Editor's note: Tucson Guide's "101 Things to Do" are listed in no particular order. All information given here was accurate at press time. You may want to phone for confirmation prior to visiting these attractions.
Casino Del Sol/ Casino of the Sun
Slot machines and table games at Casino Del Sol
energy, and the entertainment options multiply from there. People-watch at the
elevated bar in the middle of all the action. Get dressed up for dinner and a
show. Or make it an overnighter and luxuriate at the spa.
Desert Diamond Casinos & Ent.
You can bet on fun at Tucson and Sahuarita's Desert Diamond Casino
. From slots and blackjack to bingo and poker, this place offers games galore. Gambling not your thing? A nightclub, restaurants, and a hotel are other offerings on the table. Owned and operated by the Tohono O'odham Nation, Desert Diamond Casino's two locations are conveniently located within an easy drive of Tucson.
Tucson Visitor Center
You'll find tasty takes on traditional Mexican dishes in
many parts of the US--think Tex-Mex or Baja styles--but for autentico flavors from south of the border, there's no place like Tucson. Within the boundaries of our
metropolis, great Mexican chow-down spots are concentrated in a roughly 23-square-mile
radius (yes, there are geeks who measured this). We all have our favorites.
If you disagree with mine, I'm happy to discuss the matter over a cerveza or margarita.
O.K. Corral Gunfight SiteO.K. Corral Gunfight Site
, located southeast of Tucson in
Tombstone, is home to what is generally regarded as the most famous gunfight in
the history of the American Old West. The fight took place on October 26, 1881,
between Doc Holliday, the Earp Brothers, McLaurays, and Clantons, and has since
come to represent a time in American history when the
frontier was an open range for outlaws roaming the vast West.
World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship
Golfing is a year-round sport in the temperate climate of
Southern Arizona. The World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play
every February gathers the world's 64 top golfers to The Ritz-Carlton, Dove
Mountain, located north of Tucson in Marana. This five-day tournament (plus two
practice days), February 17-23, features an $8 million purse and a fundraiser
to benefit the Tucson Conquistadores and the First Tee program.
Tucson Attractions PassportSouthern Arizona
is home to some of the best attractions in the state. With historic sites and museums, nature parks, shops, arts, and entertainment, the region entices visitors to this unique region. Purchase an Attractions Passport
, good at at local attractions throughout the region, including Tucson, Oro Valley, Marana, Tombstone, Bisbee, and Green Valley. This handy guidebook includes 2-for-1 deals and discounts. The Southern Arizona Attractions Alliance
website features maps and an events calendar
Mini Time Machine Museum
Experience a wonderful charm-filled world at the Mini Time
, a fantastical museum in midtown Tucson. Discover
intricate details in the more than 275 miniature houses and room boxes--all part
of the museum founder's extraordinary 30-year collection
. For adults and
kids alike, this museum offers a unique experience--the only one of its kind in
Queen Mine Tours
Experience cooler temperatures as you delve below ground and become a miner for a day in Bisbee's 47-degree caves, 90 miles southeast of Tucson. The Queen Mine Tour
--a fun, safe, and authentic mining tour--offers five trips daily (each are 75 minutes long), and reservations are recommended
City of Bisbee
Nestled 90 miles southeast of Tucson, Bisbee
mbines a laid-back atmosphere with old-world charm. Visitors to this former mining town savor Bisbee's unique allure--a blend of creativity (check out the art galleries), friendliness (converse with locals in Brewery Gulch), romance (stay at a quaint B&B or historic hotel), and annual events (like the Bisbee 1000 stair climb)--in the intriguing Mule Mountains
FAMILY FUN CENTERS
Pack up the kids and head out the door, because Arizona is perfect for enjoying the great American pastimes of miniature golf, bumper boats, batting cages, go-carts, and video arcades. Visit Funtasticks Family Fun Park at 221 E. Wetmore Rd. (520-888-4653) or Golf N' Stuff at 6503 E. Tanque Verde Rd. (520-885-3569).
Are you brave enough to venture into Southern Arizona's abandoned mines and caves, deserted warehouses and buildings, and through forgotten headstones and overgrown cemeteries in search of lost souls? Arizona Ghost Tours (520-432-3308, arizonaghosttours.net) leads visitors through historic mining areas, frontier communities, railroad towns, and Wild West camps from Bisbee to Tucson in search of spirits that once called the area home.
THE ART OF GLASS
Glassblowing—it's an incredible art requiring precision timing and scorching temperatures. Many local galleries feature a wide range of beautiful glass creations, including Obsidian Gallery (520-577-3598), Skyline Gallery (520-615-3800), and Philabaum Glass Gallery & Studio (520-884-7404). Learn how to make your own glass art at The Sonoran Glass Art Academy (520-884-7814).
The jolly ol' man himself makes a scheduled stop at the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum at the historic train depot in downtown Tucson on Dec. 14. Bend Santa's ear next to the restored 1900s locomotive parked trackside. He'll be there from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with other holiday-themed activities, including a movie screening. Call 520-623-2223 or see tucsonhistoricdepot.org.
A winding uphill drive west on Speedway Blvd. (which becomes Gates Pass Rd.) brings you, at its apex, to Gates Pass—and panoramic views of Tucson to the east and Saguaro National Park to the west. It's a perfect setting for inspiring sunrises, midday contemplation, and romantic sunsets. (It's a favorite ride for bicyclists, too—be aware!)
BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON
Strange things happen when there's a full moon, and Glow, at the town of Oracle, 35 miles north of Tucson, is no exception. Illuminated sculpture, light projections, installations, and live entertainment—including fire dancing—make up the surreal, abstract nighttime experience. Don glow-in-the-dark clothing and carry a flashlight or glow stick during this $10-per-person ($5 for children ages 4–18; free for children younger than 3) event Sept. 28 and 29 from 7 to 11 p.m. at Triangle L Ranch. Drive north on Oracle Rd., which turns into AZ Hwy. 77, and pass the turnoff to the town of Oracle. Take the next left onto Rockcliff Blvd. and look for parking signs. See trianglelranch.com or call 520-623-6732.
CALLING ALL SPORTS FANS
Some of our biggest sports heroes used to play right here in our own backyard. You can explore the extensive history of our favorite athletes at the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame (La Placita Village, 110 S. Church Ave. #6120, 520-406-0742, pcshf.org) and honor the memory of the many outstanding men and women who helped make sports in Pima County shine. Maybe you'll even be inspired to hit one out of the park.
