The author Betty Hurd with a friend posing for a photo with the Seven Falls on their background, in one of her top choices for where to stay in Tucson

Where to Stay in Tucson (Best Places & Areas, By a Local)

I’m a Tucson local (or “T-loc” as we like to call ourselves). In this guide, I will share the inside scoop on several unique neighborhoods and places to stay in Tucson. Regardless of your preferences, you’ll discover where to stay in Tucson, as I cover everything from budget to boutique stays.

Also, be sure to bookmark my local’s guide to the best things to do in Tucson — including a few attractions you won’t want to miss.

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. Thank you!

Best Places to Stay in Tucson

Aerial view of the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa and the golf course around it
(photo: Manuela Durson / Shutterstock)

Just looking for a quick answer on where to stay in Tucson? Here are my top picks: 

Ok, let’s do a deep dive into the best areas and neighborhoods in Tucson: 

6 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in Tucson

Tucson is easy to navigate as the five surrounding mountain ranges offer a sense of direction. These include the Santa Catalinas, Santa Ritas, Rincons, Tortolitas, and Tucson Mountains. 

Downtown and south/central Tucson are located close to major attractions and feature lots of boutique hotels. Meanwhile, the northern and eastern areas offer more outdoor opportunities near the bases of the mountains. Midtown Tucson offers family-friendly attractions, plus some of the city’s best eateries and entertainment.

Let’s do a deep dive into 6 of the best neighborhoods in Tucson:

Downtown Tucson

Aerial view of buildings with lights at night in Downtown Tucson
Downtown Tucson is alive with clubs, bars, restaurants, and music venues

👉 Best Area For Entertainment | ✨ Best Downtown Tucson Hotels: Hotel CongressThe Downtown CliftonDoubletree By Hilton

Downtown Tucson is one of my favorite places to visit in Arizona. It’s a super small area, so you can easily walk the length of it in an hour or so. 

Old brick buildings line the street, their occupants ranging from tea shops to concert venues. You’ll also find boutique stores, the Tucson Museum of Art, and hole-in-the-wall diners. The lit-up trees along Congress Street and the sounds of live music floating through the air make this area so inviting and special.

This is where to stay in Tucson if you want to be close to all the happening hotspots in town. It’s also super easy to hop on the Sun Link streetcar to Fourth Avenue, University Boulevard, and the South Tucson area for only a couple of dollars. 

I recommend seeing a concert at the Rialto or 191 Toole to experience a truly intimate show. Fox Tucson Theatre is also a great place to see comedy shows and old movies!

Pros of Staying in Downtown Tucson Neighborhood:

  • Easy public transportation via Sun Link
  • Great restaurants, bars, and clubs
  • Live music and comedy shows
  • Museums and street art abound
  • Short drive to Casino del Sol Resort via I-10/I-19

Cons of Staying in Downtown Tucson Neighborhood:

  • Can get crowded and noisy
  • Slightly more expensive hotels
  • Not as safe at night

📚 Downtown Tucson Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Entertainment
Google Map

  • ✨ Best HotelsHotel CongressThe Downtown CliftonDoubletree By Hilton
  • 🏠 ApartmentsBrowse Top Rentals in Downtown Tucson
  • 🍽️ Where to Eat – HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery ($$), LaCo ($$), Elliott’s ($)
  • 🍸 Where to Drink – Batch, Tough Luck Club, Good Oak Bar
  • 🎟️ Top Attractions – Tucson Museum of Art, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson Convention Center, Southern Arizona Transportation Museum, Tucson Music Hall

Historic Fourth Avenue

Colorful houses in Historic Fourth Avenue in Tucson
The colorful homes around Fourth Avenue personify Tucson’s vibrant culture

👉 Best Area For Local Personality | ✨ Best Fourth Avenue Hotels: Graduate TucsonUniversity Inn TucsonTucson Marriott University Park

Fourth Avenue is the epitome of Tucson. This popular spot is the merging point for tourists and locals. Here, you can explore dive bars, bookstores, speakeasies, coffee shops, and more in the city center. Peruse unique gifts at Hippie Gypsy and get a coffee at Cafe Pase during the day, then watch the streets come alive after sunset. 

