Downtown Tucson Panorama

Every year, Tucson Local Media takes an in-depth look into why hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the world choose Tucson, Pima County and the rest of Southern Arizona for their travel plans. Is it the food, the beautiful scenery, or the cultural events that make this region so attractive?

Inside this magazine, you will find profiles of the following regions and communities: Tucson, Pima County, Oro Valley, Marana, Catalina Foothills, Oracle, Bisbee, Tubac and wine country. Each section highlights the events, destinations and businesses that make each part of the Greater Tucson Metro Region flourish.

As we begin 2021, our local institutions are suffering from the impacts of the same pandemic that has done so much damage across our country and our world. We’ve lost some of our finest restaurants (Janos Wilder’s DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails and Suzana Davila’s Café Poca Cosa have closed their doors), tourist attractions (Old Tucson Studios did not survive the outbreak) and annual events (Tucson Jazz Fest and the Spring Fourth Avenue Street Fair have been cancelled). Many of the others are operating with limited hours and capacity. So before you explore these places, be sure to call ahead.

Welcome to Tucson, Pima County and the rest of Southern Arizona. We are delighted you decided to stop by and visit, or even make the region your new home, and we’re sure you will enjoy your time here in the desert.

Once you read through the entire magazine and experience what Southern Arizona has to offer, you are sure to have a better understanding as to why we all love The Old Pueblo so much.

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Discover Pima County

Named after the Akimel O’odham Native Americans, later referred to by the English-speaking world as the “Pima” people, Pima County is home to more than 1 million residents.

Pima is a border county spanning 9,200 square miles, sharing much of its southern line with the Mexican State of Sonora.

The vast majority of Pima County residents reside within the Greater Tucson Metro Area, which includes the incorporated municipalities of the towns of Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita and the cities of Tucson and South Tucson. The region is also home to the Pascua Yaqui Indian Reservation, the San Xavier Indian Reservation and part of the Tohono O’odham Nation.

Pima County is home to the University of Arizona—one of the top research universities in the nation—as well as a growing cluster of tech and commercial industries.

From the beautiful mountain ranges to the national parks and 120-plus miles of paved walking paths and bike lanes running throughout the region, Pima County offers plenty of opportunity for outdoor excitement in the Sonoran Desert. And when the sun sets, the Tucson-area is home to its fair share of exciting events and nightlife.

The quickest way to get up to speed on the local flora and fauna is a visit to the world-famous Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Part zoo, part museum and part botanical garden, this institution is all about the native plants, people and animals that call the Sonoran Desert home. Whether you’ve lived in the region your whole life, or have never visited Tucson before, this is a must-see experience.

The 98-acre site 14 miles to the west of Tucson features outdoor walking paths, gardens, animal enclosures, an aquarium, a museum and educational presentations and activities every day.

Since its formation nearly 70 years ago, the museum has been dedicated to informing the public about the unique Sonoran Desert and its natural inhabitants.

Visitors get an entertaining chance to learn about 1,200 plant species and 230 native animals, like fan-favorite javelinas and coyotes. There is also an impressive mineral collection and full art gallery focused on environmental conservation.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is located at 2021 N. Kinney Road. For more information, visit desertmuseum.org or call 883-2702.

Pima County has a reputation as a haven for cyclists, boasting the popular annual El Tour de Tucson, plenty of bike lanes, fabulous mountain biking in places like Tucson Mountain Park, and fairly good weather year round for riding.

Residents and guests can explore Pima County on two wheels thanks to the Chuck Huckelberry Loop, a system of more than 120 miles of interconnected paved multi-use and bike paths which connect the region’s various river parks with several different natural environments.

Named for the county’s current administrator, The Loop has only grown and improved over the years.

The Loop runs through unincorporated parts of the county, Marana, Oro Valley, Tucson and South Tucson, and is a complete circuit of 53.9 miles. With multiple access points, riders can easily choose how long or short their ride will be.

To learn more about The Loop, including a map of all the places you can hop on, visit pima.gov or contact the county’s Parks and Recreation Department at 724-5000.

If you want a completely different environment—or you want to escape the heat—consider a drive up Mount Lemmon, a “sky island” atop the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Mount Lemmon, inside the Coronado National Forest, is home to aspen, alder and maple trees, as well as a thriving population of animals and birds. With a wide variety of hiking trails, mountain biking paths, campgrounds, cabins, restaurants and shopping within the small community of Summerhaven, there’s enough activities to fill up a whole weekend or make for a full day trip.

It is not uncommon for Mount Lemmon to get snow in the winter months, and many people hit Ski Valley for skiing and sledding. It can be about 20 degrees colder in Mount Lemmon than the valley floor below.

Make sure to stop by the popular Cookie Cabin for lunch and treats when you reach Summerhaven.

Other interesting locales on the mountain include the University of Arizona’s Mount Lemmon SkyCenter, which includes a massive telescope dedicated to public edification and is home to stargazing opportunities throughout the year.

To get to Mount Lemmon, follow the Catalina Highway on Tucson’s east side, or just head to 9800 E. Ski Run Road.

Pima County is also home to what is largely considered the oldest, intact church in the state.

The San Xavier del Bac Mission was established in 1692 by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit preacher who’s credited with a chain of Spanish missions established throughout the Sonoran Desert. Construction of the first mission church began in 1700.

Though the original church was destroyed roughly 70 years later, the current building was constructed by 1797 under the direction of Spanish Franciscans, who took over the mission after the Jesuits were expelled 30 years prior.

Employing iconic white stucco inspired by Baroque architecture, San Xavier del Bac comprises two towers on either end housing chapels, complete with domes, arches and traditional frescos in the style of the world’s historic places of worship.

Services still occur in the church and the building is open to the public with free docent tours when the church is not in use.

The San Xavier del Bac Mission is located at 1950 W. San Xavier Road. For more information, visit sanxaviermission.org or call 234-2624.

Aviation buffs will want to visit the Pima Air & Space Museum. Home to more than 350 historical aircrafts throughout six hangers, the space highlights the nation’s aeronautical history.

Though the museum has humble beginnings, it has grown into one of the world’s largest, privately funded aviation and space museums.

Within their massive collection are World War II planes, spyplanes, a Wright Flyer and the world’s smallest bi-plane. The museum also documents space travel with a gallery on the Apollo missions, lunar samples and plenty more from the final frontier.

The museum offers docent-led tours, and is the only operator of the “Boneyard” tour through the 309TH Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group Facility on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. At the Boneyard are more than 4,000 aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, Navy-Marine Corps, Army, Coast Guard and several federal agencies.

The Pima Air & Space Museum is located at 6000 E. Valencia Road. For more information, visit pimaair.org or call 574-0462.

Southern Arizona is a destination for birders seeking to spot the roughly 550 different species that live throughout the state.

Pima County has a multitude of birding locales where visitors can check a number of species off their lists.

One of the most popular spots is the Sweetwater Wetlands Park, an environment created through the City of Tucson’s water reclamation system. Hundreds of bird species and other animals of the southwest have been cataloged around the basin’s surfaces. The park is located at 2511 W. Sweetwater Drive.

Mount Lemmon also offers up a good environment for birds across several types of forest growth. The mountain has dozens of trails, camping and picnic grounds to comfortably sit with binoculars. Word around the birding community is you can see Arizona and Acorn Woodpeckers and Dusky-capped Flycatchers easily at Bear Canyon.

