With 350 days of sunshine per year, there’s never a bad time to visit Tucson. The city is brimming in Old West history, surrounded by breathtaking desert landscape and rich in gastronomic delights, boutique shopping and so much more.
Whether you’re visiting to learn about the incredible patchwork of multicultural influence, explore the surrounding nature, indulge in the food scene, immerse yourself in the thriving arts atmosphere, or a little bit of everything, Tucson has you covered. While you’re at it, here are a few creative items to add to your list while visiting the Old Pueblo, from unique cafes to museums you never knew you needed to visit.
Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block
There’s no better place to soak up Tucson’s best in art and history than an afternoon spent at the Tucson Museum of Art (TMA) and Historic Block. Sat in the heart of downtown, the TMA boasts a variety of exhibitions varying from western and Latin American to modern and contemporary themes. The Historic Block comes into play within the five historic houses located on the property. Serving as a window into Tucson’s rich past, you’ll be met with waves of inspiration and curiosity at every turn.
Our recommendation is to start your afternoon with a stroll through the museum working your way through folk art of the Americas on to their art of the American West and Indigenous art. Then, pop into the Stevens/Duffield House, one of the homes located on the Historic Block that doubles as an art gallery and award winning restaurant, Cafe a la C’Art. After a quick pick-me-up, explore the rest of the Historic Block and museum grounds.
Originally founded in 1964 by beloved horticulturist and collector, Harrison G. Yocum, Tucson Botanical Gardens has been an oasis of the city for nearly six decades. Located in Central Tucson, a morning or early afternoon spent here feels like the perfect city break and reconnection with nature. From the constant rotating exhibitions to the wide variety of plants from all around the globe, and a magical tropical butterfly exhibit featuring more than 400 butterflies in all colors and patterns among blooming orchids, it’s easy to see why these Botanical Gardens belong at the top of the list for any Tucson getaway.
Ignite Sign Art Museum
It all started with Jude Cook, a curator, restorator and collector of neon signs. But after years of amassing unique and rare neon signs, he decided it was time to showcase his passion and share his collection with others. Thus, the Ignite Sign Art Museum was born.
At this quirky Tucson staple, you’ll find a remarkable collection of historically significant signs that aim to provide an educational and entreating experience of Tucson’s fascinating past. From long forgotten diner signs to vignettes of the De Anza Drive-In Theatre, there’s much to be enjoyed. If you leave feeling ultra inspired, why not sign up for an art class hosted by Ignite and paint a neon sign of your own?
Big Heart Coffee
If you’re looking for a cup of coffee with meaning, carve out time for a stop at Big Heart Coffee. Roasting their own beans onsite from Uganda, Colombia and Ethiopia along with a few regional roasts, you’ll find a great variety of high quality coffee in all your favorite forms from stout espressos to frothy lattes.
The best part? All of their proceeds go to local charities such as the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, the St. Francis Homeless Shelter and more. Not only is the coffee delicious and charitable, they also serve some of the best pastries in town – don’t leave without their raspberry white chocolate scone.
The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures
The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures (say that five times fast), is a tiny place with a big reputation. Showcasing more than 500 tiny antique and contemporary dollhouses, it’s one of those places you never knew you needed to visit until you do.
According to Patricia Arnells, the collector whose fondness for miniatures began in the 1930s, the goal of this unique museum is to transport visitors to bygone eras through intricately crafted and preserved miniature items from all around the globe. From ancient Greek olympians smaller than your pinky finger, to full troops of Civil War soldiers, and teeny-tiny, ornate silver chariots, you’ll be amazed at how big an impact tiny, delicate things can have on the imagination.
EXO Roast Co.
At EXO, their primary goal beyond providing delicious roasts to the lovely people of Tucson, is to shed light on the ever overlooked coffee communities within Mexico. With a primary focus on highlighting small landholders and farmers within the Mexican coffee cultivation community, EXO will show you just how rich and smooth Mexican coffee really is, and why you may want to start opting for it from now on.
Their menu also boasts Tucson-specific specialties like coffee with mesquite syrup and classics like chai lattes and cortados. Be sure to grab a bag of the Ramona Farms Tepary Beans on your way out, an heirloom bean from the Akimel O’odham people of Sonora, Mexico.
So whether you’re into obscure art forms, need a spot to plug away at work for a while, or are looking for a stroll through pristine gardens, Tucson has a lot to offer beyond the usual attractions. Wondering where you can grab a bite in between? Check out our Food and Drink Guide to Tucson.