This Tucson, Arizona travel guide will show you where to go, when to go, how to get there and what to do.
Tucson is a well-known winter getaway for snowbirds. But did you know that Tucson also has nature conservatories and rich Spanish colonial culture? And some outstanding modern art?
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True story, I was blown away when I visited Tucson in southern Arizona. Not only did I find art, Spanish culture, but I also discovered some of the most delicious Mexican food (I’m a San Diego native who is very familiar with Mexican cuisine) and stunning scenery.
Tucson’s Best Time to Visit
Like many popular destinations, Tucson is best visited during the shoulder season. Although Tucson is a great place to visit all year, the best time to go to Tucson is the winter months. The summer months are the hottest.
However, winter was a great time to visit. It was pleasant enough to visit during the day, and it was only 30 minutes from town that I could experience some snow. It was quiet when I visited it in January. I enjoyed hiking by myself a lot!
How to get to Tucson
It’s easy to get from Tucson to an international airport. There are eight airlines that fly nonstop to Tucson’s nineteen airports, and more than 340 other airports.
The capital city of Phoenix, located just two hours away, is another option.
Alternativ, Tucson is on the Sunset Limited Amtrak railroad line and home to a Greyhound bus stop that’s open 24 hours a day.
How to get around Tucson?
Renting a car is the best way to travel around Tucson. The airport is small and cute, making it easy to rent a car. You’ll be out the airport within minutes of landing!
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- Tucson’s traffic is manageable and it is easy to navigate. It will be easy to drive.
- Tucson’s Top Things to Do
- Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National park is located 16 miles west from Tucson. It’s the perfect place if you love to bike or hike outdoors.
You can enjoy the park’s largest cacti, The Saguaro. There are also many hiking trails. Loma Verde Loop (3.8 mi), Wild Dog Trail 1.8 mile), King Canyon/Gold Mine Loop (2.4 mile), King Canyon/Gold Mine Loop (2.4miles), and Sendero Esperanza Trail To the Ridge/to Wasson peak (3.4-8 miles).
You should also note that the park has both an east and west side. The older Saguaro forest is found on the east side, as well as higher elevations and a pine/mixed conifer forest. The west side, however, has the highest Saguaro density at a lower elevation (including shrubs and desert grassland).
Both sides offer hiking trails, loop drives and picnic areas.
- Mission San Xavier del Bac
Mission San Xavier del Bac, the oldest European structure still standing in Texas, is a stunning example of Spanish Colonial architecture. It is also a national historical landmark.
This Catholic mission receives upwards of 200 000 people each year. It was founded in 1692. However, the actual construction of the church you see today began in 1783. The mission is open daily from 7 AM to 5PM and does not charge admission.
Are you looking to escape the summer heat? Or do you want to have an amazing winter adventure? Head 45 miles north from Tucson to Mt. Lemmon!
Mt. Lemmon is 30 degrees cooler than Tucson. This makes it a popular summertime destination. This also means you can ski, snowboard, sledding, and snowshoe in winter.
If you are looking for a peaceful weekend among the trees, there are many hiking trails and cabin rentals.
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a combination zoo, botanical park, museum of natural history, art gallery, and zoo. It focuses on the diversity of Sonoran Desert flora, fauna, and plants.
This museum is often ranked among the top ten in the country. They also offer two miles of walking trails and conservation programs.
- Kitt Peak National Observatory
You want to take a look at the stars while in Tucson? Head over to Kitt Peak National Observatory.
The observatory is located 56 miles southwest from Tucson and operates three nighttime telescopes as well as 22 optical telescopes. It also has two radio telescopes. The site boasts the largest collection of astronomical observatories anywhere on Earth.
- Pima Air & Space Museum
The Pima Air & Space Museum, which includes over 350 historic aircraft and 6 indoor hangars on 80 acres, is the largest non-governmental funded aviation museum in the world.
The museum houses the world’s smallest biplane, a simulator, a gallery honoring women working in aviation, an aircraft “boneyard”, as well as many other history-making artifacts.
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- Old Tucson
Old Tucson is a historic movie studio and theme park. It was built originally for the movie Arizona in 1939. Since then, it has been used as the filming location of over 400 films and commercials.
This attraction is a top-rated wild west attraction in the region due to its prominence in the film industry. There are tons of things to do. The set includes live-action stunts, musicals, amusement rides and great BBQ.
- Tucson: Where to Eat
It’s a lofty statement, but it’s true. You’ll find authentic Mexican food, no matter what your preference is. Tucson has been designated a City of Gastronomy by UNESCO for its 4000-year-old Mexican and Native American culinary traditions. These are the top restaurants in town:
- Seis Kitchen
Seis Kitchen is a Mexican restaurant that has won numerous awards. You can expect to find a wide variety of dishes, each one telling a different story, with a menu that is inspired by six Mexican regions. You should also check out their happy hours, where you can get menu items for as low as $2.
- Charro Vida
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to eat in a restaurant that combines traditional Sonoran cuisine and a Mediterranean-style diet? Charro Vida is the place to be!
Charro Vida believes that regionally-specific dishes should be prepared using sustainable food practices and locally sourced ingredients. They believe in enjoying food and creating experiences that positively impact the community.
- Tanias 33
Tanias 33 offers authentic Mexican cuisine. You won’t be hungry after tasting the quesadillas and enchiladas on the menu. They also offer vegetarian and vegan options.
- Taqueria Pico de Gallo
Taqueria Pico de Gallo is a small slice of Taco Heaven. This is the Tucson’s most popular street food option and can be found at the corner of 36th Street and 6th Avenue.
- El Guero Canelo
El Guero Canelo offers traditional Sonoran food at affordable prices. There are locations throughout Arizona. You can find all your favorite Sonoran dishes on their menu, including hot dogs, tacos and quesadillas. They even own a Mexican bakery to make perfectly-crafted tortillas!
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- BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogs
BK Hot Dogs is the best place to find a Sonoran-style hot dog. BK Hot Dogs’ award-winning hot dogs come wrapped in bacon and baked in a homemade bun. It’s then loaded with pinto beans and fresh onion, tomato mayo, mustard, as well as their secret jalapeno glaze.