Just south of Tucson in the Santa Rita Mountains is Madera Canyon. The cool mountains here include desert environments along with aspen and pine forests higher up. It is one of the most sought out birding destinations in the U.S., home to more than 200 species of birds.

Favorites include the large and chatty Mexican blue jays, quick hummingbirds and rare Flammulated and Spotted Owls. To get there, take Exit 63 Off Interstate 19 and head to the Nogales Ranger Station.

The Tucson Audubon Society has a number of resources, guides and maps to get you started on a birding adventure. Visit them at tucsonaudubon.org.

Southern Arizona has a number of active cave systems, and one of the most spectacular is Colossal Cave, a large system near Vail.

The cave has a unique history as a refuge for Native American people, a hideout for train robbers and for having a never ending supply of guano, or bat droppings.

There are a number of tours to explore the nearly 3.5 miles of explored passages filled with massive crystalline structures and otherworldly twists and turns.

Depending on the tour, guests can expect to spend about an hour six stories beneath the surface. The most popular tour is the Classic Cave Tour which is about a half-mile long.

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes.

While the cave itself is a unique experience all its own, Colossal Cave Mountain Park includes a ranch museum, butterfly garden, plenty of trails and spots to camp and picnic.

Colossal Cave Mountain Park is located at 16721 E. Old Spanish Trail. For more information, visit colossalcave.com or call 647-7275.

A visit to the county would not be complete without hiking and exploring the various types of desert environments that can be found here.

From the popular hike up Tumamoc Hill, just west of A Mountain, to Sabino Canyon Recreational Area’s pools of water, there are many opportunities for outdoor recreation with a backdrop of mountains and Saguaros.

To help navigate the various roads to Mother Nature, turn to Page 33 for Destination Tucson’s top hikes.

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Discover Tucson

The history of the Tucson region dates back roughly 13,000 years, and is considered one of the longest continuously inhabited places in the United States.

Moving forward from the Paleoindian Period, the region played host to early agricultural settlements along the Santa Cruz River during the Early Agricultural Period, as well as the Hohokam civilization (the forerunners of the modern-day Pima and Tohono O’odham).

The first signs of western development came in 1699 when Father Francisco Kino began the Mission San Xavier del Bac, and the Tucson Presidio was established in 1775 by Hugo O’Conor. The U.S. Army established its first outpost in Tucson in 1856, just two years after the region officially became part of the United States with the Gadsden Purchase in 1854. Tucson was the capital of the Arizona Territory from 1867 until 1877.

By the 1880s railroads had arrived, bringing about a veritable flood of European settlers to the region—and Tucson was a booming Wild West town by the turn of the century complete with nearby homesteaders, mining, manufacturing and electricity.

Originally a Native American village called “Stook-zone,” or “water at the foot of the mountain,” the city now lovingly called the Old Pueblo has taken strides to preserve its heritage while continually focusing on developing its image as an emerging metropolitan region. As the Tucson Valley has hosted a variety of cultures and groups over the passage of time, the region’s cultural heritage centers around a melting pot of Native American, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo roots. This culture can be seen in the Hispanic barrios, historic and contemporary American architecture and the prehistoric Native American remnants scattered throughout the area.

The scenery is one of the reasons why so many tourists visit the Old Pueblo each year. With five mountain ranges surrounding the city and outlying areas, Tucson lives within its own valley in the greater Sonoran Desert landscape, but also boasts mountaintop altitudes higher than 9,000 feet. Tucson is also home to Ski Valley on Mount Lemmon, the southernmost ski site in the continental United States.

Known for nearly year-round good weather, Tucson is the perfect place for any fitness or outdoor enthusiasts; the city contains a multitude of biking trails, walking paths, golf courses and recreation sites. There are more than 800 miles of bike paths in the city, and Tucson is home to internationally known bicycling events like El Tour de Tucson. The city has also been ranked by Bicycling magazine as one of the top cycling cities in the U.S. for several years. When not pedaling down a path or roadway, visitors and residents alike also take great advantage of the multitude of golf courses and walking paths, the former of which draws regional, national and international tournaments every year.

The seat of Pima County, Tucson is the second largest city in the State of Arizona, and is home to several major employers, including the University of Arizona, Raytheon Missile Systems, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Banner-University Medical Center. Surrounding the city are the incorporated suburbs of Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita.

While population estimates put the city at around 530,000 residents — making it roughly the 30th largest city in the nation — the Greater Tucson Metro Area is home to more than 1 million.

Interested in learning more about what the Old Pueblo has to offer? A great place to start is Tucson’s only nonprofit, independent movie theater, The Loft Cinema. Located in the heart of Tucson, The Loft celebrates the arts and diversity of film by showing some of the most interesting movies from throughout the world. Looking for a documentary on rock climbing? How about a series of the campiest horror movies from the ’80s? Interested in the newest indie films? The Loft has you covered, and then some.

In addition to screenings, The Loft also hosts filmmaker Q&A events and other community activities. If you’re a winter visitor, or just feel like helping out a great nonprofit, consider a membership. There are some great bonuses, too. Like free popcorn and exclusive screenings!

If the big screen is a little intimidating, or you just like your adventures on the page, take a trek down Speedway Boulevard to the nearest Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, an Arizona staple. The shelves at this local establishment are stocked by the community, for the community, with some of the most interesting books, albums, video games, instruments and just about everything else you could think of lining its walls. In addition to a plethora of second-hand goodies, Bookmans is also home to a variety of community events like story time and crafting, roleplaying game night and guitar workshops, to name a few.

With several locations in Tucson, there’s always an opportunity to find the perfect book, album or movie.

If you spotted a few pieces of art while perusing the halls at Bookmans, you may just want to get your fill of art over at the Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild Gallery. The gallery is home to a community of artists dedicated to enjoying the beauty of watercolor, exhibiting and selling their work and generally sharing a love of art with the community.

Aside from memberships and shows, the gallery also offers workshops and classes and scholarships for young artists.

The art never stops in the Old Pueblo, and one of the most popular locales in the heart of the city to appreciate both art and nature is the Tucson Botanical Gardens, a true oasis spread across more than five acres of lush vegetation. Considered one of the best small public gardens in the United States, the botanical gardens host a variety of exhibits and installations in addition to its plant life. Make sure to stop by the butterfly enclosure if you get a chance, it’s an experience you will never forget.

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Discover Dining

Southern Arizona is the home of majestic saguaro cactus, picturesque sunsets and 23 miles of the best Mexican food this side of the border. But Tucson’s culinary scene doesn’t stop there. Designated as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2015, the Old Pueblo not only celebrates a vibrant and diverse selection of restaurants but honors the tradition of being the longest continually cultivated region in the country. Since receiving the designation, Tucson’s chefs and restaurateurs have stepped up their game with new bars, restaurants, breweries, chocolate shops and more.

El Charro, with locations in downtown, Oro Valley and the Sabino Canyon area, claims to be the nation’s oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family, as well as the inventor of the chimichanga. All claims aside, this is one place you don’t want to miss. You can’t go wrong with their carne seca platter or the tamale temptation plate. If it’s a cool night, sip a margarita on the patio before you chow down. Be sure to save room for flan.

