Tested Travel has visited Tucson many times. Every season holds its own wonderful opportunities. With an annual average of nearly 200 days of sunshine, every day can be an outdoor day in Tucson! With incredible desert and mountain terrains and world-class museums, Tucson has something for everyone!
Places to Stay: Tucson is a university, convention, and resort town. As such, there are lots and lots of great places to stay. Tested Travel particularly likes the Lodge on the Desert.
Eats: As a university and tourist town, there are lots and lots of good restaurants in Tucson. We've highlighted a few of our favorites.
Probably the most distinctive cuisine in Tucson is Sonoran-style Mexican food. Arizona shares a border with the Mexican state of Sonora. Two local products of this region -- wheat and cattle--and the dry dessert peppers highly influence the dishes. While corn tortillas can be found, the paper-thin flour tortilla that is cooked on a griddle is more typical. The high quality, local beef is prepared in many dishes including carne asada, machca, and al carbon. In our review of El Charro we highlight dried beef (or carne seca) which is a real delight.
Good to Knows: These are a few tidbits that are just helpful (or fun) to know!
Getting There: Tucson has an international airport located about 20 minutes from downtown. With 8 airlines flying to/from 19 destinations nonstop, getting there is pretty easy. Also note that the Phoenix airport is about 2 hours and 15 minutes away. In a pinch, you can fly into Phoenix and take a shuttle or rent a car.
Getting Around: While there are busses, the easiest way to get around Tucson is by car. In recent years, Tucson has put in a terrific light rail line that connects the University of Arizona to the 4th Street shopping and dining area, to downtown and the convention center. Click here for more information on the light rail.
Tucson is also exceptionally bike friendly. According to bicycling.com, Tucson is one of the top bike-friendly cities in the US. Tucson boasts hundreds of miles of single-striped bike lanes and paved paths, including the 100-mile Loop trail network that connects the city.
Tucson makes a great home base for day trips around Southern Arizona and Mexico. Here are some of Tested Travel's favorite day trips:
- Mount Lemmon -- the large mountain outside of town, Mount Lemmon is both nearby and a whole different world! Mount Lemmon has a summit elevation of 9,159 feet and is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Going from the desert floor to over 9,000 feet you pass through lots of different ecosystems -- from desert cacti to tall pines. And the temperature change! It can be 30 degrees cooler at the top of the mountain. Interesting fact: Part of the highway that travels up Mount Lemmon was built by Japanese internment camp workers in the 1940s.
- Tombstone -- located 1 hour 15 minutes from Tucson, Tombstone is a restored wild west town and home of the O.K. Corral (where daily gunfights are re-enacted).
- Bisbee -- located 1 hour and 40 minutes from Tucson, Bisbee is a former copper mining boom town (you can still visit the mine on a tour narrated by a former mine worker!) that now boasts an active artists community.
- Nogales -- located 1 hour and 15 minutes from Tucson, Nogales is the border town on both the United States and Mexican sides of the border. With proper ID you can drive or walk across the border. Great shopping and good restaurants can be found on the Mexico side.
When in Tucson, you should try to get out into the desert for a hike. This is really easy given that Tucson is surrounded by desert. A few things to be aware of:
- Always, always, always bring water. Even on cool days, the dry desert air can leave you dehydrated quickly. On warm days, lack of water can be deadly.
- Don't walk backwards in the desert! This old saying is as true as they come. All kinds of spiky and sharp things (read cacti) and spiky and sharp animals (read scorpions, snakes, and tarantulas) can get you from behind! You always want to see where you are going.