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Tucson, Arizona Travel Guide

Tucson Summary


  • Gorgeous desert and mountain landscape, with views topping those in Phoenix
  • Famous spa destination, with a number of luxury wellness retreats
  • Plenty of outdoor activities, including hiking and horseback riding in the Saguaro National Park
  • Sonora Desert Museum, with a zoo and botanical garden
  • Warm, sunny weather year-round
  • Rich in history and culture (several historic districts and monuments, including a historic mission)
  • World-renowned golf courses
  • A range of cuisine, including top-notch Mexican
  • Safe for a city of its size
  • Plenty of lodging options for every budget


  • A car is a requirement
  • Summers are hot and dry (which some enjoy!)
  • The shopping is good (particularly in the Foothills neighborhood), but it can't compare to Scottsdale or Phoenix

What It's Like

The second largest city in Arizona, "Old Pueblo" (as Tucson is also known) is Phoenix' less-developed, more naturally beautiful sister. Tucson was founded in 1775, replacing the Native American village that was once there; though it has evolved into a relatively modern metropolis, it has managed to maintain much of its history and outdoorsy appeal. Downtown is surrounded by several historic districts, and the entire city is dotted with vast national parks.

The weather gets very hot during the summer months, and most visitors prefer to visit Tucson in the winter and spring, when temperatures are milder. The sun is almost always shining in Tucscon -- for all but around 15 days a year. Tourists can hang by the pool, walk around the historic districts, golf at the numerous world-renowned courses, and check out the cacti at Saguaro National Park. Tucson is known as one of the country's top spa destinations, and is home to a number of luxury wellness retreats.

Most cities are centered around their downtown area, but not Tucson; in fact, Downtown Tucson can get rather desolate at night, and few spend significant time there, except for work. It's worth a visit, as are the nearby historic districts, but to really see Tucson you need to explore its natural attractions -- which requires a car. Catalina Highway, located to the northeast of the city and named for the majestic mountains, follows a trail from the cacti-laden desert to the pine tree-dotted hills. In western Tucson, visitors can experience a taste of the wild west; this is where the Old Tucson Studios are located (where old Westerns were filmed), as well as the snake-shaped Diamondback Bridge (designed to resemble a rattlesnake), and Tucson Mountain Park, with gorgeous desert scenery. To the east of Tucson is the Rincon Mountain district of Saguaro National Park, featuring more desert trails and hiking.

Where To Stay

The downtown area is compact and easy to explore by foot, but unless you're in Tucson for business, you may not want to stay there (it gets desolate at night and there are few dining and lodging options). Instead, most visitors stay in the eastern area of Tucson, which is home to numerous hotels, restaurants, and the Rincon Mountain district of Saguaro National Park. There are a range of lodging options throughout the area, from resorts to budget hotels to historic inns.

Golfers and shoppers may prefer to stay in the Foothills neighborhood, an affluent area home to top-notch shops, renowned golf courses, and gorgeous views. Though the summer months can be hot, the hotel prices drop drastically, saving off-season tourists a significant amount of cash.

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