Looking for authentic Mexican food in a slightly more casual environment? Eat where the locals eat, at Pico de Gallo located on South Sixth Avenue in beautiful South Tucson. The restaurant is family owned and has probably the best taco plate you can find for under $10. Another hidden gem: Rollies Mexican Patio, which keeps it simple but delicious with tacos, burros, enchiladas and the usual sides, but also gets creative with fusions such as birria ramen. If you find yourself in midtown and need a quesadilla fix, check out The Quesadillas on Craycroft Road. As the name suggests, they are known for their delicious overstuffed quesadillas and is home to the best rib-eye taco in the Old Pueblo. If you’ve done any reading about Tucson’s food scene, you have probably heard of El Guero Canelo. Winner of a James Beard award in 2018, this is the Mecca of Sonoran hot dog joints. What could be better than a hot dog wrapped in bacon in a bolillo bun with all the fixings? You haven’t really eaten in Tucson until you’ve had a Sonoran dog.

Raspados, the south of the border sweetened-milk, fruit-topped slushie, is another favorite that’s refreshing your taste buds while keeping you cool during the summer months. Michoacan Taqueria Raspados on Flowing Wells Road is one of the best in town. But if you happen to be on Tucson’s west side, check out Sonoran Sno Cone at the Mercado San Agustin. Try sweet and sour combinations over shaved ice or indulge in a Macedonia, which includes fruit, nuts, condensed milk and a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream.

On that note: The Mercado is a treasure trove for those exploring Tucson. Ranging from formal dinners to tacos to coffee to dessert, you might end up thinking the patio has everything needed for a happy life. One of the Mercado’s most popular restaurants is Seis Kitchen and Catering. Originally a food truck, Seis has a full menu with breakfast, lunch and dinner items. Swing by in the morning for a huge breakfast burrito and relax on the patio until lunch, and then grab some tacos on the way out. Presta Coffee Roasters are always brewing something good from around the world, and you can’t go wrong with the handmade fresh tortillas or baked goods from La Estrella Bakery. If that doesn’t wet your whistle, down the street is the MSA Annex. Built from repurposed shipping containers, the annex adds even more culinary delights including vegan restaurant, Beaut Burger, libations at Westbound, hand-made ramen at Kukai Fresh Japanese Kitchen and several local-centric shops guaranteed to have that special souvenir for that special someone.

If you’re in the Campbell and River neighborhood, make sure to check out St. Philip’s Plaza. A haven located just off a major road, this open-air mall hosts weekend farmers’ markets as well as a collection of restaurants and boutiques. Bicyclists riding on The Loop can pull in at Ren Coffeehouse for a cold-brew coffee or a warm panini. No trip to St. Philip’s Plaza would be complete without a dinner at Vivace Italian Restaurant, the #1 rated Tucson restaurant according to the Zagat Survey. Featuring fantastic northern Italian fare like grilled chicken with eggplant and mushrooms or Veal Marsala, this place should not to be missed.

Just down the street on Campbell Avenue, you can find Blue Willow, a long-standing Tucson favorite for brunch, lunch and dinner. Featuring one of Tucson’s most charming patios, Blue Willow serves evolved comfort food with Sonoran flair. Plus, while you’re waiting for your food, you can browse the whimsical gift shop stocked with desert themed gifts, socks, jewelry, magnets and more on your way out.

Just down the street on Campbell Avenue, you’ll find India Oven, where entrees are served in traditional karahi bowls, which is where curry got its name. The korma, saag and tikka masala are sure to knock your socks off. Another traditional element of this family restaurant is the spice levels. Mild is recommended for those not up for a good challenge. India oven specializes in Northern Indian and Punjabi cuisine and offers a lunch buffet and dinner service daily.

Want the rustic charm of ranch life while in an upscale environment? Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort is where you want to be. Once a girls school, it’s now one of Tucson’s finest resorts boasting natural desert grounds, luxurious accommodations and multiple dining options. With fine dining and a selection of more than 700 wines, you might not even need to leave the resort.

One of the best burgers in midtown is Graze Premium Burgers, made with locally sourced beef, hand-cut French fries, all-natural sodas and a vast array of dipping sauces (don’t miss out on the curry ketchup). Top off your meal with a birthday cake milkshake. Graze now has two locations to serve you at Speedway and Broadway boulevards. If you lean more toward the vegetarian side, you can pick from multiple options of refreshing salads or go rogue and completely create your own at Choice Greens located on Speedway down the street from Graze. This local spot is taking the salad bar up a notch. They also offer paninis, sandwiches and grain bowls along with customizable mac and cheese.

Located north on Oracle Road, Catalina Craft Pizza is a destination offering a wide selection of Italian fare and salad. However, they separate themselves by hosting live music and serving as a community hub as well.

If wings are more your thing, check out Wings Over Broadway in midtown. This wing shack has been in business for more than 20 years and for good reason—their wings are phenomenal. With 15 different wing flavors, ranging from mild garlic and parmesan wings to their superhot No Mercy wings, WOB is sure to have a flavor you’ll enjoy. They also serve burgers, chicken sandwiches, pizza and appetizers. Make sure to wash it down with one of WOB’s daily beer specials.

Family-owned Kiss of Smoke BBQ and Catering is midtown’s go-to for barbeque lovers in Pima County. What started as an award-winning barbeque team has turned into an award-winning BBQ joint, serving up tasty brisket, pulled pork, chicken and sausage to the masses. Make sure to arrive early, as they often sell out of their daily stock before closing time.

Love baked goods but gluten got you down? The Gourmet Girls Gluten Free Bakery and Bistro will satisfy whatever your culinary craving may be, minus gluten. Open for breakfast and lunch, the bistro is known for their pancakes, baked goods and delicious gluten-free sandwiches. P.S. the chicken-fried steak with homemade sausage gravy is out of this world.

Get a taste of the windy city at Rocco’s Little Chicago on Broadway Boulevard. Serving favorites such as deep-dish pizza, wings, and Old Style Beer in the can, Rocco’s is one of the most acclaimed pizza joints in town. Not going to be in midtown? With two locations on the north side, one to the east and one to the west, you can easily grab a slice or some spaghetti and meatballs at Rosati’s Pizza. Not in the mood to go out tonight? Rosati’s also delivers!

Got a taste for a ginormous bowl of Chinese noodles? Make your way to Noodleholics on Grant Road. Different from pho, different from ramen, these traditional Guilin-style noodles are a delicious mix that really hit the spot. While there, check out the dumplings that come in sets of six, either steamed or fried. Hidden in a shopping center with only a small sign, you’ll have to keep your eye out for this modern eatery, but the noodles with 2,000 years of culinary history are well worth it.

Along with new restaurants and cafes, Tucson has also become home to more and more breweries over recent years. While downtown Tucson is a brewery hotspot, there are many hidden throughout the surrounding areas as well. One of Tucson’s original breweries, Barrio Brewing, is located just south of downtown and is one of the few breweries that have a full-service restaurant as well. Barrio is the perfect place to sample some beer and get a bite to eat. Also fun? Watching the trains rumble by on the tracks just a stone’s throw away from your table.

On the opposite end of the age-range is Ten55, one of Tucson’s newest brewery restaurants. Located in the heart of downtown on Congress Street, Ten55 serves craft beer and sausages for lunch and dinner. Bavarian bratwursts from family recipes compliment the evolving beers on tap at this industrial and red brick designed downtown spot.

