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Welcome to Tucson


With a dramatic setting in the Sonora Desert, surrounded by a ring of mountain ranges with the Santa Catalina Mountains as a backdrop, Tucson is the fastest-growing resort city in the country and one of the most attractive holiday destinations in Arizona. Combining the amenities of a modern metropolis and a small-town atmosphere, its constant sunshine and dry desert air, makes Tucson a city that takes advantage of its beautiful desert setting as a popular health resort. Its proximity to the Mexican border is evident in its architecture and cuisine, and a long history that has left the city with a dynamic legacy of Spanish, Mexican, American and traditional Native American influences.

With naturally eroded cliff forms, cacti, bird life and old cowboy towns in the area, Tucson is also a good base from which to explore the many natural sights beyond the city limits. Horseback riding and hiking along the wilderness trails are good ways to explore the region. Nearby attractions include the Sagauro National Park with the highest concentration in the world of the desert-symbol Saguaro cactus, the Spanish-style Mission San Xavier del Bac, and the first-class Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum that features almost every kind of local desert fauna and flora in an outdoor setting. The old mining town of Tombstone attracts crowds of tourists as the site of the shootout at the OK Corral.

There's no reason to ignore Tucson's city centre, though. With a number of museums, parks, shops, restaurants and nightspots, Tucson has a lively atmosphere that will entertain any visitor. The vineyards scattered southwest of the city provide its restaurants with all flavours of local wine, and its Mexican influence ensures just the right amount of spice!

Information & Facts


Tucson experiences a desert climate where temperatures are moderate and rainfall is too low to sustain any vegetation at all. The two major seasons, namely summer and winter, with three minor seasons; autumn, spring and the monsoon. Summer months experience low humidity and clear skies with daytime highs reaching 100°F (37°C) and average overnight temperatures ranging between 66°F (19°C) and 85°F (29°C). Winters are mild with average daytime highs between 64°F (18°C) and 75°F (24°C). The monsoon season runs from June to August and sees very high humidity with thunderstorms and occasional flash floods.

Getting Around

Tucson has an extensive public bus system operated by Sun Tran. The city also has a large network of bike routes and with its flat terrain is considered bike-friendly, but the heat makes this option less attractive in the summer months. The roads are easy to follow and driving is relatively pleasant, though the streets are congested at certain times of day.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

This world-renowned museum is more like a zoo, showcasing the surrounding desert's creatures in their natural habitats. Located in the Sonoran Desert, the setting of the museum also offers awesome views of the surrounding mountain ranges. The gift shop has an excellent selection of Sonoran desert souvenirs. This is a must for any visitor staying in Tucson for more than just one day.

In 1923, the first proper tours of Colossal Cave were conducted using ropes and lanterns; today more advanced options are offered. The cave is considered dry or dormant as it is no longer 'growing' crystal formations, due to a lack of water. The preserved stalagmites, stalactites and flowstone are beautiful to see, and the temperature inside the cave is always comfortably warm.

The DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun is an iconic Tucson landmark located at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Established by the famous artist, Ettore DeGrazia, the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features a museum of DeGrazia's work and an adobe chapel, called the Mission in the Sun, as well as striking murals, gardens and the artist's home and grave site.

This is a great place to visit when the kids have had enough of sightseeing. There is exciting go-karting and laser tag for the older children and adults, and the little ones will love the bumper boats. With two mini golf courses, batting cages and a huge arcade, there's enough here to keep a family entertained for hours.

Kartchner Caverns State Park is home to one of the great natural wonders of the American west; there is no known record of the huge living cave being seen before the 1970s and the pristine conditions within have been carefully preserved. A remarkable feature of this cave is that it's a 'wet' or 'living' cave; the calcite formations are still growing and display a stunning variety of multicoloured cave formations. Tours of the caves are available, however there is a lot of walking involved and they are unfortunately not handicapped accessible.

Tom Philabaum is well known as one of America's foremost glass artists, with exhibits throughout the western world. His gallery embraces this reputation, exhibiting over 100 nationally and internationally celebrated artists. Aside from viewing the extraordinary exhibits, visitors can also watch glassblowing and learn more about the development of the studio glass movement.