CHOC & AWE
Belgian bittersweet truffles, homemade butter-almond toffee, Western-motif molded chocolates, yuppie sticks, monsoon apples, and pecan buds—all your refined-sugar fantasies come true in Tucson and Southern Arizona's candy stores, including The Chocolate Depot (6541 E. Tanque Verde Rd., 520-886-9203), Sabino Artisan Chocolates (10110 N. Oracle Rd., Ste. 140, 520-989-0466), Chocolate Iguana on 4th (500 N. 4th Ave., 520-798-1211), and Chocolàte (134 Tombstone Canyon Rd., Bisbee, 520-432-3011).
The first taste of Tucson many visitors get is Tucson International Airport—and while it may seem an unlikely place to start, the airport gallery provides an excellent introduction to the local art scene. Over the past few years, the airport has acquired jury-selected pieces by more than 40 area artists. The fine selection does far more than decorate the walls—it adds a sense of place and welcomes travelers to Tucson. For a list of current and upcoming exhibits, see flytucsonairport.com.
The mountain country of southeastern Arizona can keep the backpacker happily busy for a lifetime. The Catalinas, the Santa Ritas, the Rincons, the Santa Teresas, the Tumacacoris, the Huachucas, the Pinaleños, the Chiricahuas—all are virtually in Tucson's backyard. You can find trail and topographic maps at local stores, including Summit Hut (5045 E. Speedway Blvd., 520-325-1554, and 605 E. Wetmore Rd., 520-888-1000) and Tucson Map and Flag?Center (3239 N. 1st Ave., 520-887-4234).
Sing the body electric, trek the wasteland, hear Ginsberg's Howl, or discover a new favorite at the U of A Poetry Center. Established in 1960, this nationally acclaimed literary resource has more than 60,000 books, periodicals, audio/video recordings, and artist-designed and limited-edition books in its exhilarating home at 1508 E. Helen St. Open Mon. and Thurs. 9 a.m.–8 p.m., Tues. and Wed. 9 a.m.–6 p.m., Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m., and Sat. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Phone 520-626-3765 or see poetry.arizona.edu.
Calling all bargain hunters! Two local "thrift-anistas" are on the lookout for daily deals, free or low-cost activities, dining discounts, and more. From complimentary admission at local attractions and historic sites to 2-for-1 restaurant deals, find something that interests you at tucsononthecheap.com.
MAIN GATE SQUARE
Searching for some U of A gear—a hat, T-shirt, or maybe a pair of Wildcat flip-flops? Find collegiate gear and much more at this bustling hub of university students, faculty, visitors, early risers, and night owls who gather at the many coffee shops, restaurants, and pubs after a day of shopping (or studying). Located within walking distance of the museums, sports facilities, and attractions on campus, Main Gate Square (on University Blvd. between Park and Euclid Aves.) features everything from banking and cupcakes to salons, chic clothing, specialty stores, and even a hotel.
Dedicated to promoting positive bicycle use, Bicycle Inter-Community Art & Salvage (BICAS) is a nonprofit community cooperative. In an effort to alert the public about bicycle recycling, awareness, art, and culture, BICAS creates and sells items made out of old bike parts, assists customers with repairs, and offers classes on a range of bicycle-related topics. Don't miss the reconditioned used bikes available for reasonable prices. Located at 44 W. 6th St., 520-628-7950, bicas.org.
You can bet Tucson has its share of casinos. Desert Diamond Casino & Hotel (7350 S. Nogales Hwy., 520-294-7777, ddcaz.com), owned and operated by the Tohono O'odham Nation, deals up live blackjack, slots, bingo, and poker, among other games. Or check out its 2nd area location in Sahuarita at I-19 and Pima Mine Rd. (520-294-7777). Also, Casino of the Sun (7406 S. Camino de Oeste, with a 2nd location, Casino del Sol Resort, at 5655 W. Valencia Rd.; 800-344-9435, casinodelsolresort.com), owned and operated by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, brings a little piece of Vegas to the Old Pueblo, offering live blackjack, video poker, slot machines, bingo, and more. If you're not having any luck with the one-armed bandit, grab something to eat—from Mexican food to prime rib—or catch a show; most casinos offer big-name entertainment. You must be 21 or older to enter any of the casinos.
CATALINA STATE PARK
Just 12 miles north of Tucson on Oracle Rd. (AZ Hwy. 77), this park offers the best views of the canyons, cliffs, domes, and spires on the north side of the Santa Catalina Mountains. White-tailed deer abound. Walk the Romero Ruin Interpretive Trail to the archaeological site of an ancient Hohokam village that was later a Spanish hacienda. Picnicking, camping, biking, and hiking are available. A day pass is $7 per vehicle. Phone 520-628-5798.
FALLING INTO AUTUMN
The changing season typically means piles of fallen leaves, a nip in the air, and fresh-from-the-farm produce. On weekends from Sept. 21–22 to Oct. 26–27, desert dwellers can experience fall at Apple Annie's Produce & Pumpkins in Willcox, 80 miles east of Tucson, offering hayrides, a pumpkin patch, and adventures through Arizona's largest corn maze. A quick 5-mile jaunt down the road leads to Apple Annie's Orchard, with apple trees ripe and heavy for the pickin'. Also enjoy country-style pancake breakfasts, applewood-smoked burgers, homemade baked goods, and much more. Call 520-384-2084 or see appleannies.com for directions and hours.
AND THEY'RE OFF!
Tucson may not be Churchill Downs, but at the Rillito Park Racetrack (4502 N. 1st Ave. at River Rd., 520-293-5011), Tucsonans can enjoy one of the most widely attended sports in the US. Catch the horse races for eight weekends, January through March. Participate in pari-mutuel betting on quarter horses and thoroughbreds from 1 to 5:30 p.m. Between races, dine at the restaurant and bar, or visit the snack bar. Covered grandstand seating is $5; $8 for the clubhouse.
STEP IT UP
Forget StairMaster—get outside and power through a challenging run up and around the mile-high town of Bisbee during this endurance-testing 5k race, Bisbee 1000, The Great Stair Climb. What began as an effort to save Bisbee's 1,000 historic steps has turned into a unique trek through the former mining community south of Tucson. There's also an Ice Man Competition—participants must carry 10-pound blocks of ice up 155 stairs with antique tongs—plus serenading musicians, arts & crafts booths, merchant discounts, and more. It's always held on the 3rd Sat. in Oct.—this year on Oct. 19. See bisbee1000.org for a map, registration details, and other information.
ST. AUGUSTINE CATHEDRAL
Built in 1896 and refurbished in 1968, the cathedral's high interior, tall narrow windows, and sweeping dome of wooden slats are reminiscent of European church architecture. The exterior is a wonderful sight at dawn, dusk, or night. Every Sun. at 8 a.m. the clergy conduct mass accompanied by live mariachi music. Visitors of all faiths are welcome. Located at 192 S. Stone Ave., 520-623-6351.
