Destination: Tucson, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona has multiple personalities, all of them good. There is the glossy, well-manicured, high-end, world-renowned spa personality. There is the urban sprawl strip mall with quirky shops personality. There is the retiree destination, sit by the pool and remark on the lovely weather personality.

Tucson: travel to a city at the heart of America’s southwest

And then, there’s the personality I love: the worn, old-school American Southwest personality. The frayed on the edges, slightly unkempt, ethnic-feeling side of Tucson. A rich mixture of cultures results in a buffet of delicious cuisine. The grocery stores are filled with freshly-made tortillas that are flaky, lardy, and incomparable. I’ve carried those tortillas cross-country just to show Midwesterners what they are supposed to taste like! Taco trucks, Indian fry bread and Sonoran hot dog stands pepper the sides of the streets. Tucson is the self-proclaimed Mexican restaurant capital of the United States, and for good reason.

Here are just a few sites not to be missed the next time you find yourself in Tucson.

Anita’s Burritos

Anita’s Burritos. Tucson, Arizona. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Anita’s Burritos is a bare-bones joint where the tortillas are so fresh they’re often still warm off the griddle. The menu is humbly posted over the door. Food is cheap, authentic, and delicious. a small backyard allows for some plastic table and chair sets. Get your burrito on, cop a squat, and enjoy.

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, Tucson, Arizona. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show typically takes place in January/February, perfect timing for wanna-be snowbirds to get away to warmer climes. If you like rocks, this is the place to be. You’ll find everything from fossils to beads to gems. It’s an enormous show–no doubt, one of the best in the world.

Saguaro National Park

You can go saguaro-spotting anytime of year, and the best place for seeing these cacti,which are native to Tucson, is either location of Saguaro National Park. Plan to hike. Plan to be amazed. 

Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Arizona. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Tap Room, Hotel Congress, Tucson. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Hotel Congress, Cup Cafe and Tiger’s Tap Room

Hotel Congress is also a must-see. Check out the hallway plastered with food and travel articles about this historic hotel. It’s a hipster’s delight, a history-lover’s gold mine, and a foodie’s go-to in the area (check out the Cup Cafe for good eats). The Tap Room, just off the fancier Club Congress, is a classic dive bar with classic dive bar patrons. Good people watching, and the beer’s not bad either.

San Xavier del Bac Mission, Tucson, Arizona. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Visit what is proclaimed to be the best example of mission architecture in the United States, at San Xavier del Bac Mission.

The Mission is under a massive ongoing restoration effort, which is concurrently stripping some of the character off the place and restoring priceless artifacts. Food stands outside the mission have Indian Fry Bread and other goodies.

Walk up the hill to the side of the mission for a breathtaking view of this “White Dove of the Desert,” the mountains, and Greater Tucson.

Mt. Lemmon, Tucson, Arizona. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Mt. Lemmon

Tucson can get hot, so when the heat is too much for you, head for Mt. Lemmon for cool breezes and even cooler views. Hike, picnic, check out one of the restaurants, or just meditate on the beauty of the area and nab some of those stunning panoramic views. 

There’s much more to Tucson

There’s so much more to Tucson: downtown, the shops of 4th Avenue, the University of Arizona, The Sonoran Desert Museum, Old Tuscon Studios, art, oh and did I mention Mexican food? The good stuff! Only an hour from the border of Mexico, a couple from Phoenix, and a few from Tombstone, it’s a great jumping off point for day trips, too.

Roll on, Rollerbaggers!

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Charish Badzinski is an explorer, foodie and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations. 
Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb
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Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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