Learn about Tucson, Arizona, by reading One Day Tour of
Tucson by Jerry Fogle, Leisure and Business Traveler. It
features a mini, but thorough tour of the destination, plus all
you'll need to know to plan your trip including how to get there,
objective information on places to stay and eat, and things to do.
At the end of the article, we've provided a summary of the contact
information for your easy reference. Enjoy!
A One Day Tour of Tucson, Arizona
by Jerry Fogle, Leisure and Business Traveler
One of the things
that frequent, business travelers often regret is not taking time to
adequately see a city or surrounding area while visiting for a business
activity. During my 30 years of traveling, I have had the privilege and
pleasure to visit 6 continents, 34 countries and countless cities and
towns. On many trips, time was a factor because other jobs were waiting.
Since many of my jobs take only 1 to 2 days to complete, I often fail to
make time to do some sightseeing. Some jobs are in cities 100 to 200 miles
from a main city, and these trips allow some casual sightseeing just
For whatever reasons,
Arizona has not been on my itinerary. Until recently, I had only landed in
Phoenix on my way to and from Reno. My latest trip was my first job in
Arizona and I decided to see some of the sights, although briefly, before
coming home, so I allowed an extra day when booking my flight. Getting to
Tucson is easy thanks to its Tucson International Airport where most major
airlines fly in and out of. Another option is to fly into Phoenix which is
about 120 miles northwest of Tucson.
I arrived in Tucson
on a Sunday evening and had time to rest for the job which started on
Monday. I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on Starr Pass Blvd, I-10 at
exit 259. The room rate was $77/night and the accommodations were good.
There was a 24 hour restaurant adjacent to the hotel and many other
convenient restaurants and stores nearby. There were many other hotel
choices, including full service Holiday Inns, in the Tucson area. The
roads in Tucson are easy to use and everything is spacious, allowing good
sight distances for exits and ease in finding city locations.
(Editor’s note: Consider using
World Traveler’s Travel Booking
Service which can offer discounts at your hotel or
My job at the
University of Arizona Medical Center went well and took only 1 day to
complete. I returned there on Tuesday morning to complete paperwork and at
10:15 am asked the staff at the medical center about their sightseeing
recommendations. The rest of the day was about getting the maximum out of
limited time. I was easily able to see the following:
2021 N. Kinney Road approximately 13 miles west of I-10. Use Speedway
Blvd from the city which turns into Gates Pass Blvd.
If you have only
time to see one thing, go to this one. The drive alone provides
beautiful views of the desert scenery, the city of Tucson, mountains
that are 36 plus miles to the west, and surrounding mountains and plains
dotted with the majestic Saguaro cactus.
There are numerous pull-off areas to view the scenery, and be sure to
have a camera to capture the beauty of the desert, and some water to
The admission prices vary according to the season. I paid $9.95 and the
price for children is $1.75 year round, children under 6 free.
I arrived at the museum at about 11:00 am, but the locals recommend
starting at the opening time of 9:00 am. It is cooler then and the
animals are still moving about before the heat of the day. Most of the
exhibits are outside and are blended with the desert landscape. At
times, you forget that you are in a museum, because the exhibits are
natural and you see the animals without sensing their enclosures. There
are many varieties of snakes, turtles, and lizards inside, but the best
is on the 2 miles of paths on the outside. There are more than 300
animal species and 1200 kinds of plants on display. There is no way you
can see all of them in one visit, but it is fun to try.
The many attractions include an Earth Sciences exhibit, amphitheater,
mountain woodland, desert grassland, cat canyon, desert loop trail,
Riparian corridor, birds, bighorn exhibit, walk-in aviary, desert
garden, life underground, pollination gardens, hummingbird aviary,
cactus garden, and fishes/amphibians exhibit. All are in their natural
setting and information is always available from the many volunteers on
the museum staff.
There are 4 restaurants located on the grounds, no picnicking sites are
available. I chose to have lunch at the Ocotillo Cafe, which features
Sonoran cuisine in a fine-dining setting. I had a very nice shrimp salad
with dried tomatoes, blue cheese chunks, walnuts and chefs' special
dressing. The meal was accompanied with fresh bread and there was a full
selection of beverages to choose from. There are 3 other restaurants at
the museum including a grill, coffee bar, and a snack bar. There are
also 2 gift shops featuring a variety of handmade, Indian jewelry,
pottery, and other crafts.