CAVES & CAVERNS
Cave explorers of all ages and abilities can have a field day in Arizona. Kartchner Caverns State Park, near Benson, has been described as an underground nature preserve. Providing spectacular sights in a football-field-sized room, this living cave also features a 58-foot-tall stone column dubbed "Kubla Khan." Reservations are recommended (520-586-2283, az stateparks.com). Colossal Cave Mountain Park, 17 miles east of Tucson on Old Spanish Trail (520-647-7275), is a cave that has earned its name—it's one of the largest "dry," or dormant, caves in the country. In the 1880s, outlaws sought refuge in the passageways and secret exits, and rumor has it there is hidden treasure within. Coronado Cave, near the Mexican border and part of Coronado National Memorial (520-366-5515), is a more primitive cave, but it's worth the effort to enjoy the cool temperature and calcite formations. Flashlights are required for exploring the cave.
A permanent exhibit at the Arizona State Museum, Paths of Life: American Indians of the Southwest, takes an innovative look at contemporary Native cultures. Located just east of the Main Gate on the U of A campus (at Park Ave. and University Blvd.). Phone 520-621-6302 or visit statemuseum.arizona.edu.
INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE MUSEUM
This natural history museum features more than 400 displays of mammals, birds, and insects from around the world. Interactive computer programs and hands-on exhibits provide educational entertainment. View hourly nature films in the Wildlife Theater, then stop by the Oasis Gift Shop for a souvenir and a snack. Open Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sat.–Sun. 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Located at 4800 W. Gates Pass Rd. (the west end of Speedway Blvd.), 5 miles west of I-10. Visit thewildlifemuseum.org or call 520-629-0100.
Enter the exotic world of more than 500 tropical butterflies at Tucson Botanical Gardens' Butterfly Magic at the Gardens exhibit. Running Oct. 1 through Apr. 30, the exhibit features some 50 different species from such exotic locales as Costa Rica, Kenya, and Thailand. Visitors learn about each species, including the blue morpho butterfly, while strolling through a 1,000-square-foot greenhouse. Open daily 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Admission fee. For more information, call 520-326-9686 or visit tucsonbotanical.org.
Enjoy narrated tours through the place where mammoths roamed, ancient Hohokam people made irrigation dams, pony soldiers discovered swimming holes, and the Civilian Conservation Corps built bridges and cut hiking trails. Trams run daily, with multiple stops, including one at the trailhead of a lovely 5.2-mile round-trip hike to Seven Falls. Evening shuttles run (by reservation) just before each full moon Apr.–June and Sept.–Nov. When there's water in the creek, a round-trip trail from the lower portion takes you up to cool, clear pools. Swim, laze, or play lizard on the rocks. Be sure to stop by the visitors center. Located on N. Sabino Canyon Rd. (520-749-2861). Fees for parking and the tram. Phone ahead for tram schedules and stops.
What better activity for a bibliophile than browsing through Tucson's independent bookstores? The Book Stop (214 N. 4th Ave., 520-326-6661) has thousands of quality used and out-of-print copies, while Bookmans Entertainment Exchange (1930 E. Grant Rd., 520-325-5767; 3733 W. Ina Rd., 520-579-0303; and 6230 E. Speedway Blvd., 520-748-9555) offers a veritable warehouse of used books, magazines, video games, movies, software, and CDs. Antigone Books (411 N. 4th Ave., 520-792-3715) boasts an impressive collection of books by local writers, as well as humorous greeting cards and calendars. Clues Unlimited (3146 E. Ft. Lowell Rd., 520-326-8533) is dedicated almost solely to mysteries, while Mostly Books (6208 E. Speedway Blvd., 520-571-0110) carries everything from audio books and biographies to mysteries and travelogues.
THE MUSICAL ARTS
The Tucson Symphony Orchestra, under Music Director and Conductor George Hanson, continues to delight audiences with its classical, pops, and masterworks series (520-882-8585, tucsonsymphony.org). You won't want to miss the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church and at the Desert View Performing Arts Center in SaddleBrooke (520-308-6226, sasomusic.org). The U of A School of Music also puts on a number of concerts (520-621-2998). The Arizona Early Music Society hosts concerts from the medieval, Renaissance, and baroque periods Mon. afternoons, including preconcert talks, at St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church (520-690-1361 or azearlymusic.org). Arizona Opera (520-293-4336, azopera.org) presents The Flying Dutchman Nov. 23–24.
CROONIN' WITH THE COYOTES
Come on! It doesn't matter whether or not you can sing—karaoke is fun to do and even more fun to watch. A popular form of entertainment for Japanese businesspeople, karaoke was invented 20 years ago in Kobe. The name comes from karappo, meaning "empty," and oke, the abbreviation of okesutura, or "orchestra." Local venues include Margarita Bay (every night, 520-290-8977), Putney's Sports Bar (Wed., Fri., and Sun., 520-575-1767), and The Fort Lowell Depot (Thurs. and Sat. 520-795-8110).
MISSION SAN XAVIER DEL BAC
Called "the White Dove of the Desert," the San Xavier del Bac mission was founded by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino in the late 1600s. The church, built by the Franciscans in the 1700s, is one of the finest examples of Spanish mission architecture in the US. Visitors can enjoy the results of a major restoration, portions of it by experts who restored the Sistine Chapel. Free public tours take place Mon.–Sat. Take I-19 to exit 92, then watch for signs once you get on the Tohono O'odham reservation. Phone 520-294-2624 or see sanxaviermission.org for more information and a mass schedule.
IN A MINER'S SHOES
Walk in the footsteps of a miner by touring a simulated mine, or meander through the many exhibits at Arizona's mining and mineral museums. The Arizona History Museum (520-628-5774) features a mine-shaft replica, and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's Earth Sciences Center (520-883-2702) has an extensive trove of minerals and exhibits. Travel south to Sahuarita and tour the ASARCO Mineral Discovery Center (520-625-7513). A little farther southeast is The Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum (520-432-7071 or 520-432-7698), with mineral collections from prominent pioneer families dating back to the turn of the 20th century. Also in Bisbee, you can check out the Lavender Pit Mine with Lavender Jeep Tours (520-432-5369), or delve beneath the surface with Queen Mine Tours (520-432-2071). If that's not enough, you can explore the enormous collection of minerals at the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum (480-929-0292) in Tempe.
HOLY COMIC BOOKS, BATMAN!
