Tucson Official Travel Guide 2023

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Be inspired by art

A peaceful feeling comes over you as you arrive in Superior. It’s easy to breathe deep here and unwind into this colorful place. From a world-renowned botanical garden and a rich mining history to a budding arts and culinary scene — Superior is in full bloom. Whether you are in the mood for casual hiking and birding or a heart-pumping outdoor experience, you are in the right place.

Discover authentic art, food, and music every Second Friday downtown or plan to attend one of the many unique festivals throughout the year that celebrate the local culture and history. The fantastic farmer’s market in the colorful downtown food court is also a must-see. Settle in and enjoy a relaxing pace of life in Superior.

adventure starts here.


Main photo: explore exotic plants at Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Taste Local Wines
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Dave Levin

Meredith Lipscomb


Please contact: Cindy Aguilar, Director of Communications 520-770-2145, caguilar@visittucson.org


World-class hiking, golf, spas and original cuisine.


All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

The information listed in the Tucson Official Travel Guide has been carefully compiled to ensure accuracy at the time of publication, but it is subject to change without notice. Visit Tucson cannot, and does not, guarantee the accuracy of all information and will not be responsible for omissions and errors. Users of the guide are encouraged to verify independently any information contained therein.

Responsibility for performance of services will be with individual businesses. Visit Tucson shall have no liability for any claims or damages incurred prior to, during, or following the conduct of any business listed in this guide, and the purchaser agrees to hold Visit Tucson, its agents, and employees harmless therefrom.

Oro Valley is just north of Tucson, set against the backdrop of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains. Outdoor adventures abound, with views you won’t find anywhere else in Southern Arizona. Explore our trails and paved paths. Play a round of golf. Savor a meal at an OV Original restaurant. Relax in one of our spas. Enjoy all that Oro Valley has to offer. Scan the QR code for details on the adventures that await you in Oro Valley. orovalleyaz.gov |

An Enterprise of the Tohono O’odham Nation.

Welcome to


If you’re curious about where Tucson derives its heartbeat, you’ve come to the right place. Our Tucson Official Travel Guide provides an insider’s perspective on the rich flavors, culture, topography, and traditions that make Tucson unlike anywhere else.

Our feature story “Tasting Tucson’s Bounty: Past and Present” delves into the destination’s culinary heritage as told through the lens of Mission Garden, a living agricultural museum at the base of Tucson’s Sentinel Peak. The article takes readers on a journey that begins with the agrarian practices of ancient Native Americans in the region nearly 5,000 years ago through present day – all while masterfully illustrating why Tucson is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy.

In the guide’s Outdoors section, you’re invited to strap on your hiking boots to explore trails in the destination’s lesser known but altogether worthy Tucson Mountain Park and sit atop a bike to cruise Tucson’s road, mountain, and gravel cycling paths. The guide’s Arts and Culture section is equally robust with stories about Tucson’s renowned galleries and museums, and an in-depth look at the restoration of San Xavier del Bac Mission by Tohono O’odham conservators. In the guide’s Explore section, you’re invited on a Southern Arizona day trip that features birdwatching, visiting architectural ruins, or sipping wine.

While this year’s guide both literally and figuratively covers a lot of ground, it’s by no means inclusive of everything there is to see and do in Tucson and Southern Arizona. For additional information, please stop by VisitTucson.org or glean insight from a local expert at 800-638-8350. We hope to welcome you to our Sonoran Desert paradise soon!


Tasting Tucson’s Bounty: Past and Present 20

Unearth the UNESCO City of Gastronomy’s Roots at Mission Garden

Tucson Street Food 26 These Food Trucks Offer an Eclectic Array of Cuisines

4 | Tucson Official Travel Guide
Mission Garden is a site steeped in history and flavor. Learn about how the garden is merging Tucson's agricultural heritage with its renowned culinary scene.
Top Attractions 6 Inside Scoop 10 Annual Events 14 Visitor Info / Map 16 KEEP IN TOUCH VISIT TUCSON with TUCSON OFFICIAL TRAVEL GUIDE of Gastronomy’s Roots TASTING TUCSON’S BOUNTY: PAST & PRESENT
Cover photo by Steven Meckler
On the Cover
Steven Meckler


Ride Like You Mean It 32 Tips from Women on Wheels to Explore Tucson by Bike

Hiking in Tucson Mountain Park 38 Discover the Sonoran Desert




Keeping it in the Family at San Xavier del Bac 56 Indigenous Team of Conservators Restore Historic Mission

At the HeART of Tucson 58 Galleries Offer One-of-a-Kind Mementos

Tucson Day Trips 44 Exploring the Desert and Sky Islands of Southern Arizona

Museums without Boundaries 50 Adventure Abounds at Pima County Attractions

The Perfect 18! 40

Tucson’s Golf Courses Represent Hall of Fame Designers

Explore Oro Valley 54 Explore Gorgeous Landscapes and Great Restaurants

VisitTucson.org | 5
Pete Gregoire Courtesy of Philabaum Glass Gallery

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Sabino Canyon

Set your sights on other birding hotspots like Madera Canyon, Mt. Lemmon, and Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter

There's even more fun to be had at Children’s Museum Tucson/ Oro Valley, Reid Park Zoo, and Franklin Auto Museum.



Rustle up more Old West history at Museum of the Horse Soldier, Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum, and the O.K. Corral.

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Find other examples of historical architecture at St. Augustine Cathedral, Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, and Tumacácori National Historical Park.
Keep your focus skyward with tours of Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium, Kitt Peak National Observatory, and Mt. Graham International Observatory.
Ray Cleveland Adrienne McLeod Courtesy
of Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter

Head underground for a different Colossal Cave

Arizona State Museum

Delve deeper into culture and the Amerind Museum, Arizona History Museum, Jewish Tucson

Discover more Sonoran Desert Organ

Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Catalina State Park

Keep on trekking at Oracle State Park, Patagonia Lake State Park, or Picacho Peak State Park.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Branch out on the nature paths at Tohono Chul, Tucson Botanical Gardens, and Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson.

University of Arizona Museum of Art

Be further inspired at Center for Creative Photography, Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block, and DeGrazia Galley in the Sun.

Pima Air & Space Museum

Further broaden your scientific horizons at Biosphere 2, the Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum, and Titan Missile Museum.

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Courtesy of Pima Air & Space Museum Photo by James S. Wood Courtesy of Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Photo by Steven Meckler
8 | Tucson Official Travel Guide Visit its key attractions
Southern Arizona Heritage and Visitor Center
University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum
January 8th Memorial Reserve space for your next event • Two conference rooms • Courtyard Learn about its history • Law & Order exhibit • John Dillinger exhibit Located in downtown Tucson, 115 N. Church Ave. Open daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed on major holidays. visitsouthernarizona.com WE’RE OPEN! EXPLORE AND ENJOY YOUR FULLY RENOVATED PIMA COUNTY HISTORIC COURTHOUSE
2022 Arizona Office of Tourism Award
outdoors 100% adventure The perfect place to appreciate the beauty of the Sonoran Desert and its creatures. 2021 N. Kinney Rd. | Tucson, AZ 85743 | desertmuseum.org | 520.883.2702 C M Y CM MY CY CMY K


One Roof, Two Attractions

This is the union everyone’s talking about. That’s right: Children’s Museum Oro Valley and Tohono Chul have merged under one roof to create Tucson’s ultimate family friendly attraction. Now, when you buy tickets to Tohono Chul, you’ll also receive admission to Children’s Museum Oro Valley. Explore both indoor and outdoor spaces chock-full of activities, exhibits and learning programs for families and children. “Tohono Chul has a huge role in closing the naturedeficit gap by letting kids be wild explorers of our gardens,” said Tohono Chul Executive Director, Jamie Maslyn Larson. “I am thrilled that Children’s Museum Oro Valley’s incredible nature-based programming kicks off our goal to pro-actively welcome families here. We can hardly wait to see the next generation of nature-lovers grow up at Tohono Chul.”

What’s Old is New

Scour Tucson’s skyline for the tallest skyscraper, a glass building that’s 23 stories high, to spot the brand new 150room boutique hotel The Leo Kent. Slated to open in spring 2023, The Leo Kent has transformed nine floors of shuttered office space into upscale lodgings with a view. With design touches that pay homage to the hotel’s unique Sonoran Desert surroundings, elevated Southwestern cuisine at the signature restaurant St. Cruz, and a location that’s only steps from the light rail, The Leo Kent is yet another example of how Tucson's downtown is undergoing a revival that focuses on the adaptive reuse of buildings.

Other lauded adaptive reuse projects in downtown include the opening of the boutique wine hotel The Citizen in January 2022, the opening of Si Charro’s newest restaurant The Monica in March 2022, and the debut of neighboring restaurants and retail concept Shirtshop Mercantile and Bluefront by Penca owner Patricia Schwabe in winter 2022.

