Super useful & totally free travel guides, written by locals who love Tucson
Why We Love Tucson – Tucson, Arizona is a special place, and you’ll feel it from the moment you arrive. The town is packed with quirky personalities, funky shops, and stellar restaurants and breweries. Outdoor enthusiasts will discover some of the best hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing in the nation here. It’s also sunny 350 days of the year, so you’ll enjoy warm sunshine no matter when you plan your trip. With so many indoor and outdoor activities, you’ll never run out of things to do in this gorgeous Sonoran desert city.
Best of Tucson
Explore the best features of the Sonoran Desert, and experience the laidback lifestyle of a true Tucsonan:
- Hike / Rock Climb – Tucson is surrounded by five mountain ranges, each of which offers a massive list of hiking trails and climbing routes.
- Go on a Brewery Crawl – The craft brewing scene has blown up in Tucson over the last decade. Try the best of the best on a brewery crawl!
- Visit the University of Arizona– Tucson is a college town at heart. Visit the beautiful university campus to immerse yourself in Wildcat country.
- See a Concert at the Rialto – This is the best local venue to catch up-and-coming artists and bands in an intimate setting.
- Relax Poolside – With so much sunshine all year long, you’d be remiss to skip out on a day or two lounging by the pool.
👉 Read the full list of best things to do in Tucson.
The best places to stay in Tucson range from bustling downtown hotspots to mountain getaways in the foothills. Be in the heart of it all or have a peaceful stay on the outskirts:
- Historic Fourth Ave – This is easily the most eclectic neighborhood for shopping and dining. It’s equidistant to the university and downtown!
- Downtown – The vibrant city center is the best place to stay if you want to be within walking distance of major attractions.
- Catalina Foothills – This area is perfect for those who want to retreat to a mountain-view resort, far away from the downtown hubbub.
👉 Read the full guide to where to stay in Tucson.
🛎️ Best Hotels
Tucson is a sought-after retreat for everyone from local Arizonans to A-list celebrities. The top hotels ensure a peaceful stay in a gorgeous setting.
- Arizona Inn – One of the oldest hotels in Tucson, this charming place is beautifully landscaped and located in the heart of the city.
- The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa – Views of the Catalina Mountains, a swim-up bar, and poolside service make this a favorite for visitors and stay-cationers.
- JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa – Lazy river? Check. Green golf courses? Check. Luxury on every level? Check.
Tucson is designated as the UNESCO City of Gastronomy for its sustainably-sourced and creative food culture. So yeah, the restaurants are pretty incredible.
- Li’l Abner’s – The spirit of Tucson lives in the walls of this stagecoach-stop-turned-steakhouse. Their mesquite grilled steak is *chef’s kiss*.
- LaCo – Al fresco dining under the stars in a twinkle-lit courtyard. The most romantic and inviting restaurant in downtown Tucson.
- Chef Alisah’s Restaurant – Named “the best Bosnian restaurant in America,” Chef Alisah delivers European cuisine you’ll never forget.
- Rollies Mexican Patio – The most authentic Mexican food with flavors that do not disappoint. I’ve never had better birria in my life.
- Sher-e-Punjab – Classic dishes bursting with spices and savory flavors. The best Indian food in Tucson, hands down.
👉 Read the full list of best restaurants in Tucson.
- Mt. Lemmon – A mountain getaway located just north of the city. Escape to the pine trees and cool air in an hour’s drive.
- Sonoita – Wine country is less than an hour away from Tucson. Sip on renowned blends in the hilly vineyards of Sonoita.
- Nogales – Grab your passport! The vibrant streets of Mexico are just one hour from downtown Tucson via I-19.
- Bisbee – A mining town filled with haunted history, eclectic shops, artsy neighborhoods, and tasty eateries.
- Saguaro National Park – Thousands of magnificent saguaros grow in this mountainous park located on both the west and east side of Tucson.
👉 Read the full list of best day trips from Tucson.
- University – Historic bungalows line the streets surrounding the University of Arizona. The college bars and shops are loads of fun.
- Downtown – Find bars, nightclubs, concert venues, breweries, and restaurants in this hopping, walkable area.
- South Tucson – Heavily influenced by Hispanic culture, this 1×1 square mile city is the best place to get authentic Mexican food.
- Barrio Viejo – Explore colorful, old adobe homes dating back to the late 1800s in this culturally-rich area.
- Sam Hughes – East of the university, this historic neighborhood features charming architecture and desert landscaping.