I recommend a bar crawl including The Hut (fishbowl central!), Portal, Che’s Lounge, Mr. Heads, and IBTs. I also suggest staying at Graduate Tucson for a lazy day by the rooftop pool close to the UA campus, then heading to 4th Ave for the evening. There are plenty of cheap hotels near this area, too, if you’re on a budget.

The Sun Link streetcar runs the length of the avenue’s populated section. This makes it super easy to get from the University area through Fourth Ave to Downtown. This is one of my all-time favorite places in central Tucson. There is something so special about this quirky strip of town, and you’re always guaranteed to have fun here. It’s the perfect place to stay for those who love people-watching and sightseeing.

Pros of Staying in Fourth Avenue Neighborhood:

  • Tons of Tucson restaurants and bars nearby
  • Easy to walk to downtown, the university, and other historic sites
  • A short drive from Saguaro National Park and Tucson Mountain Park
  • Cheaper hotels and rentals

Cons of Staying in Fourth Avenue Neighborhood:

  • Can get crowded and loud on weekends
  • Slightly more dangerous after dark
  • Ubers may be more expensive
  • Students can take over during the school year

📚 Fourth Avenue Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Local Personality
Google Map

Catalina Foothills

Cacti at the Catalina Foothills in Tucson
The Santa Catalinas loom over the entirety of the Catalina Foothills area

👉 Best Area For Luxury Resorts | ✨ Best Catalina Foothills Hotels: The Westin La Paloma Resort & SpaHacienda Del SolWestward Look, Wyndham

Catalina Foothills is a large area of north Tucson located at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountains. It’s a higher-end area with fancy shops, swanky restaurants, and all-inclusive resorts. 

The closer you drive to the mountains, the better the views of the city lights and gorgeous cliff sides. This area is lovely and incorporates more natural scenes of the Sonoran Desert into the local establishments.

If you love shopping, La Encantada is a great outdoor mall to get all the brand-name items you’ve been dreaming about. This shopping center also has tons of great restaurants, but note that they are pricier than other spots in the area. 

For those who enjoy hiking, the Finger Rock trailhead is super close to tons of resorts and hotels nearby. You can fit in a ton of outdoor activities here while still treating yourself to the finer things.

Pros of Staying in Catalina Foothills Neighborhood:

  • Luxury hotels
  • Highly-rated restaurants and bars nearby
  • Santa Catalina Mountains great for hiking
  • Desert wildlife abounds

Cons of Staying in Catalina Foothills Neighborhood:

  • Expensive hotels and restaurants
  • Far from Tucson International Airport
  • Need a rental car to get around
  • Far from I-10

📚 Catalina Foothills Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Luxury Resorts
Google Map

Sabino Canyon

The author with a friend posing for a photo with the Seven Falls on their background
Me at Seven Falls, one of the most popular and unforgettable hikes in Sabino Canyon

👉 Best Area For Outdoor Activities | ✨ Best Sabino Canyon Hotels: Loews Ventana Canyon Resort • Canyon Ranch Wellness ResortCasitas at Sabino Springs

Sabino Canyon is a hiker’s and climber’s paradise. One of the most sought-after hiking destinations in the state, the trails in the canyon are gorgeous and vary in levels of difficulty. It’s also close to Mount Lemmon, which features the most prolific climbing routes in Arizona

The scenery in this area can’t be beaten – expect to see coyotes, javelinas, roadrunners, rattlesnakes, and more if you stay in this desert neighborhood.

Loews Ventana Canyon Resort is the best hotel if you’re looking to stay in Tucson at a mountainside resort. Their sparkling pools and magnificent rooms exemplify a luxury hotel experience in Tucson. Visit during the summertime for the best deals at any of the high-end resorts. The heat isn’t so bad when you’re poolside!

