tucson guide

illustration by julia rothman

the d*s city guides are moving from one warm sunny city to another this week, focusing on tucson, arizona! i have never visited arizona, but after reading through interior designer julia date‘s guide i’m feeling the urge to head west and check out all of these great places to shop, listen to music, eat, and site see (sign me up for the tucson gem and mineral show and the boyce-thompson arboretum, please). thanks so much for julia for creating this guide for us today!

CLICK HERE for the full city guide after the jump!

Tucson Travel Guide

Tucson is a city that thrives on its tremendous natural beauty. It attracts vacationers and golfers  but is home to many artists, musicians and designers who are inspired by the unique spirit of the desert. Like many western cities, however, Tucson is spread out – to enjoy the experience to the fullest you need to rent a car. You may ride a bike almost anywhere in Tucson, there are well developed trails, bike lanes and clearly marked routes, however, the distances to many of the recommended sites is prohibitive to all but the most experienced riders.  Sign out a convertible and enjoy the sun!  Thanks to Crystal and Bonnie Flynt of Bon for their help as well as Sally Kane.

WHERE TO STAY– Tucson is full of charming bed and breakfast hotels including the Catalina Park Inn and  the Peppertrees in the University District. If you prefer hotels, the Hotel Congress is downtown and the Lodge on the Desert is newly remodeled and not far from downtown. If you feel like splurging there is the historic Hacienda del Sol, and Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, amongst others, outside of town. The resorts possess incredible views, world class restaurants and chic nightclubs but are definitely a drive from the downtown galleries, shops and restaurants. Check the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (MTCVB) for extensive hotel information.


Tucsonans are very proud of our vibrant music scene. There are numerous nationally known bands who call our city home –  Calexico, Naim Amor, Golden Boots, Tom Walbank, Greyhound Soul to mention just a few. Many of them play frequently in local venues, so check out the Zocalo downtown magazine for more information on music and art happenings in our quickly growing downtown area. Second Saturday of every month offers live bands, street vendors, buskers and stores open late.

The Rialto Theatre 318 E. Congress St. 85701 (520) 740-1000. Originally built in 1920, the theater has hosted many well-known acts in its 90 year existence. It has been a music and dance theater, movie theater and, briefly, an antique store. Remodeled by a non-profit organization and opened in 2005 the theatre is now Tucson’s premier venue for live music.

Grill -100 East Congress, 85701. (520) 623-7621 Open 24 hours, burgers, tater tots, pasta, sandwiches. Full bar. Eclectic staff. The best (and only) place to go after hours in downtown Tucson. Crazy stuff goes on here after midnight, don’t miss it.

*Red Room at Grill- Live music and serious cocktails in a vinyl emporium-check the Grill link above for more information.

The Hotel Congress 311 East Congress St. 85701 (520) 622-8848 Built in 1919, the Hotel has anchored downtown Tucson through thick and thin: for many years it was the only thing downtown besides offices. The rooms are furnished with vintage items and most are nicely remodeled. The lobby bar is classic, painted in a style that echoes of the original design. Comfortable sofas and chairs, a full bar and a good view of who is entering the adjacent night club. With its own bar and stage, the Club Congress hosts a wide variety of indie bands and local acts on a smaller scale than the Rialto Theater across the street. The Tap Room maintains the  “best jukebox” in town and has been listed several times as one of the nation’s best bars. Fabulous Cowboy charcoal drawings by 30’s and 40’s regular Pete Martinez line the walls, with a shaded patio on the side.  The Cup Café provides breakfast, lunch and dinner selections including salads, sandwiches, entrees and fresh pastries. Innovative décor including a floor made of pennies and distinctively French looking wine bottle chandeliers. Indoor and outdoor seating. Check the website for more.

Maynards 400 N Toole Ave. 85701. Just a quick walk across the street from the Hotel Congress, this gourmet market and restaurant offers counter service during the day and full service in the dining room and bar at night. It all feels like you are in a classic railway car, with beautiful details. Appropriate because Maynard’s is located in the historic railway station that has recently been completely refurbished.

Tucson Museum of Art 140 N. Main Ave., 85701Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block. Centered on a shaded courtyard with fountains, trees and public art, the TMA is comprised of several buildings. The main museum hosts larger shows and the gift shop while several old houses show smaller collections and the TMA art school. Currently showing Andy Warhol portfolio, check website for other offerings.

Fox Theater 17 West Congress, 85701 (520) 624-1525 A classic deco theater that opened in 1930, the Fox Tucson opened as a venue for vaudeville and has had many incarnations since then. Currently, it serves as a movie theater, music venue and private event location. A very dedicated group of people restored this place to its original grandeur several years ago-it is pretty special.