If you are visiting Tucson, a day spent exploring Fourth Avenue is a must. Not only will you find a collection of quirky clothes, gift and book shops, you will also find a great selection of local restaurants. You can’t really go wrong in eating on the avenue, but there are a few local favorites that stand out. At the top of the street is The B Line, which serves everything from pasta dishes to ahi tuna tacos. The real attraction at The B Line are their desserts that spin ever so enticingly in an old school glass case. Pear pie and decadent German Chocolate Cake are just two of the ever-rotating menu items. And to put the cherry on top, you can order any slice of pie a la mode, warmed up with ice-cream on top. Yum!

While in east Tucson, check out the Eclectic Café, which does indeed have an eclectic menu that mixes Mexican favorites with diner food. Or drop in to Shish Kebab House for excellent Middle Eastern cuisine. With a large menu ranging from Mediterranean to Jordanian food, you are sure to find something tasty on the menu. Relax with a cocktail or Turkish beer at Shish Kebab House, open for lunch and dinner.

If after all those options you still can’t decide where to eat, make your way to American Eat Company. This food hall has 10 different establishments so you can decide what you want when you get there. Plus, if one person wants a Nashville style fried chicken sandwich, another wants ribs and yet a third wants Mexican street food, you can all be satisfied at Tucson’s only food hall.

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Discover Downtown

While the novel coronavirus outbreak has taken some of the wind out of Downtown Tucson’s sails, the central city had seen something of a renaissance in recent years. With a post-pandemic recovery on the horizon, it’s poised to come back as the region’s bustling entertainment, dining and drinks hub.

If you’re inclined to the visual arts, downtown is home to some of Tucson’s best museums, including the grand Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block. Fresh from a multi-million-dollar makeover, TMA pairs rotating shows with ongoing displays from the permanent collection in a massive complex that includes both the museum’s central hub and historic homes that have been turned into galleries. Pop into Café a la C’art for breakfast, lunch or dinner in the historic Stevens House while you’re visiting the block. Save room for a slice of pie or cake from the sinful dessert case.

The Museum of Contemporary Art–Tucson, housed in a rehabbed fire station, presents more avant-garde work. The Children’s Museum Tucson has transformed the city’s former Carnegie Library into a wondrous playground for children of all ages. Presidio San Agustín del Tucson Museum celebrates Tucson’s history and includes a recreation of a portion of the original adobe fort that was built by Spanish settlers in the 1770s. And the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum, located in downtown’s historic train station, is a spot that train buffs will not want to miss. Downtown Tucson is also loaded with galleries featuring all manner of art, including Etherton Gallery, Raices Taller 222 Art Gallery and Philabaum Glass Studio and Gallery.

Theater aficionados will want to experience the Temple of Music and Art, which first opened in 1927 and reopened following a full renovation in the early 1990s. The gorgeous theater is home to the Arizona Theatre Company, which normally presents a half-dozen productions during its performance season here and in Phoenix. The venue also hosts smaller theatre companies throughout the year. You’ll also find smaller theater troupes such as Rogue Theatre and The Scoundrel and Scamp Theatre performing at the Historic Y. If your tastes run more toward old-school culture, the Arizona Opera Company and Tucson Symphony Orchestra perform at the Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave.

Tucson has been recognized as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy and downtown has become a virtual United Nations of food options, although the pandemic has taken its toll on some signature restaurants that have shut their doors. Still, you’ll find breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Cup Café in the historic Hotel Congress, which combines a hip atmosphere with a menu featuring all the standards paired with some unique local offerings, including luscious house-made desserts. Five Points Market serves both breakfast and lunch, and offers one of the city’s finest plates of huevos rancheros in town. The Little One, a hole-in-the-wall spot near the downtown library, serves up Mexican breakfast plates in a raucous setting. In the historic train station, Maynards Market & Kitchen offers fine dining in the indoor dining room as well as less formal (and expensive) options at an adjoining market. You’ll find craft ice cream at The Screamery, whose three locations includes a downtown branch on Congress Street. Senai Thai Bistro serves creative interpretations of standards such as curry dishes, chicken satay, pad Thai as well as more exotic fare.

If you stroll through the Fourth Avenue underpass on the east end of downtown, you’ll enter the historic shopping and dining district along Fourth Avenue. Between Ninth Street and University Boulevard, you’ll find a favorite hangout of downtown hipsters at Café Passe, aka Bar Passe, depending on your mood. While you’re in the area, stop by 4th Avenue Delicatessen for some of the best sandwiches, subs and deli sides to be found anywhere in the Sonoran Desert. Try the T-Town on a toasted hoagie roll—you won’t be sorry.

If pizza is your thing, just a little further down the street is Magpies Gourmet Pizza and Wings, a local favorite for pizza, wings and much more. Start with their garlic bread sticks or antipasto salad and then build your own pie or try their specialty pizzas, such as The Godfather (Italian sausage, capicola and tons of mozzarella and romano cheese). One of the oldest and most revered Italian restaurants in Tucson is also located on Fourth Avenue: Caruso’s. While known for having some of the best lasagna in the Old Pueblo, Caruso’s also has probably the best marinara sauce in the state, still cooked in the original copper pot used when Chef Caruso Zagona opened his doors in the 1930s.

Head over to North Sixth Avenue for a beer or glass of wine at Tap & Bottle, which specializes in a wide range of indie wine labels and craft beer, including plenty of regional options. You’ll find excellent to-go selection and service. Next door, EXO Coffee has excellent beans and good vibes, while sharing space with El Crisol, a tequila/mezcal tasting room.

The Tucson Convention Center is home to the Tucson Roadrunners, an American Hockey League team that serves as the minor-league affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes. Their season runs from September to April or May, depending on their luck in the postseason. Indoor Football League team Tucson Sugar Skulls hope to play a 16-game season starting in April and wrapping in July this year.

The pandemic has largely silenced Downtown Tucson’s vibrant music scene, with historic theaters such as the Rialto and the Fox still dark at the beginning of 2021. But Hotel Congress, long known for the world-famous Club Congress, has been hosting performers on the hotel’s spacious outdoor patio stage. While they weren’t presenting shows as of press time, other downtown venues that are worth exploring post-pandemic include 191 Toole, Owl’s Club, Che’s Lounge and Sky Bar. Pick up a copy of the city’s alt-weekly, Tucson Weekly, for updates about live music or check out the listings online at TucsonWeekly.com.

Discover Foothills

The Catalina Mountains sweep south toward Tucson, creating a land perfect for hiking and gaining a vast view of Southern Arizona. But even beyond the natural beauty, the Catalina Foothills remains one of Tucson’s hottest real estate markets and an area filled with prestigious art galleries, quaint shopping centers and plenty of recreational opportunities.

The region began to be actively developed in the 1930s, and the foothills was envisioned as a region filled with large lot developments after Tucson developers purchased thousands of acres of land at public auctions. Since the beginning, the Catalina Foothills was planned as a winter getaway for residents throughout the country. But it wasn’t long before the Catalina Foothills School District was formed to serve the needs of the growing local community.

The Foothills offer plenty of opportunities for dining, shopping and outdoor activities.

Easily one of the most acclaimed galleries in the Foothills is the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, which not only showcases the expansive work of the late Tucsonan Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia, but includes space for local artists to showcase their own work. DeGrazia is one of the most adored and reproduced Southwest artists. Even if you don’t recognize the name, we’re sure you’ll recognize his work.

Make sure to also check out Jane Hamilton Fine Art and Settlers West Galleries, located on opposite corners of the intersection of North Campbell Avenue and East Skyline Drive. Also at that intersection are Skyline Gallery and Wilde Meyer Gallery, nearly guaranteeing that the perfect piece of art could be found without driving far.

