Tucson was definitely not on my radar as a place to visit until moving to Arizona. I knew nothing about it, other than its general location, but decided to take a trip down to check out the Gem and Mineral Show and explore the town. We knew it would be a perfect mid winter getaway, with warmer weather and sunny skies! The drive to Tucson was beautiful. We went from a piney mountain town, through high desert and into the picturesque Saguaro-strewn desert of southern Arizona. Tucson itself is surrounded almost all the way around by gorgeously brutal mountains, so just driving around the city provided fascinating views! A college town at heart (home to the University of Arizona), the downtown is full of fun shops, vintage stores, great restaurants and a dive-y 4th Avenue bar scene.
Our first day was spent at a few of the large Gem and Mineral expo tents, attempting to source interesting materials for Diamonds Are Evil. We found a few unique items, but were not that impressed overall with the quality or selection. After a tiring day, we decided to check out one more show before calling it a night. The show’s name caught my attention. ‘Emerging Cuba’ promised to have never-before-exported products from Cuba and an art exhibition. We drove to the show, held at a Comfort Suites in the Auto Mall area of Tucson, and arrived to discover we were the only people there. It was a show held in the hallway of the hotel. No reception, no seller, no artists… It was the most interesting thing we saw all day. We took our time awkwardly viewing the amazing paintings just outside the hotel rooms up and down the hall. The lighting was horrible. Just the standard hallway lighting of a crappy hotel, but here are a few photos from the show ::
There are obviously many hotel choices around town, but I’d recommend staying in an AirBnb to fully experience the quaint little neighborhoods around downtown and the campus. There are plenty of options, from entire houses to back houses to solo rooms, depending on how much privacy you’d like. We stayed just West of the campus in a cute little back house from the 1920s. It was tiny, but we didn’t spend much time there so it was sufficient for our needs.
On the way into town, we had lunch at 5 Points Market and Restaurant. It was part market / part restaurant and had delicious coffee too. The tabletops were made with a super thick rough-hewn wood and the decor was simple with warm wood and white and gray finishes. We got the Pork Torta (amazing!!!) and the Wilted Greens Salad. The veggies on the salad were a little over cooked and mushy and it needed a big dose of salt, but it tasty healthy and the bread it came with was really good with the mushy vegetables spread on it 😉
Our first night we decided to walk around the campus area and ended up grabbing dinner at Pasco Kitchen & Lounge. We ordered Jorge’s Famous Shrimp Ceviche, the Goat Cheese with Herbed Panko & Roasted Beet Salad and the Smoked Pork Shoulder Pibil. Everything was delicious and it was the perfect amount to share for a light dinner. There is a great patio area, which would be perfect for a warmer night.
Downtown is another great area to sightsee. The architecture is so unique in Tucson and the downtown area has a lot of really great buildings, facade details and both historic and new construction. While there, grab lunch at The Little Cafe Poca Cosa. The fresh juice is SO GOOD. I don’t even remember what we had, but be sure to get the juice!!! Actually, we had the pick two plate with a mole whatever and a veggie something. All good, but the pineapple basil juice was seriously the best thing I’ve ever had.
For a sushi fix, Ginza Sushi is the spot. Their ceviche inspired roll was a delicious fusion of southwestern and asian flavors. The small plates were all so yummy and it was a perfect light meal for the evening.
The daytime is perfect during the winter in Tucson. Shorts, skirts, dresses – all great options for the sunny, warm winter days. The evening cools down quite a bit, so a jacket or kimono is necessary for comfort.
Shoes / Fortress of Inca / I love these booties. They’re a deep reddish brown-plum color and go with everything.
Necklace / Fool’s Gold / Designed by me!
Bracelets / Zanny Adornments / From my friend in Austin!
Necklace / Fool’s Gold / Also designed by me!
4th Avenue – so many little shops, cafes and restaurants. Two to not miss are Desert Vintage and Pop-cycle. Desert Vintage has a well-curated selection of vintage clothing, a few accessories and some really cute decor. Pop-cycle is full of gift items, funky art, jewelry and home decor (both handmade and vintage).
One of the attractions I was very excited to see was the Pima Art and Space Museum. The museum has seemingly 100s of aircraft, ranging from replicas of vintage airplanes to decommissioned Air Force One jets from the Kennedy era. In addition to facts about the planes and stories of their missions, the museum has a few art planes on display. Each of the three that were there were painted by different artists. I loved the piece by Andrew Schoultz!
Cartel Coffee Lab has a few locations around southern Arizona. We went to their spot in downtown Tucson for coffee during this trip. The space itself was huge. Housed in an older building, it had high ceilings and tons of natural light coming in through windows all along two of the walls. It seemed like it would be a great place to work for the day.
Before we got on the road the last morning, we took one last walk around 4th Avenue and stopped by Epic Cafe for breakfast and coffee. The food was alright, but the coffee definitely hit the spot! They had really awesome paintings hanging on all of the walls, too. We loved the vibe of this place.
One last recommendation I have is to end your day (or start your night) watching the sunset in the foothills. We caught the last light with a fingernail moon in the sky – it was gorgeous! Grab a six-pack or a bottle of wine and head to a high point for a desert sunset.
Plan a trip to Tucson now! Seriously, do it now before the summer heat arrives. What are some of your favorite desert destinations?