Caffé Milano 46 W. Congress St., 85701.(520)628-1601.  Authentic Italian food, espresso and conversation with owners Carlo and Laura Borella.  Open for lunch on weekdays and dinner on weekends. Probably the most popular lunch destination for those who work downtown.

MOCA 265 South Church Ave., 85701. Museum of Contemporary Art.  Exhibiting works of contemporary artists from across the globe, as well as artists from the local arts community. One of only 12 organizations chosen to participate in The Warhol Initiative, a program designed to augment an already promising arts institution. MOCA has recently moved to a new and permanent location.

Etherton Gallery 135 S, 6th Ave. 85701 (520) 624-7370 Etherton specializes in vintage and contemporary fine art photography and is one of Tucson most established galleries. Voted  Tucson’s “best Gallery” year after year they also feature painting, collage, mixed media and sculpture. Beautiful building, exquisite, museum quality pieces.

Originate— 526 N. 9th Avenue,85705  520-792-4207 Tucson’s original natural materials building resource. Recycled, earth-conscious building materials including flooring, tile, paint, plaster and wall covering. Salvaged architectural and decorative elements.

El Tiradito Shrine- 400 S. Main Ave., 85701. This small shrine is dedicated to star-crossed lovers and is a lovely spot to spend a few minutes, read the plaque and admire the multitude of wishes that have been placed there. Noted on the Tucson Historic Register

LOST BARRIO Located just east of Downtown Tucson, the Lost Barrio is a turn-of-the-century warehouse district that has become home to a number of Tucson favorites, both new and established. Park once and visit them all-here are a few design highlights.

Mast – 299 S. Park Avenue 85719 520-720-0299.  Walking into MAST is inspiring in itself. Soaring warehouse ceilings shed uncommonly beautiful light on an eclectic collection of beautifully presented furniture, housewares, lighting and gifts.   Jewelry by Tascha Sabatino and Sofie Albertson Gelb are featured along with porcelain pottery by Alison May and hand-sewn leather handbags by Mellow Dawn Lund. These four friends make the partnership that owns and operates Mast.  Gallery space in the store provides a venue for artists from Tucson, New York and elsewhere, loft workspace above the sales floor ensures an ever-changing selection of artistic wares in this enchanting cooperative. Mast shares a patio with:

Tooley’s Café 520-203-8970 where you may have huevos rancheros, turkey tacos and espresso with breakfast served all day long. Summer hours are shorter, so call ahead or check the website.

Colonial Frontiers, 244 S. Park Ave. 85719. 520-622- 7400  Another Tucson destination store that is frequented by designers and home builders from all over the West. Exotic vintage and antique furniture and accessories from India, Asia, South and Central America. Massive-scale armoires and sideboards abound alongside classic chairs, lamps and heavily carved benches. Outstanding architectural elements including columns, doors and balustrades.

Eastern Living– 242 S. Park Avenue 85705. (520) 299-3889 Carefully chosen Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian antique and vintage pieces. Owner Bianca Bao handpicks each item for her Tucson and Shanghai stores. Another favorite of local designers and architects, Eastern Living features furniture, sculpture, textiles, architectural pieces and custom design.

Eclectic Flea – 265 S. Park (520)-404- 4067.  Artsy used and vintage. By now you have probably become inspired by the Western style all around—Eclectic Flea will fuel your desire for vintage- Cowboy ceramics, oil paintings of western scenes, Mexican pottery from the ‘50s and ‘60s, iron furniture, dusty old cowboy boots  (“don’t clean ‘em,” the tag says) furniture and housewares. Hours vary but mostly they are there Thursday through Sunday from 11:30 to 3:30.


The University of Arizona is spread out in the center of Tucson, and boasts many buildings of great architectural interest. Old Main, designed by James Miller Creighton , and the new Stevie Eller Dance Theater along with numerous other examples. Also on campus, The University of Arizona Museum of Art , The Arizona State Museum , The Arizona Historical Society, and The Center for Creative Photography the latter of which houses extensive Edward Weston and Ansel Adams collections. On the perimeter of the campus lie several neighborhoods that display a marvelous array of charming bungalows, craftsman homes from the ‘teens and twenties and many new projects by local architects.

Time Market and Deli 444 E. University Blvd. Tucson, 85705. West University Neighborhood (520-622-4010) If you want to pick up a great sandwich to take on a hike stop into Time Market in the morning. Delicious espresso, deli sandwiches made to order along with really good pizza, beer, wine and gourmet grocery items are available. Plenty of parking because the majority of the clientele is parking a bike, not a car. Busy, University atmosphere in one of the more pedestrian and historic neighborhoods of Tucson. Further west on University Boulevard you will cross 4th Avenue, a shopping district that serves not only the University neighborhoods but also downtown.

