Nearly 360 days of sunshine, incredible sunsets, mild winters—what more could you ask for in a city (especially when you’re post-call!)?
Tucson offers the best of both worlds—a vibrant city of 1 million people surrounded by the unsurpassable natural beauty of the Sonoran desert. Tucson has everything you’d want in a metropolitan city—a wide variety of restaurants (some of the best Mexican food north of the border!), a strong performing arts community, a thriving music scene, and many sporting events, yet the laid-back, relaxed lifestyle of a small town. Due to its unique blend of Native American, Spanish, Mexican-American, and Anglo-American influences, Tucson has a rich cultural heritage, apparent throughout the city’s architecture, public art, music, and festivals.
- Arizona Sonora Desert Museum– a world-renowned zoo and botanical garden with plants and animals unique to the Sonoran Desert. Also offers unique experiences such as looking at caves and minerals.
- Biosphere 2: Built to research and develop self-sustaining space-colonization technology, Biosphere 2 is now open to the public for tours. Currently, the facility serves as a tool to support research aimed at quantifying some of the consequences of global climate change.
- All Souls Procession: Tucson’s All Souls Procession organizes over 10,000 participants on the streets of downtown Tucson for a two-mile long, human-powered procession that ends in the finalizing action of burning a large urn filled with the hopes, offerings and wishes for those who have passed. Inside the event are myriads of installation art, altars, performers, and creatives of all kinds.
- Tucson Gem & Mineral Show: The acclaimed Tucson Gem and Mineral Show™ is held every year on the second full week of February. It has set the standard for gem and mineral shows around the world, and is now the largest gem show in the United States.
- Tucson Rodeo & La Fiesta de los Vaqueros: The Tucson Rodeo Parade is billed as the world’s longest non-motorized parade. This two-hour spectacle features western-themed floats and buggies, historic horse-drawn coaches, festive Mexican folk dancers, marching bands and outfitted riders. The Tucson Rodeo gives visitors an opportunity to see real-life cowboys and cowgirls display their skills.
- Kitt Peak National Observatory: Located 56 miles southwest of Tucson, this is one of the largest national observatories in the world with tours of their telescopes and stargazing.
- San Xavier Mission: One of the original Spanish Missions built in the United States
Hiking: Tucson is a hiker’s heaven with year-round hiking available and many trails only 30 minutes away (so you can even hike post-call!). Four mountain ranges surround Tucson—the Santa Catalinas, the Tucson Mountains, the Rincon Mountains, and the Santa Rita Mountains, all with a myriad of trails, from easy to strenuous.
Sabino Canyon: Located in the foothills of the Santa Catalinas, this is a great place to go for a jog, leisurely walk, or a good introduction to hiking in the Catalinas.
Catalina State Park: Also located in the Santa Catalina mountains, this state park offers unique desert plant life, canyons, hills, streams, and even grassy areas (which can be hard to come by in Tucson). You may even cross paths with a few people going on trails horseback.
Mount Lemmon: At over 9,000 feet, Mt. Lemmon is a refreshing destination during the hot summer months and a place to possibly play in the snow or ski during the winter. There are many camping and hiking opportunities along the 25 mile Catalina Highway to the top.
Biking: Tucson is one of only eight cities in the U.S. to receive a gold rating or higher for friendliness to cycling from the League of American Bicyclists. With flat roads and many bike lanes, it is easy to bike around the city and some residents even bike to work. For serious cyclists, there are the annual El Tour de Tucson and Tour of the Tucson Mountains races, and trails abound for those who love mountain biking. There is also a Tucson bike share system through Tugo with 36 different locations to make your commute that much easier and healthier.
Climbing: Mount Lemmon has more than 1,200 climbing routes, making it one of the most popular climbing locations in AZ. “Squeezing the Lemmon” by local author Eric Fazio-Richard is a favorite guide for climbers.
Parks: Tucson has over 120 parks and 5 public golf courses.
Arizona Sonora Desert Museum– a world-renowned zoo and botanical garden with plants and animals unique to the Sonoran Desert.
Saguaro National Park– home to the finest saguaro cactus forest in the world. The saguaro cactus is unique to the southwest and northern Arizona.
