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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.