The variety of things to do and see in Tucson extends from the heart of the city to the surrounding area. Three historic districts—El Presidio, Armory Park, and Barrio Historico—provide convenient focal points for a walking tour of downtown Tucson. Around El Presidio, the old adobe wall that was part of the original town, are clustered other historic structures, among them restored homes of the city's early settlers and political leaders, as well as an artisans' marketplace housed in an adobe.
Located in the Barrio Historico district, El Tiradito—the "Wishing Shrine"—is one of the nation's genuine folk shrines. A few blocks away, at the edge of the Armory Park district, is the site of the printing office of a Spanish-language newspaper founded in 1878. Other popular attractions in the city include Tucson's world famous zoo, situated in Gene C. Reid Park, and the Tucson Botanic Gardens.
The ideal way to view the landscape surrounding Tucson is to take a leisurely driving tour that winds through miles of scenic Sonora desert, the only place where Saguaro cactus grows, ending at Mt. Lemmon. Covered with stands of aspen, Ponderosa pine, and Douglas fir, Mt. Lemmon offers vistas of the desert.
Other interesting excursions include Colossal Cave, one of the largest caves in the world, and Sabino Canyon, in nearby Colorado National Forest. Kartchner Caverns State Park, home of the world's largest living cave offers guided cave tours, hikes, and group use areas. Popular visitor attractions are Old Tucson, a western theme park and the site of a television and movie set, and Mission San Xavier del Bac, called the "White Dove of the Desert" because of its striking appearance from a distance.
Arts and Culture
Tucson is the "arts mecca" of the American Southwest, offering a wealth of cultural activities: theater, opera, ballet, and symphony, as well as galleries and museums. The Tucson Arts District Partnership lies in the heart of downtown Tucson and includes the Tucson Music Hall, the Tucson Community Center, and the Temple of Music and Art. Tucson's Arizona Theatre Company, the leading professional theater company in the state, has received national recognition, including grants and citations from the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment of the Arts, and the White House Committee on the Arts. Its productions range from the classics to recent Broadway hits during a September-to-April season at the Temple of Music and Art. Off-Broadway shows and musicals are the forte of the Invisible Theatre, while a.k.a. Theatre presents experimental and modern works.
The award-winning Tucson Symphony offers a nine-month season of classical music at the Tucson Music Hall. The Arizona Opera makes Tucson its home, performing a standard repertoire along with less-frequently performed works. Dance lovers can see performances of Ballet Arizona, which is based in Tucson. The Gaslight Theatre presents old-fashioned melodrama. The "UApresents" series at the University of Arizona Centennial Hall brings performances and groups like Oliver, the American Virtuosi Baroque Theater and Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra to delight audiences.
Tucson is home to several museums and galleries. The Arizona State Museum, specializing in the archaeology and ethnology of Arizona, is noted for having one of the most comprehensive southwestern archaeology collections in existence. The Arizona Historical Society houses a museum, research library, and Arizona mining exhibit; the society also administers Fort Lowell Museum and Sosa-Carrillo-Frèmont House. Featuring military equipment, the Fort Lowell Museum is an 1865 reconstruction of the home of the fort's commanding officer. The Sosa-Carillo-Frèmont House, built around 1858, is one of the oldest adobe houses in Tucson and is furnished in original period pieces. Exhibits such as dinosaur canyon, an ocean discovery center and unique arts for kids can be found at the Tucson Children's Museum. The Pima Air and Space Museum features more than 75 acres of different kinds of military and civilian aircraft.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, 14 miles west of downtown, is one of southern Arizona's most popular attractions. It exhibits hundreds of native plants and animals in their natural habitats. The Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium, on the campus of the University of Arizona, presents exhibits pertaining to optical science, astronomy, and space exploration, many of them encouraging visitor experimentation. For those interested in astronomy, the 56-mile trip to Kitt Peak National Observatory to gaze through one of the telescopes in the world's largest collection of optical solar telescopes is well worth the drive. The Tucson Museum of Art specializes in crafts, textiles, furnishings, and fine arts, including pre-Columbian and western American pieces. The University of Arizona Center for Creative Photography offers permanent and changing exhibitions of photographs and is home to 60,000 works by 2,000 photographers such as Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, and Edward Weston. Tucson boasts an active community of artists and artisans. Local commercial galleries show their work, which includes paintings, jewelry, and pottery.