If you're looking to enter a world where good triumphs over evil, a world where the adventures of Superman and Spider-Man come to life on paper, Tucson boasts several comic-book shops featuring endless tales of superheroes and their nemeses. Visit Charlie's Comic Books (5470 E. Speedway Blvd.), Heroes and Villains (4533 E. Broadway Blvd.), Fantasy Comics (2595 N. 1st Ave.), and R-Galaxy (2420 N. Campbell Ave.), or stop by Tucson Comic-Con Nov. 2–3 in downtown Tucson at the Tucson Convention Center.
AGUA CALIENTE PARK
Some call it "Tucson's best-kept secret." Pima County manages this park, which was once part of a ranch and later a mineral-hot-springs retreat. At this natural habitat, the public can enjoy acres of large trees, shaded picnic areas, several ponds, and beautiful views of the mountains, as well as an art gallery and nature shop in the restored main ranch house. Open 7 a.m.–sunset, the Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente ("hot water") Regional Park is on the far northeast side of town at 12325 E. Roger Rd. Phone 520-749-3718.
Winter is prime time for choral music performances in Tucson. The Arizona Repertory Singers (520-792-8141) offer 3 holiday concerts, including a Christmas concert at Fountain of Life Lutheran Church. Tucson Masterworks Chorale (520-730-5640), Sons of Orpheus—The Male Choir of Tucson (520-621-1649), and Tucson Desert Harmony (520-790-1813) perform a broad range of selections. The Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus (520-296-6277) and Tucson Girls Chorus (520-577-6064) add a few dance steps to their numbers, and the U of A School of Music offers a number of free or low-cost recitals. Phone 520-621-2998 or 520-621-1655.
DINNER & A SHOW
Looking to add a little drama or mystery to your dinner out? Check out one of these Tucson theaters that specialize in keeping their audiences entertained and well fed. Don't miss The Gaslight Theatre's campy, original melodramas: Frankenstein through Nov. 10 and A Smalltown Christmas Nov. 14–Jan. 5. Pizza and ice cream, among other treats, are sold at the theater. Catch a show at 7010 E. Broadway Blvd.; reservations and advance payment are required. Phone 520-886-9428 or visit thegaslighttheatre.com. Mystery Dinner Theater (520-624-0172, tucsondinnertheater.com) offers a candlelit 3-course dinner and the interactive Murder at the Vampire's Wedding on Fri. and Sat. nights. Reservations required. Call ahead for showtimes and directions.
DAY OF THE DEAD
Tucsonans citywide celebrate Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday that pays tribute to ancestors and late loved ones, Nov. 1–3. Enjoy music, dancing, colorful altars, skeleton figurines, festive community gatherings, and the always festive All Souls Procession—this year on Nov. 3—through downtown and Fourth Avenue. To purchase your own Day of the Dead treasures any day of the year, stop by Borderlands Outlet (301 E. 7th St.), Picante (2932 E. Broadway Blvd.), and Tolteca Tlacuilo (186 N. Meyer Ave.).
ARIZONA-SONORA DESERT MUSEUM
Wandering through this living museum is like taking an enchanted walk through the desert—with no fear of snakes or critters. There's lots of information, plenty of shade and water, and close-up views of bobcats, prairie dogs, coyotes, hawks, Mexican gray wolves, scorpions, rattlesnakes, roadrunners, quail, and more. Aviaries offer a birder's haven. The internationally famous museum has seasonal fine dining and year-round casual dining. Trained museum docents give live-animal demonstrations and seasonal guided tours. Admission fee. Open daily at 2021 N. Kinney Rd. Phone 520-883-2702 or visit desertmuseum.org for hours of operation.
For some of Tucson's premier upscale boutiques, national retailers, and unparalleled mountain and city views, head to this 2-story open-air complex for a complete day of shopping. Five unique restaurants—offering everything from sushi to wine flights—and a gourmet grocer complement the impressive selection of stores. At the northwest corner of Campbell Ave. and Skyline Dr., 520-615-2561, laencantadashoppingcenter.com.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?
Let your imagination run wild with a show that goes way beyond pulling rabbits out of hats. Carnival of Illusion's intimate performances offer a modern twist on the world of magic. The Victorian-inspired illusion show takes place at the Doubletree Hotel Tucson at Reid Park, 445 S. Alvernon Way, Fri. and Sat. evenings. General admission tickets start at $29; discounts available. Phone 520-615-5299 or see carnivalofillusion.com.
Prepare for side-splitting entertainment at Laffs Comedy Caffé, featuring nationally known comics. At 2900 E. Broadway Blvd., Ste. 154, Laffs is open Thurs.–Sat. with a $10 cover charge. Don't miss open-mic night on Thurs. with free admission. Must be 21 or older. Phone 520-32-FUNNY or visit laffstucson.com.
EL TIRADITO WISHING SHRINE
A love triangle, broken hearts, and a crime of passion are all pieces of the intriguing legend behind this shrine. A plaque mounted at the shrine tells the most accepted version. At 400 S. Main Ave. (at Cushing St.), El Tiradito is a National Historic Site that has been part of the local scene for more than a century.
Mariachi is a music born of many influences, including modern radio. The instruments, clothes, and voices are all part of a studied tradition. Tucson hosts an international mariachi conference every Apr., but mariachis play year-round at various Mexican restaurants, including La Fuente (Fri.–Sun., 1749 N. Oracle Rd., 520-623-8659), Las Cazuelitas de Tucson (Fri. and Sat. nights, 1365 W. Grant Rd., 520-792-0407), and El Mezon del Cobre (Fri. nights, 2960 N. 1st Ave., 520-791-0977).
It's a lesson in culinary mathematics: 9 days of 3-course dinners for only $30 or $40 per meal at restaurants statewide. That's enough to make your head spin...and whet your appetite. During Arizona Restaurant Week, held Sept. 21–29, Tucson joins a host of other cities holding restaurant weeks throughout the nation. Call 602-307-9134 or see arizonarestaurantweek.com for a complete list of participating eateries.
Carne asada, salsa, tortillas, chiles rellenos—the names alone tempt your palate. The tastes are as good as the names, some with spicy, tears-to-your-eyes flavor. There are literally dozens of places to find authentic Mexican food, including Sonoran dishes unique to Tucson. Check our "Desert Dining Guide" for a good selection.
About 70 miles southeast of Tucson is the "town too tough to die," where Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp fought the Clantons at the famous OK Corral. Fuel up at Big Nose Kate's Saloon or The Longhorn Restaurant, and pop in to some of the town's quaint shops and galleries, including The Shady Lady's Closet for Western attire and Arlene's for Native American jewelry, pottery, and rugs. Relive the exciting times of the Old West with historical tours, shoot-outs, reenactments, and a walk through Boothill Graveyard. To get to Tombstone, take I-10 east to Benson and head south on AZ Hwy. 80. Phone the Tombstone Office of Tourism/Bird Cage Theatre at 520-457-3421, or the Tombstone Chamber of Commerce at 888-457-3929, or see tombstonechamber.com.
