Tucson Travel Guide

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Tucson Travel Guide

Tucson Local History

The Native Americans especially the Pima Indians have lived in this area for more than a thousand years and used it to grow their crops. It is here that the Spanish explorers found them in the 1500's. A Jesuit missionary Father Eusibo Francisco Kino visited the area in 1687 and returned later to build missions. His influence is still very strongly felt in the region. The Native Americans named this area stjukshon (meaning spring at the foot of a black mountain). It became known as Tucson due to the Spanish explorers' way of pronouncing the word. Although Tucson was officially founded in 1775 it wasn't until 1776 that the Spanish built the presidio (walled city) to keep the Native Americans from reclaiming the city.

Tucson has had four flags flying over it since its inception, the Spanish, Mexican, Confederate and finally the United States. In 1820 its allegiance changed when Mexico declared its independence from Spain. When the Gadsden Purchase was signed in 1853 it became part of the United States. During the 1850's the Butterfield stage line was extended to Tucson and with it came adventurers, some settlers but more than enough outlaws. It wasn't until 1880 that Tucson started growing again with the arrival of the railroad. Arizona State University opened its doors in 1891.

It was only after World War l that Tucson 20th century growth really began. Veterans with damaged lungs who sought the drier climate and the healing power of the sun moved into Tucson. After World War II the Davis-Monthan Air Force base opened bringing more residents to the area and to make the desert climate more hospitable air-conditioning became the norm at about the same time.

Although many hi-tech industries have moved into the area, Tucson still relies heavily on tourism and the university. The Mexican and Native American cultures are still very strong in this very beautiful city.

Tucson Attractions

Tucson Shopping

Tucson has an enormous array of shopping centres and shops where the visitor can buy authentic Native American art and craft, Mexican wares, clothing, trinkets and souvenirs.

Casas Adobes Plaza Oracle and Ina Rds., Tucson. This centre originally served the ranchers and orange grove owners of the area. The shopping centre is Mediterranean in style and has a full-service grocery store. There are several clothing and gift stores as well as the superb Wildflower Grill.

Old Town Artisans Complex 186 N. Meyer Ave., Tucson. This complex found opposite the Tucson Museum of Art offers a large amount of South-western items. Native American jewellery and baskets plus Mexican crafts, pottery and textiles can also be found.

Plaza Palomino 2980 N. Swan Rd., Tucson This outdoor mall has plenty to offer the visitor, from boutiques, galleries and much more there is also the Dark Star Leather and the Strand to choose from. You can also sample locally grown produce and baked goods at the farmers' market on Saturdays.

Tucson Mall 4500 N. Oracle Rd., Tucson This is the busiest mall in Tucson and here the visitor will find more than 200 speciality shops plus a carousel for the children. In the mall you will find shops such as JCPenny, Sears, Macy's and for really cool South-western clothing. Prickly-pear candy and jewellery try Senor Coyote.

Tucson Activities

Reid Zoo Park 22nd Street, Randolph Way, Tucson. This is one of Tucson's most popular attractions. It is home to more than 500 animals and is situated on 17 acres of land. There are mammals, fish, reptiles and birds from all over the world and the animals are presented in an imitation of their natural habitat. This is definitely worth a visit and the children will find it interesting and informative. Entrance fees are from $2 to $5.

Colossal Caves - These caves were used by prehistoric people for centuries before being discovered in 1879. After their discovery these caves were widely used by bank robbers, outlaws and even the President of the University of Arizona. From as early as 1923, even before these caves were improved, people were taking tours through them. It wasn't until the 1930's that the Civil Conservation Corps started construction on the walkways, wiring and buildings. Over the years the caves have been even more improved and there are now daily tours through the caves.

Tombstone - This has to be one of the most famous towns in Arizona and is located 1 hour and 15 minutes drive from Tucson. This is definitely fun for the whole family as you will be able to experience the old west in 'the town that was too tough too die'. Visit the OK Corral where the famous gunfight between Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and the Clanton Brothers took place and find the world's largest rose bush.

Tucson Parks & Gardens

Tohono Chul Park 7366 N. Paseo del Norte, Tucson. This 48 acre retreat is designed to promote conservation of the arid regions. In the park you will find a greenhouse, shady nooks and nature trails. There is also a small art gallery, gift shop and tearoom. Entry fee is $5 and the park is open daily from 8am sunset.

Saguaro National Park - Tucson. This park offers the visitor the rare opportunity of walking amongst the forests of multi-limbed cacti. These cacti are not seen all over Arizona they are unique to the Sonora Desert. Visits to the park are normally only short visits as there is no accommodation available and in summer it is too hot to do more than take photographs.

