Oatman is an almost ghost town from the gold mining era. It's located on Historic Route 66 in the hills of northwestern Arizona. The burros the miners used have become somewhat domesticated and freely roam the streets.
The few people who live here year round run the local shops where you can find all kinds of knick knacks emblazoned with Route 66 info. There are a couple or really nice shops and art galleries, but most of it is pretty typical tourist stuff.
Being in Oatman is like stepping back in time! The burros that roam the streets are said to be descendants of the those brought by the miners who came seeking fortune in Oatman over a hundred years ago. The shops are packed with tourist goodies. And the backdrop is so picturesque---if your kids have ever watched the movie "Cars" they will feel right at home.
Oatman was really neat. We didn't have a lot of time to look through all of the shops, since this was a last minute decision, but it was fun nonetheless. With wooden sidewalks and colorful characters, it seems crazy to think that this storybook setting really is an operational town where people actually live!
We got there just in time for a gun show/shootout. It was kind of neat how it all happened, right in the street, sort of out of nowhere, though guests are expecting some gunslinging at some point.
There was a lot of old school trash-talking (all pretty civil and not a worry for small ears) though your Kindergarten-aged kiddos may have new words to parrot at school, like "lily-livered" and "yellow-bellied sapsucker!" The town comes alive for a few minutes while the show takes place and the guns being fired are all using blanks. Somehow though, while we were there, a teenage boy got grazed by a ricocheting blank and it actually caused a small bloody scratch! The kid was a good sport and everyone left with even more of a story to tell back home!
The wild burros are really a big hit with kids and have been known to walk into the stores! They are completely accustomed to people milling about and they are supposed to be remnants of the old west days! If you really want to make the kids smile, buy a bag of carrots at a store and feed the friendly and enthusiastic eaters!
We took a back route, I'm fairly certain that was a mountainous pass that I wouldn't recommend. Make sure to look into some good directions to take you the route that doesn't require 4WD! Bring water, it's typically a scorcher, so remember to hydrate while you walk around and enjoy the sites. The best part is this is mostly free! You can watch the gun show as a complimentary perk of getting to the town in one piece and the bags of carrots are like a dollar or so, qualifying as cheap entertainment!
Kids will love seeing the semi-wild burros in the streets. You can feed them carrots, but I wouldn't recommend letting your kids do it.
If you visit the candle shop on the end of town the owner may let you see the tortoises she keeps out back. They are quite large and fun to watch.
The history of the area is pretty interesting, but you'll get most of that online rather than in the town.