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Brought to you by Visit Tucson
Travel allows us to find adventure, experience something different and discover new places. In Tucson, that openness is best represented by the city’s vast horizons – look up for endless blue skies, unbelievable sunsets, a tapestry of countless stars at night, majestic sunrises. Isn’t it time for you to have a “Top of the World” moment – that moment where you just want to stay in it – here in Tucson?
Tucson’s a city ready to impress you with incredible natural beauty, resorts and spas with luxury to spare, golf courses that are both stunning and challenging, and delicious and adventurous food and drink.
Speaking of food, Tucson was selected as America’s first UNESCO City of Gastronomy. We’re a rising spot on the culinary scene – and it’s not just us making that claim. New York magazine dubbed Tucson the "Southwest’s next foodie destination". We made Wine Enthusiast's list of "Top Under-the-Radar Food Towns" for 2016. USA Today and the New York Times featured Tucson food this year.
It’s your choice how you want to relax and recharge. Want to experience the spa life? Tucson has two of the world’s best. Need to reconnect with nature? The Sonoran Desert surrounds you in Tucson, enveloping you with five mountain ranges and beauty that is nearly indescribable. Hiking, biking, yoga under the stars, rock climbing, spelunking, even just trying to capture the perfect photo outside – nearly anything you have in mind is available and accessible, especially with the 350 days of sunshine Tucson has every year.
It’s time for you to find yourself on top of the world.
Clean, fresh air and warm summers with low humidity keep Tucson ideal year-round. Temperatures and rainfall in the Sonoran Desert vary widely depending on season and elevation, but sunblock, sunglasses and water are always essential.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum provides a glimpse at one of the world’s most unique collections of wildlife. Focused on the preservation of the Sonoran Desert, this outdoor museum encompasses 21 acres with two miles of hiking trails. The unique experience fuses many attractions: a zoo, botanical garden, natural history museum, aquarium and art gallery. There’s also a hummingbird aviary, the Warden Aquarium and the Earth Sciences Center.
An Outdoor Mecca
Tucson's outdoor environment transports visitors to another world, quite literally. With lush saguaro cactus forests stretching as far as the eye can see, awe-inspiring mountain ranges at every corner of the city and some of the best sunsets on the planet, it's not hard to find a moment of serenity here. Travelers looking for a multi-day backpacking excursion, a short desert hike, bike-friendly streets, horseback riding or rock climbing in the mountains will quickly discover that getting outside in Tucson is as real as it gets.
A True Culinary Destination
Tucson is the first American city to become part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network for gastronomy, honoring southern Arizona’s food traditions, rich agricultural heritage, culinary innovation and chef-focused cuisine. The city’s incredibly unique mix of cultural influences are reflected in the food, from the Sonoran hot dog’s cross-border origin story to historic wheat brought by Spanish missionaries and the fruit of the prickly pear cactus showing up in local craft beers.
Astronomy Capital of the World
Telescopes top the mountains, taking advantage of Tucson’s clean air and clear, dark skies and almost 350 nights of viewing per year, making Tucson the astronomy capital of the world. Visitors can tour some of the world’s most respected observatories and enjoy the same “good seeing” as the pros. The 5-hour SkyNights program at Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter lets travelers see the universe in a way most people never will.
Tucson is a comfortable mix of Old West, Mexican, Native American and Spanish. It's more than the cowboy image of old jeans and trail-worn boots, however. Tucson is emerging as an urban center of tourism, international trade and high-tech industry. Snow birds from the north arrive reliably each season to visit their vacation homes or one of many luxury resorts. Golf and spa tourism are booming businesses with wellness and well-being programs a hallmark of many properties.
In this desert city of almost constant sun, traditional adobe architecture and modern high-rises stand shoulder-to-shoulder. Traditional folklorico mingles with modern art, dance and music. Cuisine encompasses everything from traditional bean salads to fine French fare.
The mix of ancient and modern extends beyond the city, too. Tucson is surrounded by interesting day-trip destinations. Some take you through the fascinating desert landscape in which Tucson lies, and some lead you through the human history of the region, which includes everything from Spanish missions to nuclear missiles. Others will help you enjoy the splendid scenery and recreational activities—with more than 300 days of sunshine each year, people in Tucson are passionate about being outdoors.
Sights—The architectural detail of Mission San Xavier del Bac; the breathtaking scenery and natural beauty at Sabino Canyon; El Presidio Historic District; the stately cacti in Saguaro National Park.
