A young town with a rich history, Tucson (too-sawn) is a fun-loving, attractive, and most culturally stimulating place in the Southwest United States. Set in a flat valley hemmed in by swaths of saguaro and snaggletoothed mountains, Arizona’s second-largest town sleekly blends American Indian, Spanish, Anglo, and Mexican traditions. Different neighborhoods and 19th-century CE structures give a strong sense of history and community not found in more modern Phoenix. Scores of funky restaurants, eclectic shops toting vintage garb, and dive bars don’t let you forget Tucson is a young town at heart, home turf to the 45,000-strong UA (University of Arizona).
Although picturesque historic buildings, great restaurants and bars, and quirky shops are half of Tucson’s beauty, the other half lies outside of town. With the magnificent Saguaro National Park, the world-class Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and the rugged Santa Catalina Mountains, you won’t regret exploring beyond the town limits.
Top Attractions in Tucson
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Home to coyotes, cacti, and palm-sized rare hummingbirds, this 100-acre ode to the Sonoran Desert is one part museum, one part zoo, and one part botanical garden – a trifecta that’ll delight young and old for half a day. Desert residents, from bright coatis to playful prairie dogs, populate natural enclosures, the lands are thick with vigorous desert plants, and docents give demonstrations. Wheelchairs and strollers are available, and there’s a fantastic gift shop, a restaurant, an art gallery, and a beautiful cafe. There are a couple of walk-through aviaries, a half-mile desert trail, a mineral exhibit inside a cave, and an underground display with windows into ponds where otters and beavers frolic.
Old Tucson Studios
Also named ‘Hollywood in the Desert,’ this old movie set of Tucson in the 1860 CEs was constituted in 1939 CE for Arizona’s filming. Hundreds of movies followed, bringing in movie stars from Leonardo DiCaprio to Clint Eastwood. Now a brave Wild West theme park, it’s all about stagecoach rides, shoot-outs, dancing saloon girls, and stunt shows.
Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures
Divided into the Magical Realm, Traveling the World, and the History Gallery, this charming museum of miniatures presents dioramas that are historical, fantastical, and plain interesting. You can also stroll over a snow-globey Christmas village, gaze into tiny homes erected in the 1700s CE and 1800s CE, and search for the tiny inhabitants of an enchanting tree. The museum evolved from a personal collection in the 1930s CE. Parents and newly-wed couples may find themselves having more fun than the children.
Tucson Museum of Art
For a small town, Tucson boasts an extraordinary art museum. There’s a good collection of Latin American, American, and contemporary art, and the constant exhibition of pre-Columbian artifacts will excite your inner Indiana Jones. The special exhibits are interesting and varied, there’s a great gift shop, and the building’s block holds several notable historic homes.
What to eat in Tucson?
As you can rightly guess, Tucson is a genuine hub of Mexican and Southwestern cuisine. But Tucson is a bold town (easily the most liberal city area in Arizona) and, as a result of its diversity, has an active culinary culture. Don’t forget to try Sonoran hot dogs (wrapped in bacon), seafood and steaks, buttery tortillas and delicious refried beans, grilled Angus beef, buffalo sirloin, lamb, and Scottish salmon in Tucson