I have traveled to about 20 different countries and am just shy of visiting half of the United States. What I love more than anything is planning my itinerary for different trips. You can call me the queen of weekend traveling if you must because most of the time I spend one to two days in each place I visit. With this in mind I wanted to start a series in which I plan & share a weekend adventure to different cities I have been to around the world with you.
With this being the first post in the series what better place to start with than my hometown: Tucson, Arizona. So let’s dive right in!
Picture this: it’s a Friday evening and your plane just landed at Tucson International Airport. You step outside the airport waiting for your Uber. You feel the warm desert air on your cheeks and an array of saguaro cactus are standing tall waiting to greet you. You hop into your Uber; the windows are rolled down, as you soak in the desert air on your way to the hotel. You can’t help but notice the mountains in the north towering over the valley while the sun sets in the west casting a golden glow across the city.
It sounds beautiful, right? Well trust me it is, and I am here to tell you how to enjoy every minute of your stay in the great city of Tucson, Arizona.
Tucson is a beautiful city two hours south of Phoenix and two hours north of the Mexico border. The city itself is nestled within four mountain ranges. Tucson is home to the U of A where the beloved Wildcats play; “Bear Down” is a common slogan you’ll hear the natives chant. While there are definitely Tucson natives, a lot of the population is transient; as “snowbirds” tend to flock the city in the winter months to avoid the winter in their states. The city is also heavily influenced by Mexican culture as Tucson is the largest city closest to the border. This also means Tucson houses some of the best Mexican cuisine in the country.
Tucson has a great selection of places to stay. The two places that I would recommend the most are Loews Ventana Canyon Resort & Tanque Verde Ranch. I am partial to Loews ultimately because I grew up going there, and I know most of the staff because my sister worked there for a number of years. Both hotels offer very different experiences so depending on what you are looking to get out of your stay will help aid your decision. Loews offers a laid back resort like stay with their immaculate poolside service. Not to mention the proximity to the mountain with an on property waterfall and waterfront that runs underneath the hotel. I can’t say enough good things about Ventana Canyon and their property; it is absolutely gorgeous. The views. The service. Everything is top notch.
However, on the other hand if you are looking for a more cowboy authentic stay in Tucson I would recommend Tanque Verde Ranch. Tanque Verde Ranch houses a working dude ranch as well as providing guests with a luxury & authentic stay. The hotel does offer an all inclusive package that includes horseback riding, mountain biking, guided hiking, three meals a day, and much more. This property is also absolutely gorgeous. The hotel is settled a ways back into the mountain away from downtown. The location makes it great for stargazing and enjoying your time soaking up the desert sun. I would recommend this lodging to the traveler who wants their stay to be made easy for them. A stay where you don’t have to venture far from the hotel and guides can point you in the right direction of places and things to visit. If this is the route you choose to take that’s great, but I’m still going to recommend what I believe is the best two day getaway in Tucson.
Tucson is a big outdoors city, as is much of Arizona; so it would only be right to start off your time there with a hike. Tucson has a huge hiking community and there are hundreds of trails and parks to choose from. There is Catalina State Park, the Ventana Canyon Trailhead, Reddington Pass, and more! Tucked away in the north-east corner of Tucson lives Sabino Canyon which is a must see if visiting. Only minutes away from Loews Ventana Canyon, this is a perfect place for newcomers to explore the desert mountains and vegetation. There are a variety of trails depending on your skill level. If you are just looking to see the desert scapes without the commitment of a long strenuous hike you can take the tram or walk up the main road running through the canyon. The tram provides an educational guided tour through the canyon, and is perfect for those traveling with young kids or older folks. There are also a number of lower skill level trails such as the Bajada Loop Trail. But if you are an experienced hiker, and are looking for a thrill you should definitely check out the Phone-line Trail or hike up to 7 Falls and take a swim in one of the natural pools. Wherever you choose to hike just make sure you bring plenty of water with you because dehydration is very real out in the desert heat.
Once you’ve experienced the desert it’s time to head over to downtown Tucson to absorb the culture of the city. Downtown Tucson is relatively small compared to the capital city, Phoenix. Instead downtown Tucson is incredibly artsy and is filled with local artisan stores and trendy restaurants & bars. Your best bet is to park close to Fourth Ave and explore the shops from there. You’ll find local boutiques like Creations Boutique and Tucson’s iconic store Hippie Gypsy. There is a lot to explore in downtown which makes it perfect for an afternoon adventure. If you find yourself getting hungry some of the best places for food are Lindy’s Burgers and The Hub!
Moving right on into the evening it’s time to head over to Tucson’s most sought after locations: Mt. Lemmon. Mt. Lemmon is the pride and joy of the city and locals escape from the heat in the hot summer months. So what better way to experience it than at sunset, but before you head up the mountain you have to grab Tucson’s own Eegees. Eegees is a chain restaurant that is native to Tucson, and there they serve subs and their iconic “Eegees” which are similar to water ice. The best way to experience Mt. Lemmon is with a sunset picnic at Windy Point. Soak in the scenery and watch the saguaro cactus disappear before you as you climb in elevation. And don’t forget to take pictures of the city scape as the sun is setting!
It’s day two of your weekend in Tucson. With all of the activities you have planned for your stay it’s best if you get a big breakfast in, and what a better place than Tucson’s Baja Cafe. Baja Cafe features delicious southwest authentic breakfast. Known for their famous Snickerdoodle pancakes, they also serve an array of different breakfast burritos and much more!
After breakfast, this is the perfect time to check out the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum! While Tucson’s wildlife is incredibly active, it’s not guaranteed that you will see much of it on just one weekend. The Desert Museum houses all of the local flora and fauna of the area, and you will have the chance to see javelina and mountain lions in authentic habitats. This is perfect for people who enjoy learning about the places they travel to.
However, if you are not super into museums that’s okay! Take the afternoon to spend like a local and go swimming. Take advantage of the pool at the hotel of your choosing! If you do end up finding yourself at Loews Ventana Canyon make sure to take advantage of their poolside service and restaurant Bills Grill.
As the evening approaches, it is time for another adventure! Your trip to Tucson would not be complete without horseback riding. If you decided to lodge at Tanque Verde Ranch this activity is super convenient for you because there is horseback riding on property! However, if you stayed elsewhere there are plenty of other ranches that provide scenic trail rides. One of which is near and dear to my heart, no pun intended, Heart of the Horse Ranch. This is where I boarded my horses for years, but they also provide scenic trail rides to the public as well. No trip to Tucson would be complete without experiencing the way of the cowboys in the southwest!
To end the night check out some Tucson’s best restaurants and bars. Some of my favorite restaurants around the city include: Culinary Dropout, Risky Business, & Serial Grillers. Tucson is home to great selection of restaurants and you really can’t go wrong with any choice. Tucson has something for anyone whether that be classic American food, Mexican cuisine, or anything else you can imagine. All the while, the restaurants that I named provide visitors with a fun and energetic atmosphere perfect for a night out!
That concludes your weekend in Tucson, Arizona. I hope you enjoyed this blog post, and if you ever find yourself visiting Tucson you find this itinerary helpful. In my next weekend getaway post I will be writing about a weekend in the city of Philadelphia.