Things to do in Arizona
April 21, 2005 8:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be in Tucson from 24 Apr to 14 May. I'll be working during the week, won't have my own transport, and will be staying near the main interstate (just south of the centre). I'm thinking of getting on a Greyhound Fri 6 May and going to Phoenix for the weekend. Any other suggestions? I like wandering round cities, looking in shops (especially books + music, since these are not easy to find in Chile), and museums of art/design/craft. But I'll have my laptop, so if there's a cool place to just sit around in and program one weekend, that could be good. Live music might be an attraction too. Oh, and during the weekdays I'll be up in the university campus. Thanks!
posted by andrew cooke to Travel & Transportation around Arizona (20 answers total)
Best answer: Being a Western city, much of Tucson does not lend itself to walking around. There are some areas that are walkable: The UofA campus, University Blvd., 4th Ave (north of downtown), the downtown area in general. These may or may not have the types of shops you are looking for.

Independent Bookstores:

Antigone Books (feminist bookstore, on 4th Ave.)
Biblio (small downtown bookstore)
Readers Oasis (on Speedway, a couple miles East of the U of A)
Bookmans (Campbell and Grant, North of the U of A a mile or two - large used bookstore)

Then, of course, there are the Boarders and Barnes and Noble stores near the malls.

There are a few coffee places that have free wi-fi, but the only one I can think of right now is Epic Cafe at the corner of 4th Ave. and University.

Most live music places I can think of are either on N. 4th Ave. or Congress St. (downtown). You might want to check out Club Congress, Che's Lounge, Plush, ....there are others, but I don't know what you are looking for....I think that the Monkey Box has Jazz...they are downtown as well.

If you go Reader's Oasis, there is also a Zia Records in the same complex. Hear's music on Campbell has more international stuff, and there is also a used music place at Dodge and Grant called PDQ records.

For the arts, you could do the Center for Creative Photography.

Bus service is ok during the day, but it tapers off a lot at night, especially on the non-main routes. You might want a Taxi late at night. Sun Tran is our bus system.

I am sure I am forgetting things, the people at the U of A might have better suggestions.
posted by eckeric at 9:16 AM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: Solar Culture is another music venue and sometimes exhibit space, right by the train tracks downtown. I find this a pretty thorough calendar of upcoming live music.
posted by Tufa at 9:50 AM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: The Boneyard, though maybe hard to get to, is pretty wild. There is a tour (we didn't take it). Link to Google Map image here
posted by stevil at 9:52 AM on April 21, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for all the info. What about Phoenix? Is going there a good idea? What to do there? Or somewhere else?
posted by andrew cooke at 10:03 AM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: Actually, Tucson is probably much more interesting to someone without a car. Unless you have a specific destination in mind in Phoenix, it doesn't lend itself to easy walking around.

You should find a way to get out to the Desert Museum. It is a must see to appreciate the landscape out there.
posted by dness2 at 10:11 AM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: Andrew, I'm assuming you're gonna be doing your work at NOAO on Cherry and Speedway. You will be obligated to have lunch at Eric's on Speedway at least once (crazy owner, crazy ice cream). Just east of Eric's on Speedway, there's an awesome little coffee shop I used to grab lunch at (free wireless!). The only place I can remember visiting in Tucson aside from that is the air history museum, which is pretty cool, and has like a million WWII-era planes.
posted by onalark at 10:30 AM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: The Sonora Desert, and the Desert Museum, for sure. If you like to hike, you can climb around a lot on Mt. Lemon
And Sabino Canyon is great, too - especially at the time you'll be there. Not too hot, but

Kitt's Peak Observatory is pretty neat.

The Gallery in the Sun is also interesting.

I haven't been to any of these places in years, though.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:43 AM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: Yes, the "awesome little coffeshop" with Wi-Fi: The Safehouse, Tucson's only dive bar coffeeshop. "How many coffeehouses do you know of that need a bouncer? Since we opened, we've had building fires, a car explode in the parking lot, three drive-by shootings, two undercover 'stings', countless arrests, and more public nudity than should be allowed," says their website.

If you can manage a car, you might consider heading towards the southeastern corner of the state. There, in the same travel time as Phoenix, you'll find Bisbee (a copper-mining town turned hillside artists' colony), sandhill cranes wintering on Willcox Playa, Tombstone of course, and the otherworldly Chiricahua Mountains.
posted by Tufa at 10:48 AM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: Tucson has a great public radio station, KXCI, they sponsor a lot of musical events. It also has a tradition of really excellent food. Eat out a lot.
posted by cali at 11:05 AM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: Andrew,

Rent a bike. Tucson is too spread out to be ped friendly, but it is fairly bike friendly. Many of the great places mentioned here are easily accessible by bike. And there are many bike rides nearby that are enjoyable in themselves.

