Historic Downtown Tucson

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Here are our recommendations for Historic Downtown Tucson: Things To See & Do, Dining, Lodging, and History. Here too is information about Downtown Guided Tours, including our popular Southern Arizona Guide Tucson History & Libation Tour.

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Presidio District

Historic downtown Tucson has much to offer, including two areas of major historical interest. One is called the Presidio District (blue on the above map) which includes El Presidio San Agustin del Tucson, the partially restored Spanish fort that was established in 1775. Also within the Presidio District is the Historic Block which includes the Tucson Museum of Art and several original 18th, 19th, and early 20th century homes. The Sentinel Carriage Company offers tours of the historic districts, moderately priced and a great way to see downtown. See a review of the Sentinel Carriage Tours here. For more information about the downtown museums, please click HERE.

Cannon Fire At El Presidio de Tucson

Cannon Fire at El Presidio de Tucson. Note the orange sparks blazing out of the barrel.

See our video of the Presidio here. For a slideshow of the downtown area visit this page.

In the courtyard of the Art Museum is a really good restaurant, Cafe' A La C'art, family-owned and operated for the past 14 years. It's a country-style cafe' where you order at the counter, then select a table. They will bring your meal to you. Excellent bakery goods. Open daily.

A block north of the Art Museum you will also find the Old Town Artisans, located in a 150-year-old building, and featuring the arts and crafts of hundreds of local and Southwestern artists. In the Spanish-style courtyard is La Cocina Restaurant which includes a Mexican cantina and the newer, european-style Dusty Munk Pub. Good food. Eclectic wine list. Local beer, such as my favorite, Old MonkeyShine. Music & dancing! Great fun!

Old Pima County Courthouse: Tucson, Arizona

Old Pima County Courthouse: Tucson, Arizona

Congress Street District

Several blocks to the east is the Congress Street District, which features our restored Train Depot and historic Hotel Congress, built in 1919. In between the Presidio & Congress Districts are the historic Fox Theater, the Old Pima County Courthouse and Arizona Historical Society's Tucson History Museum on Stone Avenue in the Wells Fargo Bank building (see our video). All within easy walking distance of each other.

Statues of Wyatt Earp & Doc Holliday at the Tucson Train Depot near where Wyatt killed Frank Stilwell.

Statues of Wyatt Earp & Doc Holliday at the Tucson Train Depot near where Wyatt killed Frank Stilwell.

At the west end of the depot, you will find the statues of two armed men near the train tracks: Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Following the Gunfight At OK Corral, this is where the Earp Vendetta Ride began. We have that story and many others about local history on this website.

Steam Locomotive At Tucson Train Depot

Your humble guide on Ol' Number 1673 at the Tucson Train Depot

Southern Arizona Transportation Museum

If you find Wyatt and Doc, you can’t miss Ol’ Number 1673. If a docent isn’t available, just go to the adjacent Transportation Museum and ask for a tour of this lovingly restored old steam engine. And yes, you can even get up into the cab, pull a few levers, and clang the bell.

Our Transportation Museum is small and a bit of a misnomer. It really tells the story of the huge impact that the coming of the railroad had on the little, dusty, Mexican village called Tuk'-sahn in 1880. Highly recommended.

There is a map of a self-guided walking tour which you can download here. In addition to the major historical sites I have mentioned, there are many other downtown points of historical interest. Caution: the map says there is a turquoise line painted on the sidewalk. In theory, if you follow the turquoise line, it will lead you to all the points of interest. However, when Neighbor Roy and I tried to follow it in April (2011), the paint had worn off in many places. The concept is good, but the execution sometimes suffers from neglect.

Update: when I was Downtown October 2012, someone had re-painted the Turquoise Line (and had done a really bad job.) March 2015: Turquoise Line re-painted recently. Better job this time.

Downtown Tucson Dining

Downtown Tucson has many very good restaurants. Check out our Dining Reviews.

Downtown Tucson Lodging

There are two places we recommend for those who want to stay downtown. The two are  historic B&Bs.

The Royal Elizabeth a 19th century Victorian home restored to perfection. A great Breakfast.

El Presidio Inn B&B. Pure southwestern history. Click HERE to read our review.

Hiking Tumamoc Hill in West Tucson; a Review

Tumamoc Hill

Hiking Tumamoc Hill, located on the far west side of Tucson, is extremely popular. Reasons for this are proximity to Tucson neighborhoods and a short but promised workout. We had heard about this for years and finally decided to see what all the fuss was all about. Don’t let the … Continue reading

Dia de Los Muertos in Sonora Mexico

12_Paradise-Grave-Shrine

This weekend in Tucson, we will celebrate Dia de los Muertos with the increasingly popular All Souls Procession. This is a festive event, Tucson style honoring those that have gone before us. Please watch this video, demonstrating how the Dia de los Muertos event is celebrated in the rural areas … Continue reading

Is The Royal Elizabeth The Best Bed and Breakfast In Tucson?

Main Room Royal Elizabeth

As I stood on the front porch of the Royal Elizabeth Bed and Breakfast, I looked around at the surrounding Downtown Tucson community. I tried to image what it was like when this magnificent Victorian home was built in 1878. In my imagination, the modern skyline disappeared immediately. Back then, … Continue reading

A Carriage Ride Into The Past

Sentinel Carriage Company Tour of Downtown Tucson

We know more about Tucson history than most. Why? It’s our job. We are, after all, Southern Arizona Guide. We particularly enjoy Downtown Tucson because it is so rich in local history and cultural heritage.  We never tire of discovering historical gems hidden among the modern high-rises and older Downtown … Continue reading