Arts and Culture Information: Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block, telephone (520)624-2333; Tucson-Pima Arts Council, 10 E. Broadway Rd., Tucson, AZ 85701; telephone (520)624-0595; email info@tucsonpimaarts council.org
Festivals and Holidays
Tucson celebrates its history and multicultural heritage with a variety of activities throughout the year. Mid-winter's La Fiesta de los Vaqueros features riding and roping events. Beginning in March, the six-week Tucson Festival features events that showcase the city's unique culture. Also in March the Annual Wa:k Pow Wow Conference brings together southwestern tribes who present inter-tribal pow wow songs and dances. The month of April offers the Tucson International Conference featuring a full week of culture, music and dancing. In May Tucson's Mexican-American community commemorates Mexico's victory against France with the four-day Cinco de Mayo Festival. Tucson's patron saint is honored in the Fiesta de San Augustin in August, and in September the Hispanic community celebrates Mexico's independence from Spain. El Nacimiento, on the grounds of the Tucson Museum of Art, ushers in the Christmas holiday season with displays of folk art. It is followed by Fiesta Navidad, a Mexican mariachi Christmas celebration.
Tucson is the site of other events of interest to both residents and visitors. For several weeks in the winter colored stones, gems and beads are on show at various locations in the city. The Fourth Avenue Street Fair is held twice each year, usually in March and December.
Sports for the Spectator
Although Tucson does not field any teams in the major leagues, there is plenty of action for sports fans. Tucson is home to the University of Arizona Wildcats teams, which compete in Pacific Athletic Conference (PAC-10) basketball and football. The University of Arizona Icecats play hockey at Tucson Convention Center.
Fans of amateur and professional baseball can enjoy a full schedule. Hi Corbett Field is the spring training site for the Colorado Rockies of the National League, and the Tucson Sidewinders, AAA affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, play a full schedule of summer baseball at Corbett Field. Tucson Electric Park is the site where the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Chicago White Sox have spring training. Greyhound races are held year-round at Tucson Greyhound Park. Stock car races are on view at Tucson Raceway Park, the only asphalt short track in Arizona.
Golf is very popular in Tucson, and major annual events include the Chrysler Classic of Tucson golf championship in February. Ranked by Bicycling magazine as one of the nation's top three cities for cycling, Tucson hosts the prestigious El Tour de Tucson cycling event each fall, as well as many tennis tournaments.
Sports for the Participant
Tucson's warm, sunny climate offers the outdoor sports enthusiast weather that rarely disrupts planned activities. The city of Tucson maintains 125 parks with jogging tracks, bike paths, and riding trails, 26 swimming pools, 5 municipal golf courses and 3 tennis centers. Swimming, boating, and fishing can be enjoyed in public and private pools and lakes. More than 4,500 participants run or walk in the Tucson Marathon, half marathon or 5k each December. Surrounding mountain ranges offer a variety of recreational opportunities. Mount Lemmon ski area receives an average of 175 inches and offers 3 months of skiing each year. In keeping with Tucson's western traditions, local ranches offer horseback riding; and for those who want to step back into the past, there are even opportunities to pan for gold or participate in a cattle drive.
Shopping and Dining
Shopping for necessities or for pleasure can be equally rewarding in Tucson at neighborhood retail centers, regional malls, shopping plazas, and numerous shops and boutiques conveniently located throughout the area. Downtown's Fourth Avenue historic shopping and arts district is a popular destination, with its more than 100 galleries and unusual shops. Many shops specialize in indigenous goods and crafts such as Mexican handicrafts and decorative items, Indian kachina dolls, baskets, pottery, and moccasins. Traditional western clothing, boots, and other leather goods are also available in Tucson.
The city's restaurants are famous for Southwestern cuisine. Local specialties include carne seca, beef that has been marinated in lime and cilantro then sun-dried; cinnamon chicken; black bean hummus; and prickly pear cactus. Diners can find a wide diversity of other ethnic fare, ranging from Greek to Thai, as well as traditional American food.
Visitor Information: Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau, 100 S. Church Ave., Tucson, AZ 85701; telephone (520)624-1817; email firstname.lastname@example.org
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