Sports: The University of Arizona Wildcats sports teams, especially men's basketball and women's softball, are local and often national favorites to watch. There’s also local ice hockey if you want to take a break from the heat. In addition to attending events, you can also participate in sports with multiple local leagues for sports such as tennis and soccer. Multiple large gyms, pools, and country clubs can be joined across the city. There’s also zip lining in Oro Valley north of the city and is one of the unique desert zip lines in the world.
Arts: Tucson has a thriving arts community with theater, opera, ballet, and symphony. The Tucson Arts District Partnership lies in the heart of downtown Tucson and includes the Tucson Music Hall, the Tucson Convention Center, and the Temple of Music and Art. Tucson's Arizona Theatre Company, the leading professional theater company in the state, has received national recognition. Its productions range from the classics to recent Broadway hits.
The award-winning Tucson Symphony Ochestra offers a nine-month season of classical music. The Arizona Opera makes Tucson its home, performing a standard repertoire along with less-frequently performed works. Dance lovers can see performances of Ballet Arizona, which is based in Tucson. The "UA Presents" series at The University of Arizona Centennial Hall brings a variety of performances and groups throughout the year.
Many contemporary art galleries and the Tucson Museum of Art are concentrated in central downtown Tucson.
The Center for Creative Photography: Houses one of the most comprehensive photographic collections in the world, offers temporary exhibitions from its collections and elsewhere. And it’s free! The University of Arizona also offers the Arizona State Museum and the University of Arizona Museum of Art. The former of which has unique Southwestern artifacts and the latter displays art spanning the Renaissance to the 20th century.
De Grazia Gallery in the Sun: A unique gallery of local artist Ted De Grazia’s Native-American and Southwest-influenced art.
Local bands can be heard throughout the city most every night of the week . In September and October, the Tucson Pops Orchestra offers “Pops in the Park”, free weekly performances under the stars at Reid Park. During the summer, “Cinema La Placita, an outdoor film series, takes place downtown. Year round, The Loft Cinema is a great venue for art films - independent, foreign, alternative and classic narrative films and documentaries.
Links to more downtown events:
Food: Tucson has been named a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy since 2015 due to its unique focus on Sonoran food, sustainable food production, and encouraging healthy eating. Tucson not only excels with creative Mexican food options but also features French, Italian, Neo-American, Ethiopian and Southern cuisine. There is also an increasingly inspired and authentic Asian food scene including Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese food. From upscale dining to colorful food trucks, there is a lot to explore in this foodie’s delight of a city. In addition, Tucson has many local bakeries and ice cream parlors for a sweet treat as well as a growing number of vegan and vegetarian restaurants. The downtown area, 4th Avenue area, and University area each have a concentration of restaurants and are good places to start if you’re new to the city in search of food.Tucson Foodie a local blog covering Tucson’s food scene, updated daily
Shop/Fun: Tucson has many shopping malls including the upscale La Encantada mall, mall complexes such as El Con, and large indoor malls such as Tucson Mall and Park Place Mall. There’s also an outlet mall in Marana, north of the city. Large multiplex theaters such as Century and AMC are also sprinkled across the city and include IMAX theaters. There is indoor recreational fun to be had at places like TopGolf, Cobra arcade bar in downtown, and Funtasticks Family Park. All major grocery and retail stores can also be found in Tucson. The downtown area has a vibrant but laidback nightlife scene and the Tucson street car offers a public transportation option to go between high traffic areas near downtown and the university.
Day/Weekend Trips: There are plenty of great weekend getaways all within driving distance. The Phoenix metropolitan area is only a 1.5 to 2-hour drive from Tucson depending on which part of this urban sprawl you want to visit. Phoenix is the 5th largest metropolitan area in the country and probably has anything you can’t find in Tucson including famous 5-star resorts for a quick getaway. Mexico is only 1 hour away—drive to border town Nogales for margaritas, authentic Mexican food, and great shopping for hand-made Mexican ceramics, tiles, and art. The closest beach to Tucson is actually in Mexico at Rocky Point, Mexico. It is about a 4 hour drive from Tucson and you can enjoy beaches, fresh seafood, and luxurious resorts for affordable prices.
Other charming historic towns include:
Within driving distance are also San Diego (6 hours), Los Angeles (7-8 hours), and Las Vegas (6 hours).
Tucson Airport has nonstop flights to cities such as San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, and Atlanta along with one-stop connections to international flights.
For more information about Tucson, please visit www.visittucson.org.