Now, for those of you who may tire of the barren extremes of the desert, relief is merely a short jaunt away. Within an hour from the center of the city, you can be up to 8000 feet in elevation, surrounded by pine trees and all the greenery you desire. A drive or bike ride up the winding Catalina Highway is great.For skiers, Mt Lemmon is a popular ski area with quaint village nearby for food and drinks. The range to the southeast, the Rincons, is also good for camping and hiking, and there are numerous archeology sites of old Indian villages; you’ll stumble across old adobe remains and ancient tools pretty often. The largest peak in the area is also in the Rincon range (Mt Wrightson).
After wandering around the desert and avoiding the cacti, I’d recommend an awesome meal at one of these places:
Nonie (Grant Road and Tucson Blvd.) which specializes in Cajun/Creole cuisine or Maya Quetzal (4th Ave.). Mexican food is abundant, and Maya Quetzal is delicious.
4th Ave. is close to the University of Arizona, so there are numerous pubs and music venues. A good place for blues is the Boondocks (1st Ave. and Ft. Lowell) and Club Congress in the historic Hotel Congress always has some maniacal but great band playing.
A perfect margarita can always be found at The Shanty (4th Ave.), or for the more decadent traveler, go to Chuey’s (River and Campbell) and sit outside with a cheap pitcher of margaritas, and watch the dust settle on the completely dry Rilluto river. It’s the desert, after all.
And the most important activity of desert life: relax. There’s something so calming about the Sonoran desert region that it makes you want to just sit and watch a cactus grow thorns.
The folk festival will be in Tucson May 1-2. Admission is free, the music will be great (local musicians and also a couple big names) and there will be workshops, food booths, and vendors selling everything from ethnic stuff to tacky paintings.
One Saturday night of every month, the center street of downtown is closed for Downtown Saturday Night, which is basically an outdoor market with music on every corner.
There is always something to do in Tucson; check out the Tucson Weekly for details.
The best part of this time of year is the massive rain we had last week (the first moisture since December – yikes). There are hidden creeks and waterfalls once you get above 1500 feet, and right now the scenery is lovely and the water is finally flowing again. Click here for a detailed listing of all the hikes around Tucson.
General Info on Tucson
Prickly pear and cholla cacti, thorny mesquite trees, and ancient Indian ruins; dust, dry river beds, and sun, sun, sun. Tucson, Arizona is located in the Sonoran desert, about an hour north of the Mexican border. The best time to visit is anytime except July, August, or September, which is the monsoon season.
Mixing desert heat with humidity is cruel and evil, and not conducive to anything except sloth-level energy. The other 9 months of the year are absolutely beautiful with endless sun and quite moderate heat. The month of April has proven to be luscious and springtime has brought green to the trees and the wildflowers are beginning to bloom.
If you are coming to Tucson for an aesthetically pleasing metropolis then I must warn you: Tucson is pretty economically depressed and the mile after mile of dusty city roads leave a lot to be desired. But, the city life and its festivities is abundant, and the cost of accommodation and playing is one of the cheapest in the country.
This city of 700,000 is enveloped by 3 gorgeous mountain ranges, the Catalina, Rincon, and Tucson Mountain Range. These have proven to make up for everything the city is not. Plus, for some unknown reason, blues music is rampant here, as is road and mountain biking.
The desert is extreme, nothing is hidden, and the best part about Tucson is that you can get out there and wander in the desert for hours, or days, meet some esoteric folks who are sitting next to a cactus waiting for enlightenment, and then, when you are on the brink of dehydration, drive back to the city and be at a air-conditioned bar listening to great music with a cold beer. The best of both worlds.
For current, not-so-mainstream news and info about current events, try this local publication. It should have listings of good music and local politics and such.