Pros of Staying in Sabino Canyon Neighborhood:

  • Close to the best outdoor activities in Tucson
  • Fancy restaurants and bars with amazing views
  • Sonoran Desert immersion at its finest
  • Hiking at Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

Cons of Staying in Sabino Canyon Neighborhood:

  • Far from downtown and Tucson International Airport
  • Need a rental car to get around
  • Hotels and resorts are more expensive
  • Far from I-10

📚 Sabino Canyon Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Outdoor Activities
Google Map

  • ✨ Best HotelsLoews Ventana Canyon ResortCanyon RanchCasitas at Sabino Springs
  • 🏠 ApartmentsBrowse Top Rentals in Sabino Canyon
  • 🍽️ Where to Eat – Piazza Gavi ($$), The Hidden Grill2go ($$), El Charro Cafe (The nation’s oldest Mexican restaurant, but not the original location) ($$)
  • 🍸 Where to Drink – The Gardens Bar & Grill, Three Canyon Beer & Wine Company, Flying V Bar & Grill
  • 🎟️ Top Attractions – Seven Falls, Mount Lemmon, Trail Dust Town, Agua Caliente Park

Reid Park

View of ducks at the lagoon in Reid Park
This lagoon is located just outside of the zoo, one of the main attractions in town

👉 Best Area For Family Fun | ✨ Best Reid Park Hotels: Arizona Inn Lodge on the Desert Adobe Rose Inn

The Reid Park neighborhood is where to stay in Tucson for those who want to be close to family-fun attractions. These include the Reid Park Zoo and the Tucson Botanical Gardens. 

Located in Central Tucson, this neighborhood is also packed with great restaurants, laidback bars, and moderately-priced golf courses. Tons of popular stores lie within the nearby Park Place Mall, one of the largest in the city. Saguaro Park East is closest to this neighborhood compared to the others on this list.

While the area isn’t fancy or overflowing with entertainment, it’s located near the Tucson airport and many different Tucson staples. It’s also fairly close to downtown if you take Broadway Boulevard all the way west.

Pros of Staying in Reid Park Neighborhood:

  • Good restaurants and bars
  • Family attractions abound
  • Shopping at Park Place and El Con Mall
  • Close to Tucson International Airport

Cons of Staying in Reid Park Neighborhood:

  • Far from the mountains
  • Not as safe at night
  • Not as many things to do

📚 Reid Park Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Family Fun
Google Map

  • ✨ Best HotelsArizona InnLodge on the DesertAdobe Rose Inn
  • 🏠 ApartmentsBrowse Top Rentals in Reid Park
  • 🍽️ Where to Eat – Locale Neighborhood Italian Restaurant ($$), Tito & Pep ($$), Luke’s Italian Beef ($)
  • 🍸 Where to Drink – Bob Dobb’s Bar & Grill, Territorial Bar, The Kava Bar
  • 🎟️ Top Attractions – Reid Park Zoo, Tucson Botanical Gardens, Pima Air & Space Museum, Skate Country

Oro Valley

View from the pool area of El Conquistador
Poolside at El Conquistador (photo: FilipTravelWorld / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For a Lowkey Trip | ✨ Best Oro Valley Hotels: El ConquistadorOmni Tucson National ResortMiraval Arizona Resort & Spa

Oro Valley is known to some as the retirement area of Tucson, but I beg to differ. While it is quieter than the downtown and university areas, this north Tucson area has great qualities that make for a relaxing vacation. 

If you love to golf, El Conquistador is one of the most beautiful courses you’ll ever play. With views of the Catalinas glowing in the background of each hole, it’s a lovely experience to spend a day out on the greens here.

There are also some great hikes on this side of the mountains. Catalina State Park is the best place to hike in north Tucson. You have to pay a small fee to get into the park, but it’s worth it to trek through stretches of saguaros, babbling brooks, and hulking boulder fields. 

This area is stunning, and is the perfect spot to enjoy a famous Tucson sunset. I recommend staying in Oro Valley if you’re not the type to want to go out partying on your trip.

Pros of Staying in Oro Valley Neighborhood:

  • Quiet, perfect for relaxing
  • Incredible view of the west side of the Catalinas
  • Great north Tucson hiking opportunities
  • Amazing golf courses

Cons of Staying in Oro Valley Neighborhood:

  • Far from downtown and Tucson International Airport
  • Need a rental car to get around
  • Far from I-10
  • Restaurants and bars close early (around 9 pm)

📚 Oro Valley Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for a Lowkey Trip
Google Map

Tips for Where to Stay in Tucson

Rent A Car

Tucson is a very spread-out city. While you could explore a small section of town without a car, you’ll want to rent a vehicle to see the outdoor attractions surrounding Tucson.