Perhaps Tucson's most notable or, should we say, most easily noted, landmark is "A" Mountain. Rising just west of downtown, the peak has witnessed the history and growth of the city. Stjukson, meaning "spring at the foot of the black mountain," was the name of the original Native American settlement in the shelter of the peak. The US Army named the mountain Sentinel Peak for its strategic importance. Since 1916, U of A freshmen have made a yearly tradition of painting the namesake letter "A." You can drive to the top of the peak to enjoy a panoramic view of the city from sunrise to sunset. Phone 520-791-5909.
JINGLE ALL THE WAY
Get ready for a truly magical visit with Santa this year. Santastic, at Park Place (5870 E. Broadway Blvd.), takes the little ones on a trip to the enchanted North Pole—without ever leaving the mall. "Snow" falls as elves guide Santa-seekers along a peppermint-scented path leading to the jolly old man himself. This indoor winter wonderland also includes a naughty-or-nice meter and Santa's mailbox just waiting for wish-filled letters. The free event runs Nov. 18–Dec. 24. Phone 520-748-1222 or see parkplacemall.com for hours and information.
Maria Luisa Teña began this spectacular nativity scene more than 30 years ago to honor both her mother and this Mexican household tradition. Each year, her nacimiento has grown—and now it fills an 8'x10' room. It has lights, running water, and hundreds of miniatures depicting scenes from Mexican rural life, Egyptian villages, the nativity, and biblical allegories. At La Casa Cordova (a 19th-century house in the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block), Wed. and Fri.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Thurs. 10 a.m.–8 p.m., and Sun. noon–5 p.m. Exhibit presented by the Tucson Museum of Art. Phone 520-624-2333.
Here's a great way to get a quick orientation to the city and Southern Arizona—contact one of Tucson's tour companies, Gray Line Tours (520-622-8811, graylinearizona.com) or Reisen Arizona (520-319-8130, reisenarizona.com). A typical day tour will visit "A" Mountain, the downtown historic district, the U of A campus, Sabino Canyon, DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, Old Town Artisans, and Mission San Xavier del Bac. For a unique perspective, hop on a Segway for guided tours along the Presidio Trail or around the university area. Call Roll With It! at 520-749-5325 or see tucsonrollwithit.com.
ON A ROLL
Sushi—a Japanese treasure—has found fans in Tucson and all around the world. A few tips to remember while enjoying this trendy treat: It's customary to eat an entire piece in one bite. If mixing a bit of wasabi into the soy sauce, try to avoid making wasabi soup. Finally, when dipping the piece of sushi in the sauce, dip the fish instead of the rice side. Test your sushi-eating skills at Ra Sushi Bar and Restaurant (2905 E. Skyline Dr. #289, 520-615-3970), Sakura Teppan Steak & Seafood (6534 E. Tanque Verde Rd., 520-298-7777), Ginza Sushi (5425 N. Kolb Rd., 520-529-8877), or Sushi Garden (3048 E. Broadway Blvd., 520-326-4700, and at the Foothills Mall, 7401 N. La Cholla Blvd., 520-87-SUSHI).
STROLL FOURTH AVENUE
Called Tucson's "most eclectic shopping district," the avenue has numerous boutiques, galleries, restaurants, cafés, jewelry stores, furniture stores, and more. Adding to its charm, the historic shopping and dining district hosts free entertainment at various stops along the avenue on the 2nd Sat. of each month. In spring and winter, don't miss the Fourth Avenue Street Fair, with more than 400 artisans plus food and live entertainment. Phone 520-624-5004 or check out fourthavenue.org.
Get off the highway and take a look at what you've been speeding past. Off-road Hummer and Jeep tours offer fascinating glimpses into the natural history of this exotic desert region. Experienced drivers can fill you in on all the details about the flora and fauna. A visit to historic and prehistoric sites may include a close-up look at Native American petroglyphs or a trip to a ghost town. Some companies will even tailor trips for your group. Contact Black Diamond Hummer Tours (520-907-1061) or Trail Dust Adventures (520-747-0323, traildustadventures.com).
CULTURE FOR KIDS
Tired of TV? For stimulating entertainment, try Children's Museum Tucson at 200 S. 6th Ave. The museum focuses on participatory exhibits and displays geared to learning and exploration. Check out Investigation Station, Public Safety, Electri-City, and Ocean Discovery Center. Visit childrensmuseumtucson.org or phone 520-792-9985.
MUSEUMS OF FINE ART
The permanent collection of The University of Arizona Museum of Art includes Spanish and Renaissance art, as well as 19th-century American, contemporary, and modernist works. It's on the U of A campus, just south of Speedway Blvd. and east of Park Ave., near the pedestrian underpass. Phone 520-621-7567. Since the completion of a $2.7-million renovation, the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block (downtown at the corner of N. Main Ave. and Alameda St.) has been able to display more of its fine collection and attract larger exhibits, including Common Elegance: The Still Life Paintings of William Shepherd, on display Oct. 12–Jan. 12. The museum renovated the historic Hiram Stevens House into the Palice Pavilion for its permanent collection of pre-Columbian, Spanish Colonial, and Latin American folk art. And while you're there, be sure to visit the John K. Goodman Pavilion of Western Art. Phone 520-624-2333. And don't miss Café à la C'Art (520-628-8533) for something to snack on.
Established in 1975, the U of A Center for Creative Photography is one of the finest institutions of its kind. "Photo Friday," from 11:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. on the first Friday of each month from Sept.–May, allows patrons to view a sample from the center's permanent collection, including works by Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. The center is located just east of the westernmost U of A pedestrian underpass (park in the garage at Park Ave. and Speedway Blvd.). For current exhibitions, phone 520-621-7968 or visit creativephotography.org.
OLD TOWN ARTISANS & MORE
In the historic Presidio district, Old Town Artisans (201 N. Court Ave., 520-623-6024) is a haven for those seeking beautiful arts & crafts or a relaxing meal in a wonderful courtyard at La Cocina Restaurant & Catering. The historic adobe structure is filled with items ranging from prickly-pear-pad spoon rests and handmade gargoyles to dried-flower arrangements, Western wear, and handcrafted jewelry and pottery. Nearby, you'll find historic homes, El Charro Café (520-622-1922)—purportedly the oldest family-owned Mexican restaurant in the nation—and more. It's a great area for shopping and sightseeing.
SEE THE LIGHTS OF TUCSON
Drive north of River Rd. on Campbell Ave. When you reach Skyline/Sunrise Dr., head either east or west, and look to the south. Then turn around and head back into town on Campbell Ave. The glittering colored lights dusted across the valley floor reveal the cosmopolitan glow of this once-sleepy desert pueblo.
