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Tucson, Arizona

January 13, 2015

Three weeks ago, I tossed a sleeping bag and some clothes into the trunk of Kelsey’s Honda. With a thermos of hot coffee and an atlas we barely used, we hit the road heading south. Our 8 day trip took us through five states, including a stop in Marfa, Texas – thanks for that recommendation, Collective Quarterly. We spent the majority of our time in Tuscon, Arizona, where a friend of ours recently moved, hence the road trip. Together we explored what I think are the best spots in the city.

The Southwest was unlike any place i’d been before. I loved the mountain views surrounding the city and consumed more salsa than I thought possible. And the Saguaros, oh the Saguaros! I compiled a list (and accompanying illustration) of places to check out should you find yourself in Tucson, Arizona.

Tucson Map With Locations

Romero Pools.

Located in Catalina State Park, this 5.8 mile round trip hike is worth the pools that await. The uphill climb is a 900 ft elevation increase, which wore me out and it turns out the pools were way too cold to dip in during December. Nevertheless, the hike itself is beautiful and justified out the mass amounts of tacos I ate later that day.

Saguaro National Park.

Nothing on this trip excited me more than seeing these tall, old, beautiful cacti. Head to Saguaro National Park to take in thousands of Saguaros. Some fun facts about Saguaros: the name is pronounced “sah-war-ro”, they can live to be 200 years old, and if you damage one it’s considered a class four felony. So, while you are imitating your favorite plant, just be sure not to topple into it. (Which besides the felony, is promised to be a painful experience.)

Sabino Canyon.

Mountains on mountains on mountains. As part of the Santa Catalina mountain range, the Sabino Canyon Trail is the best way to see the mountains up close if you’d like to skip the hiking. A $8 tram ride up the trail will let you take in the beauty of the Coronado National Forest without all that pesky walking. If you don’t mind the walking, hop off at the last tram stop, and hike your way through the mountains to a tram stop a few miles down. The views are incredible.

Dragoon Brewing Co.

This Arizona based brewery has a newly expanded tap room in West Tucson. Typical of tap rooms, Dragoon Brewing Co. has 9 of their own brews on tap and stacks of board games for you to plat while you enjoy the beers. Rumor has it, there is a secret ping pong table in the back, but maybe that’s just for the folks who actually brew the beers. If you like craft brews, it’s worth a visit.

El Guero Canelo.

I wouldn’t say i’m a connoisseur of hot dogs, but i’m not not a connoisseur of hot dogs. Topping my list is the Sonoran dog; a bacon wrapped hot dog, in a bun that is more like a soft bread boat, topped with tomatoes, beans, grilled onions, mayonnaise, mustard, and a jalapeño sauce. Pair it with a Mexican Coke and call it a meal. But don’t just get one anywhere. Make your way to El Guero Canelo for the best!

BOCA Tacos Y Tequila.

BOCA has a salsa platter to put all other salsa platters to shame. I can’t remember the names of the 7 different salsa’s we tried, but I can remember liking every single one of them. I also don’t remember reading the ‘fire roasted anaheim’ part of the description on the Rajas taco I ordered. Holy. Hot. But too damn good to stop eating. Everything we had there was amazing. If you’re in the mood for tacos don’t even think about going anywhere but BOCA.

4th Ave. 

On 4th Avenue, you’ll find a handful of bars, including the original Plush (now named The Flycatcher) and a sprinkling of shopping spots. Among the collection of presents I picked up for friends, I snagged a gorgeous blanket and a couple new pieces for my closet. 4th Avenue is good spot to wander around, grab a drink, and spend a little money.

Gates Pass at Tuscon Mountain Park.

If you’re not into the whole tram and tour guide combo offered at Sabino Canyon, Gates Pass is a gorgeous alternative. Take a drive into the Tuscon Mountains and stop at any of the scenic lookouts. Get out and wander up one of the hills to take in the vast landscape. While I didn’t personally witness a sunset here, I hear they are pretty dang swell at Gates Pass.

Exo Roast Co.

With such a long list of excellent things to do in Tucson, it’s understandable that you’d need a little caffeine to keep you going. I recommend Exo Roast Co. for the laid back, hip atmosphere and the top notch single origin roasts processed in the vintage German roaster sitting in the back of the shop.

Hotel Congress.

I don’t know how I survived 25 years of life without eating Huevos Rancheros. After discovering them our first day in Tucson at Cup Cafe inside Hotel Congress, I was hooked. After numerous attempts elsewhere, I’m convinced Cup Cafe has the best Huevos Rancheros in the city. Besides having their breakfast/brunch game down (hi, build-your-own bloody mary bar), Hotel Congress is a landmark hotel that boasts the capturing of John Dillinger back in the 1930’s. The late night dance parties at Club Congress weren’t too shabby, either.

Tap + Bottle.

If you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere, good beer and/or wine, and bartenders who know their shit, hit Tap + Bottle. They’ve got a whopping 20 beers on tap and 6 wines by the glass which will satisfy almost all who belly up to the bar. And if there’s nothing on the draft list that really appeals to you, the entire back half of the place is a bottle shop. Pick a bottle of booze, be it beer or wine, and they’ll pop it open for you to enjoy!

Jess Signature

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 13, 2015 11:35 pm

    Loving your blog and looks like you hit some great spots here!


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