I moved to Tucson on something of a whim. It seemed affordable, and not too far from my family in California. But boy, I had no idea how much I’d fall in love with it.
I love the wacky little shops on Fourth Avenue. I love the passionate community organizers. I love how everywhere is a music venue, how all of the brewery owners are friends with each other, and how you can see the Santa Catalina Mountains no matter where you are in the city. And of course, I love the food. Afterall, Tucson was designated the first Unesco City of Gastronomy in the United States back in 2015.
In summary, if Tucson isn’t on your list of places to visit, get it on there. And when you do visit, here are some of the best places you can stay.
Some would say that Hotel Congress is itself the heart of downtown Tucson, a microcosm of the city itself. It’s a beloved place that draws history buffs from all over. In fact, one of their employees has been working at Hotel Congress since 1959 and is still going strong.
Built in 1919, the 39-room place is brimming with history: the taproom opened in 1919, closed for prohibition and reopened shortly after. In 1934, this was where authorities captured the gangster John Dillinger. Now, every January, Tucson marks the anniversary with a big ol’ multi-day party and reenactment.
Those who like their historical authenticity with a heaping side of convenience can rejoice: unlike many other historic hotels, all of the rooms at the Congress have air conditioning and private bathrooms.
Hotel Congress is bustling—there’s a bar, a restaurant where you don’t want to miss a chance to get breakfast (or to see the floor paved in pennies!), and fantastic live shows. So this isn’t a place to go if you’re looking for a silent retreat. But it is the place to go if you’re looking to be in the hotel where it all happens.
The Blenman Inn
If you are looking for a more peaceful, quiet place to stay, you need only head a few blocks over to Scott Avenue to visit the Blenman Inn. Established in 1878, this seven-room adobe mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and you’ll see why as soon as you walk in.
From the 19th century skylights and gorgeous hardwood floors to the authentic antique clawfoot bathtub, the architectural features give more than a nod to years gone by. But even if you’re not a history buff, the ambiance is hard to beat.
The Blenman Inn is at once cozy and spacious, and the newest owners have taken what could feel like a museum and made sure it feels like a home. Each room is unique, so you can pick the one that works best for your stay. And, in the mornings, you can opt for either the hotel’s continental breakfast or vouchers to eat at local restaurants.
The pool and garden area is a stunning, secluded oasis, and since the inn is so small, you’re likely to have the space to yourself. The Blenman Inn is the perfect place to work on your novel, to reconnect with a loved one or to unplug for the week.
A refurbished 1960s hotel building with a midcentury modern aesthetic, Hotel McCoy is bright, colorful and delightfully Tucson. In fact, it’s like one big party celebrating the stuff that makes Tucson special. The lobby? Filled with art by locals. The beer? Local breweries. The coffee? Roasted in Tucson. There are over 50 murals on the property. The rooms are all filled with unique local art, and many of them are named after the artists who decorated them.
The authentic vintage vibes, combined with the onsite all-local art gallery and bookstore come together for an irresistibly Instagrammable effect. Just a mile south of downtown, it’s also conveniently located in a quiet neighborhood near both of Tucson’s major freeways.
It’s also not far from the Loop, a biking, walking and running path that winds 131 miles around Tucson. So if you’re visiting the Old Pueblo because it’s known as one of the most bike-friendly cities in America, Hotel McCoy might be the place for you.
Oh, and, because it’s important to fuel up before you go on long bike rides, you can do so at Hotel McCoy’s complimentary breakfast buffet, which includes the self-proclaimed World’s Longest Oatmeal Bar.
The Downtown Clifton
Did someone say mid-century modern? The Downtown Clifton has a similar vibe to the McCoy, but with its own flair. Originally built in 1948, the hotel got a spiffy new 22-room expansion, plus the addition of the Red Light Lounge, a bar and restaurant.
It sits right on the border between two of Tucson’s most beloved neighborhoods, Armory Park and Barrio Viejo. This puts you within easy walking distance of the downtown museums and restaurants, an excellent gallery of local glass art, and a couple of Arizona’s strange little drive-up liquor stores.
But you may even find you’d rather spend the evening in, sipping on cocktails and food from the Red Light Lounge and watching the sunset through your room’s vintage screen door. You can even check out a record player and some tunes from their curated record library, or go and buy records of your own to play from one of Tucson’s many record shops.
The bunkhouse rooms, part of the original construction, still have their original wood beam ceilings and 1940s tile work. The newer señorita rooms have the same exposed-brick charm, but a few with the addition of floor-to-ceiling windows.
Tanque Verde Ranch
Maybe you’re looking for something a little bit more spacious, or really hoping to connect with your inner Western cowboy. If that’s the case, Tanque Verde Ranch, first established in 1868 and stretched across 640 acres, might be for you.
Bordering Saguaro National Park and the Coronado National Forest, the ranch offers both adobe casitas and cozy rooms, all fitted with Southwest décor. Their website even lays out where to stay to catch the best sunrises and sunsets – and believe me: while that Southwestern sun really beats down during the summers, the spectacular way it rises and sets makes it all worth it.
The ranch also offers an abundance of activities, ranging from UTV rentals and archery lessons to day camps for kids and even horseback riding. One of their most special offerings is the breakfast ride, in which you get up early to ride horses through the gorgeous desert scenery to the Old Homestead, where you’re served a freshly cooked breakfast. Blueberry pancakes, bacon, eggs, chocolate milk, orange juice and a horse ride? What would a vacation be without that combination? When you’re done, kick off your boots and go for a swim in the pool, or visit the onsite spa.
And there you have it, whether you decide to go retro with Hotel McCoy or embrace your inner outlaw at Tanque Verde Ranch, you’ll find Tucson’s hospitality scene to be as vast as the desert in which it sits. Centuries of Mexican, Native American and Western culture have helped lend a unique variety of influences and aesthetics throughout the city, hotels and otherwise.
But if you’re looking for the best representation of Tucson’s cultural diversity, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat the food. From swanky fine dining spots to street food stalls, this Food and Drink Guide makes it easy to pinpoint when and where to eat and drink while in Tucson.