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Make Tucson Feel Like Home With a Bit of Local Knowledge and Some Insider Tips
Courtesy of Tohono Chul Tohono Chul

Tucson’s Tiny Treasures

All the best things come in small packages at the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures. One of only three museums of miniatures in the country, the Tucson institution offers you a window into the lives of miniature collectors dating as far back as 1752. Explore more than 500 of their most treasured belongings – from cabinets and dollhouses to windups and roomboxes. Then enter The Enchanted Realm where snow villages, fair castles and mystical artifacts promise to entrance you year-round. Be sure to catch a glimpse of Ara Bentley’s Addams Family Mini Mansion through November 2023, plus marvel at the museum’s permanent collection, where you’ll find the small-scale version of Tucson’s renowned midcentury modern Ball-Paylore House and inextricably detailed sculptures on the tip of pencils.

If Walls Could Talk

Tucson has a vibe. It’s beautiful. It’s bright. And it’s colorful, thanks to artists like Jessica Gonzales, Rock Martinez and Joe Pagac who depict Tucson’s rich history, culture and Sonoran Desert aesthetic in the more than 100 murals that adorn the walls of the city. Get an up close look at works of art like Martinez’s “Goddess of Agave” and Gonzales’ “Path Unpaved” during a Mainly Murals Walking Tour or Tucson Bike Tours Mural Tour. Or take the pre-recorded GPS audio Mural Magic Tour by Pedego Electric Bikes to hear directly from one of the artists. Narrated by Pagac himself, you’ll stop at some of his most notable pieces like “Epic Rides” and “Borderlands.” Keep your creativity flowing with a stay at Hotel McCoy or The Tuxon Hotel, where vibrant murals abound.

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Ray Cleveland Courtesy of the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures Mini Time Machine Goddess of Agave

Just 15 minutes from Tucson International Airport and downtown, you’ll discover Casino Del Sol, The Sol of Tucson, a premier entertainment destination that boasts gaming, seasonal dining selections, and luxury resort amenities. As a successive six-time recipient of the AAA Four-Diamond rating, Casino Del Sol is in the business of exceeding expectations and providing the perfect getaway.

Casino Del Sol Resort, Spa and Conference Center is the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s jewel in the desert and Southern Arizona’s premier luxury and business travel destination. The gorgeous high-rise, 215room hotel is adjacent to Casino Del Sol and Estrella, a 151-room hotel with panoramic views.

In addition to the resort’s impressive amenities, the incredible selection of casino games adds to the entertainment factor. Join in on the excitement with more than 1,300 state-of-the-art slots, a variety of table games including craps, roulette, and poker, as well as the casino’s very own retail sportsbook, SolSports.

Golf enthusiasts will relish every shot at Sewailo Golf Club, a Notah Begay III designed 18-hole, par-72 championship golf course, designed to embrace Tucson’s natural landscape.

From fine dining and Asian fusion to fast, easy Mexican food, and now a modern Italian eatery, Casino Del Sol will satisfy your appetite with a savory selection of culinary delights. Enjoy decadent steaks and seafood, along with Tucson’s finest wine list and gracious service at PY Steakhouse. Ume presents a blend of unique sushi and one-of-akind Asian creations, Bellissimo Ristorante Italiano features an array of classic Italian favorites, the 24hour all American diner, Moby’s, offers a taste the foods you love from home, and Abuelitas turns up the heat for a quick lunch or dinner.

Casino Del Sol was created with one thing in mind, to provide guests with extraordinary service and amenities in a setting that is unique to the Southwest. A truly unrivaled and spectacular place to stay and play, plan your next getaway to Casino Del Sol – The Sol of Tucson.

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[ SPONSORED CONTENT } 5655 W Valencia Rd. Tucson, AZ 85757 1.855.765.7829 CASINODELSOL.COM




Dillinger Days hotelcongress.com

Savor Food & Wine Festival saaca.org/savor

TAR Soccer Shootout fortlowellshootout.org

Tucson Desert Song Festival tucsondesertsongfestival.org

Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase tucsongemshow.org

Tucson Jazz Festival tucsonjazzfestival.org

Wings Over Willcox wingsoverwillcox.com


24 Hours in the Old Pueblo epicrides.com

Cochise Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering cowboypoets.com

La Fiesta de los Vaqueros Rodeo & Parade tucsonrodeo.com

MLS Preseason in Tucson fctucson.com

Rillito Park Winter Meet rillitoracetrack.com

Tubac Festival of the Arts Tubacaz.com

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show® tgms.org


Cologuard Classic PGA TOUR Champions Event cologuardclassic.com

Cyclovia Spring Ride cycloviatucson.org

Fourth Avenue Spring Street Fair fourthavenue.org

Texas Canyon Mountain Bike Fun Ride amerind.org

Tucson Festival of Books tucsonfestivalofbooks.org

Tucson Invitational Games tigsports.com

Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival arizonachambermusic.org

Wa:k Pow Wow facebook.com/wakpowwow


Agave Heritage Festival agaveheritagefestival.com

Arizona International Film Festival filmfestivalarizona.com

Pima County Fair pimacountyfair.com

Sugar Skulls Indoor Football Season Opens tucsonsugarskulls.com

Tucson Folk Festival tucsonfolkfest.org

Tucson International Mariachi Conference tucsonmariachi.org


Mt. Lemmon Hill Climb bikegaba.org

Pueblos del Maiz pueblosdelmaiz.com

San Ysidro Festival missiongarden.org

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Courtesy of Tucson Festival of Books
Steven Meckler Find one-of-a-kind treasures at the annual Tucson Gem Mineral and Fossil Showcase

Willcox Wine Country Spring Festival willcoxwinecountry.org

Wyatt Earp Days tombstonechamber.com


Bisbee Pride bisbeeprideaz.com

El Dia de San Juan Fiesta facebook.com/diadesanjuancommittee


HarvestFest-Sonoita Vineyards sonoitavineyards.com

Sweet Corn Festival appleannies.com

Tucson Saguaros Baseball saguarosbaseball.com


HoCo Fest hocofest.com

Southeast Arizona Birding Festival tucsonaudubon.org

Southwest Wings Festival swwings.org

Tucson Presidio Birthday Celebration tucsonpresidio.com


Chile Festival heirloomfm.org

El Tour Loop the Loop eltourdetucson.org

¡Viva Tucson! Hispanic Heritage Month visittucson.org/viva

Oktoberfest on Mt. Lemmon skithelemmon.com

Sonoita Labor Day Rodeo sonoitafairgrounds.com

Sonoran Restaurant Week sonoranrestaurantweek.com

Tucson Fall Gem Shows tucsongemshow.org

Tucson Pride in the Desert tucsonpride.org


Amerind Autumn Fest amerind.org

Film Fest Tucson filmfesttucson.org

Loft Film Fest loftfilmfest.org

Sky Islands Artisan Market skyislandsartisanmarket.com

Tucson Meet Yourself tucsonmeetyourself.org

Tucson Modernism Week tucsonmod.com

Tucson Roadrunners Ice Hockey Season Opens tucsonroadrunners.com

Vamos a Tucson Mexican Baseball Fiesta mexicanbaseballfiesta.com


All Souls Procession Weekend allsoulsprocession.org

Dusk Music Festival duskmusicfestival.com

El Tour de Tucson eltourdetucson.org

GABA Bike Swap bikegaba.org


A Southwest Nutcracker tucsonregionalballet.org

Holiday Nights tohonochulpark.org

La Fiesta de Guadalupe degrazia.org

La Fiesta de Tumacácori nps.gov/tuma

Lights Up! tucsonbotanical.org

Parade of Lights & Festival downtowntucson.org

Patronato Christmas at San Xavier Del Bac patronatosanxavier.org

Tamal and Heritage Festival casinodelsol.com

The Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl thearizonabowl.com

Tucson Marathon tucsonmarathon.com

[ ANNUAL EVENTS ] VisitTucson.org | 15
Find out more at:
Balfour Walker Photography


We invite you to follow local custom and "free yourself" in laid-back Tucson. Fancy dress is optional. You can explore nature on a hike, bike, or horseback ride, discover real science at a University of Arizona attraction, or take a relaxing spa break.

It’s A Dry Heat

Tucson’s climate is mostly dry and clear, with about 325 days of sunshine each year. Hats, sunglasses, lightweight skin-covering clothing, sunscreen, and reusable water bottles are advised year-round. In the summer: enjoy indoor activities; venture outdoors at sunrise and after sundown; visit nearby mountains; seek shade at the swimming pool. Stay hydrated! Drink water before feeling thirsty.


In the heart of the Sonoran Desert region of the American Southwest, Tucson and surrounding area have been continuously inhabited for more than 5,000 years. First by Native Americans including the Tohono O'odham and the Pascua Yaqui and more recently by Europeans. Spanish explorers founded Presidio San Agustín del Tucson, which became the City of Tucson, on August 20, 1775.

Time Zone

Tucson is in the Mountain Standard Time zone. Except for the Navajo Nation, Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time. Make sure you set your watch right, so you don’t miss last call at 2:00 a.m.

