Tucson: Variety, Sunshine, And Individuality
Tucson is a city located in the Sonoran desert in Arizona. It is a city that is filled with artwork, culture, nature, and a variety of unique, individually owned stores and restaurants. Most of the year Tucson is sunny and warm. In the summer (late June through August) the temperatures sore and humidity rises as monsoon season occurs. This is one of the few times of year that it is terribly uncomfortable outside. In the months that Tucson blesses visitors with beautiful weather, tourists can visit a huge variety of outdoor attractions and parks. Once monsoon season begins or during any unusually cold or rainy times, visitors can head inside to any of a variety of museums or head out to one of the areas caves or caverns.
I visit all of the places that have been included in this hub on a regular basis when I visit Tucson Arizona. I recommend all of them!
Click on the links included in the descriptions to go to the websites that go with the locations.
Where To Eat
Tucson is filled with a number of independent restaurants that have amazing food. There are a few that I try to stop at every time I visit Tucson Arizona.
Beyond Bread Locations
Beyond Bread is a bakery and restaurant in Tucson. They sell sandwiches, soup, salad, artisan macaroni and cheese, artisan bread, pastries, pretzels, cookies, omelets, and french toast. They are open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and anything in between and have a large menu. The one on Speedway is almost always busy no matter when you go in. The salads and sandwiches are huge and will fill almost any appetite. A bonus is the bread samples that are always out. Beyond Bread provides guests with samples of a variety of their fresh baked breads at every store. Guests can walk up to the sample case, pick out a slice, add some butter and try out a variety of breads. Beyond Bread makes wonderful sourdough bread. In fact, most of the bread that they sell is some form of sourdough. It is wonderful and crusty. My favorite is Rustic, a white sourdough with added sesame seeds. Try the breakfast menu, the deserts, and the regular sandwich menu. You won't be disappointed, even on multiple visits!
Tip: If you fly out to Tucson, Arizona I recommend stopping at Beyond Bread before your return flight. Due to the consistency of their bread, their sandwiches pack very well, especially the plain meat and cheese ones. A sandwich, chips or carrots, and a cookie will be a wonderful treat on your return flight (and much better than any airline food).
Millie's Pancake Haus Location
Millie's Pancake Haus
Need a pancake or two while you are in Tucson Arizona? One of the best places to visit is Millie's Pancake Haus. Millie's is decorated in a country theme. They serve breakfast and lunch. There are some unique items on the menu. The Bohemian Pancakes are amazing. You will get a fluffy, somewhat salty pancake stack topped with handmade apricot sauce. The menu includes a number of other types of pancakes, crepes, potato pancakes, eggs and other standard breakfast fare. The menu at Millie's Pancake Haus also includes soups, salads, and sandwiches. Millie's Pancake Haus is located on Tucson's east side (not far from the east side Beyond Bread) and is open Tuesday to Sunday: 6:30 am-2:00 pm.
Tip: Looking for a standard breakfast menu on Easter morning? Millie's Pancake Haus is open for business with their standard hours and menu. Bohemian pancakes are a great way to start your Easter.
El Charro Locations
El Charro is the oldest mexican restaurant in the United States. The first El Charro opened in Tucson Arizona in 1922 and is located near downtown in a historic house that was built in 1890. El Charro now has five locations including the original one located in Tucson's Presidio district. The Presidio location is still in the original historic house. It is filled with eclectic Southwestern decoration and includes an attractive outdoor patio area, gift store, and a coffee house. The menu includes all of the classic mexican menu items and includes flan and friend ice cream. The meal is served with El Charro's unique salsa and all you can eat chips.
Tip: Don't like spicy foods? El Charro is for you. Many people think of Mexican food as being spicy but El Charro is not. Ask your waiter for suggestions on what to eat. You will find that very little on the menu is spicy.
Places To Visit In Tucson Arizona
Here is a list of some of the must see locations in Tucson. When you are outside in Tucson you may want to bring along water, a hat, sunblock, some good walking shoes, and of course, a camera. Find a map to all of the locations under the descriptions.