The B-line – 6121 N 4th Avenue 520-882-7575 Breakfast, Lunch and dinner are served at this funky modern restaurant.. Sit at the window bar and watch the locals and 4th avenue bar-hoppers go by while you enjoy tasty burritos, soups, salads and entrees.  Gourmet desserts and cage-free egg breakfasts are featured along with wine and beer. You’ll love the zip line that runs to the kitchen from the order desk- simple, thoughtful design.

Brooklyn Pizza—534- N. 4th Ave. (520) 622-6868. A pizza place that has recently gone solar. Check the website for current output in mh. . All this and great pizza, calzones and their own gelato.

Sky Bar 536 N 4th Ave. The owners of Brooklyn Pizza opened this bar as a complement to their pizza place next door. Drink specials, happy hour and piped in images of deep space from their in-house telescope. Huh? Actually, it’s great, and fun.

The Book Stop- 214 N. 4th Ave. (520) 326-6661. 41 years in Tucson buying and selling used books in a comfortable, organized store with knowledgeable, helpful staff. An extensive art, design and photography section that I can’t resist.

The Shanty—401 E. 9th Street, Tucson, 85705. 520-623-2664. A Tucson fixture for many years, it lacks the grimy, local character it once had. But it is still one of the best places in Tucson to sit outside at night in a vine covered patio with twinkling lights and trilling fountains while enjoying a beer from one of the most extensive beer lists in Arizona. The massive copper bar is still here along with pool tables and requisite pool hall paintings.

Tel-e-gram- 218 N 4th Avenue Tucson, 85705. 520-792-1133 Two former University of Arizona architecture students have opened this inviting store that highlights handmade housewares from Tucson artists and others. Knitted vessels, handmade journals and stationery, lighting from re-purposed items, hand wrought iron furniture, bags, clothing. Their studio lies at the back of the store, where they host knitting classes and other seminars that focus on functional art.

Preen—210 N 4th Avenue, Tucson, 85705. (520)-628-2991 Although mostly a vintage clothing store, Preen also offers a variety of home items that blend seamlessly with the clothes. Alterations and custom clothing available, artwork on the walls is for sale. Owners Emilie Marchand and Erin Bradley have their sewing machine set up in the store, very inspiring space for the designer in all of us.

Sabine’s Café Passe – 415 N 4th Ave. 85705 624 4411 Counter service in a comfortable indoor-outdoor space.  It possesses the uncanny Tucson charm: a tiny kitchen putting out great food, organic fair-trade coffee and pouring on the handmade, homemade appeal. A wide variety of scones, eggs, smoothies, sandwiches and salads all beautifully presented. Ever-changing art on the walls, in the adjoining dining room free Wi-fi available.  Tagged on to the dining area: two lovely gift shops with local art: Bohemia and  The Wooden Tooth .

PLUSH- 340 E. 6th Street (at the corner of 4th Ave.) 85705 (520) 798-1298 Tucson’s destination for cocktails and live music. 5-7 nights a week local and national touring bands perform in a comfortable cocktail lounge atmosphere. Check website for current features.

The Epic Café– 745 N 4th Ave., 85705 .A favorite coffee house for downtown and University professionals, writers, artists and musicians. Coffee drinks, salads, sandwiches, some vegan entrees.

If you head west on 6th Street from 4th Avenue, you will find several galleries housed near each other at the corner of 6th Street and 6th Avenue:

Davis Dominguez Gallery– 154 E. 6th Street (520)-629-9759 Long-established gallery, with works from locally and nationally recognized artists. Spectacular work in a sophisticated setting, with outstanding service.

Conrad Wilde Gallery— 439 N. 6th Avenue, 85705 622-8997. Miles Conrad and Ryan Wilde have brought a decidedly urban influence to Tucson. A gallery that focuses on local and national artists with an emphasis on abstraction and the use of unusual materials. The gallery hosts an annual encaustic show.

Platform Gallery– 439 N. 6th Ave. 85705. (520) 882-3886 Focusing on local work, Platform Gallery always has a wide variety of young, interesting artists who practice in a variety of media. Great for starting and established  collectors.


One of Tucson’s most stunning drives starts at Speedway Boulevard and the I-10 Freeway and heads west directly on Speedway through the middle of the Tucson Mountains. Gates Pass, as this winding, precipitous route is called, will thrill even the most storied traveler. There are numerous “pull outs” for taking pictures, hiking and picknicking, so plan to pick up a lunch. Take a right at the T onto Kinney Road and you are on your way to the:

Arizona- Sonora Desert Museum- 2021 N Kinney Rd. 85743 (520)883-2702) Internationally recognized, this is a zoo combined with a botanical garden, geological garden and gallery. Long trails lined with natural desert vegetation and specimen plants take you on a trip through the Sonoran Desert. Climb through a cave display, watch raptors in free flight and marvel at the vast array of succulents and cacti in pots. A great attraction is the enclosed hummingbird house where the colorful little creatures zip right past your head. Two restaurants and an extensive gift shop. Go early and pack sunscreen and water!

