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    Tucson Arizona: what to see in and around the city? Attractions not to be missed

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    Here we are in Arizona, a land full of attractions that we never tire of visiting to discover new secret corners. We are located in the central-southern region and more precisely in Tucson, capital of Pima County, the second most populous county in the state that takes its name from a Native American tribe. The area of ​​Tucson, Arizona's second largest city after Phoenix, is also no exception when it comes to natural beauty. Let's go and discover this city and its exceptional surroundings together.


    • Where is it and how to get there
      • Map of the city and its surroundings
    • What to see in Tucson? Congress Street
    • Other Tucson Attractions
      • Outside of downtown Tucson
    • Surroundings of Tucson
      • Canyons, parks and national monuments
      • Recommended excursions in one day
    • Events and demonstrations in Tucson
    • Shopping a Tucson
    • Recommended Tucson restaurants
    • Where to sleep in Tucson? Recommended facilities
    • If you have some time left ...

    Where is it and how to get there

    Tucson spreads out over a nicknamed valley Optics Valley due to the presence of many optical industries, at 728 meters above sea level in the Sonoran Desert, surrounded by five mountain ranges and crossed by the Santa Cruz River. Thanks to its mild winter climate, many people have decided to spend the colder months here. They are the so-called "snowbirds", and some of them own a second home.

    Tucson can be reached in flight via theairport international (7250 Tucson Blvd.) or via the artsy airport of Phoenix Sky Harbor (3400 E. Sky Harbor Blvd. - Phoenix), approximately two hours. The choice depends on how your itinerary is set up in the state. We always recommend renting a car for more freedom.

    Advice on car rental

    For those who prefer to use the local means of transport in the area, we recommend the company's buses Sun Tran ( which operates several routes in greater Tucson or the Sun Link, a streetcar (tram on rails) that connects various points in the center ( Those who want to get away from the area can rely on the trains of the US company Amtrak (400 N. Toole Ave.).

    Map of the city and its surroundings

    What to see in Tucson? Congress Street

    Let's start the exploration from downtown, the city center, taking a walk along the Congress Street, the main street overlooked by modern and ancient buildings, also recommended for those looking for nightlife and entertainment. We stroll in the heart of Tucson: in the city you can see shops, art galleries, cafes, restaurants, theaters and offices, but one of the icons of this street is theHotel Congress, a historic building from 1919 whose notoriety exploded when the infamous bank robber John Dillinger was captured inside in 1934: to keep the memory of this episode alive, in January the event of the capture with the Dillinger Days. Historical moments aside, this is a vibrant hotel all year round, with events, wedding celebrations, shows and musical entertainment.

    Many other interesting places await us so we continue towards other central and later peripheral areas.

    Other Tucson Attractions

    Here is a summary of the main ones places of interest in Tucson.

    We report the Cathedral of St. Augustine (192 S. Stone Ave.), the mother church of the diocese of Tucson, with two symmetrical bell towers that highlight the refined stone facade depicting the coat of arms of Pius XI, pontiff at the time of the construction of this Catholic cathedral. Outside you can see the two statues depicting the Immaculate Conception and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Inside the gaze rises towards a splendid vaulted ceiling. We admire the decorated glass windows and a large 12th / 13th century crucifix carved in Pamplona in Spain and placed in the choir. The floor is slightly inclined so that everyone can see the altar. It belongs to this beautiful cathedral Our Lady Chapel, the chapel dedicated to the Madonna.

    A central neighborhood where it is very pleasant to stroll is El Presidio, enclosed by W. 6th St., W. Alameda St., N. Stone Ave. and Granada Ave. This is a historic area that was once fortified, with houses dating from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Here it is Presidio Park (160 W. Alameda St.) located between the City Hall and the County Courthouse. This park is a well-known place in the city and has been in use since 1539. Inside there is a memorial in remembrance of the veterans, a small rose garden dedicated to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a large fountain and modern works of art. It is a lively place where people meet, have fun during city festivals and get married.