Sabino Canyon Sabino Canyon Dr., Tucson. No cars are allowed in this area but a tram will take you to the top of the canyon. Many of the locals go there during the summer to picnic, swim and enjoy the waterfalls. The Coronado National Forest offers hikes, streams, shay trees and lovely swimming holes. There is also a tram ride to Bear Canyon which is adjacent to the Sabino Canyon. Should you be in the area when it is a full moon why not take the special night tram and you will be able to see the desert come alive. Entry fee is $5 per vehicle per day and $6 for the tram. Bear Canyon tram is $3.

Tucson Botanical Gardens 2150 N Alvernon Way, Tucson. Situated on 5 acres of land the gardens have a tropical greenhouse, a sensory garden where you are allowed to smell and touch the plants. There is an abundant bird life and a cactus garden. The gardens also have Australian plants and Native American crops and herbs. Entry fee is $4 and the garden is open daily from 8:30am 4:30pm.

Tucson Restaurants and Bars

Tucson Restaurants

Beyond Bread 3026 N. Campbell Ave., Tucson. This popular bakery has 27 different varieties of bread. The mornings and afternoons are very busy and unfortunately, they do not serve dinner. They have a huge sandwich menu and you can eat either inside or outside on the patio. Try Brad's Beef a sandwich served on white bread with the contents being roast beef, provolone, onion, and green chillies with a Russian dressing, but leave enough room for at least one of their incredible desserts.

Cafe Poca Cosa 88 E Broadway Blvd., Tucson. This is probably the most innovative Mexican restaurant in Tucson. The menu changes daily and the chef-owner Susana Davila has some exciting recipes which have been inspired by different regions of her native Mexico. Books are essential as this is a very popular restaurant.

Cup Cafe Hotel Congress, 311 E Congress Str., Tucson. This restaurant just off the lobby of the Hotel Congress is definitely a down-home, friendly place. If you really want to be daring, why not try the Eggs in Hell (which is served with green chilli, salsa and cayenne pepper) for breakfast. This restaurant gets very crowded in the evenings due to the Club Congress nightclub being right next door.

El Charro Cafe - 311 N Court Ave., Tucson. This restaurant was started in 1922 by Monica Flin and today is run by her grandniece. Here you will be served excellent versions of Mexican-American cuisine. For the health conscious El Charro serves a really great seafood enchilada. The came seca chimichanga which is made with meat dried on the roof, no less, is absolutely delicious.

El Minuto Cafe 354 S Main Ave., Tucson. This bustling restaurant can be found in Tucson's historic area. It is a favourite with the local families and the business crowd especially at lunch time. The restaurant has been serving topopo salads for over 50 years and the green-corn tamales and huge burritos are made just right.

Tucson Bars & Clubs

Berky's 5769 E Speedway Blvd., Tucson. Here at Berky's there is live R & B and rock and roll every evening.

Chicago Bar 5954 E Speedway Blvd., Tucson. This is a really good place to find Tucson's blues legend Sam Taylor. They also have reggae and rock.

Club Congress Hotel Congress, 311 E Congress St., Tucson. This venue has cutting-edge rock bands on a Friday night. Saturdays are for the big electronic beat fancied by the more outrageous crowd.

Shelter 4155 E. Grant Rd., Tucson. This is where you can go totally retro. The shelter which was formerly a bomb shelter is furnished in real 60's style with lava lamps and JFK memorabilia. There are Elvis videos playing and the music is by the likes of Burt Bacharach and Martin Denny.

Tucson children's activities

Reid Zoo Park 22nd Street, Randolph Way, Tucson. This is one of Tucson's most popular attractions. It is home to more than 500 animals and is situated on 17 acres of land. There are mammals, fish, reptiles and birds from all over the world and the animals are presented in an imitation of their natural habitat. This is definitely worth a visit and the children will find it interesting and informative. Entrance fees are from $2 to $5.

Colossal Caves - These caves were used by prehistoric people for centuries before being discovered in 1879. After their discovery these caves were widely used by bank robbers, outlaws and even the President of the University of Arizona. From as early as 1923, even before these caves were improved, people were taking tours through them. It wasn't until the 1930's that the Civil Conservation Corps started construction on the walkways, wiring and buildings. Over the years the caves have been even more improved and there are now daily tours through the caves.

Tombstone - This has to be one of the most famous towns in Arizona and is located 1 hour and 15 minutes drive from Tucson. This is definitely fun for the whole family as you will be able to experience the old west in 'the town that was too tough too die'. Visit the OK Corral where the famous gunfight between Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and the Clanton Brothers took place and find the world's largest rose bush.

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