Signal Hill I am so deeply inspired by the desert, it is important, always, for me to remember who was here first. Instead of returning back through Gates Pass, make a left when you leave the Desert Museum and head out Kinney Road until you hit Sandario Road. Make a right and follow Sandario to Golden Gate Road and make another right. This dirt road leads through a few miles of beautiful desert with jackrabbits and birds everywhere. You’ll see the sign for Signal Hill on the left. Continue to the picnic area where stone picnic enclosures were built by the CCC in the 30’s. A short, easy  (.3 mile) hike up the hill and you will find an incredible view of the west side beyond Tucson and a collection of petroglyphs left by the Hohokam people 2000 years ago.

Tucson Mineral and Gem World – 2801 S. Kinney Rd. 85735 (520) 880-0682. If you are a rockhound, this is a destination you won’t want to miss. Fossils, gemstones, artifacts, crystals, antique beads, silver jewelry. Barrels and stacks of fossils outside, this place is straight out of the old West, not fancy or trendy, it has looked the same since it opened 40 years ago. Fascinating.


Ghini’s French Caffé 1803 E. Prince Road, 85716 Another example of that southwestern phenomenon: a great restaurant housed next to a supermarket in a strip mall.  Ghini’s offers a delicious selection of breakfast, lunch and dinner entrees with a decidedly French influence. Right next door is their family bakery, La Baguette –the scene of many a pastry “incident” in our family.

Raging Sage 2458 N Campbell Avenue, , 85719 Excellent coffee and tea, fine pastries and cozy bustling interior. Outdoors there is a large shaded seating area. A favorite of local professionals, artists and thinkers.

Sarnoff Art 2504 North Campbell Ave. (520) 795-1229 Just in case the desert outdoors inspires the artist in you, two doors down from Raging Sage is an exceptionally good, fully-stocked art supply store that is locally owned and operated.

The Arizona Inn 2200E. Elm Street, Tucson AZ 85719 (520) 325-1541.  Many of us could not dream of affording a room at this historic luxury hotel, but you can still take a long peek at the stunning grounds, classic architecture and take- your-breath-away interior of the library. High tea is served to all registered guests by waiters in starched black and white uniforms but everyone is welcome to sit and enjoy the Audubon Bar and porch for a classic martini. Also note the exquisite tile patterns, Mexican folk art and murals in the pool area. 1930’s Arizona at its best.

Morningstar Traders 2010 E. Speedway Blvd. Tucson, AZ 85716. (520)881-2112 The best  and oldest collection of authentic Spanish Colonial furniture for sale in the state. Vintage, antique and contemporary Native American and Mexican silver and turquoise jewelry, baskets, textiles, rugs, fetishes, kachinas and masks. This beautiful store is the place to go for a special memento from your trip to the Southwest. 

The Shelter- 4155 E. Grant Road, 85712. Swanky cocktail lounge that looks a lot like a hatbox from the outside.  Inside is wall-to-wall sixties’ memorabilia, colorful and tacky 70”s lights and the best collection of JFK memorabilia I’ve seen. Locals, students, professionals, hipsters, they are all here, sitting at the bar. Billiard room, great music, vinyl booths and more.

The Kingfisher 2564 E. Grant Road, 85716. (520) 323-7739 A long-standing Tucson tradition. Dinner in the cool, dark vinyl booths of the bar is sublime. Great service, extensive wine list. Live music on weekends.

Tucson Botanical Gardens 2150 N Alvernon Way Tucson, AZ 85712 (520) 326-9686

An Oasis in the middle of Tucson, the Tucson Botanical Gardens will give you an overview of the unique and interesting plants that grow all over the area. A Barrio garden, a taste and touch garden, an herb and vegetable garden along with a Native American garden are all featured. Seasonally, there is a butterfly exhibit in the main greenhouse. With lots of shaded paths and fountains, a children’s garden and plenty of drinking fountains, small ones love to run all over the grounds.

Tom’s Antiques and Used Furniture 5454 E. Pima Street, Tucson, AZ 85712 (520)795-5210 A perennial favorite of dealers and designers from all over the west, Toms is a Tucson fixture. I love wandering around the miles of cluttered paths of furniture several times to be sure I see it all.  Good Mid-century pieces show up all the time, along with Asian antiques, upholstery and other classics.

Copper Country Antiques and Collectibles.5055 E. Speedway Blvd. 85712 (520) 326-0167 This former supermarket houses booths maintained by 200 independent vendors all under one roof. Modern, country, shabby chic, Asian, California pottery, mid-western pottery,jewelry and furniture, its all here. Voted best of Tucson several times—Copper Country is a full morning excursion at least.

