Tucson Travel Guide: What to Eat & How to Burn it Off

The ultimate Tucson, Arizona travel guide: I’ll tell you where to stay, what to eat and how to burn it off! 

Tucson Arizona Travel Guide

Last month I traveled back to my city of birth: Tucson, Arizona! This trip was not only very special for personal reasons but it also happens to mark the seventh installment of my wellness travel series, What to Eat & How to Burn it Off. To date, we’ve already covered New OrleansSan DiegoVailMiamiUtah and Banff.

Tucson Sabino Canyon

Tucson, home to the famous saguaro cactus (i.e. the cute cactus emoji on your phone!), is not only where my parents got married but it is where I lived for the first six months of my life while my dad was doing his internship at Tucson Medical Center.

Downtown Tucson Citrus Sign

While I didn’t live in Tucson for much of my life, we would frequently vacation there for spring break to escape the brutal Michigan winters. In fact, this trip probably marked my 15th or so visit to the beautiful desert city.

Outdoor Grounds at Loews Ventana Canyon

When planning your visit to Tucson, I recommend staying in the Catalina Foothills located about 20 minutes northeast of downtown Tucson.

While downtown has its charm, you really can’t beat the stunning views, rolling hills and lush landscape of the foothills area.

Pool at Tucson Ventana Canyon

For the ultimate in luxury, high class service and comfortable accommodations, I can’t recommend the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort enough. Perhaps I’m a bit biased because they served freshly chilled lemon water every day at the pool pictured above.

Loews Ventana Guest Room

The hotel rooms are spacious, beautifully appointed and feature some of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in during my travels.

Tucson Ventana Canyon Pool

Of course anyone who has visited Tucson before knows, you don’t want to spend too much time in your hotel room.

Presta Coffee Roasters

Afterall, adventure is waiting, and so are tacos. To start your day, head to Presta Coffee Roasters to fuel up with a little caffeine.

Presta Coffee Tucson

I don’t know about you, but coffee always makes me a little bit happier in the morning.

Cartel Coffee Company

Another great option is Cartel Coffee Lab. One thing is for sure, there is no shortage of delicious locally roasted coffee in the Tucson area.

Prep and Pastry Tucson Breakfast

For a more complete breakfast with plenty of hearty and light options, be sure to check out Prep & Pastry.

Prep and Pastry Collage Tucson

Serving scratch-made, locally sourced breakfast, brunch and lunch, they also have a full bar. That means mimosas, friends. Personally, I couldn’t get over the gorgeous avocado toast drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with strawberries and watermelon radishes. I mean, c’mon.

Tacos in Tucson at Taqueria Juanitos

For delicious, authentic tacos and other Mexican specialties, I highly recommend Taqueria Juanitos. It’s a bit of a hole in a wall which is ideal when you’ve been hiking all morning or just want to keep it casual. The meat was super flavorful and the freshly made tortillas were piping hot.

Penca Restaurant Tucson

For a more upscale Mexican food experience, be sure to check out Penca in downtown Tucson. Specializing in dishes from Central Mexico, Penca is located in a beautifully renovated building from the 1920’s.

Chicarones Penca Tucson

Pro Tip: Order the freshly made pork chicharrones. Just trust me on this one.

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The turkey pozole was my favorite dish, filled with plump hominy, rich turkey broth, fresh cilantro and thinly sliced radishes. Yum and a half.

Obon Ramen Tucson

Not a huge fan of Mexican food? Don’t worry, neither is my husband. Fortunately, Tucson is truly a melting pot with every type of cuisine under the (desert) sun.

Obon Sushi and Ramen

One of my favorite meals in Tucson was at Obon Sushi & Ramen located downtown. The sushi rolls were fresh, inventive and full of flavor. I’m a huge fan of high quality ramen and the broth was silky, rich and well balanced.

Commoner and Co Restaurant

For a restaurant option closer to the resorts in the Catalina Foothills, Commoner & Co. did not disappoint.