From there, head south down Swan Road to find Madaras Gallery, named after its founder and artist Diana Madaras, whose paintings can be found in homes and businesses throughout Tucson.On the way to the Madaras Gallery, make sure to stop off at Sarnoff’s Paloma Art Gallery along the way.

The gorgeous resort of Hacienda del Sol in the Foothills is almost a gallery in itself, with a dedicated botanical garden, desert art and sculptures throughout the resort, and an expansive gift shop as well.

The Catalina Foothills also offer plenty of upscale shopping opportunities.

Located on the northwest corner of North Campbell Avenue and East Skyline Drive lies La Encantada, a two-story, outdoor shopping center filled with luxury retailers ranging from clothing to tech and a grocery store.

Since opening in 2004, La Encantada has hosted a mix of restaurants and shops, making it a favorite for several of the region’s nonprofits as a spot to host various events. Notable retailers include Anthropologie, the Apple Store, Coach and Tiffany & Co.

If you’re in the mood for some pampering, visit Fuchsia Spa at La Encantada, which offers a comfortable, non-intimidating atmosphere with a whole suite of self-care treatments.

Just across the street from La Encantada is Wild Garlic Grill, which blends French cooking techniques with California fresh produce, resulting in a wide-ranging menu with plenty of garlic touches.

Only a few miles down Campbell Avenue, at West River Road, lies St. Philip’s Plaza—a shopping center known as much for its beautiful fountains and bougainvillea as the retailers who call the center home. While there’s much to be said about the plaza’s gorgeous setting, you’ll also find some of Tucson’s hottest dining.

There’s plenty to choose from in St. Philip’s, including Union Public House, Alfonso Gourmet Olive Oil & Balsamics and Reforma Modern Mexican.

St. Philip’s Plaza also hosts the Food in Root farmers market every Saturday and Sunday. Catch the artisans market on Saturdays for a wide selection of local goods and crafts, and stock up on fresh veggies, produce and other foods on Sundays.

The market takes place from 8 a.m. to noon May through September, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. October through April. EBT/SNAP is accepted.

Just down the road from the Food in Root market is the Heirloom Farmers Markets at Rillito Park, Tucson’s largest year-round farmers market.

Heirloom consists of three separate shade pavilions filled with all manner of local bakers, chefs and cooks ready to sell foodstuffs of all kinds, including plenty of organic options. Fill up on some snacks, pick up some fresh goods and enjoy some live music in the center of all the vendors. Make sure to catch any chef’s demonstrations and other food events that may take place at Rillito Park.

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Discover Marana

Located in the northwestern part of the Greater Tucson Metro Area, Marana stretches into the southern terminus of Pinal County and is one of the fastest growing communities in Southern Arizona.

The history of the region known today as Marana stretches back more than 4,000 years, according to archeological discoveries. The area has been home to Native Americans for thousands of years, as well as European and early American settlers. By the 19th century, modern railroads of the frontier age brought new peoples, and a new name—Marana.

While the region and its inhabitants may have changed greatly over the millennia, the town has not forgotten its modern roots as a farming community of the west. Facing forward with an eye on the future, the town has welcomed amenities like the Ritz Carlton-Dove Mountain, Tucson Premium Outlets and Top Golf.

Today, working farms and ranch homes exist within the shadow of the bustling town municipal complex, though all aspects of life in Marana remain enviable, as growth in the community is abundant and widespread.

The town has grown, in large part, due to annexations in the 1990s and an emphasis placed on creating the kind of community in which people not only want to visit, but to live. This includes work on maintaining—and improving—good roads, parks infrastructure, community involvement, public art and more.

The town maintains a strong park system, both in terms of small, neighborhood parks and larger, regional sites. The town is located at the base of the Tortolita Mountains, providing an opportunity for a variety of outdoor adventures—and the trail systems in the region draw visitors from all over the state, and the country.

Due in part to its agrarian roots, the town has no central gathering place. Instead, each section of the community maintains a slightly different looks and feel, though the town is looking to change that. A downtown Marana is in the works, which will eventually host a variety of shops, restaurants and nightlife destinations.

Every year, Marana hosts three “signature events” which not only celebrate an aspect of the town, its culture and history, but provide an opportunity for residents to get to know one another—and have some fun. Due to COVID, these events are in the process of being reworked. But here are some of the highlights Marana has hosted in the past.

The Fourth of July Star Spangled Spectacular continues to grow every year, and drew more than 16,000 attendees in 2017. The event takes over every usable foot of the 48-acre Crossroads at Silverbell District Park, and includes a little bit of something for everyone, including, of course, a big fireworks show.

Marana’s Holiday Festival & Christmas Tree Lighting is a must-visit event that kicks off the holiday season at the beginning of December. The centerpiece of any holiday festival tends to be the lighting of the Christmas tree, and Marana has long embraced this tradition in the form of a 40-foot tree. The tree is also part of a massive, synchronized light show that incorporates the surrounding area. The lighting and first performance of the show kicks off the season, and is the largest in Southern Arizona. The town’s 40-foot tree, an evergreen monolith, remains throughout the season.

A uniquely Marana event takes place every year at the Marana Heritage River Park which transforms the site into the entertainment epicenter of the town and draws thousands to the fun: the Harvest Festival. Attendees participate in a number of events, from a chili cook-off under the park’s ramada benefitting the Marana Food Bank to carnival rides and a rodeo exhibition hosted by the University of Arizona rodeo team. The event, which harkens to the town’s long history as a cotton-growing community, includes more than a dozen food trucks, a steak fry, live musical performances and more.

As the spring season rolls through, residents and visitors have an opportunity to enjoy two other community events, Founders Day in March and the Marana Bluegrass Festival in April.

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Discover Oro Valley

Located in the northwestern part of the Greater Tucson Metro Area, Marana stretches into the southern terminus of Pinal County and is one of the fastest growing communities in Southern Arizona.

The history of the region known today as Marana stretches back more than 4,000 years, according to archeological discoveries. The area has been home to Native Americans for thousands of years, as well as European and early American settlers. By the 19th century, modern railroads of the frontier age brought new peoples, and a new name—Marana.

While the region and its inhabitants may have changed greatly over the millennia, the town has not forgotten its modern roots as a farming community of the west. Facing forward with an eye on the future, the town has welcomed amenities like the Ritz Carlton-Dove Mountain, Tucson Premium Outlets and Top Golf.

Today, working farms and ranch homes exist within the shadow of the bustling town municipal complex, though all aspects of life in Marana remain enviable, as growth in the community is abundant and widespread.

The town has grown, in large part, due to annexations in the 1990s and an emphasis placed on creating the kind of community in which people not only want to visit, but to live. This includes work on maintaining—and improving—good roads, parks infrastructure, community involvement, public art and more.

The town maintains a strong park system, both in terms of small, neighborhood parks and larger, regional sites. The town is located at the base of the Tortolita Mountains, providing an opportunity for a variety of outdoor adventures—and the trail systems in the region draw visitors from all over the state, and the country.

Due in part to its agrarian roots, the town has no central gathering place. Instead, each section of the community maintains a slightly different looks and feel, though the town is looking to change that. A downtown Marana is in the works, which will eventually host a variety of shops, restaurants and nightlife destinations.

Every year, Marana hosts three “signature events” which not only celebrate an aspect of the town, its culture and history, but provide an opportunity for residents to get to know one another—and have some fun. Due to COVID, these events are in the process of being reworked. But here are some of the highlights Marana has hosted in the past.

