Tucson, like Phoenix, is the definition of sprawl. While the city makes valiant attempts at a public transportation system, one may have to rent a car to see as much as possible.

It is hot. Often. If you must come for a visit in July, be prepared for temperatures in the 105 - 110 degree range during the day. At night, it is relatively pleasant, about 75 degrees. The best time to visit, though, is October - early April. This is high season for cultural events and general merriment. Tucson tends to slow down from Mid - May until Mid -August. The locals are proud of surviving the summers while all of the snow birds and college students head off to cooler climates.

Places to Stay

Cheapest: The Roadrunner Hostel. Convenient downtown location, close to bus lines and the fun of 4th Avenue. This hostel has 24 hour access, though it is closed for cleaning between noon and three pm.

A little more expensive, but worth it for the money is the Hotel Congress. Located right in the middle of downtown, this is the place to stay. Ask for the haunted room -- all the cool people do. John Dillinger stayed here and was captured -- so if you are on the lam, maybe this isn't the best place for you.

Hotels/Motels to avoid: Anything located on Miracle Mile. Don't be tempted to stay in any of these low cost places -- Miracle Mile is *the* place to find prostitution, meth labs and charge-by-the-hour motels.

Public Transport

Arizona Shuttle: Many people fly into Phoenix and take this inexpensive shuttle to Tucson -- reservations on this shuttle are critical, as the seats fill quickly.

Arizona Stagecoach: This airport shuttle is the cheapest way to travel into town -- taxis are very expensive. While a reservation is a good idea, most times it is not necessary, though if you have a middle of the night flight, a reservation is a life saver.

Sun Tran: The bus system is useful downtown, but has many limits. Most of the buses stop running around 10:30 pm, which reduces the amount of bar crawling and sightseeing that one can really do at night. As in all cities, the bus can be a source of great amusement -- so ride with your notebook and possibly a video camera.

TICET: Tucson's latest attempt to ease downtown parking woes -- this shuttle is generally useful only during business hours in the downtown area....though with the long term reconstruction of I-10, there is a new Red line that takes bar-hoppers from the U of A area to clubs on Congress. Not a bad way to avoid trying to figure all of the construction destruction.

Things to Do (Nearly Year Round)

San Xavier del Bac Mission: Built in the 1700's and called the White Dove of the Desert, this is one of the most frequently visited spots in Southern Arizona. If you go about lunch time, have a Native American style fry bread for $3. Topped with beans and salsa or encrusted with powdered sugar, these super treats are made to order under the shade of an ocotillo lean-to by tribal members. While there, climb the hill to the east of the church to see the cave of miracles. Free.

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum: Not just a zoo with all the usual animals, if you want to see snakes, hummingbirds, javelinas, big horn sheep and scorpions, go for a visit. Dispelling the idea that the desert is a barren place, the museum is bustling year round. Admission is $9, though not too bad for a full day's worth of entertainment. If you happen to visit in the summer, go for the Late Saturday Night Program. Enjoy cooler weather while seeing reclusive nocturnal animals. Have dinner in the restaurant on the grounds (not too expensive, but certainly not a bargain), or pack a picnic and go to...

Saguaro National Monument in the Tucson Mountains. Also located on the far East side of the city, the West Side location is more scenic. One need not actually enter the 'official' monument and pay the fee, just driving around on the west side of the Tucson Mountains will give you a taste of the cactus forest. From I-10, drive west from the Speedway exit, which will take you directly into prime saguaro viewing territory. If you time it well, stay for sunset at Gates Pass. Wear sturdy shoes -- nothing ruins your day like some cactus in your foot.

Sabino Canyon: With flowing water nearly year round -- bring your bathing suit and a picnic for a great afternoon. No need to take the tram to the top of the trailhead, just walk the 3.8 miles. Keep eyeballs peeled for desert critters such as tortoise, coyotes, a variety of birds and even the occasional mountain lion. The secret fun thing to do is visit the canyon at night during a full moon and watch for owls. From the Elf Owl to the Pygmy Owl, to the Great Horned Owl, a flash light and patience are required. Watch out for skunks. There is a $5 day use fee for the Canyon -- but only if you park. If you enter the canyon on foot (which is a challenge, since the closest bus stop is about 2 miles south of the entrance) you can do so for free.

Visit the Degrazia Gallery and Mission in the Sun. One of the Southwest's most well known artists, Ted Degrazia, built this mud chapel and gallery as a desert retreat -- great photos to be had here. Free!

The Center for Creative Photography is located on the University of Arizona campus and holds many archives, including that of Ansel Adams. Make an appointment to view any of the archives, or stroll through the Center's other exhibits of more than 2,000 different photographers. Free!

Museum of Art at the University of Arizona: Right across the street from the Center of Creative Photography, this museum has a lovely collection of sculpture by Jacques Lipchitz as well as a surprisingly varied assortment of works from Klee, Hopper, Moore and Rodin. Free!

The Old Fort Lowell District - One of the most interesting parts of town -- check out the melting adobe ruins of the 1867 fort, including a field hospital. Many events happen throughout the year, including La Reunión de El Fuerte, where long time residents open the back roads to their homes and tell stories about growing up in this area. Bring some bread and feed the ducks at Ft. Lowell Park Pond when you have had your fill of history.

The Presidio District: A Walking Tour - One of the older parts of town currently being infused with millions of dollars. The highlight of your tour is placing a wish in the wall at El Tiradito -- do it right at sunset for best results.