When most people think of Tucson, they probably conjure an image which includes arid desert, giant cacti and sweltering temperatures. There is at least some truth to this stereotype: a short journey out of the city will lead you into a desert (complete with cacti) and the highest temperature ever recorded in Tucson (on 26th June 1990) was a less than comfortable 117 degrees Fahrenheit. Visitors may be pleased to hear, however, that there is far more to Tucson than the popular image suggests.

It is generally accepted that the first human settlement in the area surrounding Tucson was constructed by the Santa Cruz River around 4,000 years ago. On 18th August 1775, the Spanish established a fort in the same area, and named it Tucsón. This name was derived from the Spanish 'Cuk Son,' or 'Black Base,' which was probably inspired by the nearby volcanic mountains. Tucson was surrendered to Mexico in 1821 and did not become a part of the U.S. until the Gadsden Purchase of 1853.

Mexican influence on Tucson did not end, however, when the city was handed to the United States in 1853. The close proximity of the city to the border has meant that Mexican culture has been easily amalgamated into the city. Even today, around 1 in 5 inhabitants of Tucson have Mexican or Central American backgrounds, contributing to the rich, diverse culture which makes Tucson such a fascinating place to visit.


Tucson has a number of fascinating museums and galleries. Photography enthusiasts will be impressed by the [http://www.creativephotography.org/ Centre for Creative Photography], which can be found on the campus of the University of Arizona. This is a research centre which displays the work of many respected 20th Century photographers, including Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.

The [http://www.desertmuseum.org Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum] is also well worth a visit. This park combines a zoo and botanical garden with a natural history museum, and provides a great way to learn more about indigenous plants and animals. The stated mission of the Museum is "to inspire people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering love, appreciation and understanding of the Sonoran Desert." The museum can be found approximately 12 miles outside Tucson, at 2021 North Kinney Road.

A visit to Tucson must include a visit to the [http://www.oldtucson.com Old Tucson Studios]. Movie and TV crews filming Westerns once used the set at the studios continuously. Today, the studio has become a Western theme park; the perfect place for a family day out. Attractions include: staged gunfights; musical revues and comedy productions; guided tours of the set and a miniature train tour of the desert surrounding the park.

Visitors might also be fascinated by [http://www.bio2.edu Biosphere 2], a 3.15 acre glass structure which, in 1991, became the site of an experiment involving the isolation of eight people for two years. The 'biosphereians,' as they became known, lived in apartments, and even grew their own crops, within the structure. The area was opened to the public in 2002, and daily tours of the area used by the biospherians are now available.

Those who enjoy being active will appreciate the variety of outdoor pursuits available in the area surrounding Tucson. The [http://www.nps.gov/sagu Saguaro National Park] is a great place for walking and cycling. Make sure that you take plenty of bottled water with you to avoid becoming dehydrated as the desert often becomes very hot.

The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument also provides good opportunities for hiking. The grounds also include a variety of cacti and other desert plants. A campsite can be found near the visitor centre. For more information or advice, call (+1) 520 387-6849.


Tucson should not disappoint shopping enthusiasts. The usual array of shops one would expect from a city of Tucson's size can be found in the downtown area, in addition to a number of cafés perfect for collapsing in when a change of pace is required.

If you feel like venturing further afield, the U.S.-Mexican border is close enough to Tucson to make a shopping trip over the border possible. Many American citizens frequently cross the border at Nogales to purchase original Mexican produce, while many Mexican citizens enter the United States to stock up on products which are unavailable in Mexico.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Nightlife in Tucson is lively and varied. A good restaurant will not be difficult to come by, particularly if you have a taste for Mexican food: Tucson has secured a reputation for authentic, excellent Mexican cuisine. If you are not particularly fond of Mexican food, a variety of ethnic foods and the all-American alternative of burgers, fries and pizzas are all readily available.

Much of the nightlife in Tucson is dedicated to satisfying the 35,000 students who attend the nearby University of Arizona. The downtown area and 4th Avenue are the best places to find bars, cafés, restaurants and clubs popular with local students. The large student population also attracts a variety of popular bands on national tours: keep an eye-out for advertisements or ask at the tourist office when you arrive. There are also a number of trendy wine bars for those who are less eager to relive their student days.

Tourist Information

  • Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau, 110 South Church Street
  • Telephone: +1 520 624 1817
  • Website: [http://www.visittucson.org www.visittucson.org]


[http://www.tucsonairport.org Tucson International Airport] lies approximately 10 miles away from downtown Tucson. Be warned, however, that the name of the airport is something of a misnomer: international flights usually arrive only from Mexico, and the vast majority of the 70 flights the airport services each day are bound for, or originate from, destinations within the United States.

To reach downtown Tucson from the Airport, drive onto Tucson Boulevard and take Benson Highway. From there, take the Kino Parkway and follow the road until you reach Campbell Avenue, which will take you into downtown Tucson.

All car hire locations in United States