The Fourth of July Star Spangled Spectacular continues to grow every year, and drew more than 16,000 attendees in 2017. The event takes over every usable foot of the 48-acre Crossroads at Silverbell District Park, and includes a little bit of something for everyone, including, of course, a big fireworks show.

Marana’s Holiday Festival & Christmas Tree Lighting is a must-visit event that kicks off the holiday season at the beginning of December. The centerpiece of any holiday festival tends to be the lighting of the Christmas tree, and Marana has long embraced this tradition in the form of a 40-foot tree. The tree is also part of a massive, synchronized light show that incorporates the surrounding area. The lighting and first performance of the show kicks off the season, and is the largest in Southern Arizona. The town’s 40-foot tree, an evergreen monolith, remains throughout the season.

A uniquely Marana event takes place every year at the Marana Heritage River Park which transforms the site into the entertainment epicenter of the town and draws thousands to the fun: the Harvest Festival. Attendees participate in a number of events, from a chili cook-off under the park’s ramada benefitting the Marana Food Bank to carnival rides and a rodeo exhibition hosted by the University of Arizona rodeo team. The event, which harkens to the town’s long history as a cotton-growing community, includes more than a dozen food trucks, a steak fry, live musical performances and more.

As the spring season rolls through, residents and visitors have an opportunity to enjoy two other community events, Founders Day in March and the Marana Bluegrass Festival in April.

Discover Oracle

Nestled in the northern foothills of the Catalina Mountains is a bedroom community that’s home to a surprising number of recreation attractions, one-of-a-kind outdoor experiences and a wealth of history.

Located some 35 miles north of Tucson in Pinal County, Oracle’s western history dates back well over 100 years. The unincorporated community finds its origin around the 1870s as prospectors came to the area in search of gold and silver, and was named after the nearby Oracle Mine. Soon, a post office was built, and Oracle was officially on its way towards modernity.

Over the years, ranches were established throughout the region as sheep and cattle grazed from the Catalinas to the Tortolita Mountains in the west. Aside from the ranching community, Oracle (much like Tucson) was also hailed for its medically-beneficial climate around the beginning of the 20th century as sufferers of tuberculosis sought out dryer climates.

The history of the community includes many other interesting moments, including a time when Wild West legend William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody owned mining interests in the area—and was reported to have once worn a Santa outfit for local children.

As the 1900s came and went the health resort community waned with the invention of penicillin, and the allure of the mysterious Western frontier drew Hollywood stars to the local dude ranches.

The once-lost 1924 silent epic “The Mine with the Iron Door” was filmed in Oracle, in addition to Tucson and on Mount Lemmon, and Andy Worhol’s 1968 film “Lonesome Cowboys” was shot in Old Tucson and the Rancho Linda Vista Dude Ranch in Oracle, which has since become an artist colony.

Though the movie reels have moved on, Oracle remains a vibrant community in 2020, with plenty of opportunities for fun and adventure.

Interested in delving deeper into the region’s storied history? Take a trip over to the Oracle Historical Society and Arcadia Ranch Museum, located at 825 E. Mount Lemmon Highway. Founded in 1977 as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit with a focus on education, the organization provides a range of cultural and historical insights and a more thorough understanding of the community’s heritage.

The society’s archives and collections include prehistoric artifacts, letters, photos and other memorabilia from early settlers, historic ranching equipment and other examples of what life was like during the frontier era.

One of the most interesting (and unique) institutions to call the region home is Biosphere 2, at 32540 S. Biosphere Road. Dedicated to “the research and understanding of global scientific issues,” the 3.14-acre facility is a glass-domed laboratory intended for controlled studies across multiple biomes: an ocean with coral reefs, mangrove wetlands, a tropical rainforest, savanna grasslands and a fog desert. Each of those biomes advance the understanding of both natural and human-made environments, and how we can tackle the world’s great challenges.

In addition to tours and active research through the University of Arizona, the facility also hosts conferences and tours for local schools.

If the Biosphere has you yearning for mother nature then you’re in luck, as Oracle is home to a variety of perfect spots to launch your outdoor adventure.

Spanning 4,000 acres in the foothills of the mountains is Oracle State Park, 3820 Wildlife Drive, with plenty of space for hiking and picnics. The region is also a designated “Dark Sky Park” and provides ample opportunity for some dazzling astrophotography. As a center for environmental education, the state park hosts programming for interested learners of all ages.

More outdoorsy types will find plenty to do along the more than 15 miles of hiking trails, plenty of multi-use paths for equestrians and mountain bikers and a dazzling array of beautiful views of the Sonoran Desert.

Interested in a truly one-of-a-kind view of nature? Look no further than Arizona Zipline Adventures, 35406 S. Mount Lemmon Road.

Self-titled as “Arizona’s first and fastest Zipline EcoTour,” Arizona Zipline offers a chance to learn about the local natural environment while rushing down the mountainside. A full tour includes running down each of the five ziplines, while hiking between each line so participants can experience the desert from changing perspectives.

If you’re not satisfied with flying through the air, the company also offers a tour through the wildly popular Peppersauce Cave in the Catalina Mountains.

In addition to the ziplines and caving adventures, the business also operates a kitchen, offers hiking trails, gold panning and other team-building activities, as well as a fully stocked general store.

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Discover Tubac

For a taste of local art, a glimpse into the past and scenic views of the Santa Rita Mountains, the colonies of Tubac and Tumacacori deliver a unique experience just a short drive from Tucson.

Located about 55 miles south of the city, Tubac is home to a plethora of art galleries, restaurants and shopping that make for a great day trip.

Art is the main attraction here, with dozens of galleries to explore, including the Tubac Center for the Arts, which provides art programs throughout the year.

With the design of the presidio’s center, it’s easy to hit all the galleries and shops by foot.

After you take in the sculptures at Big Horn Galleries or marvel at the contemporary artwork of the southwest at the Tubac Red Door Gallery, get some great eats at one of Tubac’s popular restaurants.

Elvira’s is a favorite for Mexican food and features fresh ingredients like seafood and even beef tongue. For something a little more casual, Tubac Market is a lunch standby with deli sandwiches, ice cream and hearty salads.

Just outside the main village of Tubac, visitors can enjoy the history of the region and the natural beauty of Arizona’s oldest state park, the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. The park, located on the site of the original fort (or presidio) built by Spanish explorers and colonists in 1752, houses a museum dedicated to the history of the Santa Cruz Valley.

Museum guests can see the remaining ruins of the fort in an underground archaeological dig and learn about the cultures of the many people who called this enclave home over the last three centuries: O’odham and Apache tribes, the Spanish conquistadores, Mexican ranchers and settlers, miners and speculators, Eastern fortune seekers, and farmers.

The park also features Arizona’s first printing press, which was used to print the state’s first newspaper, The Weekly Arizonian. The 1885 one-room schoolhouse, now used as a concert and lecture venue, is a visitor favorite.

One of the most beautiful historic sites in this presidio sits just four miles south of Tubac within the Tumacácori National Historical Park. The restored Mission San Jose de Tumacacori, established by Jesuit Father Eusebio Francisco Kino at the end of the 17th century, has been kept in a “state of arrested ruin,” preserving the original structure of the church rather than adding modern pieces to it.

Visitors can walk through the remains of the adobe convent— a space that was used for the community and served as living quarters for the priests.