Museums—The indigenous desert wildlife and plant life at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum; traditional and contemporary works at the Tucson Museum of Art; aeronautical history at the Pima Air and Space Museum.
Memorable Meals—The complex sauces and seasonings at Cafe Poca Cosa; traditional Sonoran cuisine, including the house-made carne seca (dried beef), at the original El Charro.
Late Night—Listening to offbeat local bands at Club Congress; knee-slapping laughs at Laffs Comedy Caffe & Monkey Bar.
Walks—Browsing the shops along Fourth Avenue; getting close to nature at Tohono Chul Park; seeing Tucson's early architecture in the Barrio Historico.
Especially for Kids—Visiting the hideout of Old West bandits and train robbers at Colossal Cave Mountain Park; pretending to be a doctor or lawyer at the interactive Tucson Children's Museum.
Tucson spreads out over a valley surrounded by four mountain ranges: the Santa Catalinas on the north, the Rincon Range to the east, the Santa Rita Mountains to the south and the Tucson Mountain range to the west. Sentinel Peak, called "A" mountain by University of Arizona students, is slightly southwest of downtown Tucson and affords a fantastic view of the metropolitan area. The Santa Cruz River, once the lifeblood of the region, is now a dry riverbed that crosses Tucson diagonally from northwest to southeast.
Tucson's historic neighborhoods are primarily clustered within the central city and include Barrio Historico, El Presidio, Armory Park, West University, Sam Hughes, Iron Horse and the Pie Allen District (named for an early settler famous for his dried-apple pies). The downtown Arts District and the Fourth Avenue Shopping District are also centrally located.
The valley where Tucson lies has drawn people for a long, long time. Native Americans farmed along the Santa Cruz River thousands of years ago. When the Spanish arrived, they found a village that the Pima and Tohono O'odham peoples called "Stjukshon," meaning "spring at the foot of black mountain." The word eventually evolved into Tucson.
In 1699, Jesuit priest Eusebio Kino established Mission San Xavier del Bac just south of present-day Tucson. San Augustine de Tucson, a Spanish presidio, or military post, was built 75 years later.
When Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, Tucson became a Mexican territory. In 1854, the Gadsden Purchase made Tucson part of the U.S., and in 1867, the city was named capital of the Arizona Territory. Phoenix became the state capital in 1912, when Arizona achieved statehood.
During the mid-1800s, settlers spread out from the Presidio district into what is now known as the Barrio Historico. Working-class Mexicans, Chinese, African Americans, Anglos and Native Americans, many of whom went to Arizona to work in the copper mines, gave a rich ethnic diversity to Tucson.
With the arrival of the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1880s, the Presidio district became affluent and was populated by city leaders and aristocrats. The city prospered, the Arizona Territorial University was established (it's now the University of Arizona) and, by 1920, Tucson had a population of more than 20,000. The onetime outpost has managed to maintain its cultural diversity and Old West charm while becoming one of the fastest-growing urban areas in the country.
Tucson was once home to Harold Bell Wright, the first American writer to sell 1 million books and the first to make US$1 million from his writing. He lived in the city during the early 1900s. Look for his name on the cornerstone of the Temple of Music and Art, which he helped raise funds to build.
During Arizona's territorial days, bicycles were the main mode of transportation. In 1910, there were 300 bicycles to every automobile and no paved streets.
Arizona residents have developed unique ways to protect plants from the extreme temperatures: They brush the trunks of citrus trees with white paint to protect them from sunburn and place Styrofoam cups on the tips of cacti to protect them from the cold.
Tucson was founded by an Irishman. Don Hugo O'Connor was hired by the Spaniards to upgrade their frontier defenses against the Native Americans. In 1775 he visited the area, which at that time consisted only of the San Xavier Mission. O'Connor ordered a military post to be built north of the mission, which became Tucson.
One of the staples of most Mexican menus, the chimichanga, was invented at El Charro restaurant in Tucson in the late 1950s. Chef and owner Monica Flin accidentally dropped a leftover burrito into the deep-fat fryer, but she liked what she tasted and gave it a nonsense name: Chimichanga has no meaning.
Mount Lemmon, near Tucson, is the most southerly ski destination in the continental U.S.
Interstate 19, which runs south from Tucson to the Mexican border, is the only interstate highway in the U.S. where distances are marked in kilometers—though speed-limit signs are marked in miles per hour.
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