Drink Water

Hydration is critical in Tucson. It doesn’t matter when you visit, whether it’s in the middle of summer or the mild wintertime. DRINK WATER! 

Locals know how important it is, but lots of visitors get in trouble when they go on a hike without adequate water. Keep a full bottle on you at all times, especially when you spend time in the sun.

Take Day Trips

Cacti in the Saguaro National Park in Arizona
Saguaro National Park is home to thousands of these incredible cacti

One of the best things about Tucson is its proximity to so many incredible natural beauties. Think Saguaro National Park in the Tucson and Rincon Mountains and Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains. 

There’s also the Chiricahua Mountains, Mount Lemmon … and many more fun day trips from Tucson on my list. If you have a car, check out these gorgeous places for an unforgettable day trip in these unique desert landscapes.

Get Mexican Food

You cannot leave Tucson without getting an authentic Mexican meal. There are plenty of trendy Mexican restaurants which are cool, but I recommend getting the real deal in South Tucson. This area feels like Mexico, and the cuisine is the closest you’ll get to anything south of the border. Try Rollies Mexican Patio for the best birria of your life!

Eat at Food Trucks

The Substance Diner in Tucson during sunset
Substance Diner located outside of MotoSonora Brewing serves only vegan dishes

As a UNESCO gastronomy city, Tucson’s got some commendable restaurants. But where the magic happens, to me, is at the food trucks. The most obscure truck on the corner of the street probably serves the best Sonoran food you’ve ever had. 

Lots of breweries feature awesome rotating food trucks throughout the week, too, so check their schedules when you go out for a beer.

Visit San Xavier del Bac Mission

The clear blue sky over the San Xavier del Bac Mission
The “white dove of the desert” is the best of the cultural attractions just south of Tucson

This Spanish Mission built in the late 1700s is located on the Tohono O’odham reservation on the way to Nogales from Tucson via I-19. Locals and visitors alike gasp at the sight of this incredible work of desert architecture alongside the Santa Cruz River. 

On the inside, the gilded walls and painted ceilings are reminiscent of a European cathedral. There is nothing like the Mission in all of Arizona, which still holds mass every weekend. Don’t miss this incredible structure of Tucson’s history.

🌇 Read Next: Where to Stay in Phoenix (Best Places & Areas)

FAQs About Where to Stay in Tucson

Is Tucson, AZ worth visiting?

Tucson, AZ is definitely worth visiting. With gorgeous Sonoran Desert scenes, delicious food, an artsy community, and rich culture, you’ll never run out of awesome things to do.

Is downtown Tucson walkable?

Downtown Tucson is extremely walkable. The main section of downtown exists on one street (Congress), so it’s super easy to navigate the downtown scene on foot.

What is the best month to visit Tucson?

The best month to visit Tucson is November, in my opinion. This is when the fall weather is in full swing. March, when springtime first shows its colors, is also an ideal time to visit. But beware of allergies in the spring – the palo verde trees are relentless when their yellow buds emerge!

***

I hope this guide on where to stay in Tucson gives you a better idea of places to explore in my lovely hometown. No matter where you plan to stay in Tucson, you’ll find endless ways to experience this lively desert-dwelling community.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Betty – this is great! We are coming in February with two small kids and debating between El Conquistador and JW Marriott Starr Pass. A friend told us the Starr Pass area is great for families. What would your recommendation be? Thank you!

    1. Hi Pam! Both would be great family options. Starr Pass is in a more remote location right on the outskirts of Saguaro National Park (West) while El Conquistador is more central in the North Tucson/Oro Valley area. If you intend to stay at the hotel for a large portion of your trip, I’d go with Starr Pass since their facilities are incredible (the lazy river rocks!). But if you want to explore Tucson, I think El Conquistador is located closer to more attractions around town. I hope this helps!

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