Ultimate Guide to Visiting Calico Ghost Town with Kids

Calico Ghost Town with kids


I don’t know why, but I have always been oddly obsessed with ghost towns and always seize the opportunity to visit a new one when given the chance. Recently, on the way home from Las Vegas we decided to finally pull off the freeway and travel the three mile journey through the Mojave Desert into the Calico Mountains. As we pulled up to this former mining town in a minivan loaded with family, my heart was bursting with excitement! It was time to finally explore Calico Ghost Town with kids!

Here’s a brief history for those eat this stuff up like me. Like most ghost towns in the western United States, Calico was a boom town and almost as quickly as it was founded it was abandoned. Just like Tombstone, Calico was a silver mining town founded in 1881. The Silver King Mine was California’s largest silver producer during this period. There was a brief attempt to recover the silver left in the mine in 1915, but it didn’t last and it wasn’t until the 1950’s that Calico would be restored by Walter Knott. You know? The guy that created Knott’s Berry Farm? The inventor of the Boysenberry!?! Well, if you don’t know, check out my post HERE.

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Calico Ghost Town with kids

In 1962 Calico was named a California Historical Landmark and in 1966 it became a County Regional Park. For awhile, Calico was in competition with Bodie for title of Official State Ghost Town, but it was eventually settled diplomatically. 2005 Calico was declared the Official State Silver Rush Ghost Town, while Bodie was named the Official State Gold Rush Town.

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Keep the Cost in Check:

As many ghost towns do, Calico depends on tourist dollars and does charge for most attractions. In fact, Calico even charges admission. But hey, it needs to survive and donating a little moola is a small price to pay. That being said, admission and attractions only charge a minimal fee.

Prices:

Kids 4 years and under are free. Another reason traveling with small kids is worth it.

General Admission:
Adults $8
Kids (6-15) $5
Dogs $1
Annual pass $50
During festivals admission goes up depending on the event.

Attractions: Bundle attractions and save! Get 3 attractions for $7 for adults and $4.50 for kids 5-10. The Calico Odessa Railroad is not included in the bundle.
Maggie Mine & Mystery Shack is $3 for adults, $2 for kids 5-10.
Panning for Gold is $2 for adults and $1.50 for kids 5-10.
Calico Odessa Railroad is $4 for adults, $2 for kids 5-10.

Drop Your Bags:

The closest way to stay in Calico is by camping or renting a cabin. If you prefer a hotel or motel, Barstow and Yermo are the two closest towns with accommodations available no further than four miles. Check your favorite hotel booking sites for rates and availability.

But if you want to stay in Calico…

Camping:

$30/night- no hook up
$35/night-partial hook up
$40/night- full hook up

For tent camping, each site is restricted to 4 people, 1 car and 1 tent. If you exceed this amount there is an additional per night fee. For instance extra people are $8, extra tents are $5, and extra cars are $10. For 20 or more there is a $5 per person rate.

Cabin Rental:

Heat and air conditioning. No pets allowed.
$50/night- Six cabins, sleeping 4 people each.
$160/night- Mini Bunkhouse, sleeps 6 people with a two night minimum on weekends.
$160/night- Bunkhouse, sleeps 12-20 people with a two night minimum on weekends.

Check Availability

Get Your Grub On:

Calico House Restaurant:

This is the main full-service restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu contains some items to reflect popular dishes of the 1880’s, like shepherd’s pie, but it also has a wide selection of crowd pleasing grub. The food was really yummy and portions large, but what I really love is the views! From the patio you can enjoy the beautiful mountain range and watch as the Calico train makes it rounds. It really takes you to another time.

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Old Miner’s Café:

Also gorgeous views, but this is best for a quick lunch with options like Sandwiches, salads and burgers.

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Lil’s Saloon:

One of the original buildings it still looks just like an old-fashion saloon, this is basically a snack bar. The swinging doors are pretty awesome though.

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Anyone else find the sign hilarious above “kids welcomed”

Chug-A-Lug:

Beer prices are not bad in Calico, but I recommend the local brew. Indian Wells Mojave Gold is delicious, light and refreshing, perfect for the desert heat. It comes in pint or quart and I say go for the quart!

