Che's lounge Tucson, AZ

Exploring Tucson and the Sonoran desert

Why visit Tucson?

Tucson saguaros

Tucson

Tucson is a pretty relaxing destination. There’s some interesting places to check out, and a few areas are walkable within the downtown area. Overall Tucson offers excellent Sonoran style Mexican food, easy access to beautiful Sonoran desert landscapes, and plenty of  hiking and camping opportunities.

tucson history

Tucson is on Tohono O’Odham land. In an area that has been occupied for thousands of years. Ancient native Americans practiced agriculture and hunted game in the Santa Cruz River Valley for at least 10,000 years. These peoples began making irrigation canals, some of the first in North America, over 800 years ago. The Hohokam people lived in the Tucson area from 600 to 1600 years ago, and formed a complex agricultural society.

Spanish missionaries founded the Mission San Xavier Del Bac in 1700. In 1775 The Spanish built a fort and founded ‘el Presidio San Augustin Del Tucson’. El Presidio is the oldest neighborhood in Tucson and sits right next to downtown.

After mexico had won independence from Spain in 1821, Tucson became part of the new state of Sonora, Mexico. In 1854, Tucson, along with much of the surrounding area, was purchased from Mexico by the United States in the Gadsden purchase. It was only in 1912 when Arizona became the 48th state in the United States.

what it’s like today…

Tucson was always a very affordable city, attracting artists, retirees, and desert lovers. It has long been a hub for bohemian types and escaped gentrification for a long while. Up until very recently Tucson stayed a chill place with a lot of musicians and artists living and working, paying cheap rent in the downtown neighborhoods. This has started to change, due to a surge in real estate prices. Congress streets and 4th avenue were the traditional cultural and nightlife hot spots.

 Congress street has changed radically in the last few years, and the dive bars, punk clubs and artist cafe’s have been replaced with college party bars and touristy businesses. The hotel congress, has been the heart of downtown night life scene since the 1980’s, and has managed to stay relevant to the changing times, and still remains a wonderful establishment.

4th avenue, just a stone’s throw away, has managed to stay intact and is a better reflection of what Tucson was and is. It is a collection of smaller locally owned bars, restaurants, cafes and shops

there’s still a lot going on in downtowns periphery, and even a few far flung locations to check out

What is there to do in Tucson?

Tucson sits in the middle of a ring of mountain ranges. The Catalinas to the north, the Rincons to the east, the Santa Ritas to the south, and the Tucson mountains to the west. Naturally, hiking is a major activity. Sabino Canyon is a popular trail in the Catalinas in the northeast corner of town. Tanque verde falls is a great destination in the Rincons, along with several backcountry trails throughout the saguaro national monument east. Madera Canyon is a beautiful area south of town in the Santa Ritas. To the west of town is the Tucson mountain park, An equally beautiful large FREE park that rivals the saguaro national park. Next door is the saguaro national park west full of trails. My favorite hike in the city limits is Tumamoc hill. Read more on Tumamoc hill here.

two sites of religious, cultural and historic significance are the el Tiradito shrine located in Barrio viejo, and south of town just a bit, is the San Xavier del Bac Mission. Find out about the el Tiradito shrine here.

El Tiradito shrine in Tucson, AZ
Candles at the only shrine in the U.S. dedicated to the soul of a sinner, El Tiradito.

The Sonoran desert museum and the botanical gardens are two great options to check out if your interested in the wildlife and native ecology of the region. The botanical gardens exhibit of indigenous agriculture is fascinating. Walk among and learn about the native foods grown in this typically inhospitable climate.

Where to eat in Tucson / Vegan and vegan option restaurants

There seems to be plenty of breakfast places in Tucson, more than most. I’d say that Tucson really loves the first meal of the day. One of the most recommendable and unique spots is Tallboys. located in the historic El Presidio neighborhood, it’s nestled into a collection of old adobe buildings  and several interesting local shops.  It’s within walking distance to downtown and next door to the Tucson art museum. read my post about TallBoys here.

Near tallboys is Ceres, with a super cute morning to-go coffee window and serving Italian pastas for lunch. Read this post about Ceres. Bordering Barrio Viejo to the north of downtown is cafe Desta a super delish Ethiopian restaurant with a great vegan platter and an espresso machine serving Ethiopian grown coffees. On the west side two Great spots are Beaut burger and Tanias 33. in the east, there is Guilin chinese serving traditional american style Chinese favorites, but with assorted varieties of mock chicken, duck and beef.

ceres italian restuarant tucson
Ceres in Tucson

Coffee and Espresso shops

A great coffee shop is like a second home on the road. Tucson has several, but the best overall is Black crown coffee company. Open late and with great wi-fi. Read this post on black crown coffee company. For early risers and early afternoon, there’s the charming exo roast co. close to both downtown and 4th ave arts district, this is my morning go-to for to-go. Decibel coffee works is on the west side in the MSA annex near Beaut burger, both places are a great before and after stop to or from a hike up Tumamoc hill for those sunsets and 360 degree views from high above the city. 4th ave has caffe passe with its super cute courtyard.

Tucson gem shows

The last week of january begins the world’s largest gem and mineral show and lasts until the end of the first week of february. 

Tucson bars + nightlife

  • places to look up to see if there are any live music shows are:
  • 191 toole
  • solar culture
  • Rialto Theater
  • hotel congress
  • the rock
  • read my post on 5 of Tucsons best dive bars
the buffet Tucson dive bar
One of the best dive bars in America, the Buffet
solar culture tucson
Solar culture art gallery and show space in Tucson, AZ

Free camping near Tucson

 there are several close in camping areas. proctor campground near madera canyon in the Santa Rita mountains. national forest pullouts on reddington rd to the east near Tanque Verde falls. Snyder hill and copper creek (4×4 only) are two bureau of land management areas to the west. and ironwood and cattle tank rd to the north

supplies and groceries

  •  millers army surplus is across the street from exo roast co.
  • Food city is a Regional chain supermarket featuring a large Hispanic selection . Always a good deal on avocados, tomatoes, limes, and more.
  • Lee Lee market is a fun HUGE Asian market with huge produce section. They also carry a fair amount of other international foods with a whole Isle of Eastern European foods.
  • G+l import market is a smaller Asian market and the place i shop the most, good selection and prices!

organasations

  • no mas muertes
  • native seeds / search