There is something cleansing about the Desert Southwest, which I’ve called home for 25 years. I live in Phoenix, and I find Tucson to be a world away, although it’s less than two hours by car from Phoenix. You can discover the diversity that awaits in Tucson—the only UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the US—and home to breathtaking vistas, world-class spas and authentic Southwest flavors. Come along and free yourself as we wander through Tucson.

Tucson Offers Great Outdoor Trail Rides

If you enjoy hitting the trails, Tucson is the place for memorable outdoor experiences. I grew up riding horses, so a great way for me to get that “free yourself” experience is to climb on a horse and experience nature with the wind blowing my hair.

You can book a stay at Tanque Verde Ranch, where your all-inclusive experience includes trail rides in the Rincon Mountains and the adjacent Saguaro National Park on this family-owned dude ranch. Of course, there’s also a watering hole where you can order up a prickly pear margarita made with fresh prickly pear cactus fruit picked right on the ranch. Make sure you partake of the cowboy cookout—ribeyes on the grill and rolls cooked in the outdoor oven.

Dog House Saloon, Tanque Verde Guest Ranch, Tucson, AZ

Dog House Saloon, Tanque Verde Guest Ranch, Tucson, AZ

Another great place for a trail ride in Tucson is at Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, a historic inn that was once a girls’ school and now a luxury resort. The courtyard is one of those welcoming spots that will make you want to stay forever while views from the rooms, restaurant and pool are breathtaking.

Hacienda Del Sol courtyard in Tucson

Hacienda Del Sol courtyard. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

But, for me, the real treat was taking a sunset trail ride during my stay. It’s such a pleasure to ride out with a guide who understands the desert landscape and can point out the vegetation and how each plant contributes to the desert environment. Our guide took us on a leisurely climb up to a mesa where we watched the sun setting over the city, before we made our way back to the stables.

Looking out over the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson from the trail ride at Hacienda Del Sol. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Looking out over the Santa Catalina Mountains from the trail ride at Hacienda Del Sol. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Tucson Offers Great Outdoor Hiking

If you prefer to spend your time in Tucson outdoors, but hiking or strolling is more to your liking than sitting on a horse, head to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. This 98-acre treasure includes 21 interpreted acres with 2 miles of walking paths. It blends zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum and aquarium. The museum was founded in 1952 and features 16 individual gardens, more than 230 animal species and 56,000 individual plants.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. Credit: Susan Lanier-Graham

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. Credit: Susan Lanier-Graham

My must-see things at the museum include the Earth Sciences Center that recreates an underground cave, the raptor area where you can watch the birds of prey fly, and the tidepools that showcase life in the Gulf of California.

Earth Sciences Center in Tucson recreates an underground cave. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Earth Sciences Center recreates an underground cave. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Relax in the Fresh Tucson Air—Patio and Spa Time

One of my favorite things to do in Tucson is simply relax. When I said you could free yourself in Tucson, I meant it! There are beautiful resorts and spas that offer incredible spaces for relaxing and soaking up that Arizona sunshine.

I adore the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain. This is one of the top 100 resorts by Travel + Leisure magazine and was rated Arizona’s #1 resort by Condé Nast Traveler. I suggest spending the day at the spa, indulging in a treatment and relaxing by the spa pool.

Spa Pool at Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain Tucson. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Spa Pool at Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

At the end of the day, head to the patio for drinks where you can look out over the Tortolita Mountains and listen to the sounds of Native American flute as the sun sets. Dinner on the patio at CORE Kitchen & Wine Bar is the best way to end a perfect day.

View from Ignite at Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain Tucson

View from Ignite at Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain. Photo courtesy Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain

Another great way to soak up the Tucson atmosphere is a stay at JW Marriott Starr Pass. You can sit on the patio and watch the sunrise if you’re an early riser.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Main Pool. Photo courtesy JW Marriott Starr Pass

One of my unforgettable moments at JW Marriott Starr Pass is each evening when the hosts welcome guests poolside, tell stories of the Old West, and offer up a tequila toast at the end of a relaxing day. I think that’s the ideal way to free yourself while wandering Tucson!

JW Marriott Starr Pass in Tucson

JW Marriott Starr Pass offers a tequila toast each evening. Photo courtesy JW Marriott Starr Pass

For more ways to explore Tucson, be sure to visit the Tucson website for great ideas on what to do, where to stay and how to check out great ideas on what to eat so you can explore the gastronomic side of this amazing Southwest city.

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Come along and free yourself as we wander through Tucson, the only UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the US, home to breathtaking vistas, and world-class spas.