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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. See out link for information on Parking Downtown and getting around on the Sun Link Streetcars.

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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.

Book Early for our First Santa Cruz River Valley Tour

Mission Tumacacori

Southern Arizona Guide Presents The Santa Cruz River Valley Tour Join us Wednesday, November 12, 2014 for a pleasant day trip through the Santa Cruz River Valley and discover its rich history, cultural heritage, unique landscape, and distinctive foods. Your guide for the day will be Jim Gressinger, travel writer, photographer, … Continue reading

Historic Downtown Tucson: A Collection of Picture Postcards

Tucson, Arizona: 2013.

As a “city”, Tucson really came into its own in the first decade of the 20th century, even though the city was legally incorporated in 1877. It never amounted to anything of importance until the Southern Pacific Railroad arrived in 1880. The railroad connected Tucson to the outside world. It brought hardware, lumber, and fresh produce at affordable prices. Even today, you can see how the architecture of the city changed after the arrival of the railroad. 

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Tucson Attractions: The Ones Few People Know About!

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Locals are generally familiar with our major Tucson and Southern Arizona attractions, such as our fantastic Desert Museum & the beautiful gardens of Tohono Chul Park. You can find the ones we recommend under “Attractions” in the Main Menu. However, very few locals know about or have been to the … Continue reading

The New Desert Museum Aquarium

Boy Watching Seahorses

On a clear Sunday morning in early February, Neighbor Roy, Ms. Karen, & I arrived at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for our 2nd Behind The Scenes tour, this time of the new Warden Aquarium. Lacey was our guide for our group of 8, including two little boys who looked to be about 4 and 6 […]

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Carnival of Illusion – Amazing!

Carnival of Illusion Roland Sarlot & Susan Eyed

For some time, Ms. Karen and I had been wanting to see Roland Sarlot’s and Susan Eyed’s Carnival of Illusion. I had read so many rave reviews about their performance that, if the show lived up to the hype, I wanted to add it to our Things To Do In Tucson Section of our website

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Tohono Chul Map

Tohono Chul Park: Spring Wildflowers.

Tohono Chul is a peaceful garden oasis in the midst of city and suburb. You can stroll along winding paths through several different types of gardens with hundreds of native plant species, as well as many birds, including hummers.

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Pima Air and Space Museum Map

Pima Air and Space Museum

Here is the history of manned flight. Pima Air and Space Museum has over 300 historic aircraft on exhibit, including the Blackbird, a 1950’s design that still holds the speed record for coast to coast flight: imagine going from New York to Los Angeles in one hour.

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Mt. Lemmon Map

mt lemmon snow

Mt. Lemmon is a recreational paradise in the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Coronado National Forest. It is 9,157 feet (2,791 m) above sea-level, and receives approximately 180 inches of snow annually. A perfect place for skiing in the winter or camping in the summer, it also has observatories that you can view through a telescope, winter or summer. Other activities are hiking, biking and hanging out to cool off in the summer.

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San Xavier del Bac Map

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Mission San Xavier del Bac is about 15 minutes south of downtown Tucson. It is the finest example of Spanish mission architecture anywhere. It was built in the late 18th century and is today both an important piece of Baja Arizona history and an active Roman Catholic church serving the Tohono O’odham people.

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Hiking Arizona: Boots & Burgers; A Review

bootsandburgers

For all you carnivorous hikers out there in Arizona, this book is for you. Roger Naylor, an avid hiker and unrepentant lover of all things Arizona, has written a light, witty book about some of the best, most prominent and popular hikes in Arizona. And none of them is out … Continue reading

Hiking On A Cool June Day On Mt. Lemmon

Repelling of Windy Point

June 2015. Ms. Karen, Ms. Rosemary, and I decided to get out of the dry heat of Tucson for a while and do a little cool summer hiking near the summit of Mt. Lemmon.The summit is over 9,000′ elevation, so while Tucsonans suffer in 107 degree heat in the valley, … Continue reading

Is Daisy Mae’s Steakhouse The Best In Tucson?

Daisy Mae Steak Plate

Continuing our ranking of the 10 Best Steakhouses in Tucson, Ms. Karen, Neighbor Roy, & I moseyed off to Daisy Mae’s Steakhouse near the West Campus of Pima Community College for an early Sunday dinner. I had dined at Daisy Mae’s with my mother-in-law some years ago and we had … Continue reading

Hiking Aspen #93 and Marshall Gulch on Mt. Lemmon

Mt. Lemmon Trails

One of the more popular summer hikes on Mt. Lemmon is the loop beginning and ending at the Marshall Gulch Picnic Area at the end of Sabino Canyon Park Road, the narrow paved road that runs through the village of Summerhaven. This loop sports great views of the Wilderness of … Continue reading

Check Out The Mini Museum’s Summer Classes for Children

Mini Time Machine Summer Camp

Are you looking for things to do in Tucson with children this summer? Good news! The Mini-Time Machine Museum of Miniatures has summer programs for kids ages 5 through 12 that keep them engaged and stimulated. The Mini offers both morning and afternoon programs that involve the kids in arts … Continue reading

How Tucson Got Its Name

Birds-Eye view of Tucson from One South Church looking NW over 3rd Pima County Courthouse.

People often want to know how Tucson got its name. The Tohono O’odham (Desert People) had a village and irrigated fields at Bac, about 7 miles upstream from their village of Stjucson (or Schook-shon), meaning “At The Foot of Black Hill or Mountain. Some claim that the “Black Mountain” was … Continue reading