Two-Nation Vacation

Head across the international border to Mexico for a “two-nation vacation” with beaches, shops, and restaurants. Travelers are required to present a valid passport at the border and are encouraged to verify auto insurance requirements before driving in Mexico.

For information or to make hotel or other travel arrangements, call 520-225-0631 when in the U.S. Visit Tucson operates Spanish-speaking visitor centers in Hermosillo and Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, Mexico.

To make Tucson hotel and other travel reservations from Mexico call 01-662-213-7282 or visit VamosATucson.com

Bleisure Travel

Tucson is open for business and leisure travel. You can host your group meeting here and experience the area through team-building and other planned activities.

Contact our convention and sports sales teams at 800-638-8350 or TucsonOnUs.com


Tucson International Airport

Nonstop service to 21 destinations in the U.S and Canada, with connections worldwide. 520-573-8100, flytucson.com

Amtrak Passenger Rail

Located in downtown Tucson’s Historic Train Depot, the Amtrak station is served by the Sunset Limited train. 800-872-7245, amtrak.com


Sun Tran Regional Bus Service

Transit centers are located at major destinations throughout the metro Tucson area. The fleet uses such clean-burning fuels as compressed natural gas (CNG), biodiesel, and hybrid technologies 520-792-9222, suntran.com

Sun Link Streetcar

In central Tucson, the four-mile Sun Link streetcar connects exciting dining and entertainment districts: University of Arizona, Main Gate Square, Historic Fourth Avenue, Downtown Tucson, the Convention Center complex, and Mercado San Agustín. 520-792-9222, suntran.com

Shuttle Service, Car Rental & Cab Shuttle service, car rental, taxis, and ride-sharing platforms are widely available in Tucson.

VisitSouthernArizona.com 1-800-638-8350
Church Ave.
Southern Arizona Heritage & Visitor Center
115 N.
Tucson, AZ 85701
[ VISITOR INFORMATION ] Start your exploration of Tucson at the Southern Arizona Heritage & Visitor Center where knowledgeable volunteers share their insights and recommendations, and beautifully crafted displays tell the story of the region’s history, its people, and the land. Located in the Historic Pima County Courthouse, this hub of culture and tourism-related information and activities also includes the University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum and Tucson’s January
Courtesy of Pima County





At Tucson International Airport (TUS) our business is the skies but our roots run deep within the community. From new business development to job creation to local partnerships, we’re fueling the continued growth of our region. More than an airport, TUS is working nonstop to bring people together. Learn more at flytucson.com.

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Penca Photo by Jackie Tran



Unearth the UNESCO City of Gastronomy’s Roots at Mission Garden

On the 19th season of Top Chef, the penultimate episode serves up serious drama, even by reality TV standards. The final four contestants—who’ve just been whisked off to the Sonoran Desert—come upon “our friend Jesús…the guru” in a walled garden, where he tells them they’re standing on ancient agricultural ground, and their fate now rests on the prickliest of crops.

YYes, each chef must craft a masterpiece from cactus—plus the blazing local micro-chiles and whatever else looks ripe for the picking. To everyone’s relief, that includes figs, quince, grapes, citrus, and the so-called three sisters: corn, beans, and squash. The grounds prove so abundant and unusual, in fact, that they take on their own kind of star power—no small feat on a show hosted by Padma Lakshmi.

The resulting meal boasts everything from nopales rellenos to tom yum. And while the audience may not be able to experience these exact dishes, the place that gave rise to them is a different story. Tucson’s Mission Garden—a living agricultural museum of heritage fruit trees, heirloom crops, and edible native plants—offers an impressive array of tastings, tours, workshops, and celebrations (see Events & Classes at missiongarden.org).

Indeed, there’s no better window onto the famed local food scene, given the site’s millennia-old roots, globe-spanning gardens, and envy-inducing talent. Beyond the aforementioned guru—ethnobotanist Jesús García, whose heritage

fruit tree research helped Tucson become the nation’s first UNESCO-designated City of Gastronomy—the Mission Garden crew includes oral historians, herbalists, and all manner of conservationists.

But before you go, read on for a rundown of the gardens within the garden; the restaurants, bars, and bakeries with ties to each; and the dedicated souls who help bring everything to life.

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Mission Garden sits below Tucson's iconic Sentinel Peak.

Right: James Beard Award Winner Don Guerra serves up equal parts delicious and visually appealing creations at Tucson's famous Barrio Bread.

The Mexican Garden

In a city where some 40% of the population claims Mexican heritage, and the nation’s “best 23 miles of Mexican food” is a point of local pride, the Mission Garden’s Mexican section is a good place to start. You’ll find two areas here: the milpa and the backyard garden—an intimate space with potted plants, a shrine, and seating, “more like a kitchen garden” that you’d find in traditionally Mexican neighborhoods, explains volunteer Elena Martin.

The short list of what’s growing here includes calabacita (squash), jamaica (hibiscus), and what Martin describes as something of “a salsa garden”—tomatoes, onions, and chiles. There’s also corn, which is so significant that it now has its own regional festival: Pueblos del Maíz, celebrated in Tucson, San Antonio, Mérida, and Puebla. During the inaugural festival last May, a beloved Tucson institution—La Estrella Bakery— made celebratory pastries from Mission Garden ingredients. In fact, the bakery is a longtime supporter of Mission Garden, says Emily Rockey, who oversees the garden’s produce sales to local businesses as well as donations to the likes of Iskashitaa, which aims to integrate refugees into the community while reducing food waste.

Another beloved local bakery, Bar rio Bread—whose owner, Don Guer ra, won the 2022 James Beard award for Outstanding Baker—has been a good partner, too, says Rockey. One of the best ways to taste that association for yourself? The bread offered up during the garden’s summer Garlic Festival.

Of course, as a museum, the garden isn’t set up for large-scale production. So Tucson’s most iconic Mexican purveyors aren’t sourcing here on a regular basis. That said, the same staples harvested on a small scale at Mission Garden are reflected on menus across town, from the exquisitely spiced nopales at El Taco Rustico to the tomatoes, onions and chiles in the sublime caldo de queso at El Charro Café. For the fullest expression of chile’s potential, head to Boca by Chef Maria Mazon—a Top Chef alum with a famously expansive repertoire of salsas. And as for those calabacitas and jamaica, you’ll find both put to excellent use at Seis Kitchen—the former in garlicky tacos, the latter in refreshing aguas frescas.

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Above: Seasonal crops are harvested year-round by the team at Mission Garden. Photo by Jackie Tran / Tucson Foodie

The Indigenous Gardens

“From the sweat of our brow to the mud under our nails, everything we do is rooted in the acknowledgment that we are on the ancestral lands of the Tohono O’odham Nation,” states the Mission Garden on occupying S-cuk Son, the name and place from which Tucson arose. Underscoring that acknowledgment are the O’odham Garden Before European Contact, where the crops date to 1450 and include the iconic huñ (60-day corn), and the O’odham Garden After European Contact, where you’ll find 17th-century introductions, such as winter wheat.

While winter wheat makes for admittedly delicious baked goods, “summer is so important to us,” says Maegan Lopez, who grew up on the Tohono O’odham Nation and now serves as assistant gardener and cultural outreach coordinator at Mission Garden. “Throughout O’odham history, we’ve relied on the summer monsoon season, which marks our new year—and the harvest of our most culturally important crops,” from 60-day corn to devil’s claw.

Though devil’s claw is best known in a weaving context, “the seeds are actually very nutritious and can be used like sunflower seeds,” notes Lopez. She’s used other indigenous crops like the garden’s ruby-topped amaranth to make falafel, though it isn’t the most traditional use of the

If you’re looking for something that is, remember “‘traditional’ is a subjective term,” says Lopez. To preserve their own O’odham heritage, for example, the owners of Cafe Santa Rosa, have opted for a balance between Indigenous and Mexican influences in the menu’s iconic red chile popovers and Indian tacos. (Note that the Indian tacos at La Indita are another local favorite, so be thorough and try both.)

You can also find popovers at Mission Garden during the Native American Arts Festival, when an O’odham fry-bread wizard named Adelia incorporates the garden’s own squash and beans into her menu. Indeed, squash and beans—plus the third “sister,” corn—populate the garden’s Indigenous plots, from the ancient Hohokam (the ancestors of the O’odham) Garden to the in-progress Yoeme Garden (the Yoeme also call Tucson home). Look for odes to the three sisters on menus across town, one favorite being the 3 Sisters Soup & Salad at Charro Vida.

Tucson’s brewers have been known to incorporate Indigenous ingredients, too, and some source directly from the garden. Exo Roast Co., for one, has offered everything from a chiltepin cold brew to an O’odham yellow watermelon cocktail. For its part, Borderlands Brewing Co. makes Viejo Pueblo Blonde Ale with O’odham

Left: Devil's Claw shown in both fresh and dried froms.
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Right: Volunteers tend to the indigenous Yoeme Garden.