Feast – 4122 E Speedway Blvd. 85712 (520) 326-9363  At the heart of Midtown Tucson is a favorite casual restaurant that features an excellent wine list and community dining tables. Chef Doug changes the menu monthly, so hit the website to see what are the latest features. They always have an exotic grilled cheese sandwich (this month, Halloumi) Take-out from the Feast counter  is especially good . Look for their new location a few blocks east after October 1st.

Zia Records –3370 E. Speedway, 85716. (520) 327-3340. Buy, sell used and new vinyl, cds and tapes.

The Dish Bistro/ Rumrunner 3131 E. First Street 85716. (520) 326-1714. With just 10 tables, the Dish provides a quiet, intimate atmosphere and excellent food. Choose your wine from the adjacent Rumrunner wine and gourmet shop and have it served at your table. Check the website for details on this Tucson institution of excellent wine, food and gourmet goodies.

The Loft Cinema 3233 E. Speedway Blvd. 85716 (520)322-5638 Tucson’s non-profit community –based theater. Film Festivals, special features, indie and foreign films. Pizza, beer and wine available with a shaded seating area available for outdoor dining. Check website for current showtimes and features.

Rincon Market 2513 E. 6th Street, 85716. (520) 327-6653 Since 1926 this market, deli and restaurant has served the Sam Hughes neighborhood and others. Espresso, daily hot lunch and dinner specials, deli counter and bakery, salad bar to eat in or take out.  Quaint neighborhood meeting place.


The suburban shopping center done with style, elegance and grace. Broadway Village was designed in the 30’s to provide services to the “suburban” communities built one mile from downtown Tucson. Josiah Joesler used classic Mexican style in the conception of the architecture. Originally a market, drugstore, restaurant and hair salon, Broadway Village is now home to several stores.

Bon 3022 East Broadway Blvd. 85716 Bonnie and Crystal Flynt have assembled a collection of exquisite home and garden accessories, artwork, clothing, books and gifts chosen with the utmost care. Patch NYC is here along with John Derian, Matteo bedding and one of a kind antiques. Bon has a sister store noted in the NORTH portion of this guide.

Zocalo 3016 East Broadway Boulevard, 85716 (520)320-1236

Authentic Mexican folk art, furniture and accessories at its very best. Five thousand plus square feet crammed to the roof with pieces designed with and purchased directly from the artisans in Central Mexico.  Mirrors, ceramics of all kinds, tile murals, jewelry, textiles, rugs, metalwork, chandeliers, sconces and paintings. A large selection of Day of the Dead sculpture along with outdoor art and cantera saints. Like stepping into a store in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, there is nothing like Zocalo anywhere else in the Southwest.

Picante 2932 E. Broadway Blvd.,AZ 85716 (520)-320-5699
A store that focuses on small items and clothing from Mexico and Central America.  Mexican oilcloth fabric by the yard as well as accessories already made of it.  Hand-wrought jewelry from Oaxaca , textiles from Guatemala and Chiapas. Cards, books and home accessories, clothing and gifts.


Bach’s Cactus Nursery 8602 N. Thornydale Road , Tucson  AZ 85742. M-S 8-5.. Internationally known, Bach’s consists of 24 greenhouses of cacti and succulents located on the outskirts of Tucson. You are permitted to wander through propagating greenhouses, exotic private collections and both retail and wholesale inventories. A desert plant lover’s museum of wonder– and they will pack your purchases in a box that is tailored to fit “under the seat in front of you”– great for travelers.

Tohono Chul Park –.7366 N. Paseo del Norte, 85704 (520)742-6455 A desert botanical garden, art gallery and restaurant built on the grounds of an old Tucson home complete with a classic interior courtyard and fountain. Shaded, winding paths within the gardens and a great gift/ plant shop  featuring local artists and desert-specific merchandise.

Linda Vista Trail – One of the greatest advantages of living in Tucson is that you may leave your house or office and be on a hiking trail in less than 15 minutes no matter where you live or work. The Linda Vista trail gives you a 55 minute (lots of uphill) or 75 minute option (the exterior loop on the posted map) of moderate hiking and close up views of some of the desert’s most spectacular attractions. Old growth saguaros, sheer rock faces, birds and magnificent vistas. If you go in March, April or early May you are likely to be shoulder-deep in desert wildflowers. Take plenty of water and be on the trail very early if you attempt to hike in the summer months.

De Grazia Gallery in the Sun– 6300 N Swan , 85718, 520-299-9191. You know you’ve seen them, sad-eyed children in traditional Mexican hats—this is the most commercial work of Tucson artist Ted DeGrazia. Not everyone loves it, but the “Mission” he created in the ‘50’s at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains as his home, studio and chapel is not to be missed. Pebble stone and colored concrete floors, adobe walls in brilliant colors and within the collection of 15,000 pieces, something for everyone.