THE ARIZONA TRAIL
Hike, bike, horseback ride, or cross-country ski on 800 miles of interconnecting trails through the Coronado, Tonto, Kaibab, and Coconino National Forests, from the border of Mexico to Utah. For maps and detailed information, phone the Arizona Trail Association at 602-252-4794, or visit aztrail.org.
When you visit this old mining-town-turned-artists' enclave and wander among the steeply tiered hillside houses or delve 1,500 feet underground on the Queen Mine Tour (520-432-2071) to experience what mining was really like, you'll understand why people speak so fondly of this little town. Take a Lavender Jeep Tour (520-432-5369) to find more of what Bisbee and Southern Arizona have to offer. On the 2nd Sat. of each month, tour the more than 20 shops and galleries that stay open late for a town-wide art walk, featuring live entertainment, sidewalk sales, demonstrations, and food. Located about 90 miles southeast of Tucson on AZ Hwy. 80. Phone the Bisbee Visitor Center, 520-432-3554 or 866-2BISBEE, or visit discoverbisbee.com. Check out our Bisbee special section for a broad selection of restaurants, shops, hotels, and attractions.
TUCSON MOUNTAIN PARK
More than 22,000 acres of lush Sonoran desert and mountains, offering astounding sunsets, numerous hiking and equestrian trails, mountain biking, and picnic areas, lie just 14 miles west of town in Tucson Mountain Park. The park is also a first-rate camping and RV destination, with spaces available on a first-come, first-served basis. The park is home to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Old Tucson, and the popular Gates Pass overlook. Phone 520-877-6000.
Find an urban oasis near you! Tucson Botanical Gardens (2150 N. Alvernon Way, 520-326-9686, tucsonbotanical.org) has demonstration gardens; a seasonal café; tours; lectures; classes; a gift shop; and exhibits of arid, semitropical, and tropical plants—all displayed in intimate garden settings around an adobe home. Tohono Chul (7366 N. Paseo del Norte, 520-742-6455, tohonochulpark.org) was created to promote the conservation of arid regions. It includes nature trails, art and cultural exhibits, a greenhouse, a children's garden, a restaurant, plants for sale, and gift shops.
About 40 miles south of Tucson, the Santa Rita Mountains are home to Madera Canyon, one of the prettiest spots around. There are trails for hikers, tables for picnickers, a clear stream, and a variety of trees for all. In the cooler months, you should take a coat or a jacket. Take I-19 south of Tucson to the clearly marked turnoff near Continental Rd. (exit 63), just south of Green Valley. See friendsofmaderacanyon.org
Southern Arizona is an astronomer's delight and home to some of the most prestigious observatories in the world. Kitt Peak National Observatory has yielded numerous major astronomical discoveries and has the world's largest on-site collection of optical telescopes. Phone 520-318-8000 or see noao.edu. For another starlight adventure, visit Starizona, an astronomy-focused store that hosts free star parties Fri. and Sat. nights. Call 520-292-5010 or go to starizona.com. Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter's SkyNights provide viewings through the largest public telescope in the state, on the summit of Mt. Lemmon. Call 520-626-8122 or log on to skycenter.arizona.edu. UA Science: Flandrau, on campus, is open 7 days a week and offers 3 planetarium shows, hands-on exhibits, a mineral museum, and telescope viewing Wed.–Sat. Phone 520-621-STAR or visit flandrau.org. For star parties and guided tours of the night sky, look up from Spencer's Observatory. Call 520-578-6085 or go to spencersobservatory.com to reserve your spot under the stars.
SONOITA & ELGIN
Wineries, fine dining, and charming B&Bs are hallmarks of the Sonoita/Elgin experience. The picturesque countryside has provided the backdrop for several Hollywood movies, including Oklahoma! and Red River. Numerous restaurants, such as The Steak Out Restaurant & Saloon (520-455-5205), draw folks from around the world. Don't miss the colorful shops of Many Horses Trading Company (520-455-5545), Buffalo Gals of Sonoita (520-455-5523), and Steve Getzwiller's Nizhoni Ranch Gallery (520-455-5020). From Tucson, take I-10 east to AZ Hwy. 83. Sonoita is at the junction of Hwys. 83 and 82. Elgin is just a few miles down the road off Hwy. 83. Phone the Sonoita-Elgin Chamber of Commerce at 520-455-5498 or visit sonoitaelginchamber.org.
TEE IT UP
Visitors to Tucson spend more time and money on golf than on any other form of recreation. And no wonder—Tucson and Southern Arizona have a wealth of fine courses. See azgolfguides.com to request a free copy of the Tucson Golf Guide and for a comprehensive listing of courses throughout Arizona.
GUITARS & MORE
Some of Tucson's music stores are like funky museums where you can buy that vintage Fender guitar you've always wanted. Find new and used guitars, keyboards, drums, and more at Chicago Music Store (130 E. Congress St., 520-622-3341, and 7030 E. Broadway Blvd., 520-886-1516), family-owned for more than 85 years. Rainbow Guitars, with hundreds of guitars on display, is another local favorite (2550 N. Campbell Ave., 520-325-3376). There's also The Folk Shop (2525 N. Campbell Ave., 520-881-7147), which features unusual instruments from around the world.
WHERE THE WEST WAS FILMED
One of the most unusual attractions in Arizona, Old Tucson is a movie location with daily behind-the-scenes guided tours for the whole family. Established in 1939, the Old West town has been built from the more than 300 movies and television shows filmed there—including Kurt Russell's Tombstone, John Wayne's Rio Lobo, and the High Chaparral series. Admission fee. Open seasonally from Oct. through May. See oldtucson.com, or phone 520-883-0100. You can also step back in time with a guided tour of Gammons Gulch, a ghost-town movie set and museum with the look and feel of the Old West. This authentic 1890s town is located 12 miles north of Benson and offers tours year-round (by reservation during the summer months). Open Wed.–Sun. Visit gammonsgulch.com or phone 520-212-2831.
SUMMON YOUR INNER PAINTBRUSH
Let your artistic side flourish. Stop by The Drawing Studio (520-620-0947) for a class in drawing, painting, or printmaking. Try your hand at glassmaking at classes offered by The Sonoran Glass Art Academy (520-884-7814), or create your own tile mosaics at Santa Theresa Tile Works (520-623-1856). For a free program geared toward kids ages 6–12, go to Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block's (520-624-2333) Picture This! Art for Families on the first Sun. of each month.
