Here, residents open their windows and doors, not only to enjoy a climate cooler than Tucson or Phoenix but also to connect with their community. In a place where everyone knows each other, residents look at their neighbors like family. Benson is home to award-winning restaurants and year-round events that people travel from across the county to attend. With so much to experience and with such genuine people, Benson might just be Arizona’s best-kept secret when it comes to rural travel experiences.
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Arts & Culture (Recommended up to 2)
Throughout Benson are more than 40 murals that showcase local history and culture. Local artists also utilize their storefronts to display creative masterpieces, many of which are also inspired by the rich history and culture of Benson.
Benson’s Visitor Center (old train station) and the Amtrak train stop is your starting point for exploring this community. Get recommendations to experience local culture and sights and small businesses you simply can’t miss!
Endeavor Gallery is an art space and gift shop presented by the San Pedro Arts Council. With plenty of art and artists to explore, the goal of this organization is to provide a space for up and coming artists to display their work.
Just outside Saint David is the Gallery of Dreams. It’s a testament to the local art and culture you wish you could find in every community. With a diverse range of displays of sculptures and jewelry, a wonderful experience awaits you!
The San Pedro River Arts Council provides a support system for local artists. Through creative collaborations with local organizations, artists display their work in public venues to gain exposure and strengthen the local arts community.
A community project and testament to their love for Benson, and in effort to build community pride and celebrate local history/culture, passionate locals invite artists to create more than 35 murals displayed throughout the community.
Book lovers! Find something truly special in this quirky bookshop. It has piqued the interest of many visitors throughout the years. With shelves full of written works, including local authors, this place is definitely worth exploring.
History, Heritage, & Tradition (Recommended up to 4)
You can’t really miss the history and heritage that helped create Benson, which is now still deeply embedded in the city. One can look across the street and see the buildings where cowboys got in gunfights with one another in between, or visit one of the many parks or museums that showcase local history. Trains still ride through Benson multiple times per hour, serving as a reminder as to how Benson came to be.
Benson is a living ghost town used for productions, events and tours and embodies the Old West lifestyle. Many structures were built on site but some are from other rural communities like the “town hall” building transported from Safford!
The Benson Museum is perfect for getting a look into Arizona’s deep history. With tons of information about local history that covers topics like local figures, the railroad, and even Arizona’s earliest known inhabitants.
This yearly event is dedicated to preserving the lifestyle many in Benson lived over the years. Gallop back in time with this group through historic reenactments, which race across history. Check out their website for upcoming events!
Nestled between Benson and Willcox, the Amerind Museum is a one-of-a-kind historic facility offering educational experiences about Southwestern Native American history and culture, archaeology, art, anthropology, and more.
This quirky roadside attraction is a true testament to the quirky road-trip culture. We can’t quite tell you what The Thing is because it would ruin the fun, but we can tell you that it involves dinosaurs and extraterrestrial beings!
Wine & Dine (Recommended up to 4)
In Benson, you will find the best hot dog in Arizona and award-winning restaurants. You won’t want to miss this culinary adventure!
This group can often be found where the food is, they’ve partnered with the local swap meet to put on a farmer’s market. Food producers in the area should connect with this local organization to get involved in the Benson food scene.
Who knew Benson was home to every soft serve ice cream lover’s dream come true? With over 50 flavors available, all the classic desserts like sundaes and banana split, and the friendliest service around, the memories made here are sure to be sweet!
The local rodeo grounds are home to one of the best spots in town. Arena Bar is a great place to grab meals, drinks, and check out community events. View some roping, hit the local swap meet, or stop in for some karaoke fun and cowboy atmosphere.
Benson Donuts is loved by community members and travelers alike, their donuts are the ultimate road trip snack and a great way to start your day in the community. Their fresh donuts paired with coffee will keep you coming back for more.
Locals love their food and their fun, so they absolutely love this spot! With fun events like Bloody Mary Contests and your classic live music and brews, order some delicious food, treat yourself to a margarita slush, and enjoy the live music!
This family owned and operated restaurant is famous for bringing Chinese comfort food to the Benson community. Their large portions and delicious recipes are more than enough for a family meal, and more than likely some leftovers!