Spanish Colonial Orchard & Vegetable Garden

Dating to the 17th-century arrival of the Spaniards, this section is the brainchild of “our friend Jesús” of Top Chef fame. That profusion of fruit the contestants found onsite results from endless digging on García’s part—sometimes through dirt, but just as often through old Jesuit journals, mining town chronicles and oral histories created by Patricia Preciado Martin, mother of the aforementioned Elena Martin.

When you visit Tucson’s oldest neighborhoods, “or anyplace in the region where Mexicans have lived for a long, long time, you can still find citrus, fig, pomegranate and in some cases, quince trees,” says García. “There’s direct evidence that these varieties have been part of life here for centuries, and the Spanish Garden at Mission Garden has become the exhibit where we can care for such trees, get cuttings and reproduce them for education.”

The fruit grown at the garden—though not abundant enough for widescale use—readily supplies its own festivals (such as October’s Membrillo Fest), plus the handful of restaurants and bars that circumstantially source here. That list changes seasonally, but a recent sampling includes Time Market (a restaurant, shop and bakery that tends to work with whatever’s fresh from the garden); 5 Points Market (whose pastries often incorporate the figs and quince); and Tito & Pep (where quince is key to the signature pork dish). If you like your colonial-era fruit in liquid form, stop by the Bawker Bawker Cider House for Mission Garden Fig or Peach Cider on tap.

Left: Referred to as La Madrina del Jardín or the Godmother of the Garden, Josefina Lizárraga's long-held knowledge of local fruit and its many uses is an indispensible asset to the garden's patrons. Above: Lizárraga harvesting quince, the namesake fruit of the garden's annual Membrillo Fest in October. Right: The signature pork dish at Tito & Pep Photo by Dave Levin

Right: Find heritage ingredients like those grown at Mission Garden at Potwhale.

The Chinese Garden

A tribute to the rich history of Chinese farmers who’ve put down local roots, this gar den aims to replicate what the first Chinese growers harvested along the Santa Cruz River in the 19th century and later generations raised in backyard gardens. The resulting harvest, born of “heritage seeds that came from early Chinese families in the Tucson area,” according to volunteer Nancy Tom, ranges from jujubes to bitter melon—both increasingly recognized for their health benefits, she adds.

While no Chinese restaurants source directly from Mission Garden (to date), the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center is a close partner. You can taste the results of that alliance at celebrations like the Autumn Moon Festival and Lunar New Year at the garden, where you’ll find everything from daikon radish turnip cakes with Chinese garlic chives to giant pomelos.

For similar flavors to those on offer at the garden, head to Potwhale for the veggie-forward hotpots—or dip a bit deeper into the Tucson melting pot with the jalapeño-spiked dishes at China Pasta House, such as the jalapeño fried bean curd rice.

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Above: Richard Fe Tom and Nancy Tom tell the story of how Chinese farmers played an integral role in Tucson's culinary heritage. Photo by Jackie Tran / Tucson Foodie

Africa in the Americas

One of the most recently inaugurated gardens offers an eye-opening counternarrative to the commonly held belief that 17th-century Jamestown saw the arrival of the first people of African descent in what is now the U.S. According to volunteer and historian Michael Engs, whose wife Sidney and sister-in-law Stephanie have been instrumental to the creation of Africa in the Americas, “the first Black person came to New Spain [what is now Arizona] in 1539, and that began a series of journeys of African-based people to the region.” Why is this history so unknown? Largely because you need to piece it together from the most fleeting of references, says Engs. “You could read an entire book on the Spanish conquest, and you may get two sentences that mention people of African descent.”

Parallel research into their diet—and that of subsequent Tucsonans of African descent—has led to the garden’s crops: sorghum, millet, onions, collard greens, and okra, for starters. But elements that nourish the soul feel equally important here, as you’ll find everywhere from the tribute to Natalie Bazile (the literary force behind Hulu’s Queen Sugar) to the evocative bottle tree sculpture.

Because this part of the garden is so new, direct restaurant partnerships have yet to be established, but many of the same crops make appearances on menus—from the okra sauce at Alafia West African Cuisine to the collard greens-based gomen at the Ethiopian Café Desta.

Volunteers like Kimmiesue Steverson keep the gardens thriving with love and care.;

Taste the distinct flavors brought from Africa to Tucson at restaurants like Cafe Desta.

by Jackie Tran / Tucson Foodie

Clockwise: Dr. Michael Engs stands in the Africa in the Americas Garden.;


Four Food Trucks That Offer an Eclectic Array of Cuisine

Words and Photos by Jackie Tran

Yes, Tucson has taco trucks aplenty. The quintessential Tucson experience usually involves a parking lot, a carne asada taco, and a Mexican Coke devoured beneath a tent at sunset. It's best not to ignore the litany of other cuisines available from Tucson's food trucks, however. Traveling foodies can experience the flavors of the Sonoran Desert in all its majestic forms, along with American classics and cuisine from around the world.

Ruiz Hot Dogs Los Chipilones

This roadside cart specializes in the Sonoran hot dog, which originated in Hermosillo, Mexico, and made its way over the border to Tucson, where restaurateurs have been perfecting it for decades. Now one of Tucson’s signature dishes, it features a bacon-wrapped hot dog topped with pinto beans, diced raw onion, grilled onion, diced tomato, mayo, mustard, and jalapeño salsa on a slightly sweet bolillo bun specially made for this accompaniment.

Some vendors steam their buns, but Ruiz toasts their buns for added texture. It's a subtle, but noteworthy distinction. Here, each dog also comes with a tangy and savory charred yellow pepper.

While they have no website or social media, they are consistently located at 1140 S. Sixth Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701. Also, be aware they are cash only.

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Ciao Down

Established in 2015, brewhouse favorite Ciao Down expanded into a brick-and-mortar restaurant. However, hungry diners will still find the re-purposed shuttle bus dishing up pizzas.

While the menu includes classics such as a pepperoni or margherita pizza, Ciao Down’s claim to fame is its sweet-and-savory signature Snake Bite pizza. Raspberry chipotle jam, sliced jalapeños, bacon, cream cheese, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil round out the eccentric and addictive pizza.

Vegan cheese and gluten-free crusts are also available at no additional cost.

Charly’s BBQ & Grill

In the world of competition style Texas barbecue, Charly’s stands out with its Sonoran influences. The barbecue itself is fairly traditional with pecan and apple wood smoke, but the complex sauces feature ingredients such as fiery chiltepín peppers and Mexican unrefined cane sugar known as piloncillo.

Their most popular sandwich features a combination of brisket, chile verde, caramelized onions, provolone, and piloncillo barbecue sauce between slices of Texas toast.

Don’t forget to order a side of the roasted elote on the cob with tangy lime aioli and crumbly cotija cheese.

The Curry Pot Sri Lankan Fusion

While Indian, Thai, and Japanese curry often steal the limelight, the Curry Pot showcases cuisine with a Sri Lankan flare. Cuisine from the South Asian country includes influence from Dutch, Portuguese, British, Indian, Arab, Malay, and Moor cultures.

Although curry from Sri Lanka shares similarities with its Indian counterpart, it often features coconut milk instead of yogurt or other dairy to balance the complex spice blend of chilies, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, coriander, fennel seeds, cumin, turmeric, black pepper, and curry leaves.

Curry and rice bowls star on the Curry Pot’s menu, but don’t miss out on the flaky samosas with potatoes, peas, and spices. Be aware, the vegan samosa is noticeably spicier.

[ GASTRONOMY ] VisitTucson.org | 27
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If you’d really like to get a feel for Tucson, try exploring it from the saddle – of a bike, that is. The sun’s warmth on your skin, a gentle breeze whispering through mesquite trees, a ground squirrel darting along the roadside dirt, the smell of creosote after a rain: these are the joys of the desert that you notice when you’re skimming along trails on a bicycle.

Your chariot awaits. If you aren’t bringing your own, Fair Wheel Bikes comes highly recommended for mountain bikes or hybrid bikes (a cross between a road and mountain bike); its rentals are well-stocked, high-quality, and well-maintained. For quick trips in the downtown and University of Arizona areas, you can rent a bicycle at any of the TuGo Bike Share self-service docking stations, offering more than 330 bikes at 41 stations throughout the city. Tucson Bike Tours provides bikes for its guided tours through the downtown historic neighborhoods. Choose between their Historic, Mural, and Taco tours to get a glimpse into the city’s many offerings. In addition, some hotels near multi-use trails, including JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa and The Tuxon, rent or loan bikes to guests. Or, for a completely turn-key experience, book a customized mountain biking itinerary with the experts at Homegrown Mountain Biking Tours. Their team will outfit you with the newest mountain biking gear and arrange rides in and around Tucson while accompanying you every step of the way.

