I tried to escape the chill of winter by going to the desert. The week I picked was the coldest in Tucson, Arizona in some 30 odd years but that did not dampen my excitement or experience, it just meant more layers.
The Sonora desert, full of towering indigenous Saguaro cactuses, pronounced so-roar-a, is endlessly fascinating. I took a rugged jeep tour led by cowboys that are full of knowledge and passion about the desert and they look pretty cute in their western wear.
Couple key things I learned are tarantulas hibernate and are actually harmless, I’m still not a 100% convinced that one is true. Always carry a knife, a lighter, and a comb into the desert – you can get to fruit and water in the plants with the first two and the last will get burrs off of you – everything seems to have spindly pointy things that like to stick to your clothes and shoes.
The food is uh-mazing! You will definitely eat your way through Tucson. From tacos at Seis, to brunch at Agustin Kitchen, to duck sliders, to a southwestern/Indian fusion at Bombole, to Chile Rellenos at La Cocina to drinks (prickly pear margaritas) on the terrace at the Ritz, to a memorable dinner at Maynard’s Kitchen. You will not go hungry.
The good news is you will have plenty of opportunities to hike off all of those wonderful caloric indulgences. Be prepared to stop and stare every two minutes because the terrain and plants are fascinating and the way the sun moves across the sky changes your view on a regular basis. It makes me wish I could paint and you can clearly see why so many artists migrate to this area of the world, for the light.
Not into the wilds? Explore the kitschy downtown area. Take a seat and people watch. Visit the famous Hotel Congress and grab a beer from the Tap Room bartender whose been slinging cold ones here for over 50 years. Hope into the Johnny Gibson grocery store for a snack and wind your way into the back alley where you will find several excellent breweries tucked away. Explore the artwork on the buildings and catch a show at the restored Fox theater, there’s not a bad seat in the house.
The sunsets are magical here BUT I timed it for the super moon. And since you are in a key stargazing location, get out of town to see the night sky. We found an astronomer with an amazing telescope that also enabled you to take pictures on your phone of the night sky. Just WOW!
I was sad to leave Tucson but I’ll be back. I’ve got the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show (TBMS) on my must-see list.