    Il Presidio Museum (196 N. Court Ave.) is a replica of the Tucson garrison, the old fortress built in 1775: here visitors take a virtual journey back through the centuries. And to get to know the history of the city better, volunteers in period costume try their hand at the many activities of that time, also recreating significant historical events. For opening hours, ticket prices and the program, visit the website

    If you love Hispanic culture, visit the neighborhood of South of El Presidio Free neighborhood (surrounded by 4th St., Stone St., 19th St. and Osborne St.), the city's largest Spanish-speaking district. Many buildings were built in adobe while others date back to the Latin tradition of the 19th century.

    Near the downtown is the Reid Park Zoo (3400 E. Zoo Ct.), The place to meet animals from various parts of the world: funny ring-tailed lemurs, majestic flamingos, graceful otters, Andean bears, Aldabra tortoises and anteaters, to name a few. A carousel, a train that runs around the circumference of the zoo, the staff interacting with the animals, the possibility of feeding some of the zoo's “guests” and a walk on the back of real camels complete the visit. The property is open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    Outside of downtown Tucson

    Let's get out of the central areas of Tucson-city and see what are the attractions of Tucson to see outside the Downtown.

    We move south to the Mission Saint Xavier of bac (1950 W. San Xavier Rd.) Nicknamed “the white dove of the desert”, due to the white walls that stand out against the blue of the sky towards the desert and that frame a splendid stone facade. It is impossible not to notice it from a distance. It is located in the San Xavier district where most of the population belongs to the Indian Tohono O'odham ("desert people") ethnic group linked to the Pima tribe. This mission, managed by the Franciscan friars, is in Spanish colonial style and dates back to the 18th century and inside we see statues and paintings. The church is richly decorated in the ceilings and walls.

    The museum on site tells the story of the mission thanks also to the contribution of artifacts; admission is free and it is possible to visit it every day from 8 to 16,30. You can shop at the gift shop open daily from 8 to 17. According to the rules of this church, the sacraments must be received in your parish so it is not possible, for example, to be baptized or married here if you do not belong to this Catholic community.

    It is quite another thing Pima Air & Space Museum (6000 E. Valencia Rd.) Which is not a classic museum but rather an immense exhibition of airplanes inside and outside a large complex. In addition to the many aircraft models, an Aviation Hall of Fame has been established. This is one of the largest aerospace museums in the world. For fans of the sector it is a "must see"! The museum is open every day from 9 to 17, upon purchase of the entrance ticket.

    Inside the museum is the Flight Grill, a refreshment point that serves quick meals and from whose windows you can see some of the airplanes parked outside. For a souvenir of the visit there is the inevitable gift shop. Between September and October, cotton fields along the route, similar to a snowy expanse, require a “stop” and a few photos. A real show!

    Il Fred Enke Golf Courses (8251 E. Irvington Rd.) Is a large golf course located in semi-arid hilly terrain where it is recommended to use a golf cart due to the undulating morphology of the course. For those who love and practice this sport, Fred Enke represents a real challenge.

    At the theme park Trail Dust Town (6541 E. Tanque Verde Rd.) A western setting has been recreated with attractions and shows: a stunt show, a carousel, a haunted house, a train that crosses far west sets and a museum of military history that ranges from the 18th and 21st centuries. It can go in search of gold and have photos taken with an old west "flavor". Each attraction has its own cost. There is also no shortage of shops and refreshment points.

    And speaking of refreshment points, we suggest the Silver Dollar Saloon – faithfully inspired by an 1890s venue - and the Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse, a family-friendly restaurant in the West known for its good steaks. There are also vegetarian and children's foods on the menu. The park area is open from 8am to 23pm but the attractions, shops and restaurants have their own hours to check on the website

    West of Tucson, near the western section of Saguaro National Park, is theOld Tucson Studios (201 Kinney Rd.), Another reality always with a western theme but with a variant: it is not just a theme park but it is a real movie set still active today, created in 1939 to shoot the film "Arizona" and later others such as "Challenge to the OK Corral", "El Dorado" and "The Little House on the Prairie". Expert stunt shows, fun musicals in the saloon, narrated train tours through the property, and miniature antique cars to drive fill the day at this park. You can also take "old fashioned" photos, look for gold and ride a carousel.