Sabino Canyon is one of the few places in Tucson Arizona in which you will find natural water and forest. It is a canyon with running water that stretches down through the mountains. Visitors to Sabino Canyon pay a fee to access the tram. The tram takes riders into the canyon. Riders can ride up and down the canyon as many times as they like for the one day fee as long as they stay within the canyon. The tram includes a narrated tour. Riders can remain on the tram for the entire trip or can disembark at any of a number of stops within the canyon and then pick up a ride on a different tram at a later time. Visitors to Sabino Canyon can stick to walking the main, paved trail that the tram follows or they can walk more technical trails that are in the woods and hills of Sabino Canyon. Sabino Canyon is very beautiful. There is plentiful shade throughout the canyon so it is a nice oasis even on hot, sunny days.
Tip: There is a swimming hole type area in one part of Sabino Canyon. If you like to get wet, or have kids, bring swim clothes or wading shoes.
The Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente Park is one of the Pima County parks in Tucson Arizona. It is a small, hidden park oasis near Arizona's east side. There is no cost to visit the park. It is a fairly quiet corner of Arizona and is very pretty and relaxing. The park has a small stream and a pond that were originally fed by an underground spring. The recent drought has meant that Pima County has had to assist the spring with additional ground water. The park also includes two other seasonal ponds that occasionally hold overflow from the main pond. There are picnic tables and benches scattered throughout the park. Visitors are allowed to bring in their own food. There is a small gift store and visitor center that have different schedules throughout the week based on season. Check the website for current hours. Also, on weekends, the park offers discovery packs that can be checked out from the visitor center and include information on the plants and animals that can be found in the park. Many people are surprised to find the park filled with a variety of turtles and ducks as one doesn't expect these critters in the desert.
Tip: There are no playgrounds at this park but children love this part due to the fish and turtles that can be found in the ponds.
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is actually two parks; one located east of Tucson and the other located west of Tucson. My favorite is Saguaro National Park East. The visitor centers at both locations have information about the Sonoran Desert, local flora and fauna, and of course, the saguaro cactus. There are hundreds of tall Saguaros throughout both parks. They are nothing like the pictures that many people think of when they imagine a Saguaro cactus. They are as tall as trees, growing in rock rather than sand, and they stand like watchmen all over the mountainsides surrounding Tucson Arizona. Both the East and West sections of park have a loop that can be driven in private cars. The loops are both wonderful scenic drives. Look on the National Park Services web site to find directions for the drives.
Gates Pass And Tucson Mountain Park
One of the most breathtaking sites in Tucson Arizona is Gates Pass located within Tucson Mountain Park. Gates pass overlooks a valley just outside Tucson. It faces west and is a popular place to watch the sunset as it sinks below the mountains. There are plenty of saguaro and ocatillo at Gates Pass. It is also very close to the western Saguaro National Park. While at Gates Pass visitors can climb up the rocky hills that make up the edges of the local mountains. The short climbs are worth it as it gives the opportunity to see further off into the valley. Often, there are a number of wildflowers along the sides of the trails and parking lots.
Tip: It is often very windy at gates pass. Plan to hold onto your hat. Also, bring your camera. If you want to see the sunset at Gates Pass get there early as parking spots fill up quickly.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a zoological park and botanical garden located right in the middle of the Sonora Desert. It is a must see. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is one of the best displays of animals in the country. It is home to over 300 species of animals, 1,200 types of plants, 2 miles of trails, and around 21 acres of desert scenery. It will give you the opportunity to see the animals that live in and around Tucson Arizona. Each visit at the museum is a bit different. Like most zoos, it is outside. The animals are all displayed in their natural habitats. This means that many of the animals will find shelter during the heat of the afternoon. Look carefully at the exhibits as many of the animals can be found with a good eye.
Tip: Make sure to take sunblock, water, a hat, sunglasses, and walking shoes. Much of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is out in the sun of the open desert.
