Little sister to Arizona’s sprawling Phoenix/Scottsdale area, Tucson’s small-town feel is warm and infectious. People smile at you and say, “hello.” A laid-back, relaxed feeling permeates.
I’m what’s called a “semi-native” Tucsonan. Not born and raised here, I’ve spent the last 43 years in love with the Sonoran Desert and all Tucson offers. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Since I’ve lived here, the population has more than doubled from under 50,000 in 1976 to over a million these days. However, the friendly, casual vibe is still strong. Tucson lures baby-boomers retiring from the North who realize how nice it would be to live in a place where they could be outdoors almost every day of the year.
52 Reasons To Love Tucson
- The Sonoran-Desert Museum sprawls over 98 acres. It’s a zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium all wrapped into one.
- The wide open skies provide spectacular sunsets. Get outside and watch as the Catalina Mountains turn pink as the sun sets in the west.
- UNESCO designated Tucson as a “capital of gastronomy.” You can sample desert foods such as amaranth, cactus pads, tepary beans, cholla buds, dried cactus flowers, and escabeche at local eateries and food trucks.
- For expansive city views and bottomless mimosas, indulge in the Sunday Brunch at Hacienda Del Sol.
- You’ll find hiking for every skill level. There are 5 mountain ranges ringing Tucson’s Valley Floor that provide 216 hiking trails in and around town.
- Play golf at one of Tucson’s 36 golf courses. From exclusive courses like those at Dove Mountain to the highly-rated 8 public courses, there is something for every level golfer.
- Tucson is bike-friendly twelve months of the year. The Chuck Huckleberry Loop is a 120-mile bike trail that winds through the entire town. Each November, the 100 Mile Tour de Tucson race attracts 7000-10,000 riders, including special categories for kids and tandem bikes.
- Downtown’s Historic Hotel Congress was built in 1919 and is the hub of the chic downtown scene. In 1934, bank robber, John Dillinger was captured here.
- A Margarita is the traditional Tucson cocktail. On the rocks with a salted rim is standard. Or try a frozen one!
- Miniatures of all kinds create the magical displays at the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures
- Visit the graveyard of old aircraft at The Pima Air and Space Museum. Spanning 80 acres, the dry atmosphere of the Sonoran Desert provides the perfect storage conditions.
- Enjoy out of this world, handmade Chocolate at Monsoon Chocolate.
- Step back to the Wild West with a visit to Old Tucson. The site of over 400 films and Western movies, Old Tucson has daily shootouts, entertainment, and rides for the kids.
- When downtown, notice the 14-foot infamous bronze Statue of Pancho Villa on his horse in Veinte de Agosto Park.
- In Oracle, about 13 miles north of Tucson, Biosphere2 is a tightly sealed glass and steel structure on 3.15 acres. It the largest laboratory for global Ecology ever built.
- Famous Tucson artist, Ted Degrazia, designed and built his Gallery of the Sun to showcase his paintings and honor the desert setting in the Tucson Foothills.
- Ride the streetcar from the University of Arizona, up Fourth Avenue to Downtown Tucson and back.
- The University of Arizona is home to 45,000 students.
- In the summer, the prickly pear cactus yield copious amounts of purple fruits that provide the base for jelly, jam or syrup. Or think Prickly Pear Margaritas!
- Eat a Chimichanga where they were invented at the historic El Charro Cafe. A chimichanga is a crispy, wonderful burrito-invented when a burrito was accidentally tossing into a vat of oil.
- Ride with the top down in January! Climate is one of the 5 C’s Tucson is renowned for. Cotton, cattle, citrus, and copper are the other four.
- Eat fresh Seafood from the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean.
- Tucson is home to world-renown destination spas, such as Miraval and Canyon Ranch.
- On 37 acres, Tohono Chul Park has been called one of the world’s great botanical gardens. Have lunch in their Bistro after wandering the many trails and visiting the greenhouse and gift shop.
- The Catholic missionaries built some beautiful Missions. The dove of the desert, San Xavier established by Father Kino in 1692. Its interior is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings. It is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona.
- The Indian reservations around Tucson boast casinos with gambling and events.
- Catalina State Park on 5500 acres northwest of town offers hiking, camping, horseback riding and contains over 5000 saguaro cactus.
- Cowboys are part of Tucson’s heritage. Go horseback riding for an afternoon or play cowboy by staying at a dude ranch like Tanque Verde Guest Ranch.
- La Encantada is the place for Upscale Shopping and Fine Dining.
