After two-year absence, Nightfall at Old Tucson is back

After closing in 2020 due to the pandemic, Old Tucson Studios’ hugely popular “Nightfall” will return for its 30th year to haunt the city of Tucson.

The Halloween event runs Thursdays through Sundays from Oct. 6-30

“Nightfall” is a fictional Wild West town where you will find a large tapestry of characters interacting with the audience, sharing personal background stories, secrets and clues.

The resurrected attraction follows a new storyline, characters, costumes, stunt shows, haunted houses and train rides, marking the first chapter to what Creative Director Erik Blair said is a new beginning.

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“I wanted to combine the elements of a traditional Halloween haunt with an immersive flair to it and create something that’s never been done before,” Blair said.

As you walk further into the town, the tales of “the others” become more alarming. At the edge of the small town, you can bump into threatening and mysterious characters and monsters lurking. As the night gets darker, the monsters slowly approach the town of Nightfall, causing terror and fright.

“It’s all connected to create a giant story,” Blair said.

Created in 1939 by Columbia Pictures, Old Tucson was a film studio and western theme park that closed in September 2020 due to operational and financial struggles attributed to the pandemic.

The historic studio was the backdrop for more than 400 films from John Wayne’s “Rio Bravo” in 1959 to “Tombstone” in 1993, and Western-themed TV shows from “The High Chaparral” and “Bonanza” to “Little House on the Prairie ” and “Young Riders.”

Old Tucson, which is owned by Pima County and has been run since April by American Heritage Railways, has several other themed events planned including a winter holiday event called “Yuletide” and “Wild West Days” next summer, according to Denise Utter, the marketing and sales manager.

“The new [operators] are cleaning everything up. Anything that was unstable or unsafe is being rebuilt, all the wiring is updated and the AC units are updated to make a safer environment for everyone,” Utter said.

American Heritage Railways plans to expand Old Tucson with new buildings and attractions as part of their five-year lease with the county.

“There’s plenty of land on Old Tucson, so plans are in the works to expand on the land and create a new sound stage so that movie productions can return to Old Tucson,” Utter said.

“Our goal is to revive Old Tucson and give people something that has everything they love about ‘Nightfall’ and then add something new to celebrate its 30th year and the legacy of Old Tucson,” Blair added.

If you plan to go:

What: Nightfall at Old Tucson Studios

When: 5:30pm to 10pm Thursday through Sundays Oct. 6-30

Where: 201 Kinney Road

Admission: $35 for adults, $30 for children ages 5 to 11 and free for kids 4 and younger. Parking is $5.

For more information, visit Nightfall’s website.

*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.

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