Most Tucsonans with a bike will head straight to The Chuck Huckelberry Loop, a 136-mile network of shared use paths running along the edges of the city in a near-continuous circle. Consisting of the Rillito River Park, Santa Cruz River Park, Pantano River Park, and Julian Wash/Harrison Greenway, The Loop is open to anything without a motor. Olympic cyclist Chloe Woodruff remembers The Loop as one of her favorite ways to explore: “Riding a bike lets you see and experience so many more things than you would zipping through by car.” She particularly recommends stopping for fresh tortillas and empanadas at Anita’s Street Market between the Santa Cruz River and Dunbar Spring neighborhood. If you’re looking to extend your trip, you can tap on additional mileage in Oro Valley, where the loop intersects with Catalina State Park.

Longtime Tucson cyclist Daniela Diamonte credits bike touring as the catalyst for her cycling passion. She recalls her first ride was down to Madera Canyon, a beautiful riparian canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains, about 35 miles southeast of Tucson. Also high on her list of local rides are the routes to Brown Mountain, Colossal Cave, and Catalina State Park – the last of which can be achieved entirely via The Loop system. Pack a few light camping supplies and turn your bike tour into a hiking and camping adventure, too.

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Pima County
Courtesy of
VisitTucson.org | 33 [ OUTDOORS ]
Clockwise from Left: Home Grown Mountain Bike Tours; The Chuck Huckelberry Loop; Madera Canyon

If you enjoy the bike-and-hike idea but want to stay a bit closer to town, consider making your way up Sabino Canyon. During the day, this Coronado National Forest land is packed with visitors enjoying the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains – but every morning and evening (before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.) the paved roadway leading up into the heart of Sabino is also open to cyclists. Test your legs with some uphill work and take in the quiet beauty of one of the most vibrant canyons in the Catalinas. And remember; what goes up gets to coast all the way back down.

Ah, but can you talk of adventure in Tucson without looking to Mt. Lemmon? Consistently voted onto cyclists’ lists of top road bike climbs in the country, the Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway boasts a perfectly cambered 4 percent to 5 percent grade with breathtaking views at every switchback. Amy Orchard, member of Perimeter Bicycling Board, says Mt. Lemmon Road is among her favorite rides. She is still amazed at the biodiversity of the climb – after all, she notes, you’re making the very same elevation and

vegetation changes as if you were riding from Mexico to Canada. Just try not to start when the sun is already high in the sky. The mountain may rise to 9,000 feet, but it still has its roots in the valley desert. And it’s not just road bikers who sing Mt. Lemmon’s praises. The mountain is also home to a complex network of mountain biking trails that are frequented by experienced riders.

Take your connection to nature a step farther on mountain bike trails that curl and crisscross their way through the Tucson and Rincon Mountain ranges. Just don’t get too close to any of the cholla cacti that line the routes. If you do, don’t panic: a fine-toothed comb should remove any larger spines that might be hanging on, and tweezers can take care of the rest. It’s not just your shins that are in danger, either. Avid mountain cyclist Nina Simon recommends going tubeless when riding the Sweetwater Trail System, one of her favorites because it offers a wide variety of opportunities for all skill levels.

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Image: Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway

If you’re looking to connect with other cyclists, visit the event pages of Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists and Great Arizona Bicycling Association. Tuesday Night Bike Ride is a popular social ride that starts at Old Main on the University of Arizona campus with varying routes each week. Tucson’s cycle-friendly lifestyle is never more apparent than during Cyclovia. Twice a year, Tucson streets shut down to motorized traffic and people-powered fun prevails on routes throughout Tucson. For more cycling events, race through the desert south of the city during the Tucson Bicycle Classic in March or go on a 106-mile (or less, if you prefer) racing adventure through the streets of Tucson during El Tour de Tucson in November. If you’re a serious mountain biker, try 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, one of the largest day-long endurance events of its kind in the world each February. Tucson’s newest biking event is the Mount Lemmon Gravel Grinder, as much a spectator event as it is a serious competitive challenge. This 40-, 50- and 60-mile gravel ride up the backside of the mountain, also offers a Halloween costume contest, live music and vendor expo each October.

Exploring Tucson from atop a bike promises to open your eyes to the beauty of the Sonoran Desert while also testing your strength. So go as far and as high and as long as you can, and then reach beyond that. You might surprise yourself.

Above: Sweetwater Preserve

Right: Mt. Lemmon Gravel Grinder

VisitTucson.org | 35
Courtesy of Mt Lemmon Gravel Grinder

The collection at The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures includes more than 500 antique and contemporary dollhouses and roomboxes, while special exhibitions highlight the breadth and diversity of the art of miniatures.

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Tucson Mountain Park is the sprawling backyard other cities can only dream about. The park protects 20,000 acres of pristine desert on the western edge of town. It shares the same mountain range, tall cactus forests, and lavish sunsets as neighboring Saguaro National Park. Veined with a network of easyto-access trails, Tucson Mountain Park offers a standing invitation to residents and visitors alike to come outside and play.

There are dozens of trails to choose from but here are a couple of favorites.

Yetman-Rock Wren Trails

Connecting two distant trailheads, Yetman Trail forms the long curving spine of Tucson Mountain Park. The lanky route delivers fantastic scenery with little elevation gain. Doing the whole thing as an out-and-back makes for a long day but connecting trails create other options, like a lollipop loop using Yetman and Rock Wren Trail.

From the eastern trailhead off Camino de Oeste, Yetman dips in and out of a sandy wash. Saguaros guard the surrounding hillsides in thick clusters. At just over a mile, you’ll encounter the weathered remains of a stone house, a surprising find far from civilization. Built in the 1930s, the roofless ruin is ringed by picture windows that are still filled with desert panoramas.

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The trail climbs a small saddle where views spill away in all directions. Rock Wren Trail enters from the right at 2.2 miles but stay on Yetman. Just past Cat Mountain, take the second junction for Rock Wren as it rises out of a wash and rambles across hills covered with some of the densest cactus groves you’ll ever find. Craggy cliffs tower overhead and the path squeezes between tall saguaros beneath a high arching sky. This feels like a Sonoran Desert cathedral. Reconnect with Yetman and follow it back to the trailhead for a 6.2-mile moderate hike that will linger in your memories for

36th Street Trail

Don’t let the name fool you. It may sound like a bus route but 36th Street Trail is a fast, fun, and easy hike. The trailhead sits at the lonely end of 36th Street, on the flank of the Enchanted Hills. Immediately, the trail bends south past a memorial bench then hugs the rocky slope of a low-shouldered ridge. Views stretch back toward the city before the trail pulls you deeper into the mountains.

An impressive stand of saguaros lines the path that stays level before dropping into an arroyo where it parallels a wide sandy wash. Watch for wildlife through this lush corridor.

You’ll pass the boundary into Tucson Mountain Park and as the trail climbs back up the slope you’re suddenly deep in the quiet outback, surrounded by rough hills and a cradling quiet. How quickly the world changes when you’ve got a backyard like this. 36th Street Trail ends after 1.5 miles at a junction with Starr Pass Trail.

Now comes the hard part. Do you turn around and amble back to the trailhead for an easy 3-mile round trip hike, or do you plunge deeper into the enticing wildness of Tucson Mountain Park?

Guided Hikes

Here’s something else to consider. JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort and Spa perches at the edge of Tucson Mountain Park and guests of the resort enjoy complimentary guided hikes each morning into beautiful Hidden Canyon.


Clockwise from Left:

The Bowen Stone House; Viewing the sunset from Starr Pass; Signs guide the way throughout Tucson Mountain Park

VisitTucson.org | 39



Tucson’s Santa Catalina Mountains framed against the cloudless desert sky provide a setting for golf that is transcendent the world over. No matter which of the destination’s 40-plus courses you’re playing, when you pause and look up, Tucson’s stunning views envelop you and seem to make your shot a bit less critical and a lot more fun.

Traveling golfers - both returning veterans and first timersreport the variety of golf course designs, tee sheet availability, and easy access are what make Tucson golf world-class. That’s no surprise, as Tucson golf is the byproduct of hall of fame designers, players, and tour performances spanning eight decades. Nicklaus, Palmer, Weiskopf, Trevino, Lehman, Fazio, the Trent Jones family, and the Bell family have authored courses for your enjoyment.

Amble through tree-lined parkland style layouts, immerse yourself in native Sonoran Desert routings, or tackle the challenge of emerald green fairways in rugged mountain terrain. Resort properties like Omni Tucson National Resort, Casino del Sol, The Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa, and the Lodge at Ventana Canyon offer high quality golf in their backyards.

But Tucson’s golf is not exclusively tied to its premier resorts. You’ll find compelling options at the countless semi-private, public, and five high-quality municipal courses sprinkled throughout the area.

If your intent is to see the greats in action, you’re in luckthe PGA Tour has played tournament golf in Tucson since 1945. Historically, the PGA Tour event was called The Tucson Open and was a who’s who of celebrities, at times featuring hosts like Dean Martin and Joe Garagiola. Today, the 2023 PGA Champions Tour Cologuard Classic, taking place March 3-5 at Omni Tucson National’s Catalina course, carries the tradition forward. Attempt a 61 at Catalina like Johnny Miller did to win the 1975 Tucson Open or walk in the footsteps of then-amateur, now-world renowned Phil Mickelson, who won Tucson’s PGA event as a junior at Arizona State University in 1991.