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Entertain Me:

For a small ghost town, there was, surprisingly, a lot fun things to do in Calico with kids. We arrived thinking we had plenty of time to do it all and were shocked to find ourselves scurrying around before closing time. Calico and its attractions are open from 9:00am-5:00pm daily, except for Christmas when it is closed completely. So, yeah, 5:00pm came very fast. Let’s take a look at what Calico with kids has to offer.

Lucy Lane Museum:

Originally the post office, courthouse and former home of Lucy Lane, this is now the main museum in town containing photo and artifacts from its heydays.

Maggie Mine:

A real silver mine from the 1880’s and the only safe one to explore in Calico. My kids really like exploring mines, as this was a highlight for my daughter when we visited Tombstone last month, see HERE. It was a given that we would have to explore Maggie Mine. This is a great attraction for all ages as it requires little climbing, although it does let you off at the top of the hill and that might be hard for elderly visitors to get down. The cool thing is that from the top of the mine you get to peek inside old miner’s cabins. The colorful hard hats with lights were a fun souvenir and useful for the kids during the 1,000 foot self-guided mine tour.

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Calico Odessa Railroad:

This is not actually the original mining train. It was actually installed in 1958 and you may have seen the replica of this train at Knott’s Berry Farm, but is it still really cool. The train takes you on an 8 minute tour around the hill and explains the many historical sites in Calico. Oh, and the views are breathtaking. Pets are even allowed on this attraction.

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Mystery Shack:

This attraction is a trip and make sure you do it before you enjoy a quart of beer. This wild shack of craziness was built by Harry Dover and it is where the impossible is possible. Water runs up hill, people can’t stand straight, objects stand on their own. Hold kids’ hands, because my daughter ate it twice and went rolling up the wall. Bizarre and a must!

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Gold Panning:

Take home a little gold and pan for nuggets. It is fun for kids, but definitely not the coolest thing in town.

Original buildings, Ruins, and Cemetery:

For me it is just interesting to walk around and enjoy seeing, touching, exploring historical sites. Although there have been several fires (common in western mining towns), there are at least five original undamaged buildings. The ruins of the Chinese settlement are really interesting to see as well as the few stones that remain of the family settlement located behind the rough Main Street.

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Calico Ghost Town with kids

School House:

Who doesn’t love an old school house, especially one with ghost sightings? Lot’s fun ghost tales have been told and we wanted to see it for ourselves. Plus, my kids are obsessed with old school houses and we visited many in our travels. Every one we visit is just as exciting than the last, but the cool thing about this one was the location. Sitting atop the tallest point in town, you have to take this wooden bridge to get there. It makes it all the more exciting.

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Calico Ghost Town with kids

Ghost Tours:

There are two tours to choose from. One goes through Maggie Mine and the other walks through Main Street. Both tours are held on Saturday nights only.

That’s a Wrap!

Calico may not have an exciting story worthy of Hollywood, like Tombstone’s gunfight at the O.K Corral, but it has a lot of history. Plus, it has been rumored that Wyatt Earp did pass through Calico. It is only 2 hours from Orange County and Las Vegas, making it the perfect piggyback trip if you find yourself traveling in either direction. And I love a good piggyback (see here). After all these years, I am so happy to have finally made the decision to pull off the freeway and visit Calico Ghost Town with kids. Now that I know how interesting it is, I’ll be making more visits in the future.

Have you ever been to Calico?

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33 Comments
  1. avatar image
    MariaAbroad at May 17, 2016 Reply

    This looks like a lot of fun for a family trip. I absolutely agree with you that history becomes so much more alive, when you can walk around in it, touch it, smell it and experience it, rather than look at it through glass in a museum.

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      Hot Mama at May 17, 2016 Reply

      Yes! I love just basking in it. Taking it all in.

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      Hot Mama at May 17, 2016 Reply

      Me too! I’ve never been to Columbia, CA. I’ll have to check it out.

