“Tucson is the weird capital of the world”…
Courtesy of CMG Member, Leatrice Eiseman
… that’s what Jodie Foster said in the 70’s film “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’. Tucson’s visitors’ bureau posted that quote on its Facebook page—taking it as a compliment and point of pride. It might seem a bit odd to frequent a bar that was a former mortuary, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant attached to an aviary or visit a mirror lab used for outer space exploration that is built under the University of Arizona’s football stadium*, however, following are a few of the places that lend some uniqueness and history to this multi-faceted city. (*Source: Secret Tucson, A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure, by Clark Norton)
The turquoise had faded somewhat, but following the turquoise striping in downtown sidewalks will take you on a two-and-a-half mile loop that encompasses nearly two dozen of Tucson’s most historic spots, including the Hotel Congress, the Fox Theatre, Old Town Artisans, the Tucson Museum of Art, the old Pima County Courthouse that now houses the U of A Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum (a must-see for color-lovers!)
If you are a plant lover, The Tucson Botanical Gardens has been named “one of the top North American Gardens worth traveling for”. Tropical butterflies are housed in the pavilions and there are year-round art exhibits.
The Tohono Chul is another great botanical garden that has won national recognition. It is located in the Casa Adobes area of the northern part of the city and very close to my home. There is a gift shop with some very colorful art and artisan work. We are very fortunate to have gotten a great classroom there (inside and out) for teaching my color/design four-day design program immediately following the CMG Summit.
Tucson has some fine museums. There is something to fit many taste levels, from contemporary art to sign art. The following link will give you a good overview of what is available, where they are located and the hours.
Because of its proximity to the Starr resort, it is well worth a trip to the Desert Museum. It has been called a “fusion experience,” including a zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, art gallery, and natural history collections. The location and scenery adds greatly to the experience.
An ongoing art scene in Tucson is mural art. If this of is of particular interest, the following link will take you to a blog that contains photos of more than 100 murals. It also contains images of many of the mosaic works and other public art displayed around Tucson as well as some images of private murals.
Believe it or not, there is a mountain range with snow at the top. It’s the highest peak in the Santa Catalinas range just north of Tucson. Mt.Lemmon Sky Valley is open for skiing from December to March and in warmer months the lift offers a scenic view of the summit, a 30 minute ride that offers panoramic views.
Tucson has been called the cycling capital of the world. If you are into that sort of sport, you will appreciate the number of bike loops that exist in and around the city. Rentals are easy and accessible in many locations.
There are many hiking trails throughout the area. One of particular interest is called Sabino Canyon and the link will explain the highlights
Frankly, when I moved to Tucson, I did not have high expectations about the variety of foods and restaurants available here, but I have been very impressed. Getting back to the quirkiness factor, one of the best and most interesting menus is available in a restaurant that originated in
Scottsdale called Culinary Dropout. How can you resist a name like that?
What I discovered was that Tucson has been named a Unesco City of Gastronomy as the variety of foods here “tells a story that dates back 4,000 years”. That’s impressive. There is quite an eclectic array of differing menus. Here are just a few of the top recommendations as well as a link for the restaurant reviewer and photographer, Jackie Chan
Of course, there many excellent Mexican Restaurants, each with their own specialties. The first one, the El Charro Café, was established in 1922.It is the nation’s oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family. There are now several locations in Tucson.
As it is largely plant based, my favorite, Charro Vida, is very near my home. Please forgive my proselytizing, but I simply had to include some of the background for the creation of this wonderful eatery: “Charro Vida’s thoughtful menu is a modern-day prelude to a love story. Its Food Por Vida (Food for Life) promise allows us the opportunity to love on ourselves, and our families and friends, just a little bit more. The chapters of this story highlight the benefits of plant-based eating, the ideal and sustainable proteins and their intentional preparations, the natural fats that our hearts crave, the most suitable of sweeteners, and other examples of foods that maximize the body’s inherent potential for self-healing”.
Another option for Mexican food with a more seafood slant is Ajuua:
There is much more to learn about Tucson, however, I will finish with another place of interest that does not take visitors as it is privately owned and can be viewed only from a distance. If you are a Beatles fan, you might remember the lyrics:
JoJo left his home in Tucson, Arizona for some California grass
Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged
Get back JoJo, go home………..
It seems the home could be the Tucson spread that is still owned by Paul McCartney