Surrounded by rubber bugs, squirting eyeballs, ant farms, dolls, books, and science experiments, you'll have trouble controlling yourself—not to mention any children you might bring to Tucson's favorite local toy stores. Visit Yikes (2930 E. Broadway Blvd., 520-320-5669) for novelty and hard-to-find toys. Mildred and Dildred (2905 E. Skyline Dr., Ste. 186, 520-615-6266) emphasizes imaginative play with toys from around the world. And don't miss Kid's Center (1725 N. Swan Rd., 520-322-5437), an intimate store filled with books, games, and educational toys.
Sunsets are spectacular; sunrises are for meditative moods. Watch the Santa Catalinas as the first rays of light begin to play across the peaks and canyons. Turn away and look back a few minutes later and the whole scene will have changed—subtly, but beautifully. A good sunrise will set you up for the whole day.
U OF A CHAMPIONS
Walk up Legacy Lane to the glass facade of the $13.5-million Eddie Lynch Athletics Pavilion. The facility hosts the Jim Click Hall of Champions, a museum dedicated to the heritage and pride of U of A athletics. In the museum are tributes to all U of A teams, including the 2012 national champion baseball team, 2007 softball team, and 1997 men's basketball team, as well as all trophies won throughout the years. The hall is open to the public every day from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. (times change during football and basketball seasons). Phone 520-621-2331.
Sometimes Frisbee in the park just doesn't get the adrenaline flowing. For those times, Tucson has various recreational activities sure to get your heart racing. Disruptive Paintball (1015 W. Prince Rd., 520-293-5850) and Desert Fox Paintball Field (9651 S. Houghton Rd., 520-574-9232) rent all the necessary equipment and provide game fields for a day of friendly paintball competition. Rocks and Ropes (330 S. Toole Ave., 520-882-5924; 8975 E. Tanque Verde Rd., Ste. 155, 520-209-2562) has enough equipment for 100 people to use its indoor climbing walls at the same time.
TUBAC & TUMACACORI
Situated 45 miles south of Tucson off I-19, Tubac was once the site of a Spanish presidio established circa 1750. Today, it's the town "where art and history meet," offering prints, pottery, jewelry, batiks, paintings, restaurants, lodging, golf, and the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park (520-398-2252). Drive south to the town of Tumacacori or walk the 4.5-mile Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail to Tumacacori National Historical Park (520-398-2341) to see a Franciscan mission built in the early 1800s and a garden like the one grown by the padres 200 years ago. Contact the Tubac Chamber of Commerce (520-398-2704, tubacaz.com). See our Tubac special section for a broad selection of galleries, restaurants, shops, and activities.
Explore scientific wonders found only in Southern Arizona. From native plants and animals at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, to stargazing with The University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, you can explore a wealth of scientific discoveries. Don't miss cave exploration at Kartchner Caverns, too, and Biosphere 2's climate zones beneath the dome. See scitucson.org.
Hungry? Why not try something different and head to one of the independently owned restaurants that make up the Tucson Originals? The name says it all. These unique local eateries specialize in regionally inspired dishes that not only make your mouth water but also put your mind at ease, because Tucson Originals give back to the community that inspires them. Tucson Originals help define the flavor of Tucson, with such restaurants as Tavolino (2890 E. Skyline Dr., 520-531-1913), Agustín Brasserie (100 S. Avenida del Convento, Ste. 150, 520-398-5382), The Hungry Fox (4637 E. Broadway Blvd., 520-326-2835), and Lodge on the Desert (306 N. Alvernon Way, 520-320-2014). Visit tucsonoriginals.com for a complete list of Tucson Originals restaurants.
From poodle skirts and drive-ins to big hair and hot wheels, reminisce about the good ol' days at the Rotary Club of Tucson's 7th annual Classics Car Show, held on Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Gregory College Preparatory School (3231 N. Craycroft Rd.). It's a chance to view more than 400 restored Studebakers, GMCs, T-Birds, and Mustangs, and enjoy food and live entertainment. $5 admission includes a raffle ticket for a 2004 LeMans edition Corvette convertible. Proceeds benefit local charities. Call 520-440-4503 or visit tucsonclassicscarshow.com.
2ND SATURDAYS DOWNTOWN
It's a shopping trip, an art walk, a night of entertainment, and a Tucson happening that celebrates the vibrancy and quirkiness of life in the Old Pueblo. Stores, galleries, theaters, and restaurants open their doors; and street vendors, artisans, performers, and musicians pop up on almost every corner. It happens 5:30–10:30 p.m. on the 2nd Sat. of each month along Congress St. Phone 520-270-3213 or see 2ndsaturdaysdowntown.com.
The University of Arizona's performing arts series brings leading artists from around the world to Tucson's Centennial Hall. The 2013–14 season features nearly 20 different performances, including Melissa Etheridge Sept. 7, Lang Lang Oct. 22, Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra Nov. 15, Green Day's American Idiot Dec. 7–8, Zoppé Family Circus Jan. 10–12, and Cedarlake Contemporary Ballet Feb. 6. Visit uapresents.org or phone 520-621-3341.
HIKE WITH SAHC
That's the Southern Arizona Hiking Club, and there is no better way to explore the backcountry. The club welcomes visitors (for one or 2 hikes) and rates its hikes by degree of difficulty, with treks for the hale and hearty or for those who may be a little out of shape. For information, visit sahcinfo.org.
¡VIVA LOS VAQUEROS!
Fans of Tucson's annual rodeo (tucsonrodeo.com) don't have to wait until rodeo week, Feb. 15–23, to get a taste of cowboy life. From Jan. 2 through Apr. 6 the Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum (4823 S. 6th Ave., 520-294-1280, tucsonrodeoparade.org) is open to the public Mon.–Sat. 9:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.; special hours during rodeo week. The museum holds hundreds of buggies and wagons, numerous Old West artifacts, and a replica of Tucson's Main St. as it appeared in the 1800s. Donations are accepted. See some of the historic vehicles in motion at the longest nonmotorized parade in the US on Feb. 20.
WALK THE PRESIDIO TRAIL
Head downtown to explore Tucson's historical landmarks on this self-guided walking tour. The 2.5-mile trail takes you to 23 sites, including Hotel Congress, Armory Park, the Pima County Courthouse, and Fox Tucson Theatre. A turquoise-colored line keeps walkers on track, while plaques along the way provide historical information. Pick up a free Presidio Trail map at the Visit Tucson office, 100 S. Church Ave., or download it at tucsonpresidiotrust.org. Call 520-624-1817 for more information.