While maybe not the best zoo in the world, Reid Park Zoo is still one of the foremost attractions in Tucson. Because of its relatively small size, the zoo can be explored leisurely in less than two hours. The animals are comfortably at home in pleasant natural surroundings; envy the little polar bear cubs as they happily float in ice-cold water while it's 100ºF (38ºC) in the scorching Tucson summer. There is also an interactive wet play area for kids, but you'd better bring a towel!

Of the many natural attractions in the Tucson vicinity, Sabino Canyon is one of the most popular. This gaping divide in the Santa Catalina Mountains is the site where ancient Hohokam people constructed irrigation dams while mammoths still roamed the area. After a six-mile (9.6km) hike, enjoy swimming in the crystal clear pools at Seven Falls.

This historic Spanish mission in the Tohono O'odham Nation Reservation is located 10 miles (16km) south of the city and was founded by Father Kino in the 1660s. The present building dates back to the 18th century and the mission is still actively functional, providing great religious and cultural insight to visitors. The mission has a small museum, which showcased artefacts and multimedia presentations on the Mission's history.

Tombstone is the most famous town in the Wild West, and attracts thousands of tourists with its old wooden Western-style buildings, swinging saloon doors, stagecoach rides, gunslingers, dusty streets and shootout re-enactments. Many Hollywood movies have been shot here against the rugged mountain backdrop. Originally a silver boomtown in 1877, it rose to notoriety in 1881, when lawmen Wyatt Earp, his two brothers, and Doc Holliday confronted a band of outlaws and a gunfight ensued. This event has come to epitomise the Wild West and the star attraction of the town is the OK Corral, one of southern Arizona's most visited tourist sites. There is a staged 30-second shootout, and exhibits relating to the event inside the corral. The Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park features an old west courtroom where several renowned trials took place, as well as some excellent exhibits, including alternative versions of the OK Corral shootout. Although a classic tourist-trap town, with souvenir shops and restaurants galore, many people love the Wild West atmosphere and the rugged setting, and relish the chance to play cowboy for a day.

Trail Dust Town is built on the site of a 1950s western movie set; home to a vintage 1920s Fiesta del Presidiocarousel and a museum dedicated to Western cavalry and dragoon military units. Designed as a replica of a 19th century Western town, it has Old West souvenir shops, galleries and restaurants, as well as a custom leather store, wooden sidewalks, a central plaza, shooting gallery and a C.P. Huntington train. Hosting Wild West stunt shows, and an annual cowboy show in late February, Trail Dust Town is a great place to visit.

The Tucson Botanical Gardens are a major attraction, not just for the rich collection of cactus and desert wildflowers. An educational walk highlights the history of the native Tohono O'odham Indians and the work local scientists have done to preserve native seeds. Be sure to visit the traditional Mexican-American neighbourhood garden ( Nuestro Jardin), and relax on the shaded restaurant patio.

At the Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum, pioneer artefacts and a re-created Western Main Street represent what Tucson looked like, and what it had to offer in the way of businesses and services, back in the old days of the Wild West. The museum also has an inventory of 150 vehicles, with everything from small buggies to wagons and coaches on display. The museum hosts the Tucson Rodeo Parade each February.

As part of the Edward J. Gallagher Memorial Collection, the University of Arizona Art Museum is home to works by Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and Mark Rothko. The museum also houses the C. Leonard Pfeiffer Collection of American paintings and the Samuel H. Kress Collection of European works, from the 14th to the 19th century. The University of Arizona campus is also the location of the Center for Creative Photography, displaying various works by leading artists such as Edward Weston and Ansel Adams.

Delve into fantasyland in the desert, with historic Western sites in a magical setting, created by George Phar Legler in the 1920s. Mineralised rock cliffs, caves, pools and garden miniatures have merged with tropic and desert flora to make what Mr. Legler called the "Fantasy Touch of Three", referring to Edgar Allen Poe, Lewis Carroll, and Robert Louis Stevenson. There are tours, shows and a gift shop on site.

Looking for something a bit different?  Check out our selection of cultural & adventure holidays or if you're looking to go it alone then see our selection of solo holidays.

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