    In museum on site that tells the story of old Tucson original costumes worn in various television series are displayed. There are refreshment points ranging from saloons to ice cream parlors. The park can be visited by purchasing an entrance ticket (adults $ 18.95 and children $ 10.95). The opening varies according to the season so it is advisable to visit

    Surroundings of Tucson

    You cannot visit the Tucson area and its surroundings without exploring the reality in which nature is the protagonist. L'Arizona Sonora Desert Museum (2021 N. Kinney Rd.) Is a particular complex that brings together attractions ranging from nature to animals and art. In this place there is in fact a zoo, an aquarium, a botanical garden, paths along which to walk, an art gallery and a natural history museum. Exhibitions are also held here and you can visit the gift shop. The park, open every day, is subject to charges and visiting hours vary according to the season.

    In the botanical gardens Tohono Chul Botanical Gardens (7366 N. Paseo del Norte) the presence of streams makes the atmosphere of the gardens even more relaxing. Birds such as the black-breasted hummingbird, sweet acacia trees, flowers, palm trees and desert willows create a beautiful environmental picture. The little ones have their own dedicated space in the children's garden. Concerts, special events, readings and weddings are held in the Performance Garden.

    Canyons, parks and national monuments

    In and around Tucson, in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, saguaro cactus plants abound. The Saguaro National Park (3693 S. Old Spanish Trail) hosts a large concentration of them and crossing it at sunset is even more suggestive. The structure and size of these plants are sometimes incredible and sometimes funny because in some cases they resemble human features. Along the path named Valley View Overlook Trail there is a beautiful view of the Tucson mountain ranges.

    While in the Signal Hill area, an excellent picnic area, there are ancient petroglyphs. We point out the presence of a campsite inside the park, ideal for those who particularly love contact with nature.

    Il Sabino Canyon (5900 N. Sabino Canyon Rd.) Is part of the Coronado National Forest. There are two particularly interesting routes.

    • The first is the Sabino Canyon Trail, which can be visited on a 45-minute narrated tour at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The tram makes nine stops.
    • The second is the Bear Canyon Trail, which is visited on an untold tour that leads to the beautiful Seven Falls. The tram makes three stops on this tour.

    In the park live the white-tailed deer and the peccary, a mammal similar to a wild boar, but certainly the most famous "resident" is the road runner (the beep-beep bird protagonist of the cartoons).

    Along the I-10 in the Sonoran Desert we meet theIronwood Forest National Monument, where ironwood trees grow, trees that, as the name suggests, have a resistant bark, can reach a height of 33 meters and in spring they are dressed in beautiful flowers in bright colors in purple tones. Within this area you can encounter long-horned desert sheep, bats and owls. Here too there are petroglyphs. The park was created by President Bill Clinton by decree of June 9, 2000.

    Recommended excursions in one day

    We recommend four beautiful day trips.

    About thirty minutes from Tucson, more precisely in Vail, Colossal Cave Mountain Park (16721 E. Old Spanish Trail) is an exciting series of caves with stalactites and stalagmites that can be visited on a tour of approximately 40-45 minutes. Inside the park, in a desert and cactus setting, there are paths for hiking, cycling, running and riding; it is possible to spot birds and visit the butterfly garden. The name of the park is limiting because there is so much more to see besides the caves. We also report Post Quemada Ranch, a beautiful farm with animals, which gives the possibility of horse or pony rides and offers the pleasure of walking along the paths of the property.

    At 1400 meters above sea level and about an hour and a quarter away from Tucson it is located Tombstone, a western-style town whose charm is evident in the historic district. Walking along its streets with wooden arcades you feel immersed in the past times of the far west among cowboys with swaying movements, stagecoaches and saloons, just like in a film with John Wayne. This neighborhood is the tourist and commercial heart of Tombstone.

    On October 26, 1881, the town was the scene of the well-known shooting called Gunfight at the OK Corral, along Freemont Street. In memory of this, the event called Helldorado Days takes place every third weekend in October. The shooting was so impressed that a film was made in 1957.