Places To Visit In Tucson
Mission San Xavier Del Bac
San Xavier del Bac is a beautiful mission location south of Tucson Arizona on the Tohono O'odham reservation. The mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. It is the oldest european building in Arizona. The mission is still in use. The mission is open to visitors Monday-Friday 8:30-5:00. This schedule works around the masses that San Xavier del Bac continues to offer. The mission includes a small museum and a number of tents in which Tohono O'odham people sell crafts. In addition to crafts, visitors can partake of a wonderful treat that is rarely seen off of a reservation: fry bread. Make a point to have fry some bread while at the mission. The fry bread is great. I have been known to drive to San Xavier del Bac solely to purchase fry bread from one of the Tohono O'odham stands.
Tip: Unlike the rest of Arizona, reservations observe daylight savings time. The Tohono O'odham reservation follows this tradition so check your watch during daylight savings season. The reservation will be an hour later.
Bookstores And Unique Shopping In Tucson
Every time I am in Tucson, Arizona I make a point to visit Bookmans bookstore. Bookmans is a very large used bookstore. It also sells some used musical equipment, electronics, games, videos, music, and household goods.
Another neat place to visit is 4th Avenue. 4th Avenue is a strip of "hippy" independent stores and small restraunts near downtown Tucson Arizona. There is a trolley that services 4th Ave. 4th Avenue is also home to a nifty little independent bookstore, Antigone. Antigone has a number of wonderful books as well as some neat, artsy gifts. Lastly, if you are in Tucson Arizona at the right time, visit the 4th Avenue Street Fair, a huge arts show where visitors can see and purchase art from hundreds of vendors.
Bookstores And Unique Shopping In Tucson
Places To Visit Near Tucson
Other Neat Places Near Tucson Arizona
There are a couple of other places that are neat and very close to Tucson Arizona.
First, there is a very nice lake at Patagonia State Park. Patagonia State Park is nestled in rolling hills to the west of Tucson. It is an area that looks very different from Tucson. There are no saguaros. Instead the landscape is covered with grass and smooth, rolling hills. There is a beach, boating, trails, and picnic areas as the park. Heading to or from Patagonia State Park, head over to Sonoita. Sonoita is 4,987 feet above sea level and is surrounded by grasslands. There are a number of ranches surrounding Sonoita. In Sonoita you will find a quaint little town with restaurants and small stores that are a pleasure to walk through.
If you are looking for more shopping and small restaraunts, head over to the Tubac Presidio State Park and the artist colony city of Tubac. There are a number of small restaurants and a wealth of stores with tourist merchandise, artwork, items for home decorating, and more.
- Tucson Guide Magazine - 101 Things to Do in Tucson and Southern Arizona. Tucson Events.
Tucson Guide Magazine is always waiting in my hotel room when I visit Tucson Arizona. It is very useful and is a great way to find out additional fun activities and yummy restaraunts.
John R Wilsdon from Superior, Arizona on September 20, 2013:
I live in Superior, Arizona now. However, Tucson was my home for 45 years, and I have visited all the places you mention. Bookman's on Speedway, too, was a favorite hangout. Tucson has so much to offer. I still visit the sites of Tucson when I visit to see my daughter. Looking forward to gold prospecting at some sites near Tucson. Think I will pass on the cave as I am a bit claustrophobic (but Colossal Ave is OK). Always enjoy your hubs. Thanks for the memories!
Lena Welch (author) from USA on April 19, 2012:
According to Sperlings Best Places, Tucson Arizona's cost of living is 6.2% lower than the average cost of living across the country. (http://www.bestplaces.net/city/arizona/tucson) One of the big reasons for this is utilities costs. They are a lot lower in Tucson. I would guess that this is due to the weather. Many people do not have air conditioning, just a swamp cooler. It may be less to run than AC. Also, there is very little winter heating that is needed.
Maxine Durand from Idaho on April 18, 2012:
Very nice looking place to live. What's the overall cost of living like? Great article, I hope to see more like this one.