15 Best Things to Do in Benson, AZ

Benson, AZ
Laurens Hoddenbagh / shutterstock.com

Arizona is known for its many cities and towns that boast spectacular sights and history.

Among these is Benson, situated in Cochise County, some 50 miles east of Tucson.

It’s said that if you come to visit the city, you earn Cochise County bragging rights.

The city was established in 1880 when the Southern Pacific Railroad came to Southern Arizona.

It gets its name from Judge William Benson, the railroad president’s crony who came to stay here for many years.

Most Benson visitors come here already armed with the idea of the Kartchner Caverns, but there are still so many things to know more about and explore in the city.

Aside from its top attraction, the Kartchner Caverns, a limestone cave whose icicle formations are ‘live,’ there are also other stops you should see while here.

The Holy Trinity Monastery is also a must-see site, known for offering spiritual delight not only to the locals but also to visitors.

Visitors can take a glimpse of the historical past of Benson through the Benson Historical Museum and learn more about its presence at the Benson Visitor Center.

The city’s culture is ingrained in the traditional Railroad heritage and the Old West.

There are also tons of recreational activities that you can do in the city.

But if you have no idea where else to go, read the 15 best things to do in Benson, AZ.

Discover the Beauty of the ‘Live’ Kartchner Caverns

Entryway of Kartchner Caverns
Cheri Alguire / Shutterstock.com

Ask anyone you meet in Benson about what you should see here, and the answer will be Kartchner Caverns.

This site is one of the things that has made the city well-known, especially as a tourist attraction.

USA Today voted it as the ‘Best Arizona Attraction’ in 2017.

This secret underground has been in the making for millions of years, featuring unique cave formations that you can’t find anywhere else.

Beautiful formations in Kartchner Caverns
Mike Lewis, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Look around and find delicate helictites, soda straw formations, and the six-stories tall formation called the Kublai Khan.

Joining the tours will help you learn and understand the lifecycle of the bats that have made this cave their home for thousands of years.

As to how it got its name, it gives credit to the owners of the property where the property owners who found the caves, James and Lois Kartchner.

They decided that the caves needed to be protected from unregulated use.

Meet the Rescued Horses at the Forever Home Donkey Rescue

Visit Forever Home Donkey Rescue and be delighted to see all the rescued mules and horses that reside in the home.

Located on W. Rockspring Ln, this place serves as a home for animals that have been neglected or mistreated.

It’s not just the staff who are happy to welcome visitors but also the animals themselves because they love to be scratched and petted.

Grab the chance to brush them and play with the residents.

Learn about their history and the stories of their donkeys.

Since this is a non-profit group, your coming here will surely make them happy.

See Exotic Birds at the Oasis Sanctuary

On N. Teran Rd is a whole new world of exotic birds called the Oasis Sanctuary, a non-profit organization for the welfare of caves.

This facility is dedicated to the rescue of birds and serves as their life-care facility, providing rehabilitation, shelter, and permanent care.

It has opened its doors to parrots, cockatoos, macaws, racing pigeons, and Passerines throughout its existence.

It’s interesting to note that many of these birds have special needs, meaning they have suffered emotional and physical abuse resulting in unusual psychological behaviors.

Come to the Oasis Sanctuary and get to know these birds better.

Get the Proper Warm Welcome to Benson at the Benson Visitor Center - Train Depot

Exterior of Benson Visitor Center
StellarD, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located on East Fourth Street in the city’s historic downtown, the Benson Visitor Center - Train Depot is a replica railroad depot.

It features the same architectural features as those of the original depot, built more than a hundred years ago.

You can try its new train simulator for free and receive a Souvenir Benson Train Engineer Certificate.

Exterior of Benson Visitor Center
Marine 69-71, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What makes this a great start to your exploration of Benson is that this replica AAR Control Stand operates the ‘G’ Scale Train on 96 feet of track that goes around the Visitor Center’s inside area.

Even your kids can do this too!

They will surely be amazed at the experience.

Visit the Movie Set Location in Benson—Gammon's Gulch

Wondering where and how these Wild West movies have been filmed?

The answer is here in Benson at the Gammon Gulch, located on W Rockspring Ln.

Coming here is like going back in time to find an Old West Town, complete with a wide main street and tiny alleyways.

‘The Gulch’ is where the Mining Camp lies, and it comes with a mine, a miners' cabin ore car, and mining equipment.

With the location featuring incredible views of the mountains to the West of Gammons Gulch, there’s no wonder why it has appeared in various movies like ‘The Days of Our Lives.'

Don’t miss its memorabilia museum on-site and bring a picnic basket, which you can enjoy in the saloon.

Discover What ‘The Thing’ is about

If you travel through the state and reach N. Johnson Road, you will notice a roadside attraction called ‘The Thing.’

The sparse desert attracts people to stop by the sign.

Homer Tate created the attraction, featuring a mummified mother and child.

In the middle of the 20th century, Thomas Binkley Prince bought the Thing and turned it into an attraction.

Experience a Different Kind of Bookstore at the Singing Wind Bookstore

Love Southwest Literature?

There’s only one place for that, and it’s in Benson, Arizona—the Singing Wind Bookstore.

