The ultimate Tucson, Arizona travel guide: I’ll tell you where to stay, what to eat and how to burn it off!
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 Orleans, San Diego, Vail, Miami, Utah and Banff.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The hotel rooms are spacious, beautifully appointed and feature some of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in during my travels.
Of course anyone who has visited Tucson before knows, you don’t want to spend too much time in your hotel room.
Afterall, adventure is waiting, and so are tacos. To start your day, head to Presta Coffee Roasters to fuel up with a little caffeine.
I don’t know about you, but coffee always makes me a little bit happier in the morning.
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.
For a more complete breakfast with plenty of hearty and light options, be sure to check out Prep & Pastry.
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.
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.
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.
Pro Tip: Order the freshly made pork chicharrones. Just trust me on this one.
The turkey pozole was my favorite dish, filled with plump hominy, rich turkey broth, fresh cilantro and thinly sliced radishes. Yum and a half.
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.
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.
For a restaurant option closer to the resorts in the Catalina Foothills, Commoner & Co. did not disappoint.
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.
My final recommendation for the What to Eat portion of this travel guide is Maynards Market & Kitchen located in downtown 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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
A true highlight of the trip, horseback riding is a great way to experience the desert, regardless of fitness level.
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.
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.
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.
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!