Actually, I recommend two usable days in Tucson because it offers much to see and do.
Tucson is surrounded by mountains with an altitude of 2,400 feet and is 100 miles south of Phoenix and so, about a three-hour drive from Payson. The Mexican influence can be seen and felt all over the city. You see adobe and wrought iron in many buildings and homes and it has an entirely different feeling than Phoenix.
When you arrive stop by the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau at 120 West Broadway where there will be a selection of brochures pointing the way to many sights around the city.
Since I am a transportation nut I am suggesting you visit the Pima Air and Space Museum located at 6000 E. Valencia Rd. Here, you will find more than 300 aircraft on static display both inside the museum and parked outside on the ramp. The museum is dedicated to 100 years of aircraft history and if you have any interest in transportation, this is the place to begin. You’ll see old fighter aircraft, freighters, passenger planes - both prop and jet, as well as numerous other aircraft. The museum is spread on more than 80 acres and if you are unable to walk very far there are busses to drive you around the displays. The entry fee is only $15.50 and you will really see your monies worth. Phone (520) 574-0462 for more information and times of operation.
Tucson has undergone much revitalization and today you will find it mostly modern with hints of Mexican and American architecture. It is the county seat with a population of just under a million people and is the economic center for southern Arizona. You will find Tucson more laid back than Phoenix and easy to enjoy. A good time to visit is, of course, during the winter months when the temperatures are more moderate.
A visit to the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson can be of interest. Located at 949 East Second Street, it is loaded with exhibits that tell of Arizona’s history beginning with the Spanish Colonial times through the territorial years. Here, you will find a research library and there are tours available by reservation.
If you are interested in photography plan to visit the Center for Creative Photography on the University of Arizona campus. You will see a collection of more than 50,000 photographs. There is no admittance fee and you can give them a call at (520) 621-7968 to check on hours of operation and any special features.
The University of Arizona Museum of Art has a permanent collection that spans the Middle Ages through the 20th Century. The exhibitions change often, but include student and faculty art, as well as works by guest artists. Phone (520) 621-7567 for more information and hours of operation.
The John C. Fremont House at 151 South Granada Ave. is operated by the Arizona Historical Society and is restored from the 1880s adobe period. It was once rented to the territorial governor Fremont. And it was also the home of the pioneer Sosa and Carrillo families. There is an interesting “touch table” for children. There is no admittance fee, call (520) 622-0956 for more details.
The International Wildlife Museum at 4800 West Gates Pass Road contains almost 300 mammals and birds from six continents and realistically displayed in their natural habitats. There are guided tours, wildlife films, videos, and restaurants. There is no admittance fee and you can obtain more information by calling (520) 617-1439.
A more unique museum is the Playmaxx at 2947 East Grant Road. It features a collection of yo-yos dating back to 1930 and running through the present. There is a photo history and factory tours are available. Phone (520) 322-0100 for more details.
The Tohono Chul Park at 7366 Paseo del Norte is landscaped beautifully with natural vegetation and gardens featuring nature trails, demonstrations, and ethnobotanical gardens. There is also a geological re-creation of the nearby Catalina Mountains, a recirculating stream and an art gallery. You will find a tearoom here, which might be good for breakfast or lunch. Call (520) 742-6455 for more information.
Where to stay
There is a wide selection of hotels and resorts from which to choose. As in any city today the rates are all over the map depending on the time of year you wish to visit and the quality of property. If deluxe accommodations are what you are interested in, there is the Ventana Canyon Resort, the Hacienda del Sol, the Westin La Palmona and many others. You can search the Web for quotes.
Guest ranches can be found in the Tucson area still - you might consider the Lazy K Bar Guest Ranch, the While Stallion Ranch or the Wild Horse Ranch.
Where to dine
Mexican restaurants are plentiful here. Perhaps someone can recommend one for you. There is steak and seafood dining, as well as the lower priced restaurants we know from other cities. Ask the Visitors Bureau for some ideas.
It’s nice to take short vacations during the winter and Tucson is not far away. Take the 87 south to Interstate 10 south and you will run into Tucson. Check out the weather a few days ahead of your planned visit and get some sun while you are there.