Everyone knows that Benson is the home of Kartchner Caverns. But what else is there in and around Benson Arizona? Benson is the gateway and closest town of any significance to many places worth a visit. Benson is not a modern town. It is a railroad town. There is no glitz here. It is a way of life. Below are some interesting places worth a visit.
In Benson Town
This visitor center is located in a reproduction train depot modeled after the original depot built a hundred years earlier. It has old photographs of Benson’s history throughout and a model G-scale train on 96 feet of tracks that kids can operate and receive an official Benson Train Engineer Certificate. Lots of brochures for area attractions.
249 E. 4th Street
Benson Historical Museum
Located one block off the main drag, this quaint little museum will take you back into the history of Benson, Arizona. It is located in a 1920's mercantile building. You will find varied displays of life in this railroad town including the old horse-drawn school bus. It is worth the time to stop in while traveling through Benson. The permanent displays provide an opportunity to step into an old-time general store and make a trip to an optometrist's office. Other displays highlight home life, health and work. The Benson area is known for its connection to the railroads and to mining. Also, behind the museum building is the Quilting Society building with quilts and handmade items for sale.
180 S. San Pedro, Benson, AZ
Call to see if they are open: 520-586-3070
Every Saturday there is a Farmers and Artisan Market held here from 8 AM to Noon.
Quarles and Endeavor Art Galleries
Doug and Sharon Quarles are the proprietors and artists in residence at the Quarles Gallery. Their paintings depict mostly Southwestern scenes and portraits of exceptional high quality. Every picture in this gallery is for sale. Also, one can view Doug’s murals throughout Benson’s downtown area. It is located on the main thoroughfare through Benson near the Horseshoe Café, a local diner. Ya can't miss it.
The Endeavor Art Gallery is around the corner. It is part of the San Pedro River Arts Council. It promotes local artists' works from Cochise County.
Outside Benson Town
Singing Winds Bookstore is, to some, "out in the middle of nowhere" to quote a reviewer on Trip Advisor. They just don't get it. A few miles north of Benson on an old farm property, with goats and mules, Singing Winds has hundreds, maybe thousands of old books for sale, mostly on Southwest, nature, and Native American subjects. Its owner is an adamant collector. If you are an ardent fan of the Southwest, its oddities and keeping things unique this place is for you. If you want to find a book to read and forego the experience, try Amazon.
When we were there, Jay Gammons gave us a great tour, full of stories about the old days of Western film making with the old stars. Tours are currently by appointment only.
There is a donkey rescue farm is just down the road from Gammons. Gammons Gulch is 12 miles north of Benson on Cascabel Road. It’s a photographer's paradise.
Home to about 25 rescued donkeys, this place is a private sanctuary that accepts visitors as well as donations. You can feed and pet the animals who are loving and well cared for here. Call ahead or email for reservations. See our review of the donkey rescue farm HERE.
The caverns are living, which means they are still developing. Located 9.5 miles south of Benson on Hwy 90, this AZ state park was named by USA Today as the Best Cave in America. While in the area, you can rent a cabin that sleeps 6 people at the State Park. Bring your own sleeping bag and food. The cabins have A/C, and restrooms are within easy walking distance as are the hiking trails. In addition to Guindani Trail, there are two other trails at this state park, the Ocotillo and the Foothills Trails.
The cave was discovered by two Tucson explorers in the 1970’s. The cave's existence became public knowledge in 1988 when its purchase was approved as an Arizona State Park. Extraordinary precautions were taken during its development to conserve the cave's near-pristine condition. One enters through air-tight doors to protect the cave’s humidity from the dry desert air least these unusual and fascinating cave features be destroyed. Tickets to the caverns should be purchased in advance.
64,000 acres of the beautiful Sonoran Desert, grasslands, and mesquite forest for a horseback riding adventure. Call ahead for reservations. Two homes are located on the property for overnight guests. Meals included. See our review HERE.
Oasis Sanctuary is a non-profit organization dedicated to the rescue and lifetime sanctuary care of parrots living in captivity.
In particular, Oasis is a refuge for exotic birds such as parrots, cockatoos, macaws and other Psittacine birds – although they do accept Passerines (finches and canaries), Columbiformes (doves and “fancy” or racing pigeons) and other captive avian species.
The Oasis sits on a 71-acre parcel of land in the small community of Cascabel, located near the town of Benson. The temperate climate allows the healthy and able-bodied birds in their flock to be outdoors year-round. The land contains a 21-acre non-productive pecan orchard. The deciduous trees provide a canopy of shade during the summer months and allow sunlight in winter. Birds with special needs and those who require more human interaction are kept indoors in their 1300 square foot bird building.
If you are interested in visiting The Oasis site, visitors are welcome by appointment only. There is a suggested minimum donation of $10 per person.
Please call Janet Trumbule or Julie Dyson @520-212-4737 to get on their calendar.
The Oasis is in Cascabel, 26 miles north of Benson, AZ. Visit our story and slideshow about the Cascabel Community Fair and the Oasis Sanctuary here.
Mescal Bar & Grill
This is Ms. Karen's and my favorite stopping place after touring Cochise County. It's located just west of Benson on I-10 at Mescal Road. However, the last time we stopped by it was closed for renovation. Hopefully, it will keep its local charm. Tip: ask for a dish of their famous margarita ice cream. Also, good burgers and $1.50 tacos on Sundays.