No matter what factors determine where you’ll play your next round - designer, layout, setting or ambiance – Tucson high quality, easily accessible courses can be tailored for your perfect golf trip.

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Image: Omni Tucson National
Relive The West At An All Horse-drawn Parade! 23 2023 FEB RODEO PARADE Starts at 9:00am GRANDSTAND PRE-PARADE ENTERTAINMENT TICKETS and INFORMATION AT: TUCSONRODEOPARADE.ORG A Museum of Tucson’s Territorial Period OPEN NOVEMBER 12, 2022 - APRIL 1, 2023 THURSDAY THRU SATURDAY 9:30 AM-3:30 PM Please call for large group reservations (520) 294-1280 ADULTS $10 SENIORS $9 CHILDREN (5-17) $2 ADULTS: $10 • UNDER AGE 12: $5 8:00am9:00am TUCSON RODEO PARADE MUSEUM TUCSON’S IS CALLING. NATURAL BEAUTY
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Bold colors and the warm hues of the Arizona desert inspired the multi-million dollar transformation of Omni National Resort & Spa. Newly re-designed spaces that include the lobby, lounge and dining venues, spa, fitness center, casitas, and haciendas, offer a relaxing and inviting backdrop for leisure, wellness, corporate, or group stays.

Winning awaits at Southern Arizona’s three exciting Desert Diamond Casino destinations – in Tucson, Sahuarita, and Why. Get in on the action with exhilarating games, unforgettable restaurants, and endless entertainment. This is where Arizona comes to play.

Located in between Tucson International Airport and San Xavier del Bac Mission, discover Desert Diamond Casino & Hotel, owned and operated by the Tohono O’odham Nation. This diamond in the Sonoran Desert showcases the heritage and history of the Nation, while providing guests with 148 rooms of upscale accommodations and modern conveniences. Play all your thrilling casino favorites, such as poker, bingo, and slots, mixed in with live craps, baccarat, roulette and bet on your favorite live sports at Desert Diamond Sportsbook & Bar. Collect your earnings, then indulge in one of our restaurants with selections ranging from a classic burger, savory soups & salads to prime rib and crab legs. Other can’t miss amenities include

the sparkling hot tub and pool, and gift shop that showcases one-of-a-kind gifts such as Native American jewelry and Pendleton blankets.

Groups will find Desert Diamond Casino & Hotel equally appealing. Recent updates to the conference spaces, coupled with state-of-the-art technology and competitive package pricing will make your meeting shine.

Continue the gaming action at Desert Diamond Casino in Sahuarita, home to a full-service smokefree casino, restaurants, and an entertainment venue that attracts acts for all ages.

Whether you’re on the way to Rocky Point or just cruising Route 86, fill up on food, fuel and fun at the Desert Diamond Why Casino.

Come visit one or all three Southern Arizona Desert Diamond Casino destinations. No matter which one you choose, you’ll feel like a winner.

42 | Tucson Official Travel Guide
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum



Birdwatching, historic sites, art galleries, and a growing wine scene are just a few of the reasons why Tucson tops many travelers’ bucket lists. Here are four day-trip itineraries that will help you navigate this dynamic destination and its neighboring communities.

Rare Sky Island Bird Sightings

Sixty mountain peaks dot the landscapes from Mexico into the Southwest. These steep, isolated mountains create “sky island” sanctuaries above the Sonoran Desert floor. Their ecosystems change with the elevation, creating some of the world’s highest levels of biodiversity. Iconic conservationist Aldo Leopold loved this landscape. “To my mind these live oak-dotted hills, these pine-clad mesas spangled with flowers, these lazy trout streams burbling under great sycamores and cottonwoods, come near to being the cream of creation,” he wrote.

Over half of North America’s birds shelter in this archipelago, drawing buffs with binoculars. Madera Canyon, a valley high in the Santa Rita Mountains 42 miles south of Tucson, especially stands out. At least 15 species of hummingbirds flit here, including the continent’s tiniest feathered friend: the Calliope, which weighs as much as a ping pong ball. But the show-stopping “life list” star is the elegant trogon with its lemon-yellow beak, hibiscus-red breast and metallic-lime cowl tapering down its back.

One of the most sought-after birds for birdwatchers, trogons often roost in the lower forest canopy. Some linger year-round, but most migrate here in early April and depart by late July. Listen carefully for their odd croaking call, delightfully at odds with their flashy, tropical-cocktail plumage.

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Photo by Ray Cleveland Image: An Elegant Trogon Spotted at Madera Canyon Image: Elephant Head Butte, Santa Rita Mountains BY AMANDA CASTLEMAN Photos by Pete Gregoire unless otherwise noted

Art, History and Evocative Mission Ruins

Fifty miles south of downtown Tucson, the Santa Cruz River softens the desert into semi-arid grasslands. This lushness attracted Indigenous farmers — including the O'odham and Yoeme — for generations. In 1691, the now legendary Jesuit priest Eusebio Francisco Kino, commonly referred to as Father Kino, arrived in the territory to establish Catholic missions. He founded San Xavier del Bac Mission and its lesser-known sister to the south, Tumacácori – a National Historical Park today. “But there was no church here during Kino’s lifetime,” explains Anita Badertscher, the chief of interpretation and education at Tumacácori. “He just said, ‘yes, this is a good place for a mission.’” Tumacácori became the first mission in the territory now known as Arizona.

Today, visitors to Tumacácori can pause in the sweetly scented garden — shaded by olive, mesquite, and pomegranate trees — before exploring the serene grounds. Many early adobe structures have dissolved, but the ruins of a nevercompleted, early 19th-century, Baroque church remain. Park officials have preserved its sunbleached brick façade and faded interior frescos. The result? A feeling of mystery and sanctity, as nature gently erodes the architecture.

Above: Tumacácori Mission Below: Tubac and the Anza Trail

Arizona Wine Country

“The high Sonoran Desert is a dry, elevated climate that is very similar to the Mediterranean’s. A lot of Sicilian grapes are used in our wines – Spanish and southern French ones too,” explains Moniqua Lane, owner of Tucson’s new, boutique wine hotel, The Citizen.

To taste vintages among the vines, head 50 miles southeast to the town of Sonoita and its neighbor Elgin. The family-run Dos Cabezas WineWorks showcases two of the area’s powerhouse varietals — grenache and syrah — in its flagship rosé, handpicked and stomped by foot. The winery also uses its crush pad to bake pizzas, including a spicy number with smoked ham, caciocavallo cheese and shishito peppers.

The state’s oldest commercial winery lies nearby at Sonoita Vineyards, established in 1983. At an elevation of 5,000 feet among rolling grasslands, the property shelters between three mountain ranges, protecting it from frost and harsh winds. This allows crops to flourish, including Mission

grapes, like Americas’ earliest vinifera variety. Used in wines for Catholic sacraments and now trending as a fortified dessert drink, you can sample vinifera at Sonoita Vineyards when you sip on the rich, portstyle Tiger’s Treat.

Los Milics is another highlight. A vast land-art installation greets visitors to this working vineyard and tasting room. Amid cutting-edge modern design, try two of the region’s signatures: pale aromatic malvasia bianca — thought to have ancient Greek origins — and bold mourvèdre with hints of sage and stewed berries.

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Photo by Bruce Racine Courtesy of Los Milics Vineyards Image: Los Milics Vineyards

The Town Too Tough to Die

In Tombstone, The Old West is still riding off into the sunset 75 miles southeast of Tucson. An 1877 silver strike made this dusty stretch a boom town. Chilled champagne flowed, as residents enjoyed theaters, debate clubs and even a roller rink.

But opportunity can open the door to trouble: 1881 saw the West’s bloodiest stretch of gunfights. Tombstone’s contribution was the infamous O.K. Corral shoot-out. Cattle-rustling cowboys and profiteering lawmen — including the Earp brothers and John “Doc” Holliday — squared off. In 30 seconds, three men died, and a legend began.

Today, some honor the town’s legacy by wearing period attire. On weekends and during festivals, the six-block historic area teems with bustles, cravats, frock coats and parasols. But the cosplay isn’t all about cowboys, Natives, and settlers. Re-enactors like Charles Hancock represent the Buffalo Soldiers,

the Black cavalry and infantry regiments organized shortly after the Civil War. “We tell the story of their achievements,” he explains.

Tombstone’s ambiance continues at spots like Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, The Birdcage Theater, Goodenough Silver Mine, Wyatt Earp's Oriental Saloon, and even the world’s first target-shooting zipline with laser pistols. Or saddle up at Tombstone Monument Ranch, which leads trail rides past railroad trestles and prehistoric petroglyphs. Guests then snuggle up in its faux old-timey town, where theme rooms include a jail. Above:

Tombstone Monument Ranch Left: The O.K. Corral
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com Courtesy of Tombstone Monument Ranch
Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce CasaGrandeChamber.org CGMainStreet.org CasaGrandeAZ.gov Casa Grande Main Street City of Casa Grande DINING GOLF HIKING MUSEUMS > > > > NEON SIGN PARK > > > > EXPLORE

Nestled in the high Sonoran Desert just 45 minutes south of Tucson, discover the place where art and history meet: Tubac.