- With 2 locations, one downtown and one in Oro Valley, Children’s Museum Tucson is the place kids under 5 will delight in the hands-on exhibits and fun.
- Yes, we have snow and skiing! Take a drive to Mt Lemmon. It is home to the most southern ski area in the USA.
- Quirky and eclectic shops and restaurants line Fourth Avenue. Twice a year, in December and March, hundreds of vendors set up in the middle of the streets for The Fourth Avenue Street Fair. The streetcar runs through it!
- “A” Mountain (or Sentinel Peak) looms just west of downtown sporting a large red, white and blue A, a tribute to the winning U Of A teams. Take the short drive to the top for the view.
- Water is uncommon in this desert, so the hike to Romero Pools is a treat. Romero Canyon Trail is a 5.5 mile back trail to Romero Pools. It is rated as moderate. Horses are also able to use this trail.
- Located on the U of A campus, you’ll see the skies and delight in the exhibits at the Flandreau Science Center and Planetarium.
- Rock climbing indoors or outdoors is popular year-round.
- Shop Tucson’s Farmers Markets for organic veggies and meats, local honey and salsas, and crafts.
- For music, food, libations, and crafts, Monterrey Court is an old motel repurposed into a Tucson Hotspot.
- Take the tram or walk up the 3.8 miles of paved road up Sabino Canyon crossing over 9 stone bridges on your way. Running creek water and stunning views will convince you the desert is beautiful.
- The horses run in the Spring at the historic Rillito Race Track. Quarter horses have been racing here for over 50 years.
- The Valley of the Moon is an enchanted Mecca presenting tucked away in mid-Tucson that presents a variety of events to delight all ages. It was built by George Phar Legler in the 1920s to promote kindness, imagination and mental health.
- The beautifully restored Fox Theater is the site of approximately 150 musical performances each year. Built as a dual vaudeville/movie house in 1930, it was reopened in 2006. Reserve the balcony couches that allow you and your date to cuddle.
- Craft Beer has come to Tucson. There are currently 20 local breweries.
- The historic, pink Spanish Colonial Courthouse was built in 1929. Its mosaic dome is one of the Old Pueblo’s most recognizable structures. A portion of the east wall of the original Presidio of Tucson runs through the courtyard and is marked with a strip of granite.
- A perfect place to make your wishes come true is the El Tiradito Shrine tucked away downtown. This Historic Site is the only shrine in the United States dedicated to the soul of a sinner buried in unconsecrated ground.
- At the Tucson Botanical Gardens, you’ll meander trails through specialty gardens devoted to plants of our Sonoran Desert. The annual butterfly exhibit is a chance to be immersed with hundreds of butterflies inside a greenhouse pavilion.
- When the mountains turn pink, it’s time for a drink…Enjoy one of Tucson’s great Happy Hours. A favorite is at Maynard’s Kitchen at the train depot.
- Have you ever petted a porcupine or a capybara? You can do that and more at the Funny Foot Farm and Tucson Petting Zoo.
- Colossal Cave is a 2400 acres park with a crystal-filled cave. The temperature is always 70 º. A great place to visit when it is 110º outside.
- Instead of trees, the Saguaro National Park features tall saguaro cactus and ancient Hoboken petroglyphs. Over 93,000 acres, divided between two sections on either side of the city.
- A wonderful place to stay mid-town is the historic Arizona Inn. It has been family owned and operated since its creation in 1930 by Isabella Greenway, Arizona’s first congresswoman.
- Look up! Stargazing in Tucson-the astronomy capital of the world-is spectacular due to the dark sky ordinances and the dry climate. You’ll find lots of telescopes available from a bar, libraries, Kitt Peak and Mt. Lemmon.
As travel today remains uncertain, please keep your safety and the safety of others in mind at all times. If you are comfortable with traveling, please travel responsibly and within regulation as any travel is at your own risk. If you do decide to travel at this time, here are a few recommendations:
- Wear a face mask.
- Bring hand sanitizer and wash your hands on a regular basis. Click here for a DIY Hand Sanitizer Recipe
- Check official websites before your trip for the latest updates on policies, closures, and status of local businesses and Tucson Travel alerts..
- Book a hotel with free cancellation in case you need to change your plans at the last minute.
This baby boomer hippie chick was bitten by the travel bug decades ago and has never recovered. Joeann has adventured through over 30 countries and 4 continents and can often be found on a warm island beach. Sharing tips and experiences to inspire others to live their dreams fills her with joy. Subscribe to her adventures at www.JoeannsView.com