Sometimes, you don’t need to jump on a plane to a far-off destination to create a memorable trip experience. Recently, I have been focusing on local getaways, and one of my favorites is downtown Tucson. Yes, I know Tucson is not really far from SaddleBrooke, but if you want to take advantage of all that it has to offer, then staying right in the heart of Tucson is ideal. And using the tram to get around is perfect in most cases.

Where to stay is the first step for the getaway adventure. These days, my first choice is Armory Park Inn, a boutique hotel originally constructed back in 1875, situated in the neighborhood with the same name, just a few blocks from Congress Street. The walls are thick adobe and the ceilings are high with classic ribs/vigas used in old adobe architecture. Each room is named for an illustrious person in the history of Tucson. The beds, bedding and towels were wonderful, and the bathrooms are also very modern and spacious. The ambience, both in the rooms and in the common areas, is classy with all of the appointments what I would call “in the best taste”. I really enjoy their afternoon cocktail hour (beer and wine are offered with a small snack) anywhere you wish to relax in the main rooms. The breakfasts were also delicious and served beautifully. I do have another favorite called Blenman Inn, an old Victorian bed and breakfast on Scott Street, right next door to the Temple on Music and Art. It, too, has a great history and lovely rooms in many different sizes. I especially like their small outdoor garden that features a pool area, great to be used on a warm Tucson afternoon.

Once situated in your home-away-from home, consider dinner out on Friday night. You have many choices depending on your tastes. My suggestion would be Bata, Coronet or Maynards. Bata is different in its approach to food, small plates and total farm to table focus. Another favorite is Coronet (once named Cushing Street). Maynards is located right by the train station and offers sophisticated bistro ambience and a good cross section of American food. All have bars and sometimes music. Reservations are a must.

When Saturday morning comes, you might want to start your day in the old historic Pima County Courthouse. Here, for no entry fee, you can wander around displays giving an overview of historic and present day Tucson. If you want to pay a fee, there is an outstanding Gem and Mineral Museum as part of the complex. Also, here is where you find a serene outside memorial honoring the victims of the Gabby Giffords shooting in January 2011. From there, I might suggest heading down to the University of Arizona. If you are not aware, there are three impressive museums on the campus, all open to visitors for a fee. You can find Arizona State Museum which focuses on indigenous peoples and their arts and crafts. There is the excellent Center for Creative Photography, started back in the 1970’s with Ansel Adams.

Last, there is the Fine Arts Museum with many different exhibits and genres of art. All of these are worth visiting and make for a cultural afternoon. As you are so close to Main Gate Square, I suggest eating at either Frog and Firkin or Gentle Bens. These are old and very popular hangouts for parents and students. And, in my humble opinion, I think that the best pizza I ever ate is in Frog and Firkin (build your own deep-dish slice which is fulsome meal unto itself!)

For Saturday night out, you need to do some homework to choose an event. Recently, we enjoyed Candlelight Concerts put on by Fever Productions in Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, not far from center of downtown. These are usually string quartets playing classical music in a candle-filled space. Very nice! Or check out the Fox theatre. This theater has a beautiful art deco interior and a varied list of music and dance performances. For example, we just saw Jig, an innovative Irish music band and dance group which was quite innovative. Or check out Arizona Theater Company in Temple of Music and Art. Their productions are always outstanding… coming up is a Sam Shepard play, “True West”. And be sure to check out the Congress Hotel, which always has some sort of musical event going on, Centennial Hall right on the University of Arizona campus, and the newly named Linda Ronstadt Hall, part of Tucson Convention Center. Your choices are endless!

There is no lack of fun events for Sunday! What about some retail shopping experience? I suggest the Lost Barrio on Park, off Broadway, filled with stores. My favorites are Rustica and Gather A Vintage Market (check their website for which weekends they are open). The latter has moved from an old set of buildings on St. Mary’s into the Lost Barrio. Here, you will find many antique/vintage vendors all in one place. There is a delicious restaurant there called Tooleys, where you can eat in or out on a patio. Another option for lunch is Tumerico, just rated as the number one upcoming restaurant in the whole United States! Their menu (entirely vegetarian) changes daily. Upon entering, join the line to order and then wait at a table for food delivery. Or go over to Mercado Agustin, on the tram stop, where you will find several different restaurants, plus shops in the main building and a whole new complex of “container” stores across the way.

No matter what you decide to include, I guarantee you will have a fun get-away, filled with delightful new adventures. Linda Stack owns Travelinda LLC, and can be reached via email at

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