Friday, November 03, 2006

Things To See And Do Around Tucson

Tucson is surrounded by four mountain ranges, some of the southern Arizona Sky Islands. The Rincon Mountains are to the east, the Tucson Mountains to the West, the Santa Catalinas to the north and the Santa Ritas to the south. Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita mountains is considered one of the premier bird watching areas of the United States. Mt. Lemmon, in the Catalinas north of Tucson, rises to over 9,000 feet. The drive takes you through 4 different climate zones, starting in the saguaro cactus "forest" outside Tucson and ending in the pine and aspen forest at the top.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau will help you get started on your visit to Tucson.

If you will be visiting a lot of attractions, you can purchase this Tucson Attractions Passport, which gives you 2 for 1 admission to a lot of things.

Here are some of my suggested day trips from Tucson.
Kartchner Caverns  is one of the must-see attractions of southern Arizona. You can order tickets on line, and advance reservations are strongly recommended.  I have done both of the tours more than once - the Rotunda/Throne Room tour and the Big Room tour - and I prefer the Rotunda / Throne Room tour.

If you get an early enough tour time, take in Tombstone and Bisbee . Browse the art galleries, maybe have lunch or tea at the Copper Queen Hotel or take the Copper Queen Mine tour or a jeep ride. Or just visit Bisbee's mining museum . Or, after Kartchner, go right to Bisbee and do Tombstone on the way back.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum , Old Tucson , Saguaro National Park West and the
International Wildlife Museum are all in the same vicinity.

Sabino Canyon including a hike up to 7 falls and Saguaro National Park East . There is a 9-mile loop road that you can drive, bike or hike. The loop road was completely redone during 2006 and now has many more pullouts and scenic overlooks.

Chiricahua National Monument. But that is a little further from Tucson so would be a full day all by itself. While there, Visit Fort Bowie, for 30 years right in the middle of the war with the Chiricahua Apaches.

Nogales, Sonora, Mexico for some shopping. Maybe lunch at La Roca restaurant. On the way back to Tucson, stop in at Tubac and browse some of the many fine art galleries. While there, visit nearby Tumacacori National Historical Park . Very close by is the Santa Cruz Chile & Spice Factory and retail store.

A trip to Texas Canyon, with its unusual rock formations, about 40 miles east of Tucson. Include a visit to the Triangle-T Guest Ranch , maybe stay overnight in one of the cabins, and the nearby Amerind Foundation . Also close by is Cochise Stronghold, once home to the legendary Apache Chief.

On or near the University of Arizona campus you will find the Flandrau Planetarium/Science Center, the Arizona State Museum, the Arizona Historical Society museum and the Center for Creative Photography

Although much maligned, Biosphere 2 is very worthy of a visit.

For astronomy buffs, a visit to Kitt Peak National Observatory would be interesting. The University of Arizona also has a "Sky Nights" viewing program on Mt. Lemmon.  Advance reservations required.

Tucson also has what I believe is the largest privately-run air and space museum, the Pima Air and Space Museum.

Of course, a visit to Tucson would not be complete without a visit to our "White Dove of the Desert", San Xavier del Bac mission .

See the downtown area for arts at the Tucson Museum of Art and shopping for local crafts at Old Town Artisans , right next door.

We like to drive down through Sonoita and Patagonia and down to Nogales. You would take I-10 east from Tucson and get on route 83. It is about 25 miles to Sonoita, a very scenic drive. Then at Sonoita you would take a right to go through Patagonia and on to Nogales.  It is also very worthwhile spending a day visiting the wineries around Sonoita/Elgin.  Take your own Southern ArizonaWine Tour -- with a designated driver, of course.

Close to the University of Arizona campus is North 4th Avenue, several blocks of shops, night clubs and restaurants. Tucson also is a wonderful place for hiking .

Tucson, being a winter destination for "snowbirds" has a wide selection of fine restaurants. Tucson Restaurant Guide. For Mexican, I would suggest El Charro, Mi Nidito and Cafe Poca Cosa. Karichimaka, close to San Xavier del Bac, also has excellent Mexican food. A very good Italian restaurant is Piazza Gavi.  For fine Italian food and great pizza, try  Vero Amore or BZ's Pizza.  Old West steak houses include Pinnacle Peak  and El Corral.    For just pizza, my favorites are NoAnchovies, near the university, and New York Pizza.

For night life and other things to do, check out Do Tucson

Enjoy your stay.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Summer Monsoons -- The Desert Reborn

This monsoon season, which officially began on June 28, 2006, has been very good, despite some damage from the winds. Tucson and the entire southwest has been in a prolonged drought. It has been so dry that even some cacti on my property died before the monsoon season. How dry? Well, between October 1, 2005 and the beginning of the monsoon season, Tucson had received less than one inch of rain. That is almost 9 months with virtually no rain (our normal annual rainfall is over 12 inches).

But, this has been a bountiful monsoon season. Since June 28, I have recorded over 9.50 inches of rain. The rains have brought the desert to life. The mesquite, acacia, and palo verde trees and the prickly pear and cholla cacti have all added significant growth, the desert is lush and green, and desert wildflowers are blooming everywhere.

The cacti are blooming.

The sweet acacias are blooming (my granddaughter, Bella, insisted on getting in the picture).

The creosote bushes, the source of the wonderful desert aroma after rains, are blooming.

And all sorts of flowers, whose names I don't know, are blooming.

Yes, without a doubt, our precious Sonoran Desert has truly been reborn.

Friday, August 18, 2006

This Weekend in Tucson August 19 & 20

Friday has come around and figuring what the weekend will bring. Our monsoon season has been great. The desert has bloomed with the rains, cacti that had been near death from the drought have put on new growth, and wildflowers, nonexistent in the Spring, have bloomed.

So, what's in store this weekend? Well, on Saturday, we go to my granddaughter's best friend's birthday party, then to a Mexican barbecue at the parents' house. Great taquitos, rice, beans, and beer. What more could I ask for?

For Sunday, I think my own barbecue is in order. I have become pretty good at my ribs, but need more practice before getting in another contest. I slow smoke them in one of my three smokers -- two offset smokers and one vertical water smoker.
The water smoker is what the AZ BBQ Association guys call an "ECB" (el cheapo brinkman). It may be cheap, but it does a pretty good job if it isn't cold, rainy, or windy. But I will use my trusty New Braunfels smoker and do 3 slabs of baby back ribs.