Commoner and Co Collage

Juicy steaks, fresh seafood, addictively delicious truffle fries, it’s no wonder their motto is “fresh, fun and classic.” Great service to boot, go there.

Maynards Tucson Menu

My final recommendation for the What to Eat portion of this travel guide is Maynards Market & Kitchen located in downtown Tucson.

Maynards Restaurant Tucson

Blending a modern approach with old world techniques, Maynards features locally sourced seafood, house-cured meats, fresh-baked bread and more. The craft cocktails didn’t disappoint either.

Windy Point Mt Lemmon

If there is one thing that overshadow’s Tucson’s incredible food scene it is the incredible natural landscape in every direction. My first recommendation for How to Burn it Off: Hiking!

Liz Hiking Sabino Canyon Tucson

If you’re traveling with kids or in a group, I highly recommend hiking Sabino Canyon. Located in the Coronado National Forest, Sabino Canyon Tours offers paved and unpaved hiking trails for all fitness levels.

Hiking in Tucsons Sabino Canyon

Whether you prefer to hop on one of their narrated tram tours or simply want to head off on your own, there is something for everyone.

Prickly Pear Cactus Saguaro National Park

Every time I return to Tucson and see the infamous prickly pear cactus, I am always reminded of stories my mom told about me crawling around as a little baby in the desert. Apparently I would always head for the prickly cactus – always keeping her on her toes!

Houstons Horseback Riding Tucson

Another favorite childhood memory is horseback riding so when I returned to Tucson last month, I couldn’t wait to saddle up once again at Houston’s Horseback Riding.

Liz Horseback Riding in Tucson

Located east of downtown in the serene Tanque Verde Valley, Houston’s offers guided horseback trail rides into the Sonoran Desert and into Saguaro National Park.

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A true highlight of the trip, horseback riding is a great way to experience the desert, regardless of fitness level.

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My third and final recommendation for How to Burn it Off in Tucson is to take one of the fitness classes located right on site at the Loews Ventana Canyon health spa.

Fitness Classes at Loews Ventana Canyon

During my visit I enjoyed a 60 minute tone and tighten core class that left me sore for a day or so – always a sign of a good workout! The strength training was also a great way to balance all of the cardio from hiking.

Windy Point Lookout Tucson Mt Lemmon

Last but not least, you can’t visit Tucson without checking out the amazing sunset. My two recommendations for the best sunset viewing spots are Windy Point Vista in Mt. Lemmon and Gates Pass.

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As always, if there are any other destinations you’d like to see me feature, be sure to let me know! Afterall, not all those who wander are lost.

Disclosure: Visit Tucson provided my meals, activities and accommodations during my stay. Photography by Alejandro Photography. I was not compensated to write this post. All thoughts are my own. 

Check out more destinations from this series on my Pinterest board!

Photo of Liz Della Croce

Hi, I’m Liz!

Hey there, I’m Liz Della Croce and I’m thrilled to have you here! My aim is to motivate and ignite your passion for cooking amazing meals for your loved ones. I believe in the power of real, wholesome ingredients that are bursting with flavor and won’t break the bank. Whether it’s a traditional Lebanese recipe from my family or a culinary creation from across the globe, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover that nutritious food can be exciting, affordable, and easy to prepare.

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3 responses to “Tucson Travel Guide: What to Eat & How to Burn it Off”

  1. Susan Avatar

    When we’re in Tucson we enjoy Nimbus Brewing and the Nimbus Bistro – they make excellent beer and my memory says the food was also good. Our favorite place to go is the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, an excellent way to get acquainted with nature in that area.

    1. Liz DellaCroce Avatar
      Liz DellaCroce

      Great ideas!! Also I love the desert museum – we went there last time we visited.

Liz Della Croce eating black bean dip

Hi I’m Liz!

Hey there, I’m Liz Della Croce and I’m thrilled to have you here! My aim is to motivate and ignite your passion for cooking amazing meals for your loved ones.