Planning a Roadtrip to Tucson
As an Arizona native I feel that Tucson is neglected as a potential road trip destination. After spending 4 years at the University of Arizona I now see that people just don’t know where to look! The city is more than just a desert (a beautiful one at that), it has many things to do and places to see that many people aren’t aware of. It has a unique desert feel and history that’s different from somewhere like Payson or Flagstaff.
Personally, I think that this is the “gem” of the whole trip. It’s part of the Catalina mountain range and is less than half an hour from town. There are roads that wind up through the mountain with occasional rest stops that serve as lookouts with unbelievable views. There are plenty of campgrounds available as well. Often my friends and I would go up to the mountain to just to stay up there for a Saturday night. It really doesn’t require much effort to camp out. I could fit all my friends, a tent, sleeping bags, and a cooler in my infiniti just fine.
If nature isn’t your thing or you’re looking for a destination at the top of the mountain, you can visit the Mount Lemmon Skycenter. I took a class that offered a field trip here once and it’s incredible (and air conditioned). It almost feels like a military base but it’s a series of buildings and telescopes that you can get a tour of and look into. Some of the telescopes are actually used remotely by the Korean space program since there’s no time conflict with the research going on in the US.
Where’s Biosphere 1? It’s the Earth! It’s a little wordplay but Biosphere 2 started as a gigantic greenhouse used for research. It has all the biomes on Earth (hence Biosphere 2) and can still be visited to this day. I went to Biosphere 2 on another class field trip (so lucky!) and it feels like something out of a science fiction movie. The architecture itself is enough of a reason to visit but the tour of the inside is fascinating too.
Mission San Xavier del Bac
Surprisingly, Tucson has a history long before the traditional “wild west”. There’s a church in the area that was constructed in the late 1600’s called San Xavier del Bac. It can feel somewhat spooky but it’s definitely an attraction in the area. Both the outside of the church as well as the inside have a distinct ornate design that makes you feel as though you’re in Quentin Tarantino movie (just the feeling I get).
University of Arizona Museums
There are countless museums on the campus of U of A which is conveniently located a few minutes off the I-10. My personal favorites are the Center for Creative Photography and the Arizona Museum of Art. Like I said, there are many to choose from so if you do a quick google search on “University of Arizona museums” you’ll be sure to find something that interests you.
Places to Eat
Tucson is home to many family owned restaurants that have perfected their menu and food with the help of some of their loyal customers. Some of my personal favorites are Robert’s Restaurant and Bobo’s Restaurant. Bobo’s is exclusively breakfast focused while Robert’s has more “home-style” focused food. Be sure to check out Guadalajara Original Grill for some authentic Mexican. They have a chips and salsa cart that they bring to your table where they make your salsa right in front of you. And finally, if you have a sweet tooth be sure to check out Amy’s Donuts. They’re open 24/7 and have some of the craziest donut creations you’ve ever seen.
That’s my take on Tucson. There’s plenty more to do but I definitely think this is a great starting point. Be sure to bring lots of water and sunscreen since it does get hot during the summer. I really hope that you consider coming to Tucson and that you come to appreciate it like I did!