Tucson is much older than Phoenix and it is a point of pride to remember its Spanish and Mexican heritage. It became an American town with the Gadsden Purchase in 1853. Tucson was also a Confederate capitol for a short time during the Civil War.
The town is set in a bowl between four (five if you count the Tortolita Mountains to the northwest) mountain ranges and straddles the Santa Cruz river. The Santa Catalinas are north of town, the Rincons are east, the Santa Ritas to the south and on the west are the Tucson Mountains. Several of the peaks nearby go above 9,000 feet, while Tucson itself is only at around 2,400 feet above sea level.
It’s also straining at the seams as it outgrows its valley. The population of the city is now around a half million, with the metro area hitting three quarters of a million people. Tucson is feeling it, too, with heavy traffic on its major streets and not a lot of freeway to move folks around.
Tucson is a magnet for lots of people seeking a perfect weather blend. It has hot summers (but not as hot as Phoenix!) and mild winters. The surrounding mountains are capped with snow in the winter, but offer easy escape from the summer heat.
Politics in the area are also more liberal than those of Phoenix. Pima County went for John Kerry and Barak Obama in 2004 and 2008, respectively, and Tucson is represented by Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords (who is currently recovering from head wounds received in a shooting spree).
The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, one of the largest such shows in the world, is held in February every year (though I’ve heard rumblings that it may be winding down with all the economic woes of the past few years in Arizona).
All Souls Procession Weekend is the first weekend in November and features a huge Procession, Grand Finale and Dance of the Dead on Sunday night with thousands of costumed people celebrating and mourning deceased loved ones in a blend of cultural themes.
The weekend before Thanksgiving is given to El Tour de Tucson, a huge charity bicycling event with thousands of riders going distances from 40 to 109 miles (not counting the fun rides for the kids). Participation is capped at 10,000 riders and fees are on a sliding scale depending on how soon you enter and at what level you raise funds for the charity.
The area around Tucson has seen human inhabitants for 12,000 years. Tucson itself is older that the establishment of the United States. Originally an Indian village called Stook-zone, meaning water at the foot of black mountain, the city is considered to have been founded in 1775 with the establishment of the Tucson Presidio (the remains of which are apparently buried near City Hall). Originally (in the Euro-centric sense) claimed by Spain, the area was a part of Mexico from 1821 to 1854, when it became part of the United States as a part of the Gadsden Purchase. From 1867 to 1877 Tucson was the Territorial capital of Arizona.
The Tucson Visitor’s Center is located in La Placita Village, a collection of 10 adobe, brick, and wood frame buildings that is an office and restaurant complex built to resemble a Mexican marketplace. It’s located at:
110 S. Church Ave.
Tucson, Arizona 85701
Tucson is home to many museums and entertainment venues. Many of those are associated with the University of Arizona.
- Broadway in Tucson
- Flamenco del Pueblo Viejo
- Ballet Arizona
- Tucson Symphony Orchestra
- Arizona Theater Company
- Arizona Opera
- University of Arizona Museum of Art
- Arizona State Museum The oldest and largest anthropology museum in the Southwest, est. 1893
- International Wildlife Museum Natural history dioramas
- Arizona Historical Society–Tucson
- Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona Libraries
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum “The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden, all in one place!”
- Colossal Cave Mountain Park 70 degrees
- La Posta Quemada Ranch Museum
- Catalina State Park
- Mount Lemmon
- San Xavier del Bac Mission Built 1783 – 1797, known as the “White Dove of the Desert”
- Parks and Recreation “Special Places”:
- Gene C. Reid Park Rose Garden: 1,080 different color rose beds, with more than 100 species of roses
- “A” Mountain (Sentinel Peak): Vista overlooking the city from the west side of town
- Presidio San Agustín del Tucson: A re-creation of the northeast corner of the original 1775 Spanish presidio.
- Old Tucson Studios 60 years of film and TV history, plus a train, carousel, trail ride and more
- Pima Air & Space Museum More planes on display than you can shake a stick at, plus tours to the Davis-Montham “Boneyard”
- Titan Missile Museum Tour a Titan II missile site, complete with Titan II missile.
- Saguaro National Park East and West: one park, 30 miles apart, two experiences. The east park contains mountains over 8,600’ in elevation while the west side mountains get to 4,600+ feet. As a result, the eastern park includes pine forests as well as desert environments. Hiking, bicycling and touring through over a million and a half giant Saguaro forests.
- Tucson Botanical Gardens: 16 gardens – Butterfly, Display Garden, Herb, Kitchen, Native Plant, Perennial, Sensory, Tropical, Xeriscape
- Gates Pass for sunsets
- Sabino Canyon – Take the tram – awesome!!!