John Wayne Westerns Movie Set – Tucson, Arizona

John Wayne Westerns Movie Set.jpgJohn Wayne Westerns Movie Set – Tucson, Arizona

If you grew up watching old John Wayne westerns on TV such as Rio Bravo and McLintock, this is your chance to experience a little of what he did while filming, and have yourself so immersed that you’ll be walking and talking like him by the time you leave.

Four different John Wayne movies were filmed at the Old Tucson Studios, along with scores of other westerns dating back to 1939 when William Holden filmed Arizona here. The town was built specifically for Arizona, with technicians and carpenters spending forty days to erect it, yet after the completion of the movie, it sat unused for six years. In 1945, Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman used the set for the filming of The Bells of St. Mary’s, and by the end of the decade Gene Autry, Jimmy Stewart, and Ronald Reagan had also filmed there.

After a stampede of movies in the 60s, including Have Gun Will Travel and Hombre, as well as some episodes of Bonanza, Old Tucson Studios added a 13,000 square foot soundstage for added versatility, and the Mescal property forty miles to the southeast was purchased to be used as a second filming location, which was the site for The Outlaw-Josey Wales. In 1970, an 1872 steam locomotive was acquired and used in hundreds of movies. Both lots were used to film Michael Landon’s Little House on the Prairie, and even today, the lots are used to film modern westerns, such as Tombstone and The Quick and the Dead.

Now open to the public, visitors can walk down the same streets as their favorite western actors. There is also entertainment in the way of staged gunfights, musicals, and comedy shows. Raise a Ruckus is a western musical with dancing girls doing the Can Can. Big Screen Adventure has audience members invited onto the stage to help out, and the Great Tucson Bank Robbery provides entertainment as audience members watch two bank robbers attempt a heist.

In addition, there are train rides, a shooting gallery, a Wild West carousel, panning for gold, and more. Located onsite is the Last Outpost, a place for you to purchase souvenirs, gifts, and clothing. And for an even better remembrance of your time at the Old Tucson Studios, you can stop in the Print and Photo Emporium, and have your portrait done with authentic period clothing. If you muster up an appetite during the day, you can get your fill at Big Jake’s Bar-B-Q, belly up to the bar at Grand Palace Hotel & Saloon, then top it all off with some ice cream at Big Scoop. If visiting on a Saturday, end your day with dinner at El Vaquero.

Old Tucson Studios is open from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., with extended hours until 6:00 P.M. Thanksgiving weekend and Christmas week. However, they are closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. Adults and children 12 and up are admitted for $16.95, and children 4 through 11 for $10.95. Annual passes are available for $39.95, and along with free admission, provide 10% off on park merchandise, food and beverage, and admission for guests. Call for group rates.

Old Tucson Studios
201 South Kinney Road
Tucson, AZ 85735


  1. To those who may remember:

    Many years ago, about 50 in fact, I visited “Old Tucson” several times. I remember my last visit there best, because, my three friends and I got to meet John Wayne and the movie crew there. That night we went to a Greek Restaurant on East Speedway, where Wayne and the crew often went after a day’s shoot, and John Wayne bought me a drink ! Actually, he bought eveyone there a drink, but it was still special to me. If anyone remembers the name of that restaurant, please write to RDJeffress@AOL.Com and tell me as I am writing about my days in Tucson, at Davis Monthan AFB, the Titan II Project, the Twin Buttes Project SW of Tucson and the Ocampo, Mexico Project which I was the Manager of Projects for. Please let me know if you have info on that restaurant between Country Club and Alvernon I believe, and what’s happening now at Old Tucson. Who makes movies there now? Thanks and cheers to all my old Tucson friends.

    Richard Jeffress