There are a number of outdoor activities in the area such as the Anza Trail, a four-mile walk from the Presidio to the Tumacacori Mission named for the famous explorer Juan Bautista de Anza.

The picnic grounds at the trailhead are a perfect place to rest and take in the sights of the surrounding mountains.

Local tip: Don’t miss the Santa Cruz Spice Factory at 1868 I-19 Frontage Road. Though it may be a little off the beaten path, the trip is worth it for the fragrant smells of spices and chilies. You can find a variety of locally made spice mixes, salsas, hot sauces, jellies, candies, gifts and more to take home a taste of the Southwest.

Some folks get their kicks on the zipline, while others prefer their adrenaline rush with a little bit of engine grease and gasoline. For the more mechanically-oriented types, Titan Power Rentals (760 E. American Ave.) is the place to be. Rent yourself a top-of-the-line Utility Terrain Vehicle and explore Mount Lemmon and a variety of sandy washes and forest roads.

You can even make your four-wheeled trek even more adventurous on a full moon, sunset or group ride.

Oracle is an exciting community with plenty to do, to say the least. Once the adventures end, however, you may find yourself wanting to stick around for a night or two. Luckily, the 3C Ranch, at 36033 S. Mount Lemmon Road, is home to a wide variety of lodging options—all complete with beautiful views and a sense of peace and tranquility. Aside from the scenery, 3C also provides an archery course, a bar and plenty of event space.

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Discover Bisbee

The town of Bisbee was once one of the state’s most bustling mining towns. In fact, by the early 1900s Bisbee was the biggest city between St. Louis and San Francisco, boasting a population of 20,000 in its hilly homes.

Today, Bisbee remains an experience. With its collection of artists and characters, the town has become a sort of pilgrimage for Tucsonans who visit for its beloved events, cool weather and funky vibes.

For those seeking a little adventure in the form of historic bars, unexpected conversations and lots of antique shopping, it’s the perfect place for a day trip or weekend away from the fast lane.

In the hub of the action is “Old Bisbee,” the stretch of businesses down and around Main Street that epitomize the town. It’s here that you’ll find the real treats of Bisbee, like the Bisbee Mining Museum. The museum is a Smithsonian affiliate and offers a small but mighty look at Bisbee’s long history of mining, the now famous Bisbee deportation and well-known figures during its Wild West days.

If you’re a history buff, the town also features a number of walking tours, or you can strap on a hardhat and travel down into the Queen Mine Tour.

There are a number of local shops where you can find a one-of-a-kind gift. The Miners & Merchants Antique Center offers multiple floors of antiques to browse, while shops like Redbone Vintage sell a small selection of curated vintage clothes and colorful boots.

If cooking is your hobby, stop by Bisbee Olive Oil, where you can find (and sample) over 40 unique flavors of olive oil and balsamic vinegars.

The quirky town delivers on dining options as well, with a mix of casual eats and fancier fare.

The Bisbee Breakfast Club, just outside Old Bisbee, is a must try, becoming so legendary in these parts they opened locations throughout Tucson.

Café Roka consistently wins “Best of” bragging rights each year and is a great place for a swanky meal.

But if you want to eat like a local, the tiny but delicious Thuy’s Noodle Shop serves delicious Vietnamese food and is usually so packed there’s no more seating, so take it to go.

Before you explore Bisbee’s nightlife, check out the Copper Queen Library, which is the state’s longest continuously-operated public library, or catch a show at the Bisbee Royale, the local movie theater.

No trip to Bisbee is complete without a round of drinks in Brewery Gulch. This pocket of entertainment in Old Bisbee is home to the majority of the drinking establishments in town.

The Old Bisbee Brewing Company has the most mass appeal and the best view of the action from their patio. They brew a small selection of beers, ranging from a stout to an IPA. The most interesting of their brews is Salut, a light and flowery drink made with champagne yeast.

Across the gulch is local dive St. Elmo Bar. Home to the best jukebox in town and the loudest, rowdiest characters of Bisbee, they’re known to make a strong drink and an experience you won’t forget.

If your party is small, cram into the Room 4 Bar, Arizona’s smallest bar inside the historic Silver King Hotel. It fits about four people comfortably.

There is no shortage of lodging available in Bisbee, but if you come during Bisbee Pride or New Year’s Eve, reserve your rooms early. The town fills up fast on holidays and events.

The Copper Queen Hotel is one of the most well-known places in town and puts you in the heart of the action. You might even see a ghost in this longstanding hotel. The Bisbee Grand Hotel, The Inn at Castle Rock and Hotel San Ramon are other good historical options.

You can even book a stay in the OK Street Jailhouse, which was built in 1904 as the local branch of the county jail and is now a comfy hotel.

Tombstone, the town too tough to die, and the vineyards of Elgin/Sonoita are just a short drive away if you need more fun in Cochise County.

The trip to Bisbee from Tucson is under two hours and you can get there via I-10 East and AZ-80 East.

Discover Wine Country

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Discover Outdoors

Hiking in the heart of the Sonoran Desert is a blissful way to spend your free time, regardless of the season.

Pima County is home to some of the nation’s finest hiking trails, with a seemingly endless array of scenic and physical variations at your disposal.

The panoramic mountains that are a figurative stone’s throw away from the heart of the city enable visitors and locals alike to experience new hiking adventures of varying difficulty.

We’re blessed with beautiful trails through national, state and county parks. Whether it’s the dryland basins of the Tucson Mountains, the riparian utopia of Sabino Canyon, or the sprucy wonder of Mount Lemmon, there’s a hiking trail to suit your fancy in our midst.

Wander among towering saguaros, skinny pine trees and lush spruce trees all in the same place and lose yourself in a secluded space that’s a short jaunt from the heart of the city.

No matter what time of the year you’re hiking, always bring enough water with you to prevent dehydration.

These trails are friendly spaces that open up to bountiful scenic and fitness-related opportunities. Make sure you don’t wander from those paths, however, so the pristine public land that we’re blessed with maintains its divine qualities.

Also ensure that you have the right footwear and sunscreen for your trip.

For more information on the county’s hiking trails, go to visittucson.org or go-arizona.com. Happy hiking to you and your companions!

1. Romero Pools

(Catalina State Park)

This 5.5-mile trek follows along the spine of the Santa Catalina Mountains, with 1,322 feet of elevation gain. The long and sometimes arduous path eventually leads you to a double-tiered basin of pools that contain runoff water from the taller peaks year-round, so you can either cool off in the heart of the summer or merely take a moment of Zen by the water’s edge if the temperature is on the cooler side of the thermometer. The out-and-back trail can increase in difficulty, given the flow of Sutherland Wash, which cuts through the trail from time to time in the year. Romero Pools follow along the dry stream bed that flows from the Catalinas to the Cañada del Oro Wash, which can create various challenges when the region receives precipitation, generally in the winter and summer monsoons. Entrance to Catalina State Park (11570 N. Oracle Road) and the trailhead is $7, with a large paved parking lot between the gatehouse and the start of the earthen path. Bring lots of water for the trek and be prepared for steep portions of the trail that require good sole and ankle support for hikers of various skill levels. Make sure to leave your four-legged friends at home, however, as the trail is off limits to man’s best friend, thanks to the region’s efforts to rebuild the native bighorn sheep population.

Hiking the trail in the late winter and spring months is ideal for wild flower gazing, given the wholesome bounty of flora that dot the edge of the trail and the banks of the front range of the mountains.