  2. avatar image
    Alexa Meisler at May 20, 2016 Reply

    I want to do this with my son! He just turned 14 and is sort of getting past this kind of experience, but I still want to go. Love the photos and the mine tour looks awesome.

    1. avatar image
      Hot Mama at May 22, 2016 Reply

      He might still enjoy it, he might like the ghost tour at night. Or you could just wait until he is 21 and have a beer with him at the restaurant hahaha!

  3. avatar image
    Joe at January 23, 2017 Reply

    You say that panning for gold isn’t the hottest ticket in town, but I disagree! Then again, we don’t really have many ‘gold rush’ places where I’m from…It looks like quite a lot of fun, and yeah, I agree that ghost towns have a unique magnetism of their own that makes them appealing indeed 🙂

    1. avatar image
      Hot Mama at January 25, 2017 Reply

      I guess, because we live in the gold rush state I’m over the panning thing haha.

  4. avatar image
    Bob at January 23, 2017 Reply

    Looks like a great place to take kids. I love ols ghost towns but not so much the ones that are commercialized. I just love the history and looking through the old buildings. But I have to say when I was a kid I would have loved this place.

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      Hot Mama at January 25, 2017 Reply

      Yeah they are fun when they still feel abandoned. We were practically the only ones there that day so it felt even more ghost towny.

  5. avatar image

    This looks like so much fun! I think my favourite place would be the Mystery Shack. This is exactly my idea of a day well spent 🙂

    1. avatar image
      Hot Mama at January 25, 2017 Reply

      The mystery shack is definitely a mystery!

  6. avatar image
    Leslie at January 23, 2017 Reply

    I love the hidden stops in the road that turn into a great day! I’ve been here and it was a cute little old town full of history. Thanks for sharing!

    1. avatar image
      Hot Mama at January 25, 2017 Reply

      I’m always tired coming home from Las Vegas to stop, but I’m so glad I did this time.

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    Susan at January 23, 2017 Reply

    Look like a cool little place to visit for the kids and the grown-ups.

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      Hot Mama at January 25, 2017 Reply

      Yes I think we all had a good time.

  8. avatar image
    Sabs at January 24, 2017 Reply

    Looks like a fun place to visit!

    1. avatar image
      Hot Mama at January 25, 2017 Reply

      It is small and can be seen in one day, but yeah worth the stop.

  9. avatar image

    I would have never thought of this but I am going to add it to my list for our trip out west next year!

    1. avatar image
      Hot Mama at June 13, 2017 Reply

      Nice! It is the perfect stop to or from a trip to Las Vegas.

  10. avatar image
    Naomi at June 12, 2017 Reply

    Sounds like a great day with the kids! I’d definately be hooked on the railroad for sure!

    1. avatar image
      Hot Mama at June 13, 2017 Reply

      The railroad is cool, but the mystery shack was wild!

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    Bistra Yakimova at June 13, 2017 Reply

    Calico Ghost town sounds like fun! And it’s great they have camping options nearby!

    1. avatar image
      Hot Mama at June 13, 2017 Reply

      Yes, I would like to try the campsite sometime, but maybe in a cool month.

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    Kaila Yu at June 13, 2017 Reply

    Looks fun, San Bernardino’s so close, I have no excuse not to stop by!

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      Hot Mama at June 13, 2017 Reply

      Yes, make a it a point to visit soon. It is really fun.

  13. avatar image
    Crystal W at June 13, 2017 Reply

    Aww, I’m definitely not allowed in that saloon! 😉 Looks like a really cool place to explore – I’ll keep it in mind next time I’m traveling near there!

    1. avatar image
      Hot Mama at June 20, 2017 Reply

      Haha! I love out is says, kids allowed too.

  14. avatar image
    Tarah Vongbouthdy at June 13, 2017 Reply

    Would be a fun activity for families. Something about being surrounded in the history, to really get a feel for it.

    1. avatar image
      Hot Mama at June 20, 2017 Reply

      Totally, when you visit something historical you connect with it.

  15. avatar image
    Nancy at August 16, 2017 Reply

    I have looked all over the Calico website without finding how to rent a cabin… would it be possible for you to include a link..? Thanks.

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