- Tough Luck Club – A stone-walled speakeasy located in the basement of Reilly’s Pizza downtown. Roll the dice for a mystery shot!
- The Shelter – This JFK-themed bar has all the vintage memorabilia to make you feel nostalgic. They serve the cheapest drinks in town.
- IBT’s – Tucson’s favorite gay bar is located on 4th Ave. Make sure to go for the wildly entertaining drag karaoke on Mondays.
- Batch – A floor-to-ceiling whiskey bar and whiskey-flavored donuts. There may be no better combination on this earth.
- Club Congress – A famous hideout back in the wild west days, this historic hotel features a beautiful bar and great live music.
- MotoSonora – This moto-themed brewery blends race cars and beer-making in a laid-back environment. They brew the best beer in Tucson!
- Crooked Tooth – Specializing in moon-themed sours and ales, the ambiance at Crooked Tooth is the best of Tucson breweries.
- Pueblo Vida – If you’re a fan of IPAs, Pueblo Vida has the largest and most well-made selection in the downtown area.
- Borderlands – Built right next to the train tracks, you’ll feel a giddy thrill each time you cheers a beer to the floor-rumbling train horn.
- 1912 – A great spot to enjoy a wide selection of beers while you play a board game with friends.
- Barrio – The oldest brewery in Tucson, Barrio pours a variety of Tucson staples and serves quite tasty food.
- Seven Falls Trail – When the monsoons hit, this gorgeous spot features 7 raging waterfalls that form natural swimming pools.
- Butterfly Trail – Hike among the shimmering aspen trees atop Mt. Lemmon at this local favorite in the Coronado National Forest.
- Blackett’s Ridge Trail – This short hike is quite difficult. The trail goes straight up, but the views at the top are so rewarding.
- Painted Hills Trailhead – For a peaceful stroll in the desert, take this easy trail featuring views of the city and Tucson Mountains.
- David Yetman Trail – This beautiful out-and-back trail leads to an abandoned stone house and several hidden caves.
- Finger Rock Trailhead – Hike 8.8 miles to this iconic feature of the Catalinas for sweeping views of Tucson. Start early — this one takes all day.
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum – This mostly-outdoor attraction is a world-renowned zoo, botanical garden, and natural history museum.
- Pima Air and Space Museum – Home to over 300 aircraft from historic bombers to high-tech jets.
- Ignite Sign Art Museum – Peruse a wide collection of vintage neon and historic signs. This place will surely give you a serotonin boost.
- Tucson Museum of Art & Historic Block – The best of the best Native American, western, modern, and contemporary art..
- Arizona State Museum – The largest anthropology museum in southern Arizona features over 3 million artifacts.
- Prison Camp (Hirabayashi) – What used to be a Japanese internment camp on Mt. Lemmon is now a popular climbing site over a raging waterfall.
- La Milagrosa Canyon – This crag features 56 routes of varying difficulty levels in the beautiful canyon at the base of Mt. Lemmon.
- Munchkinland – Around 100 routes past Rose Canyon Lake on Mt. Lemmon. These routes are long, but not super hard to tackle.
- Cochise Stronghold – A backcountry experience in the Dragoon Mountains just east of Tucson. These multi-pitch climbs are stunning.
- Crags Against Humanity – Easily accessible right off the Catalina Highway. Over 30 climbs are perfect for beginner and intermediate climbers.
Tucson Travel Advice
🗓️ Best Time to Visit
Desert weather is unique, so make sure you plan your visit during a time when you’ll feel comfortable outdoors.
- ❄️ Winter – Winter in Tucson is unlike anywhere else in the US. Relax poolside in 70-degree weather and hike to your heart’s content.
- 🍂 Fall – It starts to feel like fall in Tucson in late October when the air turns crisp and the desert cools way down at night.
- 🌼 Spring – Spring weather is breathtaking, but the blooming Palo Verde trees will spark your allergies with a force!
- 🌞 Summer – Some like it hot, but most like it not. Temperatures climb to 100+ degrees throughout May well into September.
🚌 Getting Around
Tucson transportation is rough without a car. Your best bet is to rely on rideshares or rent a vehicle.
- 🚶♀️ Walking – With a walk score of 43, walking isn’t realistic unless you’re downtown or by the university.
- 🚗 Driving – Though the streets of Tucson are rough (potholes and decrepit drivers), you can get around easily by car.
- 🚇 Public Transit – The only feasible form of public transit is the Sun Link, which takes you from the university to downtown.