As the two-time recipient of the Best Small Town Arts Scene in USA Today 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards, Tubac’s reputation as a premier arts destination spans the world over. Find one-of-akind treasures, such as fine art, jewelry, mesquite furniture, pottery, sculptures, and rugs at celebrated shops and galleries, including Cobalt Fine Arts, Old Presidio Traders, The Country Shop, Clay Hands, Hal Empie Gallery, Tubac Old World Imports, and Lone Mountain Turquoise Company.

Immerse yourself in the town’s storied past at the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park and Museum, Arizona’s first state park and the home of the first European settlement in Arizona. Step back in time while walking the nearly 275-year-old Juan Bautista

de Anza National Historic Trail to Tumacacori National Historical Park, the site of Arizona’s oldest Spanish mission and an International Dark Sky Park.

As day fades to night, indulge in Southwestern fare at Tubac’s most celebrated restaurants, such as Elvira’s and The Italian Peasant, and El Barrio Kitchen all while experiencing the magic of fireflies dancing in the air. Then, lay your head to rest with lodging options ranging from bed and breakfasts and quaint inns to the AAA Four Diamond Tubac Golf Resort & Spa, a member of the Historic Hotels of America.

No matter what time of year you visit, be it during an event like the February Tubac Festival of the Arts or Luminaria Nights, you will leave feeling restored, enlightened, and excited to return. So why wait? Begin planning your trip to the walking Village of Tubac, where art and history meet.

Pete Gregoire



What do discovering a mountain lion in his den, spelunking by flashlight in a cave, and getting up-close to a covert SR-71 Blackbird spy plane have in common? These activities may sound like plotlines in a Hollywood blockbuster, but they’re not. In Tucson and Pima County, you can experience these adventures and more at family-friendly attractions featuring both indoor and outdoor spaces that make visits enjoyable any day of the year.

In fall of 2022, Old Tucson re-opened its doors to the public. The western town’s legacy is rooted in its 1890-themed buildings, which served as the backdrops for popular movies such as the Three Amigos, El Dorado, and Tombstone. And while Old Tucson will continue to woo filmmakers, you will also get a chance to experience it for yourself. In 2023, Old Tucson will debut the Western Experience on select days from January through April. Take a trip back to the late 1800s for a firsthand look at the Wild West with a host of characters trained in immersive theater. That means they’ll never break character – not even when you tell the sheriff to throw you in the town’s jail. Also, not to be missed: Old Tucson’s holiday programming. The ever-popular Halloween-themed Nightfall transforms the western town into a haunted one each October, and December's Christmas-themed Yuletide programming promises to get you in the holiday spirit.

One of Pima County’s most popular attractions is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which will enlighten you to the grandeur of the Sonoran Desert, the world’s lushest desert located in Arizona, California, and Baja California, Mexico. The only place on earth where the iconic saguaro cactus grows natively, the 98-acre museum is set in a spectacular desert environment that includes a zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, small aquarium, and natural history museum. Highlights of your visit will include safely spying on the museum’s iconic mountain lion in his den, catching a glimpse of an endangered Mexican Gray Wolf, watching a hummingbird sip nectar, feeding a slinky stingray, digging up fossils in a re-created cave, and climbing through a human-sized packrat nest.

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Clockwise: Old Tucson; Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum; Pima Air & Space Museum Courtesy of Old Tucson Courtesy of Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Aviation enthusiasts won’t want to miss Pima Air & Space Museum, featuring approximately 400 historic aircraft, displayed both in hangars and outside over its 80 acres. The museum hosts a variety of unique planes – including the previously-mentioned SR-71 Blackbird, a Wright Flyer, and the official Air Force One for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Most notably, it has three hangars dedicated to the aircraft flown during WWII. Although visitors are welcome to walk the grounds, the tram tour is led by retired pilots who flew many of these planes and can enlighten you to the significance of each.

Explore the otherworldly beauty of Colossal Cave Mountain Park on a traditional tour with lighted pathways, a Ladder Tour where you’ll traverse narrow passages wearing lighted helmets, or the Wild Cave Tour where you’ll explore unlit, unmarked, and rarely seen passageways that extend into the cave’s darkest corners. Regardless of your choice, keep an eye out for the

rumored treasure stashed by train robbers in the late 1800s. The cave isn’t the only activity that can be enjoyed here. With 2,400 acres to explore, you can hike, mountain bike, and horseback ride on the park’s many trails, as well as camp and picnic.

Titan Missile Museum takes visitors 35 feet underground to see the last of the 54 Titan II missile sites operational during the Cold War. Start your journey by taking a self-guided topside tour or opt for a more immersive 45-minute guided tour. During the latter, you’ll go into the control room to experience a simulated missile launch like those who manned Titan II missile sites from 1963 to 1987. The tour ends with an up-close look at the missile, which can be viewed safely because it no longer houses a warhead or fuel.

MORE Southern Arizona Attractions

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FIND Left: Colossal Cave Mountain Park Right: Titan Missile Museum Courtesy of Colossal Cave Mountain Park Photo by Steven Meckler Courtesy of Titan Missile Museum



Oro Valley is just north of Tucson, set against the backdrop of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains. Outdoor adventures abound, with views you won’t find anywhere else in Southern Arizona. Explore our trails. Play a round of golf. Savor a meal at an OV Original restaurant. Relax in one of our spas. Enjoy all that Oro Valley has to offer. Here’s a list of our favorites to get you started!

Visit Tohono Chul Gardens, Galleries, Shops, and Bistro

Enjoy “One of the World’s Ten Best Botanical Gardens” by Travel + Leisure Magazine

Take a hike at Catalina State Park

Explore more than 5,500 acres of unmatched beauty, miles of panoramic hiking trails and discover more than 150 bird species.

Play a round at El Conquistador Golf

Visit elcongolf.com for your choice of three unforgettable desert golf course options with lush green fairways, and stunning mountain backdrops.

Spend your Saturday morning at the Heirloom Farmers Market and Art/Antique Vendors

Located at historic Steam Pump Ranch, this farmers market includes live music and supports local food purveyors, farms, and artists.

Have a Relaxing Spa Day at El Conquistador Tucson, A Hilton Resort or Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort

Indulge in a relaxing day (or an entire weekend) filled with heavenly spa treatments and self-care. You know you deserve it.

Learn more at: orovalleyaz.gov/community/things-to-do

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Tohono Chul Catalina State Park El Conquistador Golf Heirloom Farmers Market El Conquistador Tucson
Sonoran Glass School Photo by Scott Griessel/Creatista Courtesy of Sonoran Glass School

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY at San Xavier del Bac

Indigenous Team of Conservators Restore Historic Mission

FFor Timothy Lewis, part of the team tasked with restoring and maintaining San Xavier del Bac Mission, the need to preserve the National Historic Landmark is personal. Lewis is one of the Tohono O’odham people, whose ancestors helped build the mission in the 18th century, more than 100 years after it was founded by Father Eusebio Kino. Lewis has been in awe of the church since he was a child and attended Mass there, which makes his work as one of the mission’s conservators and committee member for the celebratory feast days all the more meaningful. The project is also a family affair for Lewis. The three-member conservation team consists of Lewis, his wife Matilde Rubio, and his niece Susie Moreno.

Few mission churches in the Southwest still serve the indigenous communities for which they were founded, and none are as remarkable and historic as the so-called Dove of the Desert, which rises from the Sonoran Desert floor like a mirage just south of Tucson. The northernmost of

the missions established by Father Kino, San Xavier is the best-preserved example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the U.S., with religious art so impressive it’s been compared to that in Rome’s Sistine Chapel.

Through a program created by Patronato San Xavier, the organization that has funded the mission’s restoration work since 1978, Lewis became an apprentice to an international team of conservators from New York’s Guggenheim Institute. He was among those who restored the art in the church’s East Transept in 1992 and recalls feeling more euphoric with each passing day.


As a member of the Tohono O'odham nation, Timothy Lewis' work as a conservator of San Xavier del Bac is especially meaningful because he grew up attending church there.

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“I always thought of the church as dark and gloomy when I was a kid,” he said. “When the restoration revealed all the colors in the paintings, it was like a light went on.”

Eventually joining the international team in Europe, Lewis met Matilde Rubio, who has a degree in conservation from the University of Seville. The two worked on several projects together overseas before marrying and settling in Wa:k– the village where San Xavier del Bac is located –and starting their own art conservation and restoration business.

In 2016, following in the footsteps of her uncle, Susie Moreno signed on to the Patronato’s apprenticeship program. “I got hooked,” she said of her early days in the apprenticeship.