This spot is adored by community members. They’ve even started a social media community page to show their love for the authentic food and friendly owners. Mi Casa takes pride in the entire dining experience, from presentation to service.
As their name implies, this spot serves up the best and most creative hot dog creations in town, as well as essentials like onion rings, mozzarella sticks, and all the fast food style eats of your dreams.
It's not often that you find a place as delicious as it is historic, this cafe has been passed down generations of women since 1936. This spot merits multiple visits as they’re serving up everything from breakfast to dessert.
Interested in a warm greeting as soon as you arrive in town? Magaly’s is your spot! Their incredibly friendly service and one of a kind dining experience make them a great place to dine. If you’re on the lookout for Mole, this is your spot!
If you are feeling something healthy and delicious, you might consider grabbing some grilled goodies from this restaurant. Pablo’s isn’t only known for their steaks, their ribs are also well-known for being the best in town and falling right off the bone!
After working up an appetite from your Kartchner Caverns State Park adventure, you might consider a meal at the Bat Cave Cafe, Their light fare and friendly service will pair perfectly with your educational cave excursion.
No #RuralAZ community would be complete without a small town pizzeria. With thin and crispy pizza and specials like Fish Fry Fridays, your visit will surely be a delight. Need gluten free options? They’ve got you covered too!
Eighty-Six Cafe is a great place to dine, their consistently tasty dishes and passion for providing positive customer experiences has kept travelers and locals coming back for years.
After working up an appetite from a few rounds of golf at the San Pedro Golf Course Club House you should definitely check out the Benson City Grille. Their burgers are one of a kind and their brunch menu is one of a kind.
Outdoor Sports & Recreation (Recommended up to 2)
Benson has everything one could imagine for outdoor sports and recreation - from cave exploration and a riparian area full of so many species of birds, to baseball fields and parks, there’s a little something for everyone in this city.
This Southern AZ cave is a haven for curious tourists, those with passion for ecology or geology, outdoor enthusiasts and bats! Take advantage of this preserved cave and other activities like camping, night sky watching, hiking and more!
This team of locals are passionate about maintaining and sharing their traditions and western lifestyle. With exceptional and scenic horseback riding tours for individuals at varying levels, these professionals will tailor every experience.
Interested in touring a donkey rescue? Go visit/interact with them! You can even spot them at community events like local races, visiting nursing homes and even parades! Donations to the nonprofit go directly to care for the residents.
Looking to enjoy Benson’s night sky? Consider visiting this RV resort and observatory. Ask about their nightly star shows and resident astronomers. Learn about the observatory, the night sky and enjoy some laughs with the humorous experts.
The City of Benson owns and operates a public golf course famous for a unique “river-wilderness” terrain. This accessible, unique, affordable golf haven has a full list of events to enjoy. Also, enjoy the Benson City Grille at this course!
This loop offers views of the stunning Kartchner Caverns State Park. The loop is just right for hikers looking to enjoy the scenery and spot wildlife. Previous hikers recommend going counterclockwise at the trailhead for the best views.
Benson City Park is equipped with parks, fields, ramadas, and of course a community pool. The park is a great place to throw a party or gather for a game of soccer and baseball at an affordable price.
The Coronado National Forest near Benson is home to the Whetstone Mountains. The range is known for the stunning views of its highest point, Apache Peak!
Local Lodging (Recommended up to 4)
Benson is known for its campgrounds where people come from all over to stay seasonally. There are also ample hotel options, making Benson the perfect place to stay while you explore all that the region has to offer.
The Copper Stay Inn is an excellent choice for Benson adventurers that are looking for comfort, views and the friendliest customer service. Book a stay at this pet friendly and local spot next time you’re in town.
If you are looking to truly enjoy the southeastern beauty and scenery you might consider booking a cabin or vacation rental at this spot. They’ve got options that fit your needs and amenities that you didn't know you needed.
More of an RV resort person? Look no further than this spot. With fun and activities built into the experience and even an observatory for guests to enjoy, lodging at this spot is sure to be a blast!