Located on Singing Wind Rd, it has honored Southwest Literature for more than 40 years.

Interestingly, the bookstore is situated within a working cattle ranch and focuses on the writers and the culture of the southwest, tackling fiction, non-fiction, and journalism.

After the Bundy owners got a Master’s Degree in Library Science, they bought the Singing Wind Ranch in 1956 and opened the Singing Wind Bookstore in 1974.

Thanks to Bundy’s knowledge of every author and book in the region, the books she sells are mostly signed.

But here’s the trick.

The shelves don’t have labels, so you will need to join Bundy, or anyone from her staff, on tour to locate the book you want to find.

Enrich Your Knowledge of Benson’s History at the Benson Historical Museum

Exterior of Benson Historical Museum
Marine 69-71, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Before exploring its attractions, it’s just right first to know Benson’s history.

The Benson Historical Museum is on S. San Pedro Street, offering you an experience of traveling back in time to the city's early days and understanding its journey to becoming what it is today.

The museum opened in 1987 to collect, preserve, and display historically significant items in Benson.

Originally located within the Benson Municipal Building, it transferred to its new location where visitors can admire exhibits and collections of various subjects.

Some of the most interesting ones include items related to its agricultural heritage, its founding fathers, and country doctors.

It’s also interesting to see sewing machines and a horse-drawn school bus in the museum.

Experience Spiritual Delight at the Holy Trinity Monastery

Discover this beautiful Benedictine Monastery founded in 1974 in the Olivetan tradition.

The Holy Trinity Monastery is a place of service, hospitality, work, and prayer, open to all persons so they may grow in God’s love and each other.

It has an area of 132 acres and includes a 1.3-mile bird sanctuary trail on the San Pedro River.

You can meet the small community of Benedictine oblates residing on the property when you come here, helping maintain the balance and rhythm of prayer and work.

Go around and visit its adobe chapel, auditorium, ponds and lakes, and library.

It’s an excellent place for meditation and prayer, where you can ask the Lord for blessings upon your family and the world.

Try Your Swing at the San Pedro Golf Course

Located 30 miles southeast of Tucson, you can find the San Pedro Golf Course, built in 2003 as an 18-hole championship golf course.

Though a public facility owned and managed by the City of Benson, its amenities cannot be underestimated.

The course's design allows it to offer a great golf experience at an affordable price.

Its front nine holes wind through the groves along the San Pedro River, while its back nine give you the feeling of a river-wilderness terrain as it plays through canyons.

Its full stretch of 7,187 yards from the championship tees provides a superior experience for all golfing skills and levels.

Experience a New Adventure at the Double R Ranch

Located on W Cimmaron Ln, the Double R Ranch has provided a unique ranch experience to visitors for 30 years.

It endeavors to create meaningful connections through conversations and exploration.

Their expertise is horseback riding, and they offer excellent experiences with the help of their well-mannered horses and warm and hospitable staff.

They will take you through the mountains where the Apache chiefs Cochise and Geronimo once traveled.

See Local Culture and History at the Murals Benson

One of the Murals of Benson
Marine 69-71, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You will see stunning murals on the walls or the sides of the buildings around Benson.

Many of these murals get inspiration from the history of the train industry.

Courtesy of artist Doug Quarels, there are now 40 murals of his in the city.

In 2013, Benson Clean and Beautiful, a non-profit organization, commissioned Quarels to develop civic pride and enhance the town by creating murals.

Since Benson is the gateway to Cochise County, the group felt it was important to greet the visitors with stories of their history through murals.

Explore the Benson Public Library

On S. Huachuca St, you can find the city’s library—the Benson Public Library.

Occupying an area of 8,175 square feet, it offers various materials and media, from books, audiobooks, and audiotapes to CDs and videos.

If you love books, this place offers a slice of heaven for you.

Eat a Delectable Homemade Meal at the Horseshoe Cafe and Bakery

Homemade meals are comforting, especially when you’re away from home.

Horseshoe Cafe and Bakery, located on E. 4th Street, comfort you with delicious, aromatic homemade meals.

It boasts the smell of freshly cooked dishes, prepared at a classic diner passed on to different generations of women since 1936.

However, it’s not just about good food because the Horseshoe Cafe and Bakery has appeared in many movies.

Plus, it boasts the longest continuous neon sign inside the shop.

So, whether you’re craving breakfast, chocolate milk, fried chicken, or pies, this is the place to be.

Attend One of the Free Nightly Shows at the Butterfield RV Resort and Observatory

Traveling to Benson in an RV?

That shouldn’t be a problem, as the Butterfield RV Resort and Observatory offers a place for you.

Aside from its quiet and scenic place, it also features an observatory with a Meade LX-200 GPS 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope.

Housed in a 15’ diameter dome, it offers nightly star shows.

However, since seating capacity is only up to 18 people, you should sign up and register at the front office to secure your spot.

They also request you to be responsible for informing them should you want to cancel your slot to make room for other visitors.

You will enjoy the entertainment courtesy of the resort’s resident astronomers, who lace their commentaries with a bit of humor!

Final Thoughts

Benson is indeed a great place to visit.

It is a magnificent city full of history, culture, and visiting sites.

It’s perfect for all ages and allows families and friends to come together and have a great time.