For restaurants I'll add Cafe Poca Cosa, one of my all-time favorites. There's actually a tiny Cafe Poca Cosa for the lunch crowd, and a larger one in a hotel. They're owned by sisters, and they're both fabulous. And there's alot of traditional Sonoran-style Mexican just south of downtown on 4th and 6th Avenues.

The University area is very pleasant. There are a couple of good cheap eats and pubs on University Blvd just west of campus.

Tucsonans generally disdain Phoenix. It's hotter, and huge and sprawling, and regards Tucson as an uncultured communist backwater. If you're interested in history, there's plenty to be found in Tucson, or southeast in Bisbee or Tombstone, as others have mentioned.

Enjoy your visit!
posted by ldenneau at 12:04 PM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: i think the mission san javier del bac is beautiful and worth a visit, though it requires a short drive south of town. it's an authentic experience, no frills, middle of nowhere, dirt parking lot, etc. if you're particularly ambitious and into this kind of thing, but on a slightly more upscale level, another older kino-era jesuit mission, tumacacori, is located off the interstate about midway between tucson and nogales; it's now a national something-or-other, so expect the requisite pamphlets, visitors center etc. but, once you're there, it's just a short drive to the border... and nogales is a fun day trip, too.
posted by RockyChrysler at 12:04 PM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: You may want to check out Tucson's pretty-good independent paper, the Tucson Weekly.

Their annual Best of Tucson is a great resource for neat local things and great restaurants.

Also, the Tucson Jazz Society is in the middle of their outdoor concert series right now. I used to go to these a lot and always enjoyed them (any my former teacher, Homero Ceron, is playing the night you get in!).

With all this, the only reason I would go to Phoenix is to catch a baseball game.

I would also like to second Cafe Poca Cosa, the Desert Muesum, the Center for Creative Photography (UA has an unrivaled Ansel Adams collection) and just 4th Avenue in general. Have fun! Email's in the profile if you have any more questions.
posted by joshuaconner at 12:57 PM on April 21, 2005

Response by poster: wow. so we don't like phoenix. ok. but i would really like to get out of town somewhere that weekend. this may not be the easiest 3 weeks ever and just being in a different place would be a "symbolic" escape that might make me feel better.

where can i hire bikes? does that place near the bagel store and vietnamese (iirc) restaurant, on the corner of cambell + speedway rent? i have already suggested to my boss that they get a department bike, so cycling resources are a good idea.

and yes, that means i've been there before, but i stayed at the 4 points just by noao (same junction) and didn't go much place else. this time i'm there for longer, staying further away from noao, and really want to get out of my room (incidentally, eric made me write something on the wall, but i was embarassed and didn't know what, so it ended up being a bit pathetic, sigh.)

so, thanks again. keep it coming - suggestions for somewhere for that final (well, penultimate) weekend would be particulary appreciated (cheap as possible! i earn a chilean wage!)
posted by andrew cooke at 1:46 PM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: One thing about walking--especially since you are lodging just south of the convention center. I highly, highly recommend strolling your immediate neighborhood, the Barrio Viejo, and adjoining Armory Park some evening. There you'll find Tucson's oldest Sonoran rowhouses, and some of Tucson's oldest families living within them. Look for the El Tiradito shrine.

Tucson is very much a different city on foot or bicycle tire than when driving the main arteries. Ordinary Bike Shop rents bicycles, I know.
posted by Tufa at 1:46 PM on April 21, 2005

Response by poster: ps just for the record, in case anyone else uses this thread, i do rememer that there's a wonderful ethiopian restaurant somewhere in tucson. no idea where though! :o)
posted by andrew cooke at 1:57 PM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: The yummy Ethiopian restaurant is Zemam's on Broadway. Google map.
posted by ldenneau at 2:19 PM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: Across the street from Zemam's Eithopian restaurant is John Jacob's El Parador which has live Salsa music is on Friday and Saturday evenings in a really cool setting. Their food is weird, though. For Sonoran style Mexican you have to go to Cafe Poca Cosa. Dinners are $25 but if you go to the main restaurant for lunch, it's about half that price.

Third on the Desert Museum (west of town)! You will learn a lot about the region's plants, geology and wildlife. And there is great bike riding and camping right near there.

Yes, skip Phoenix. If you must leave town, go camping or to Bisbee.
posted by coolsara at 4:58 PM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: Andrew, you'll know which coffee shop I'm referring to then, it's less than 100 yards from Eric's, and its NOT the safehouse. Sorry I can't think of anything more exciting for you to do, my evenings in Tucson were spent playing Ultimate frisbee and going to parties...
posted by onalark at 6:45 PM on April 21, 2005

Onalark is thinking of Bentley's
posted by eckeric at 1:14 PM on April 22, 2005

eckeric got it!
posted by onalark at 9:22 PM on April 22, 2005

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