    Approximately 88 kilometers southwest of Tucson, the clear skies of the Sonoran Desert are the ideal place to aim the telescopes of the Kitt Peak National Observatory, at 2.096 meters on the homonymous peak, in the Sonoran desert. Even if you are not passionate about astronomy, it is worth considering a day tour with a spectacular panorama, or a night tour for observing the stars and planets (even with the naked eye). More experienced bikers can conquer the top of Kitt Peak by bike. This area is part of the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation.

    Just over 2 hours from Tucson, in Ajo is theOrgan Pipe Cactus National Monument (10 Organ Pipe Dr.), a park of over 1.300 square kilometers known for its organ pipe cacti, founded in 1937 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    The south-central Arizona, with its semi-desert areas, is the ideal area for the growth of cacti and in 1976 UNESCO declared this area a biosphere reserve.

    Events and demonstrations in Tucson

    A variety of events take place in Tucson Events throughout the year and we report a few.

    At the end of January / beginning of February the Tucson Save, Mineral & Fossil Show, the largest, oldest and most prestigious exhibition of gems, minerals and fossils in the world. The colors and shapes of these masterpieces of nature in the hands of expert craftsmen enchant visitors. In addition to seeing the gems on display, you can attend seminars and meet dealers. Many businesses are open to the public for free. This event takes place in various locations in the city and by consulting the website you can find the complete list.

    Typical of many western states is the rodeo, which takes place here in mid-February. The Tucson Rodeo it is also known by the name the Fiesta de Los Vaqueros. The event is held at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds (4823 S. 6th Ave.). In addition to the classic competitions, you can listen to live music, children can participate in activities dedicated to them and enjoy good food in the refreshment points. One of the key events of this event is the non-motorized historical parade that reflects the spirit of the first edition held in 1925 with wagons, carriages and horses: a true western show! Tickets to watch the rodeo can be purchased by phone. For more information, visit the website

    In March, at the Mission San Xavier del Bac, an event organized by the Native Americans of the area (the Tohono O'odhams mentioned above) called Wak Pow Pow, a dance competition between tribes who also come from other states. Cash prizes are awarded to the top three groups in each category. On site there is also an artisan market with works carried out by red Indians. Admission is currently $ 7 for adults and $ 5 for children.

    Priced at $ 10, a large folkloric music and dance event celebrating mariachi music culture takes place in April; and the Tucson International Mariachi Conference at the Ava Amphiteather inside the Casino del Sol hotel (5655 W. Valencia Rd.).

    In May, music lovers can go to the Tucson Folk Festival, a free event that celebrates the American tradition of bluegrass, jazz, country and Latin melodies. Events take place in downtown areas such as El Presidio Park (160 W. Alameda St.) and Presidio Museum (196 N. Court Ave.) to name a couple.

    Tucson's culture is expressed through the free October event, called Tucson Meet Yourself: is held in various locations in Downtown. This event celebrates the traditional culture of southern Arizona, the diverse ethnicities of northern Mexico, and the folk communities in the city. On this occasion artists, dancers, musicians perform and enjoy home-made cuisine. The energy that folklore groups release and spread during their performances deserves a mention.

    Less than an hour from Tucson, following the I-19 S, we report the event in November Fall Arts and Craft festival which takes place at Tubac, a characteristic village where the buildings are a kaleidoscope of colors that suggests the artistic nature of this reality, not to be missed regardless of the course of the event.

    Shopping a Tucson

    During a trip it is pleasant to go shopping or take a look at the shop windows, stalls and appreciate the local handicrafts. We report some places in the city.

    • Old Town Craftsmen (201 N. Court Ave.), in the central neighborhood of El Presidio, is a pleasant area with local crafts and in general the American Southwest. The restaurant is located on site The kitchen, with its menu of Mexican and international dishes, all enlivened by live music in the evening.
    • For shopping in a less traditional environment we recommend La Enchanted (2905 E. Skyline Dr.). The open-air building is spread over two floors with architecture inspired by the Spanish old world tradition combined with modern sophistication. To be seen.
    • Tucson Premium Outlets (6401 W. Marana Center Blvd.) is an outdoor shopping complex, overlooking the mountains, offering great brand items at discounted prices.
    • Park Place (5870 E. Broadway Blvd.), Foothills Mall (7401 N. La Cholla Blvd.) e Tucson Mall (4500 N. Oracle Rd.) Are pleasant shopping centers according to the classic, now tested structure, also present in our country.
    • La pleas village (100 S. Church Ave.), a 40-year icon in downtown Tucson that seems to have days numbered. It looks like a center of offices and shops with colorful buildings in need of renovation. Unfortunately, it seems that the choice is almost total demolition unless the petition of thousands of citizens is accepted, asking to save it and revitalize it. We therefore suggest that you inform yourself before going to the site.

