Located in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, in a basin surrounded by five mountain ranges, Arizona's second-largest city serves up a rich mix of southwestern heritage, delicious food and unmatched outdoor adventure.
The city itself dates back to the 1770s, and Tucson's modern neighbourhoods still showcase the sort of historic architecture rarely found in its more glitzy southwestern cousins. It's a slice of the real American West. Most of the main sites are clustered around the university campus and historic Barrio and El Presidio downtown areas, with the Tucson Museum of Art, St. Augustine Cathedral, Arizona State Museum, Mount Lemmon, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Old Tucson Studios and the San Xavier del Bac Mission among a host of attractions. But the downtown is just the start of it, and you won't have to venture far to discover magnificent hiking and biking trails, and world-class golf.
Tucson, Arizona (image c/o Tanque Verde Ranch)
As the cultural hub of the Sonoran Desert, Tucson offers a modern perspective of the old west. Visitors can enjoy everything from delicious food and drink to distinguished art and music with an unmistakably Southwestern vibe. And, as Arizona was part of Mexico much longer than it has been part of the U.S., distinct influences of Latino culture can be felt in every corner.
Off the beaten path, the opportunities are unlimited. Endless hiking routes circle the city and its mountain ranges, as well as its many wilderness preserves and parks, from the cascades of Seven Falls at Sabino Canyon, to the impressive cacti and myriad wildlife of Saguaro National Park.
UNESCO City of Gastronomy
Tucson's food story goes back 4,000 years, with a heritage rooted in the traditions of Mexican and Native American cookery. Local ingredients are key to the city's unique flavours, be it a chiltepin-infused cold brew coffee – a chiltepin can be 20 times spicier than a jalapeno – to a magenta-coloured prickly pear margarita or ice-cream made with Sonoran Desert honey. With all this in mind, it's perhaps no surprise that the city was the first in the USA to be awarded UNESCO City of Gastronomy status.
Tucson ranch stays
While there are countless modern options within the city limits, it's Tucson's traditional 'dude' ranches which steal the show. Offering a taste of the authentic Southwest, you'll find the likes of swimming pools, hot tubs, WiFi and big, comfy beds paired with adobe architecture and sweeping desert views. Of course, guests can also enjoy a host of activities, from desert horseback rides to guided hikes and cowboy cookouts.
Horseback rides in the Sonoran Desert near Tucson