St Philips in the Foothills Episcopal Church .Located at the corner of Campbell Avenue and River Road, this church is an architectural landmark. Designed in 1932 by famed local architect Josiah Joesler St. Philips has the thick adobe walls, interior courtyards surrounded by arches and classical columns that have come to exemplify old southwestern architecture. Mexican pewter chandeliers, elaborate tile patterns and ironwork enclose a fine collection of Spanish Colonial art worth seeing.

Bon 4419 N. Campbell Avenue, 85718. (520) 615-7690. One of two sister stores owned by Bonnie and Crystal Flynt. A magical collection of clothing, gifts, garden items and housewares beautifully displayed with love and creativity. Patch NYC, Matteo Bedding and artwork by local artists and jewelers is offered.  Also located in an historic mud adobe house, Bon is a Tucson treasure.

Obsidian Gallery 4320 N Campbell Avenue, Tucson 85718 A collection of fine art and crafts from Tucson and elsewhere. Enamel vessels and jewelry by Sarah Perkins, encaustic by Judith Hoyt,  photography and paintings.

St. Philips Farmer’s Market . 4320 N. Campbell. On Sunday mornings, a shopping center parking lot that turns into a mecca of organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats and cheeses from local vendors and growers. Probably one of the more popular Tucson Farmer’s markets.


Lew Sorenson Flea Market 11100 East Tanque Verde Road, Tucson, 85749 First Sunday of every month, 9AM-3PM If you are fortunate to be in Tucson on the first Sunday of any month, spend a morning in at the Lew Sorenson Community Center Flea Market.. It is most active from September through May; summer months tend to have fewer vendors due to the heat. A former school, this flea market is an indoor-outdoor event with mulitiple vendors and ample parking. Vintage Mexican and Native American silver, ranch furniture, Native American Blankets, pottery, tools, books, and artwork. Coffee, pastries available on-site.

Tanque Verde Greenhouse 10810 East Tanque Verde Road , 85749 520- 749-4414 Six greenhouses filled with hundreds of  varieties of cacti and succulents at irresistible prices. Southwestern pottery, boxed cacti and succulents.

Citron Paint-7041 E. Tanque Verde Tucson, 85715. (520) 299-1442 That paint color you have in your head and just can’t find it at the conventional paint stores?….it’s here, at Citron. Beautiful, clear, full spectrum colors with delicious names. Sample pots to go, design services as well.

Sabino Canyon – Coronado National Park/ Sabino Canyon. On Sabino Canyon Road, north of Sunrise. Everyone’s favorite place to take visitors, Sabino Canyon offers miles of trails within a spectacular canyon complete with a rushing stream running through it. A tram service will take you up the canyon road if you wish, but most people walk or run the 4 mile trek. The views are so incredible, you almost forget your aching calves. Running or walking shoes a must.

MEXICAN FOOD, you ask? Tucson has, arguably, the best Mexican food in the country. From the oldest restaurant in Tucson, to the southside taco stand there is a wide variety available. Most don’t have websites, so call if you need more info. Sometimes there isn’t a phone, sometimes there isn’t anyone who speaks English, sometimes you just need to go check it out. I am sure readers will want to add their own additions– These are just a few:

Café  Poca Cosa 110 E. Pennington Street, 85701 (520) 622-6400. Downtown. One of Tucson’s most recognized restaurants. Chef Suzana Davila’s distinctive food is unique, elegant and fresh.  The décor is modern and colorful, the artwork on the walls is regional and impressive.  Be sure to make reservations in advance.

Little Poca Cosa Downtown, Stone at Alameda street. Suzana Davila’s sisters provide the theater at this excellent breakfast and lunch circus. Lots of locals, no phone, loud music, bright colors, cash only.

EL Guero Canelo 2480 N Oracle  Rd. Tucson, 85705 (520) 882-8977. Westside Mexican Hot-Dogs, Sonoran style, are their claim to fame but they also have tacos, burritos, caramellos and Mexican pancakes. A favorite hangout of plenty of Tucsonans, the original restaurant is on the south side of the city. (2 locations)

El Charro 311 N Court Ave. 85701 (520) 622-1922. History is the thing here. El Charro is the oldest restaurant in Tucson. Located downtown in an historic field stone house, it has a charming patio, bar and main dining rooms. A large menu featuring famous enchiladas. Several locations around town offer different fare under the same name. Check the website for other locations and features.

Mi Nidito 1814 S. 4th Ave. 85713. 622-5081 Southside Rated the best in Tucson time and time again. Everything tastes fresh and homemade.

Taqueria Pico de Gallo  2613 S. 6th Ave. 85713. (520)85713.Southside.The freshest, most delicious tacos with homemade tortillas. Tall fresh fruit cups with coconut, pineapple and mango, served with chili powder. Right next door, Mexican ice cream. This place is the bomb.