INTO THE SUNSET
Saddle up and ride through the land that inspires cowboys to write poetry. Guests of White Stallion Ranch (520-297-0252) and Tanque Verde Ranch (520-296-6275) enjoy Western-style horseback rides with experienced wranglers; or travel to Triangle T Guest Ranch (520-586-7533), 60 miles east of Tucson in the foothills of the Dragoon Mountains, to experience sunrise and sunset rides. Book a room in one of the ranch's Western-themed casitas. If you already have a place to stay and just want to go on a trail ride, check out Arizona Horseback Experience (520-455-5696), Pusch Ridge Stables (520-825-1664), or Pantano Riding Stables (520-298-8980).
Some of the nation's premier spa getaways are right here in the Old Pueblo, including multiyear winners of Condé Nast Traveler's Best Spa award Canyon Ranch Health Resort (520-749-9000) and Miraval (520-825-4000). Both Westward Look Resort's Sonoran Spa (520-917-2467) and the spa at Loews Ventana Canyon (520-299-2020) provide programs to meet individual guests' needs. Nature-inspired spa services are available to guests at Hashani in the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa (520-791-6117), while Red Door Spa at the Westin La Paloma Resort (520-742-7866) pampers its guests with a rejuvenating sauna. Omni Tucson National Resort (520-877-2367) features the Desert Stone massage, and The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Dove Mountain (520-572-3000) offers personalized blends of indigenous aromatherapy oils. Gadabout SalonSpas (520-325-0000) also offers many relaxing options at various locations around the city.
Indulge at local patisseries that whip up decadent desserts in dozens of fanciful flavors. Try Mini's (4695 N. Oracle Rd., Ste. 105) original creations, including coconut-rum and pineapple upside-down cupcakes. Or decorate your own confections at 2 CupCakes (5056 E. Broadway Blvd.). You can also grab a sweet treat on the road or have them delivered to your door from Trucking Good Cupcakes (track the truck on Twitter, @TruckingGood, or call 520-329-4411).
WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
View snapshots of Tucson's history as you walk through the Fourth Avenue underpass and into downtown. The Tucson Portrait Project consists of mosaic panels featuring 6,000 black-and-white photographs—a cross section of Tucsonans displayed on 4-by-4-inch tiles. In 2008, local designers Gary Patch and Darren Clark spent 6 months snapping shots of people at various community events. Visit tucsonportraitproject.com.
Tucson has been called a "mini-mecca" for the arts, and many nationally and internationally known artists call it home. Galleries at the northeast and southwest corners of Campbell Ave. and Skyline Dr. hold ArtWalks every Thurs., with extended hours and occasional artist demonstrations, music, food, and wine tastings. On the first Thurs. of each month, Main Gate Square, just west of the university, displays works by local artists. Merchants host wine tastings, and community members perform live shows. Log on to tucsonpimaartscouncil.org for a year-round schedule of art-themed events throughout the city.
Drive the former Tucson-to-Casa Grande highway, along the historic Miracle Mile District—replete with a fine collection of illuminated, vintage neon signs. Be sure to stop at Monterey Court Studio Galleries and Café (505 W. Miracle Mile, at 14th Ave.), a 1930s motor court now renovated into eclectic galleries and shops. Dine at the café, and enjoy live music on the courtyard stage every weekend.
Whether it's swing, big band, fusion, contemporary, or New Age, jazz in Tucson has plenty to offer its aficionados. Check with the Tucson Jazz Society (520-903-1265, tucsonjazz.org) for a complete schedule, although you're certain to hear live performances every Sun. at Loews Ventana Canyon's Blues, Brews & BBQ brunch (520-615-5496).
Let Caitlin, The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures' wee resident fairy, guide you through the wonders of this fantastical place. Discover intricate details in the more than 160 miniature houses and room boxes—all part of the museum founder's extraordinary 30-year collection. See one of the oldest miniature homes in the US, from circa 1775; a haunted house filled with witches and misdeeds; a kid-centric area filled with enchanting collectibles; and much more. Open Tues.–Sat. 9 a.m.–4 p.m.; Sun. noon–4 p.m. Admission is $9, $8 for seniors and military, $6 for children ages 4–17, and free for children younger than 3. Located at 4455 E. Camp Lowell Dr., 520-881-0606, theminitimemachine.org.
If your life is too rooted in the practical and mundane, skydiving centers around Tucson are ready to show you how exciting it can be to plunge through the air after stepping out of an airplane soaring as high as 13,000 feet above the earth. Several diving options are available, including tandem, accelerated free-fall, and static-line jumps. All centers have certified instructors and require an initial training session. Phone Desert Skydiving Center (800-441-5867) or SkyDive Arizona (877-313-JUMP). SkyVenture Arizona (888-BODY-FLY) offers classes for adults and children (ages 3 and up), who free-fall in an indoor skydiving simulation tunnel.
All dressed up with no place to go? Try Southern Arizona's many antidotes—musicals, comedies, dramas, Broadway hits, and more. This winter see Good Rockin' Live! A Salute to Sun Records & the Birth of Rock & Roll Jan. 11–12 at the Invisible Theatre (520-882-9721). Live Theatre Workshop (520-327-4242) offers Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged & Revised), a parody of all 37 of Shakespeare's plays in 97 minutes, Oct. 10–Nov. 16. And Arizona Theatre Company (520-622-2823) presents The Importance of Being Earnest Sept. 14–Oct. 5.
UP, UP & AWAY
Some think it's the only way to see the Tucson Basin and surrounding mountain ranges. Local experts say the best balloon season in Tucson is Oct.–Apr., so now's the time to get airborne. Several ballooning companies offer regular opportunities to drift quietly above the saguaros. Phone Southern Arizona Balloon Excursions (520-624-3599, tucsoncomefly.com), Tucson Balloon Rides (520-235-5355, tucsonballoonrides.com), or Fleur De Tucson Balloon Tours (520-529-1025 or 520-403-8547, fleurdetucson.net).
SOME LIKE IT HOT
For authentic Mexican food, beautiful scenery, and some of the hottest salsa in the Southwest, follow the fiery flavors of Arizona's Salsa Trail. Beginning in Safford, about 11/2 hours east of Tucson, the trail has stops at 13 family-run restaurants, a chile company, and a tortilla factory in 8 small towns along US Hwy. 70 (also known as the Old West Highway). In Sept., SalsaFest hosts salsa-making competitions, food demos, and a daring jalapeño-eating contest. Think you can handle the heat? See salsatrail.com for a map and directions, or call 888-837-1841 before heading out.
DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW
Even Tucson offers a "white Christmas" this holiday season. Every Fri. and Sat. from Nov. 28 through Dec. 21, La Encantada Shopping Center (2905 E. Skyline Dr.) hosts 2 "snowfalls" from 6 to 7 p.m. in the main botanical courtyard. Enjoy hot chocolate, treats, and holiday music. Call 520-615-2561 or visit laencantadashoppingcenter.com for more information.