Originally published February 2017; I updated with even more Tucson awesomeness January 2022.
For a food enthusiast, Tucson is a big deal.
A Big Deal. Big
Tucson is the first city in the U.S. designated a World City of Gastronomy by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Scroll down to see some places to eat and drink.
If you’re headed there, here are a few personal recommendations of…
What to do in Tucson
These Tucson things help me LiveBest!
- Arizona sunsets are remarkable. Red, pink, yellow…the spectacular sunsets are hard to beat. The dry, clean air and thin clouds help make the scene-stealers worth pulling up a chair to enjoy. Many people plan their day around them. I did! See #7 of where to go.
2. Downtown Tucson has art, diverse restaurants, live music, unique shops, museums and is home to the University of Arizona. The Tucson Museum of Art (free admission first Thursday of every month) and The Fox are favorites. Loved The Fox theater’s art deco design, great acoustics and diverse programs! Check out all local happenings and events including a walking food tour that is a great way to learn about the locals.
3. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is described as a 98-acre fusion of zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium. The Museum is regularly listed as one of the top ten zoological parks in the world.
4. Tucson is home to the nation’s largest cacti. Saguaro define the Arizona desert. These slow-growing giants live 150-200 years and may grow an arm or branch when they are 50-70 years old. Get some fresh air and hike among them in the Saguaro National Parks. There are parks on the east and west sides of town. Sabino Canyon is another good place.
5. At the Pima Air and Space Museum, the technologically advanced, jaw dropping, high-flying (85,069 feet) secretive BlackBird is worth the visit. But the former pilot, military staff and history buff docents bring the aircraft to life.
6. If you’re cooking or bringing home a souvenir, diverse food shopping is available in Tucson. Check out Barrio Bread, delicious handmade bread, Lee Lee’s International Market, fresh tortillas and Mexican pastries at La Estrella (in Mercado St. Agustin that has a cool courtyard, restaurants, shops), Rincon Market for a butcher, with meat and fish, The Food Conspiracy Coop downtown is fun to poke around and pick up local foods, or upscale A.J.’s Fine Foods. Farmer’s markets are scattered around town.
7. Some of my favorite Tucson restaurants are Vero Amore (pizza), Nana’s Mexican Kitchen (mole), Reilly’s (homemade pasta and Brussels Sprouts), Agustin Kitchen (Sunday is fried chicken night), Wildflower (farmer’s market salad), Hub (pastrami, ice cream), Frost (gelato), El Charro (Mexican food in the oldest family-owned restaurant in the U.S.), 5 Points Market and Restaurant (huevos ranchers) and The Parish (burger and gumbo). Two for one: sunset and food at Blanco Tacos + Tequila (at upscale La Encantada shopping center with a great outdoor veranda for sundowners at sunset) and Contigo Latin Kitchen. Want to eat outside? Try Seis Kitchen, La Cocina, downtown or Hotel Congress.
8. Take a food tour. There’s a gastronomy tour in Marana. Celebrating Sonoran Desert foods from past and present, we toured sites where the Hohokam Indians grew agave and pounded mesquite pods into flour and ended with a tasting at the Ritz Carleton. University of Arizona Emerita Professor and Arizona State Museum curator Dr. Suzanne Fish made this especially insightful. If you want a more contemporary tour, Tucson Food Tours was a fun way to taste and learn local scoop.
Have you been to Tucson? What do you like to do?
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What a great blog – full of information and interesting places to visit. Being so close to Tucson but never visiting it is such a shame. This is definitely on our list for a great place to visit this summer! Thanks for all the great tips, especially the best places to eat!
Thanks, Lana. Tucson is great! Less traffics than Phoenix, a smaller airport, and lots to see and do.
I have always wanted to go to Arizona. What fun and great food.
Thanks, Sheila. Good things to eat and discover in Arizona!