The unique flair of the desert environment, people, food, drink and culture of Tucson is a such a classic fit for New Mexican sensibilities, you might even consider relocating.
O! Tucson: Hipster Haven & Hiking Hotbed
BY ABBY FELDMAN
Tucson, Ariz., should be near the top of your list for neighboring vacation destinations. The weather is decidedly temperate this time of year, and opportunities for pleasant outdoor exploration are plentiful. New Mexicans may be curious to discover what Tucson has on offer, with a population size and cultural makeup similar to Albuquerque, and nearly everything in town accessible by bicycle.
Looking for something more modern? Tucson also boasts a burgeoning farm-to-table dining movement, craft beer and cocktail bars, quality coffee shops and retail boutiques dealing in rarities, all along the brand-new light rail route.
Lodging in Tucson is eclectic and varied. If you’re in search of a family-oriented place to hang your hat, the Westin La Paloma Resort (3800 E. Sunrise Dr.) plays host to an outstanding array of aquatic amenities (think water slides, mineral pool and swim-up bar), a 27-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course and a kids club with activities to entertain your children while you sip a margarita poolside.
On the other end of the spectrum is Hotel Congress (311 E. Congress St.), an urban historic hotel in downtown Tucson that stars in-room rotary telephones, turn-dial radios and an vintage, rock-n-roll flair — all sans television. Guests are encouraged to bring their own earplugs as the parties in the lobby and at various bars and nightclub can get rather, well, boisterous.
Club Congress has been called the city’s best dance club and often features touring acts; they also host an out-of-this-era ’80s and ’90s-themed night that’s always well attended. Hotel guests and locals alike swear by The Cup Café’s extensive brunch menu and Bloody Mary bar. There’s a rapid transit stop right outside the hotel, which makes it a convenient home base for touring Downtown.
Outdoor enthusiasts choose from a plethora of hiking and biking paths. The temperature currently hovers around 80 degrees, so it’s a perfect time to get out on those Sonoran Desert trails that are too hot to explore most times of year.
One of many parks in the mountain ranges surrounding Tucson, Saguaro National Park beckons with a multitude of hiking and mountain biking trails, guided tours and presentations.
There are plenty of bike rental choices, but the most environmentally conscious and community-minded place is Bicycle Inter-Community Art and Salvage, a.k.a. BICAS (44 W. 6th St.), where they can set you up with a proper bike; they also offer courses driven by citizen input. BICAS even creates recycled art out of parts they can no longer use.
Get your fill of saguaros and sweeping, majestic views, then head back into town for dinner at one of Tucson’s fine eateries. For family fun, check out Pinnacle Peak (6541 E. Tanque Verde Rd.), but don’t wear a necktie — they’ll cut it off and nail it to the rafters. They rib diners about formal attire, but they’re deadly serious about their steaks. This is a great place for the meat-and-potatoes crowd. It’s situated on an authentic Old West movie set, so patrons get a side of gunslinging when the nightly shootout goes down right outside the restaurant’s front door.
Other options include the “Best of the Barrio” food tour, where you can sample several Mexican delights typical to the Sonoran region.
At the 5 Points Market & Restaurant (756 S. Stone Ave.), diners can chow down on local, seasonal ingredients in a chic, unpretentious setting that’s in walking distance from the retail delights of Fourth Avenue (434 E. 9th St.) — a mall with vintage boutiques, trendy bars and buzzing coffee shops. Check out the Fourth Avenue Spring Street Fair from April 1st to 3rd for the total experience.
Even the swankiest spots in Tucson welcome the casually attired, and New Mexicans will feel right at home in the jeans and cowboy boots we’re accustomed to. The unique flair of the desert environment, people, food, drink and culture of Tucson is a such a classic fit for New Mexican sensibilities, you might even consider relocating.
World traveler, devoted foodie and all-around bon vivant Abby Feldman reports of her geographic exploration for ABQ Free Press.