    Recommended Tucson restaurants

    During a trip you always like to taste the local cuisine, to test dishes unknown to us or known only by name. So let us be tempted, bearing in mind that the atmosphere of the place also plays an important role.

    • It is a fun, cheerful and vintage-flavored environment Little Anthony’s Diner (7010 E. Broadway Blvd.) which is inspired by the XNUMXs. In a casual atmosphere, you can enjoy American cuisine with dishes suitable even for children. On some days of the year, car exhibitions are held outside the venue. On the website you can check the dates of the events.
    • The Corral Restaurant (2201 E. River Rd.) Opens its doors to offer a western feel in a Spanish colonial and mission revival architectural style building. This meat restaurant claims to serve Arizona's best prime rib, and it looks like the reviews are positive.
    • A restaurant with an American southwestern style but with a touch of elegance is the Gringo Grill & Cantina (5900 N. Oracle Rd.), Serving South Western, Mexican and Sonoran cuisine typical of the area. You can eat inside the restaurant or on the patio that allows you to enjoy splendid views of the city and the mountains. Closed on Sundays, it offers live Latin music on Saturdays from 18pm to 20pm and Happy Hour from 15pm to 19pm.
    • Inside the resort Hacienda del Sol (5601 E. River Rd., See in the next paragraph) we point out two excellent restaurants.
      • The Grill at Hacienda del Sol it offers American cuisine with a wide selection of wines in a refined restaurant with “old world” style decorations and a splendid view of the mountains and the city. This venue has been awarded the title of ideal location for the best meal with a view, best romantic meal and placed among the 5 best restaurants in town.
      • The other restaurant is the Terrace Garden Patio & lounges, a panoramic restaurant overlooking the city and the possibility to eat inside or on the outdoor patio. Here you can have fun during Happy Hour and with live music.

    Where to sleep in Tucson? Recommended facilities

    Lodge on the Desert

    We suggest a few accommodation for those who want to sleep in Tucson.

    In the Downtown we point out two hotels. In the center The Downtown Clifton Hotel Tucson (485 S. Stone Ave.) is a hotel built in 1947 and renovated in 2014. The rooms are furnished in a western style. At guests' disposal there are free wi-fi, a laundry and a gift shop.

    In a lovely historic building it is located The Big Blue Home B&B (144 E. University Blvd.) located north of downtown along University of Arizona Road. The rooms, each decorated with its own style, are equipped with kitchen or partial kitchen and all are equipped with free wi-fi. For breakfast you can choose between various drinks, fresh fruit, cakes, pancakes and other delicacies prepared and served by the owners.

    In the midtown area, set against the backdrop of the Santa Catalina Mountains, is the Lodge on the Desert (306 N. Alvernon Way) a boutique hotel with rooms with Latin charm. The splendid structure offers wi-fi, free parking, spa, swimming pool and restaurant. Breakfast is included in the price.

    Nestled among the beauties of the Sonoran Desert, in the heart of the foothills is theHacienda del Sol (5601 N. Hacienda del Sol Rd.), A truly beautiful historic ranch surrounded by nature. The rooms and suites have a refined rustic style with wooden details.

    All accommodations available in Tucson

    If you have some time left ...

    There is much to see and explore in and around Tucson; you are spoiled for choice. If you've never visited other areas of Arizona, combine the natural and cultural area of ​​Phoenix / Scottsdale (about 1.50 hours), the beautiful red rocks of Sedona (about 3.30 hours), the fascinating Grand Canyon (about 5.15 hours) hours) and anything else that catches your attention along the way. Arizona is nicknamed the Grand Canyon State and we do not discuss the veracity of this definition, but certainly there is much more that deserves ... and then we just have to wish you a good trip to Tucson in Arizona!

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