Taqueria Val de Yaqui- 921 W. Congress 85745 (520) 623-3020 Westside.Outstanding tacos!

Las Cazuelitas– 234 E. 22nd St. 85713 (520) 792-0405 Southside

Good, classic sit-down Mexican Restaurant, live music, beer and wine. 3 locations.

Mariscos Chihuahua 3 locations in Tucson, this one is on the map.1009 N Grande (520) 623-3563 Great seafood, most people don’t realize that Tucson is only 4 hours from the beaches of Mexico, so it is fresh, and really tasty.

DAY TRIPS- You have shopped, hiked and eaten, now it is time to get in the car and experience a few sights within an hour or two that will add to your most memorable trip to the desert. Be sure to check operating hours at all State and National Parks if you are traveling in the summer.

San Xavier del Bac 1950 W. San Xavier Road, 85746.(520) 294-2624  Recently restored, the Mission of San Xavier del Bac has been called the most important mission in North America and is a must-see for anyone interested in art, design, history or architecture. Just a 15 minutes south of Tucson, The White Dove of the Desert (as it is called) can be seen from the I-19 freeway.

Bisbee – This mining town dates to the 1880’s and is full of Victorian houses perched on cliffsides with steep stairs leading to them..  Café Roka – is a favorite dinner spot, as well as Chocolate, and a host of other cafes, coffee shops and galleries. You could spend the entire day shopping in a myriad of vintage and antique stores for pottery, books, boots, Native American and Mexican jewelry, local and vintage artwork and western clothing. The Shady Dell is in here, a widely admired hotel comprised of vintage travel trailers as guest rooms. Several bed and breakfasts, including one in the old schoolhouse, are available as well as The Copper Queen, a classic Arizona hotel.  About 90 miles from Tucson, it is a beautiful drive and well worth the trip.

Kartchner Caverns State Park (520) 586-2283 The story surrounding this place is as good as the caverns. Two University of Arizona professors found this cave and kept it secret for almost 15 years until they were sure it would be responsibly preserved. With rooms the size of football fields and spectacular views on each of the three tours, no one will be disappointed. The most encouraging thing is that every precaution has been taken to ensure the longevity of this most delicate environment. Make reservations well in advance by visiting the Arizona State Parks website.

Tumacacori Mission (520) 398-2341 Located South of Tucson off of the I-19 Freeway, these soulful ruins are a favorite of many Tucsonans. The Tumacacori Mission is a National Park and open to the public. The other two missions, Los Santos Angeles de Guevavi and San Cayetano de Calabazas must be seen on a guided ranger tour in the winter months. Check the website for more directions and information.

Boyce-Thompson Arboretum (520) 689-2811. Yet another botanical garden that creates a green oasis in the desert. It is a bit of a drive, but the scenery is spectacular on the way. Be sure to follow the trail that winds throughout the park to see towering rock formations, an herb garden, an Australian garden and nursery shop. Bring a lunch or head through the mountain tunnel to Superior, Arizona just a few miles away.

Pima Air and Space Museum-6000 E. Valencia Rd. (520) 574-0462  Over 300 significant aircraft, from vintage to the latest in technology. The largest privately funded air museum in the U. S.  Many fashion photoshoots have taken place here. Check website for current exhibitions.


The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show Every year, in late January the whole city turns itself over to dealers from all over the world. Fossils, minerals, gems, jewelry, artifacts, rugs, art, findings and a whole lot of beads. Two weeks of shopping. Many of the events are open to wholesalers only, while a select few require extensive accreditation. There are also quite a few locations where retail shoppers are more than welcome. Check the MTCVB website for more information. Make reservations for accommodations well in advance.

All Souls Procession The first Sunday in November, every year. A chance for everyone and anyone to celebrate the life of someone who has passed on. Innovative, artistic and just plain creepy costumes show up on 4th Avenue and process through downtown. Drumming, puppets, characters on stilts, jugglers, decorated bikes, families with strollers, it’s all here. This event was started by a local artist and the spirit has continued since 1990.

  1. Grace + Julia,
    The Tucson guide is beyond awesome. I recently moved here with my husband from Seattle and have spent the past 6 mos getting to know EVERY home-related store in Tucson, from flooring, to lighting, to art. And now harmed with your masterful guide, I will zestfully continue my exploration. Great tool for when friends visit,too. You ladies rock on all counts, design + political inclinations!

  2. EBrown says:

    Green chile: yummmm. Saving my taste buds for opera season in Santa Fe, but it’s good to know there are other places that feature it.

  3. Joel Charles says:

    Thank you for posting this delightful Tucson guide. My wife and I are Certified Tourism Ambassadors here, work in a tourist business, and love telling people about the area. We’ll be sure to mention, and if you don’t mind, re-post it to friends often. It’s simple and attractive. And, yes, you should keep your site apolitical. It’s a great one without poli-opinions!