“I was like a sponge, wanting to soak in more and more knowledge about the complex techniques involved.” Her apprenticeship led to her taking collegiate art history classes and Moreno is now working towards a bachelor's degree in sustainable-built environments, with an emphasis on heritage conservation.

Lewis and Rubio are heartened that Moreno has taken to art conservation with such enthusiasm. They aren’t getting any younger, Rubio notes, and the strenuous work takes its toll. They hope that, like Moreno, other members of the next generation of the Tohono O’odham community will consider a future of preserving San Xavier del Bac – a church they’ve dedicated their lives to, just like so many of their ancestors.

Above: Matilde Rubio, has also dedicated her life to conservation of the Mission's many notable works of art.
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Left: The Mission's ornate interior shows why it is often called "the Sistine Chapel of North America".


Galleries Offer One-of-a-Kind Mementos

Tucson’s sweeping Sonoran Desert vistas, five dramatic mountain ranges, and magnificent golden hour hues have been a source of inspiration for artists and art enthusiasts for decades. So, it comes as no surprise that their work, and that of other talented creatives, is showcased at a host of art galleries sprinkled throughout the city. Here’s a guide for where to find the perfect memento of Tucson – to be gifted or kept as a reminder of the city’s unforgettable aesthetic and rich history.

Haven for Photography Buffs

Etherton Gallery, revered in the U. S. and Europe for its photography holdings, is in Tucson’s historic Barrio Viejo, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. On a street of colorful 19th century adobe homes, the gallery occupies a trendy 1980s building.

Fittingly, the gallery carries art both old and new. Proprietor Terry Etherton trades in photos from the early West, made by the likes of the famed Timothy H. O’Sullivan, as well as works by 20th century stars Dorothea Lang, Ansel Adam, and many others. He also exhibits contemporary photographers, including Mexican artist Graciela Iturbide, local favorite Kate Breakey, and celebrated international photojournalist Steve McCurry. McCurry is most famous for his 1984 National Geographic cover photo of a stunning green-eyed Afghan girl that is always on view in the gallery.

Etherton opened his gallery in 1981 especially for photography, but he later added paintings and other media. Featured Tucson painters include Gail Marcus Orlen, known for her use of bold colors, and the late Bailey (Peggy) Doogan, who made extraordinary feminist works.

Glass Blown Treasures

Philabaum Glass Gallery, a 10-minute walk from Etherton, is in Five Points, a happening neighborhood just south of downtown. This Tucson institution was purchased by Alison and Dylan Harvey in 2019 and still maintains the founders’ pieces while also featuring the works of other notable artists.

Tom Philabaum, an important figure in the glass art boom of the 1970s, opened the gallery in 1982 and ran it for nearly 40 years with his wife, Dabney. Since it was purchased, the Harveys have expanded dramatically and the gallery now holds the work of around 60 artists, all of whom experiment in a variety of extraordinary shapes and colors. In a recent show, one-time member of the Philabaum glassblowing team and Tucsonan Erika Parkin unveiled her highly sought after heavenly blue glass vessels.

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Philabaum Glass Gallery Etherton Gallery
Graciela Iturbide, Nuestra Señora de la Iguanas, Juchitán, México, 1979 gelatin silver print, Graciela Iturbide, courtesy Etherton Gallery

Indigenous Inspiration

Located in Tucson’s Catalina Foothills, Mark Sublette of Sublette Medicine Man Gallery deals in high-end Western art and is particularly well known for his Native American collection. Within his gallery, you can find pots, baskets, Navajo blankets, and jewelry including lovely turquoise pieces and prized squash blossom necklaces. Keep your eyes peeled for works by Native artist Tony Abeyta of the Navajo tribe, celebrated for his mixed media paintings and oil landscapes of the American southwest.

The gallery is also home to the Maynard Dixon Museum, featuring a treasure chest of works by Maynard Dixon, who lived in Tucson in the early ‘40s and is still one of the most highly regarded artists in the West. The museum has over 150 of Dixon’s pieces and ephemera, including his poetry, letters, illustrations, and painting easel.

The Hometown Hero

Found ubiquitously on hotel and restaurant walls throughout the city, Diana Madaras’ paintings are among the most recognizable in the Southwest. The longtime Tucsonan runs the popular Madaras Gallery near midtown where you can find her signature vivid paintings of Tucson’s desert and mountains, charming Southwest houses, flowers, and birds. Her gallery also holds work by some 20 other artists, including Chuck Albanese, a retired University of Arizona professor who spurred Madaras’ interest in art initially. Madaras now teaches others through her YouTube videos entitled “60 Seconds in the Studio,” which provide fans with lessons on honing their craft by demonstrating some of her tried and true techniques.

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Madaras Gallery Medicine Man Gallery

Artwork of Hispanic Origins

Located in Tucson’s Warehouse District, Raices Taller 222 Art Gallery & Workshop features artwork that highlights Tucson’s Hispanic heritage while also offering classes that appeal to artists of all different skill levels.

Founded 25 years ago and run as a cooperative by John Salgado and Ceci Garcia, Raices primarily showcases local artists, especially Latinos and Latinas. Their work is in a variety of mediums, from paintings and photos to papier-Mache and Mexican-style shrines. Every show (and there are plenty of shows!) turns into a community event with Mexican food, live music, and poetry or book readings. Enjoy a show or take a painting class.

A Stop on the Art Walk

Make the most of your art perusing in Tucson by participating in the First Thursday Art Walk in the Catalina Foothills every month. Featuring six different galleries, one of the notable stops along the way is Jane Hamilton Fine Art, a 30-year-old gallery featuring more than 50 artists. Here you’ll find everything from stunning landscapes of the West and traditional portraits of Native people to contemporary and abstract pieces. Other participating galleries include FoR Fine Art, Settlers West, Sanders Galleries, Wilde Meyer Gallery, and Sunset Interiors.

Jane Hamilton Fine Art


Tucson's most iconic weekly outdoor market focuses on local artists, makers, creators, and food businesses in Tucson's most beautiful setting, the historic St. Philip's Plaza.



Tucson’s premier open-air shopping center in the Catalina Foothills, fea turing luxury brands, specialty shops, restaurants and bars, gourmet grocer ies, seasonal events, and breathtaking mountain views.



Heirloom Farmers Markets is a non-profit organization that operates five farmers markets in Southern Arizo na. Our mission is to connect, educate, and empower our community to create a vibrant food system that supports local food producers and proprietors.


FC Tucson represents the highest level of soccer in Southern Arizona, playing at Kino North Stadium (May-July), as well as hosting Major League Soccer preseason (Jan.-Feb.) fctucson.com


A proud Visit Tucson partner, Lloyd Construction has been honored to serve the Southern Arizona marketplace as a preferred commercial general contractor since 1969.



As a program of the Arizona Anti-Trafficking Network, SAFE provides free online and in-person training on human trafficking for tourism professionals and travelers. fctucson.com


Guests will enjoy a quintessential Sonoran Desert experience which includes: an unforgettable fusion zoo, botanical garden, natural history museum, aquarium and art gallery. desertmuseum.org


Get ready for adventures in space and science! Explore exciting sci ence exhibits and out-of-this world planetarium shows to reveal the marvels of the universe. flandrau.org


R Bar, a stylish hideaway and wing of the non-profit Rialto Theatre. Enjoy an imaginative cocktail with The Story of Tucson mural providing a charismatic backdrop. @itsourbar @RBartucson rbartucson.com


A modern boutique hotel in the heart of Tucson. The Tuxon brings the best of the outside in, with an inspired design that reflects its stunning surroundings. thetuxonhotel.com


Celebrating 100 Years! El Charro Café is The Nation’s Oldest Mexican Restaurant in continuous operation by the same family featuring traditional Northern Mexico-Sonoran style and innovative Tucson-style Mexican food. elcharrocafe.com


HighWire is Tucson’s home of molecular mixology, delicious eats, and Sunday brunch in the heart of downtown!

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WHERE NATURE MEETS NURTURE Nestled at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains on 80 acres of Sonoran Desert, Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort & Spa is a true desert oasis. With a new $10 Million renovation, suite sized guest rooms, Sonoran Spa, award winning cuisine and three sparkling pools, Westward Look is the perfect spot for your next getaway. 800.722.2500 245 E. Ina Rd, Tucson, AZ 85704 www.WestwardLook.com Follow us on Facebook & Instagram! Debra Larochelle Associate Broker Tierra Antigua Realty (520) 270-7283 vrodbikerchick@comcast.net www.FindLuxuryHome.com The Experience You Need The Service You Deserve

Explore wide-open spaces in Cochise County. From hiking to biking, rock climbing to camping, experience real adventure. Discover the real West, “life list” birds, and real friendly communities. Then kick back under starstudded skies and savor real local wine. Step away from it all and GET REAL.


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Fine Dining Join Club Sol and earn FreePlay, concert tickets, meals, participate in exclusive promotions and much more. CASINODELSOL.COM • 855.SOL.STAY • AN ENTERPRISE OF THE PASCUA YAQUI TRIBE
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