Tucson—nicknamed “The Old Pueblo”—is a bastion of southwestern culture surrounded by a desert and five mountain ranges. The second-largest city in Arizona, Tucson has been inhabited for around 10,000 years, and the beautiful scenery, sunny skies, and year-round warm weather still cast a spell on locals and visitors alike.
Over the city’s long history, it's absorbed elements from the many peoples who have lived or passed through here: Native Americans, Europeans, Latinos, and Asians to name a few. This unique blend is especially evident in the downtown restaurant scene, where you can get authentic chiles rellenos, sushi, and upscale bistro fare with fine wines from nearby vineyards.
- Mission San Xavier del Bac: Known as the "White Dove of the Desert," this is one of the oldest intact European structures in Arizona. The sprawling adobe church, located about 10 miles south of downtown, was built in the 1700s. It's a striking example of the area's Spanish colonial architecture, with an interior adorned with frescoes and sculptures.
- Old Tucson Studios is a still-active film set where you can walk through a fabricated Western town, complete with reenacted shootouts on the main street and information on movies and TV shows shot there, including Bonanza and Gunfight at the OK Corral.
- Shop the town for handcrafted leather cowboy boots, bottles of hot sauce, or locally made Southwestern art.
- Eclectic downtown dining: Bite into duck tacos at The Abbey, fork up rabbit terrine and steak-frites at Proper, and sip on innovative silver tequila cocktails at the ever-busy Contigo Cocina Latina.
- Saguaro National Park: See the majestic giant saguaro cactus—a symbol of the American west—in its natural habitat. The park features 165 miles of hiking trails through a forest with thousands of cacti. Bring plenty of water; temperatures often soar past 100 degrees.
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: An award-winning botanical garden, natural history museum, and zoo where mountain lions, gila monsters, and more than 1,200 kinds of plants inhabit 21 acres of desert scenery
- Sabino Canyon: Take a narrated tram tour into this dramatic canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains, or navigate hiking trails ranging from easy to challenging.
Where to Stay
- Lodge on the Desert: Founded in 1936, this former dude ranch sits in the center of Tucson. Recent renovations to the hotel include an onsite restaurant and heated pool.
- The Hotel Congress: A historic hotel where John Dillinger was captured in 1934. Today, you can hang out in the bar and enjoy live music shows.
- El Rancho Merlita Ranch House Bed and Breakfast: A luxury inn built by cosmetics maven Merle Norman in the 1950s; features hearty breakfasts, huge rooms, and a pool