San Xavier Blvd between Mission Road and Interstate 19, adjacent to San
Xavier Indian Reservation. It was a scenic drive to the mission via
Kinney Road, Ajo Way, and Mission Road. This old, Catholic mission has
been mostly restored to its original state and contains beautiful
carvings and paintings. A large mound outside the mission complex
provides a great view of Tucson and the Santa Catalina Mountains in the
Pima Air and
Valencia Road east of the International Airport and Interstate 10. I
would recommend this museum for all aviation buffs. Included on the vast
desert acreage of this museum are all types of aircraft from World War
II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and some commercial aircraft of
interest. There is a Tram tour available that will save your feet and
legs, and help with coping with the desert heat. I chose to walk because
I arrived late in the day after the tram tours were available. I
particularly enjoyed the guided tour of the Kennedy/Johnson era Air
Force One, a 4 engine prop VC-118. You could almost feel the history and
the guide explained many of the day-to-day activities involved with
operating this aircraft.
There are numerous cold water fountains on the grounds, however I
recommend starting your tour here with your own cold water bottle, and
wear a hat if at all possible. It takes a while to see the aircraft,
allow plenty of time and rest often. Special indoor exhibits include a
movie ride theater, SR-71 Blackbird with boosters, Arizona Aviation Hall
of Fame, Challenger Learning Center, and Space Gallery. There are
concession stands, first aid station, and a gift shop that features many
model airplane replicas.
Aircraft Storage Facility,
along Kolb Road and Irvington Road, adjacent to the Davis Monthan AFB.
From the 2 frontage roads I was able to see hundreds of stockpiled old
aircraft, parts, and airplane sub-assemblies. The dry desert environment
provides for excellent storage of these vintage parts and planes. Most
of the planes here are no longer in production and parts from this "bone yard"
are in demand. The Air Force even uses parts from here to keep the B-52
bomber going. While this aircraft was first made and used in the early
1950's, it is still being used today in Afghanistan. Thus, the
importance of the aircraft storage facility.
Other sites that I
did not have time for, but were recommended are:
- University of
Arizona Science and Technology Park
- Old Tucson
Studios, wild west scenery and buildings, shoot-out recreations
- Coronado National
Forest in the Santa Catalina Mountains, north of Tucson
- Golf, many fine
public and private courses
- Casinos, if you
are into gambling.
I completed the day
with a great dinner at a local fine-dining restaurant, which I found in
the Yellow Pages. The Ye Old Lantern has served Tucson for over 30 years
and is easily located north of the downtown area on North Oracle Road. The
restaurant has a wide selection of entrees and a fresh salad bar. Dinners
include barbecued meatballs served before the entree and fresh bread
served at the table. I had sauteed scallops that were accompanied by a
baked potato and vegetables. There was no room for dessert, but the
offerings looked tempting. The service was excellent and I highly
recommend this restaurant for the quiet atmosphere and delicious food.
I look forward to
returning to Arizona with my wife and spending more time seeing the
Most of the major airlines fly into both Tucson
International Airport and the Phoenix International Airport. If you
fly into Phoenix, Tucson is about 120 miles southeast via I10.
Where to stay:
Holiday Inn Express
Stan Pass Blvd @ I-10, Tucson
World Traveler’s Travel Booking Service
– here you check rates and book rooms from other hotels. Discounts may apply.
When to go:
The best time of year to visit Tucson and the southwest is in late
winter, early spring – February, March, April where temps are very
pleasant – 70s and 80s with cool nights and tranquil weather. The
heat becomes intense in May and very intense – easily and regularly
in excess of 100 degrees – in the late spring, summer, early fall
months. While the southwest may have lower humidity than other
areas, when the temps are over 100 degrees, 40% humidity is still
felt. The rains occur in the fall and winter.
Things to do:
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
2021 N. Kinney Road
San Xavier Road
Pima Air and
Tucson, AZ http://www.pimaair.org
Open every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas Days,
seven days a week, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Last admission: 4 PM.
Admission is $9.75 for Adults (ages 13 and up), $6.00 for Children
(ages 7-12), Children under 6 are Free. Special rates apply for
seniors and combo passes with other museums.
Aircraft Storage Facility
Kolb and Irvington Roads
Where to Eat:
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Ye Old Lantern
North Oracle Road
Tucson, AZ Notice: This
information is current as of May 2002. It is recommended that you contact
the numbers, and/or visit the web sites above to determine any changes to