This one’s going to be a bit of a personal article given I live near Tucson and have grown to love the city so much.
Those of us in the region of Tucson (pronounced Too-sawn) were thrilled and not at all surprised to read the UK Guardian chose the fair city as a top destination to visit in the United States for their readers, going so far as to call it “Cool”. Those of us blessed to live in or near Tucson have known this all along!
Tucson is a city rife with tourist attractions, some obvious, others – not so much.
Planning a visit to the city? Here’s some places to stay and see, in no particular order of preference.
ACCOMMODATIONS (And it should be said, a lot of these places offer special deals via their Facebook and/or Twitter pages only so following them on the social networks is a good idea)
Lodge On the Desert – mentioned in the UK Guardian article, this is a place that oozes Arizona ambiance and romance, all without meaning to. The chef here is an up-and-comer in the Tucson culinary scene and puts out a spread that creates envy from more expensive locations.
Hilton Tucson El Conquistador – This is one fantastic resort! It has golf, it has tennis, it has hiking, it has some of the best food found anywhere and there aren’t a whole lot of reasons to ever leave (but make sure you do! Tucson has a lot to offer!)
JW Marriott Starr Pass – Tucson’s known for their resorts and this is one of the better ones; the views alone make this a good choice if you’re coming to Tucson. Hidden in the Catalina Mountains, the Starr Pass, as the locals call it, has an interior that takes your breath away. The rooms are comfortable and the dining divine.
Miraval Arizona Resort – This is one that tends to fly under the radar of most visitors but those who have been there have rated it highly on Trip Advisor. This is considered luxury travel but the services offered à la carte are beyond compare.
So many places – so little time.
Maynard’s Market & Kitchen – Funnily enough, we just reviewed this restaurant in our latest issue. Maynard’s is the trend setter in Tucson and the chef is innovative. The location is right downtown, the building is historical and the patio dining is perfect, any time of year.
The Hungry Fox – This is a true Mom & Pop place and the food seems like it’s straight from your grandmother’s kitchen. The weekend breakfast buffet is delicious, but get there early because it fills up fast in there. All their eggs are double-yokers and the gift shop attached to the restaurant is on the right side of kitschy.
Sher-E-Punjab – If you love Indian food, you’ll love this place! They offer a full menu but you want to go there for the buffet. The nan is plentiful, customer service is a priority, the food is authentic and the curry is oh-so fragrant!
El Charro Cafe – This is where the chimichanga was invented, no matter what anyone else says. This is the oldest restaurant in Tucson and the food is authentic; always has been, always will be. The atmosphere is pure Mexico and the owners still wait tables when it gets busy. This is the place to go for real Mexican food. Order the guacamole and a margarita – you won’t regret it.
Best Sonoran Hot Dog – Brought up from Mexico, probably, you know, the region of Sonora, Mexico. I give this particular food its own line item here because it’s the one food for which Tucson is famous and you can’t get them anywhere but here – at least not a GOOD one. The Sonoran Hot Dog is a gastronomical wonder: a hot dog wrapped with bacon, then layered with mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, beans, avocado pico (a mixture of tomatoes, onion and cilantro, artfully mixed) and, finally, placed inside a Mexican Roll, not a hot dog bun. According to the citizens of Tucson, the best one is at El Guero Canelo. To see just how it’s put together, there’s a diagram online.
PLACES TO GO
Reid Park Zoo – Lots of upgrades over the last three years or so makes this one of the best zoos in the region, IMHO. Some new animals obtained, new enclosures upgraded and/or expanded. Bring the kids or the young at heart. Who doesn’t love a zoo?
Tucson Botanical Gardens – Tourists don’t tend to think of a botanical garden as a spot to visit when they travel; hopefully, this one will change their minds. A low-cost entry, discounts for military and seniors, events planned throughout the year and plant sales from their site. They will also host special brunches throughout the year at the Garden Cafe.
Biosphere II – So-called because Earth is considered to be the first biosphere. In short, this is a remarkable tour! Led by knowledgeable docents, walk through several different eco-systems and learn about its one-time use as a scientific environment where scientists lived there full-time. Nothing short of amazing for both adults and kids.
Tucson Rodeo – This is becoming as big as the Calgary Stampede or the Cheyenne Frontier Days (The Granddaddy of Them All) rodeos and if you’re coming in February, you HAVE to go to this! Called “La Fiesta de los Vaqueros” (The Feast of the Cowboys), it offers several days of bull riding, bronco busting and all around fun. Find their schedule here.
And let’s just say it, any visit to Tucson should come with a warning: be prepared to fall in love with the city. And no matter what time of year you visit, the patio dining is fine, the mid-day sun demands you spend it at the pool (and misters are out in the warmer months – don’t let the heat keep you from enjoying a great city) and the people are welcoming.
There’s oh-so much more to do in Tucson than just what’s on this page and the best place to start planning your trip would be the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (which is pretty much across the street from the El Charro Cafe. Stop in at the CVB before lunch and peruse their brochures, etc. over chimichangas).