  4. natalya says:

    I’ve lived in Tucson for the past 6 years, and am getting ready to re-locate…but this guide made me pause and realize that Tucson has very much become a home to me, and that I will miss it tremendously regardless of where I end up.

    I just want to point out that the two best times to visit (in my opinion, anyway) is during monsoon season around late July/August because you get beautiful giant clouds over the Catalinas and cooler weather because of the rain…and in the spring, when everything is blooming, but the temperature stays in the 80’s.

    Also, thank you so much for mentioning the All Souls Procession – its is an amazing event, and a completely unique Tucson tradition.

  5. Stephanie says:

    A lovely post, but as a Tucson native, I noticed a few of the links available in this guide are not correct! Just a heads up, I noticed by clicking a few that some don’t take you to the website they are intended to take you to, merely to a search page.

    Keep up the good work. :)

  6. Alexandra says:

    I love that illustration! Julia Rothman makes me want to draw!

  7. Liora says:

    Thank you so much for making a Tucson List! I can’t wait to try out some of these places! I’m so sad that you missed us though – Bahti Indian Arts in St. Phillip’s Plaza is an amazing stop on your Tucson trip – just hop on over during your Sunday farmer’s market visit!

  8. Anne says:

    Tucson is a great city and this is a great guide. But you forgot to mention that Tucson is a mecca for thrift stores, particularly for undervalued mid century modern furniture. We have a lot of snowbirds that came out here in the 60’s and 70’s. Once they permanently “fly-the-coop” their amazing furniture, clothing and tchotchke’s usually end up in one of the many thrift stores around town. Some of these not-so-secret gold mines are the Golden Goose in Oracle, The St. Vincent’s downtown and the White Elephant in Green Valley. Also, the absolute best bar in Tucson, hands down, is Scott & Co. Ciaran Wiese is a genius. It’s better than Pegu Club in NY and a quarter of the price. On a side note I’m stunned that the Buffet didn’t make the Tucson city guide. It’s the oldest functioning bar in Tucson and the perfect place to go if you want a sit next to a hobo at 6 am and drink a Coors and eat a pickled egg for breakfast. Keep Tucson Sh#*ty!!!!!!

  9. Anne says:

    Also, just a correction. Old Main at the University of Arizona was built in 1887 and while it is a beautiful old building it was most definitely NOT built by Frank Lloyd Wright. I think the building you’re referring to is up in Phoenix on the ASU campus.

  10. I moved from New York to Arizona a few years ago and even though I miss New York, i have to say Arizona is beautiful! I have yet to travel to Tucson, but I plan to at some point since my brother just moved there for a bit. This is a great post. Lots of good info for someone like me! Thanks for sharing.

  11. Great article, lots of useful information. Cafe Poca Cosa is an absolute must if you have never been before. Try the cheif’s choice plate and you will not be dissapointed !!

  12. You are right, there are some amazing Mexican Restaurants Tucson residents enjoy! I myself am a big fan of Latin American cuisine, so I never pass up a chance to eat at one of these great, authentic places. Thanks for your post!

  13. Tucson is a city that thrives on its tremendous natural beauty.

  14. George says:

    The Pima air and space museum is best place to see significant aircrafts of latest technology.

  15. Naomi Reed says:

    Great write-up! I moved to Tucson seven years ago from NYC and I love calling this funky, hip little city my adopted home! It’s such a unqiue place and you sum it up well when you say it’s home to many artists, designers and musicians who are inspired by the unique spirit of the desert – there are many transplants that move here because of it’s unqiue, authentic, laid-back style and funky, artsy, desert vibe.

    Tucson often gets clumped together with Phoenix and it couldn’t be more different. Tucson is culturally rich and diverse and is situated among four mountain ranges, making it visually stunning. Often described as a “blue dot in a sea of red,” it is an increadibly liberal city, much like Austin, TX.

    There has been a lot of growth in the downtown area in the past three years since this post, so you have to come back to shop in many of the new local boutiques, dine in all the new cafes and restaurants, and hit the bar scene, which has exploded in the last few years! There are too many new places to list here but just pick up a Zocalo magazine, which covers everything happening downtown. Thanks for the post!

  16. jenny phillips says:

    I cannot Believe you didn’t mention the great Arizona Inn as a wonderful place to stay or grab a drink in the heart of Tucson …it is pricey but definitely the best place to stay in town.Thanks for the post on BON- the best store in Tucson.If you come visit, check out my favorite place for a drink and a meal…right on the street-car line
    -The Coronet.Tucson is a great place to live!

  17. Lacie says:

    Old main wasn’t designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. He was the architect for Gammage on the Arizona State University. Old Main on the University of Arizona campus was designed by James Miller Creighton.


Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.