- 📲 Ride Share – Uber and Lyft are available throughout the city and arrive within minutes at a reasonable cost.
- 🚴♀️ Biking – Tucson ranks #13 as the best biking city in the U.S. Opt for two wheels if you don’t mind a workout!
- 🛴 Scooters – You’ll find Birds around the university, 4th Ave, and downtown, but the streetcar tracks make them risky.
👉 Tips & Things to Know
- 🚰 – Drink Water – Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The Arizona heat paired with the sunny rays leads to dehydration quickly, so drink up all day long!
- 🎓 – Note University Events – Keep track of when major events are happening at the University of Arizona if you want to avoid the college crowds.
- 🤝 – Bring A Hiking Buddy – No matter where you go hiking, always take a hiking buddy with you. It’s easy to get injured or lost in the desert, so bring a friend!
- 🐍 – Be Aware of Desert Creatures- Don’t mess with the Sonoran Desert dwellers. Rattlesnakes and Gila monsters are very cool but very dangerous.
- 🐴 – Keep Track of City Events – Major events like the Gem Show and Rodeo bring thousands of visitors to Tucson each year. Mark your calendar!
🧳 What to Pack
- 💧 – Water Bottle – The rule of thumb is to drink half an ounce of water for each pound you weigh. In Tucson, double that! Keep a bottle on you at all times.
- 🧴 – Sunscreen – Protect your skin! Make sure to layer on the sunscreen before you leave the house, especially if you’re going to the pool.
- 👡 – Sandals – It’s sandal weather all year long in Tucson. Get comfy in your favorite flip-flops and let those toes breathe.
- 🧢 – Hat – If you intend to spend time outside in Tucson (which you definitely will), bring a hat to keep the blazing sun off your face.
- 😎 – Sunglasses – Noticing a sun-protection theme here? Shield your precious eyes with a pair of sunnies, particularly UV blockers.
🤓 Facts & Info
- Census Population (2020) – 545,340 (city), 993,000 (metro area)
- Time Zone – MST Time (GMT-7)
- Area Codes – (520)
- Airports – Tucson International Airport (TUS)
- Nickname – The Old Pueblo / The Dirty T
- Demonym – Tucsonan
- State – Arizona
- Country – United States of America
💵 Costs & Budgeting
- 3-Star Hotel Room – $75-$120/night
- 1 Bedroom Apartment Rental – $50-$150/night
- Rental Car – $20-$100/day
- Public Transit Ticket – ~$2-$6 ($10 to airport from center)
- Ride Share from Downtown to Airport – $15-$30
- Take Out Meal for Two – $20-$40
- Sit Down Dinner for Two – $25-$75
- Draft Beer – $4-$8
FAQs About Visiting Tucson
Is Tucson safe for tourists?
Tucson is generally safe for tourists, but you should take a decent amount of caution when venturing around the city in the late hours of the night. Crime usually involves theft, not violence, but be aware of your surroundings and avoid making unsafe decisions.
What is the best month to visit Tucson?
The best month to visit Tucson is November. March is also ideal, as both occur during seasonal transitions, so it’s neither too hot nor too cold. The weather is perfect for outdoor exploration.
What is Tucson best known for?
Tucson is best known for its western history, Hispanic culture, and electric sunsets. The city has a unique past full of cowboys, shootouts, and outlaws. And with such proximity to Mexico, Hispanic culture is richly alive throughout the metropolis. Tucson sunsets are unparalleled to anywhere else in the US, and maybe even the world!
How far is Tucson from the Mexican border?
Tucson is only one hour by car, or 70 miles, from the Mexican border. It’s super easy to take a day trip to Nogales if you have a passport.
What is the wettest month in Tucson?
The wettest month in Tucson is typically August. The monsoon storms begin in July and extend into September, but August is almost always consistently raining. The downpours are frequent but short-lived.
How hot does Tucson get in the summer?
Tucson temperatures get well above 100 degrees in the summer. This heat usually arrives in May, and it doesn’t cool down much until the end of September.
Meet Our Tucson Travel Expert
Betty Hurd is a flight attendant from Tucson, Arizona with a degree in Journalism from the University of Arizona. Her love for travel led her to exciting careers in aviation and writing. She’s visited 37 countries and hopes to inspire others to see the world by chronicling her adventures in her blog, Have You Hurd.
📰 Arizona Travel Guides
Tucson is a fantastic starting point for your Arizona travels, but there’s more to see outside of the Old Pueblo. Check out our Arizona guides for more insight on where to go and what to do in the Grand Canyon State!
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