I grew up in Arizona, but only made it to Tucson a handful of times. I decided it was high time to explore my home state, so we ventured down south for a weekend getaway in Tucson.
When to go
Growing up in Arizona, we say things like, “It’s a dry heat,” and “Six months out of the year the weather is perfect while the rest of the country is under six feet of snow!” Summers are scorching (May – September), so I would stick to activities that involve air conditioning or water, at least during the heat of the day. The rest of the year you’ll mostly find mild to warm weather with lots of sunshine, perfect for enjoying the unique beauty of the desert.
Where to stay
Usually, I’m all about location in booking a spot and probably a bit skimpy on the amenities, so it was such a treat to have The Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Resort host us on our weekend getaway in Tucson. Our travel days are so crammed with walking miles and miles in the middle of a forest, desert or city, we hardly spend any time at our hotel or vacation rental. But this resort is practically a destination unto itself; beautiful pools, 45 holes of golf, a horse stable for desert rides, 31 tennis courts, and free bicycles. Plus, there are tons of family-friendly activities, like dive-in movies in the summer. We had to take some time between exploring the desert and downtown Tucson to relax and enjoy this amazing resort. And we couldn’t ask for a better location in the Catalina foothills. With the mountains as a backdrop, it’s only a few minutes away from one of the most beautiful hiking spots in the area.
Where to eat
Taqueria Aqui Con El Nene
When in Tucson, eat tacos! For the full taco truck experience, we went to the original location of Aqui Con El Nene. Their tacos are legendary, and so is their Sonoran Dog. Ever heard of the Stand-out Sixty Four Food Bracket? A few years ago the goal was to find the best hot dog in the U.S. and Aqui Con El Nene’s bacon-wrapped Sonoran Dog swept the West.
Café Poca Cosa
Chef and owner Susana Davila gives her unique spin on Mexican cuisine with a daily changing menu. Visit the restaurant’s little (but older) sister, called The Little One, just a few blocks away for breakfast or lunch in downtown Tucson.
It may not be Mexican food, but this sandwich and pastry shop is a local Tucson spot that’s absolutely delicious. Stop in for their famous Raisin Challah French Toast, or pick up a tasty sandwich for your hike.
What to do
Seven Falls Trail
Arizona has a lot of awesome hiking (Grand Canyon rim to rim, Havasupai, Flat Iron in the Superstitions), and this hike deserves to be ranked with the best of them. The Seven Falls Trail is the number one hike in the Tucson area on AllTrails.com, and we have to agree. On our weekend getaway in February, the falls and river were running full with snow melt. Each time we crossed the river (7 times each way), the water went from our ankles all the way up to our knees (glad I wore shorts!). This was half of the fun, but the huge waterfalls and pools at the end were a pretty sweet reward!
The hike is 8.2 miles round trip leaving from the Sabino Canyon parking lot. It’s $5 for a one day parking pass. We spent five-and-a-half hours on this out-and-back trail, but we let our one-and-a-half year old walk the first and last mile as this portion of the path is wide and flat. He’s pretty fast but often likes to run in the opposite direction. We probably ended up walking this part of the trail a few times over. At a steady pace, I’d plan about 4 hours for the hike. For more information and pictures, see our post on the Seven Falls Trail here.
Saguaro National Park
We initially planned to take the scenic drive on the Bajada Loop Drive and hike part of the Hugh Norris Trail to watch the sunset but didn’t have enough time to fit it in. This drive and hike are in the west portion of the park, called the Tucson Mountain District. The east portion, or Rincon Mountain District, is on the other side of Tucson about 45 minutes away. See here for more information about the two areas of the park. A day pass is $15.
We walked the Turquoise Trail to get better acquainted with downtown Tucson. We planned on seeing some of the city’s history but ended up finding things both old and new. There is literally a turquoise strip of paint running down the sidewalk for the trail, so it’s easy to follow. We passed by historic buildings like the Fox Theatre, Hotel Congress, and Armory Park. To our surprise, we also ran into a few bold and colorful murals, all of which were part of a 2016 mural project created by the Tucson Arts Brigade.
We took advantage of the fact that it was 70°F degrees outside and the pools are heated to a comfortable 80°F at The Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Resort. I’m sure these pools are busier during summer, so we loved the fact we had them almost all to ourselves. Since Hudson doesn’t meet the 42″ requirement for big kid slides, Aaron let out his inner child and went on the water slide over and over (and over) again.
Mission San Xavier del Bac
The Mission San Xavier del Bac is a Catholic Mission founded in the late 1600s, still actively serving the Native community. Completed in 1797, the mission is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona and known as the White Dove of the Desert. After viewing the spectacular architecture and beautiful paintings in the interior, we stopped by one of the ten stalls serving delicious fry bread.