2. Agua Caliente Hills Trail

This 8.5-mile one-way trek in the Coronado National Forest is a must for anyone that enjoys panoramic views of the Tucson cityscape and various species of wild flowers. Agua Caliente Hills (13041 N. Cam Cantil, Tucson) is a rugged yet worthwhile hike that gains close to 1,000 feet in elevation in the first mile, before leveling off and presenting a one-of-a-kind view of the city below. What’s even better is that this trail is dog-friendly, though leashes are a must for your four-legged companions. The trail, which is tucked between the Santa Catalina Mountains and Reddington Pass, is rated as difficult, but is worth the effort for those of you who like a good heart-healthy challenge. Agua Caliente Hills is the ideal hike for the cooler winter and spring months, given the lack of shade along the route. There is a small pond midway through the trail that allows your hiking party (dogs included) to dip their toes and paws in and cool off, but little else in terms of reprieve from the harsh Southern Arizona sun, so make sure you bring lots of water and sunscreen for the haul.

3. King Canyon Trail to Wasson Peak (Tucson Mountains)

The highest peak in the Tucson Mountains that dot the western edge of the city is a rigorous trek for all hiking enthusiasts. The 6.5-mile, one-way path cuts up the spine of the mountain, climbing 1,807 feet from the trailhead that’s located on the periphery of Saguaro West. The trek features several switchbacks that present once-in-a-lifetime views of the various landscapes that the region presents, with views of Kitt Peak and areas to the west, as well as the various ranges of Pima County. The top of the mountain presents an unmatched 360-degree view of the region, with the peaks of Sonora, Mexico and Phoenix visible on clear days. King Canyon Trail is rated as moderately difficult, with an earthen trail that is open to humans and horses but closed to dogs.

4. Tumamoc Hill

This Tucson institution gains 600 feet in elevation from the heart of the city, offering an intense workout and mesmerizing views for those brave enough to tackle it. The hill, which is home to the University of Arizona’s Desert Laboratory, gains considerable elevation over its 1.5-mile-long paved trail, with three main switchbacks above the median basin that’s home to the University’s main research facilities. Witness native flora, such as the saguaro, organ pipe and prickly pear cactus, as well as a variety of brush and wildlife that call Tucson home. Make sure to bring plenty of water for the trek, as the last half of the trail are quite steep and sure to sap you of your energy and hydration if you don’t. The main parking area for this short, but a sweet hiking experience is across the street from St. Mary’s Hospital on West Anklam Road, with any of the spaces along the curb across from the hospital serving as a parking area for the trail. Tumamoc Hill is open from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, giving locals and visitors a surefire hiking spot year-round.

5. Marshall Gulch

(Catalina Mountains)

There are two trails that take you up the spine of the upper reaches of Mount Lemmon to Marshall Gulch, in the 4.4-mile Aspen Trail and the equally-stunning 5.1-mile Sunset Trail. Each of the aforementioned paths are moderately difficult, with the former being off limits to dogs, while the latter is dog-friendly, as long as your pooch stays on its leash during the duration of the trek. Both trails offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains, the City of Tucson, and everything in-between. Both treks also provide needed reprieve in the hot summer months for dedicated hikers, with bountiful conifers providing shade, along with sizable elevation that is far cooler than the city limits. Both trails provide hikers with an up-close-and-personal view of the wildlife that flock to the Catalinas, with deer, birds, bear and an occasional puma wandering the region. Sunset Trail features 954 feet of elevation gain, while the Aspen Trail gains 866 feet over the course of the hike. Both are sure to challenge hikers of every skill level, while providing views that you won’t soon forget along the way.

6. Hutch’s Pool Loop Trail (Sabino Canyon)

Hutch’s Pool is a sizable trek that scales the spine of Sabino Canyon to a long and narrow pool that is tucked like an oasis inside the Santa Catalina Mountains. The 15.9-mile (8 miles each way) loop gains 2,116 feet of elevation inside Sabino Canyon, ranking as moderately difficult, while providing a perfect swimming hole to dip in when the weather gets hot. The first four miles of the trail follow along the paved path that follows Sabino Canyon Road, before joining the Sabino Basin and West Fork Trail, which winds its way over a few switchbacks before descending into the pool area. The pool itself is very deep, which allows you to swim with comfort, in a body of water that’s cool in the grueling summer months and frigid in the winter. The only downside to this trail is that your four-legged friends are not allowed to join you, as Sabino Canyon doesn’t allow dogs within its limits.

7. Seven Falls Trail

(Sabino Canyon)

Any list of hiking spots in Southern Arizona would be incomplete without the famous Seven Falls Trail, which winds its way to the aforementioned falls. The five-mile hike gains 917 feet in elevation, with various river crossings that rely on stepping stones that may or may not be completely submerged by the aforementioned river bed. Bring waterproof shoes on this trail, as you’re more than likely to slip and step into the icy waters that make said stones rather slick through the year. Such obstacles are worth it, however, given the incredible sight of the falls at the top of the trail, with water cascading down the rock faces that stick out from the Catalina Mountains. Seven Falls’ trail, which is located at 5700 N. Sabino Canyon Road, is open year-round, so you can satisfy your hiking and scenic pleasures whenever it suits you.

8. Madera Canyon

(Santa Rita Mountains)

Fans of butterflies and/or hummingbirds will definitely want to head down Interstate 19 to Madera Canyon. The canyon, which rests on the northern edge of the Santa Rita Mountains that run along the boundary of Pima and Santa Cruz counties, is home to more than 250 species of birds, 15 species of hummingbirds and an array of butterflies and other species. You can also find artifacts from the O’odham tribes that have called the region home for more than 500 years along the way, giving hikers a cavalcade of scenic options along their hike of choice. The highest and most difficult trail within the canyon is the 13.1-mile Mount Wrightston Loop Trail, which gains 4,005 feet to the 9,452-foot summit of the tallest mountain in Pima County. Whatever your fancy, Madera Canyon has the trail for you, with a host of trails that feature boundless ecosystems and views along the way.

9. Gates Pass

The trusted pass in the heart of the Tucson Mountains is accessible, either by car or via Prickly Pear Trail, which traverses 1.9 miles to the pass. The trail is friendly to hikers of all skill levels, with a mere 124 feet of elevation gain over its duration, allowing you to witness the splendor of a pass that features unmatched views of the seemingly-endless stretch of lush green saguaros and mesquite that rest between the range and western Pima County. Hikers can gaze out to various local hot spots, like Old Tucson, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and various parts of Saguaro National Park from the pass, while taking in a host of wild flowers that bloom year-round in the park area. There are countless walking trails around the pass that are easy for hikers of all ages, while providing views that are well worth your time.

10. Tucson Mountain Park

The county-owned park that dots the southern edge of the Tucson Mountains in Tucson Estates provides top-notch hiking and walking trails in a dog-friendly confine. There are trails of various difficulties, with the Hidden Canyon Bowen Loop and Rock Wren trails being the easiest, and Cat Mountain and Starr Pass Peak being the most difficult. These hikes are best suited for the cooler winter months, given their low elevation and high sun exposure, but present hikers of all skill levels with a variety of scenic options that are a short drive from wherever they are staying in the city. All of the park’s trails are accessible from either Kinney, San Joaquin, Starr Pass or Gates Pass road, allowing for an easy-in, easy-out experience that’s sure to leave you speechless upon completion.

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