If you want to understand Tucson's history & rich cultural heritage, you will find these downtown museums both educational & fascinating.
The Jewish History Museum
The Jewish History Museum is housed in an old synagogue built in 1910. It is not spacious, yet it offers serious exhibits related to the contributions of many Jews, such as the Drachman brothers, and the vitality of early Tucson. Did you know, for example, counting the current mayor, Tucson has had 5 Jewish mayors?
Adjacent to the Jewish History Museum is the Holocaust History Center. Over two hundred and thirty Holocaust survivors from eighteen nations made Southern Arizona their home during the post-WWII era. The Holocaust History Center exhibits illuminate the history of Nazi persecution and its aftermath through the lives of those who were there.
Your understanding of Tucson history will be seriously incomplete if you are not aware of the Jewish community’s contribution to the development of our city.
Whenever the JHM is open, a docent is there to enlighten. The exhibits only tell a part of the story. The docents bring the exhibits to life.
Open to the public Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 1 to 5 PM.
Friday from Noon to 3 PM.
Admission: $7. Free to students and young children.
564 South Stone
Tucson Museum Of Art & Historic Block
If you enjoy Southern Arizona and love art and history, you will surely appreciate our Tucson Museum of Art. The permanent exhibits in the main gallery are small, but worthwhile. However, on permanent display in the adjacent historic buildings are several treasures, including the Pavilion of Western Art in the Edward Nye Fish House, and Latin American, pre-Columbian, and Spanish Colonial era art in the Stevens/Duffield House.
The historic Romero House is where you will find students of all ages busy in the Museum's ceramics programs working their potter's wheels and firing their clay creations in the kilns. La Casa Cordova, one of the oldest buildings in Tucson, houses displays showing life in the Old Pueblo when it was still a small Mexican village.The J. Knox Corbett House, once home to a wealthy Tucson merchant, was built at the turn of the previous century and is filled with furnishing from that era. We have a video tour the Corbett House. To watch, click HERE.
Every few months, the Museum offers new shows from major traveling exhibits. These temporary exhibits are always visually stunning and are usually accompanied by compelling narratives, such as the recent Frida Kahlo exhibit and Scott Baxter's amazing portraits: 100 Years - 100 Ranchers.
Dining At The Museum of Art
Another delight at Tucson Museum of Art is Cafe' A La C'art, where you can get a fine breakfast; a fresh salad or generous sandwich for lunch (excellent burgers) or enjoy duck, scallops, lamb, or fish for dinner. They also have the best desserts.
The Museum is located on a full city block bounded by West Alameda, North Main Ave, West Washington, and North Meyer in the historic El Presidio Neighborhood located in the heart of downtown Tucson. The official street address is 140 North Main Avenue.
El Presidio San Agustin del Tucson
The Spanish built a fort, or presidio, in this remote northern region of New Spain at the same time a few British colonists on the Atlantic coast of America declared their independence from the English Crown, 1776.
Originally, "El Presidio San Agustin del Tucson" was only a few scattered buildings, some behind wooden palisades. It wasn't until 1783 that the thick adobe walls were completed, following a near-disastrous Apache attack. At it zenith, the presidio encompassed about 11 acres of what became Downtown Tucson.
This walled compound was constructed only a few city-blocks east of the Santa Cruz River on a Ho-ho-kam' village site that had been abandoned around 900 C.E. Their descendants, the Pima and Papago (now Tohono O'odham) Indians had lived here for hundreds of years before the Spanish arrived. When the presidio was completed, the natives lived outside the walls.The presidio was still intact when the United States bought what is now the southern half of New Mexico and Arizona from Mexico in 1854. However, soon thereafter, the Americans began dismantling the massive walls to make way for their town. The last standing section of the presidio walls was destroyed in 1918.
Reconstruction of a portion of the old presidio began in 2006. Today, you can visit the presidio and its permanent exhibits & gift store, and occasional festivals, re-enactments, and official ceremonies.
To watch our interview with a 1776 Spanish soldier stationed at El Presidio San Agustin de Tucson, click HERE. To watch our video interview with a Spanish soldier's wife as she tells us about the terrifying Apache attack of 1782 and the one thing that saved them from annihilation, click HERE.
133 W. Washington Street
Arizona Historical Society Downtown Tucson
Here you will find the story of Tucson from the late 19th to the early 20th century. It is a most interesting story, particularly when you consider what locals had to endure without air conditioning.
Excellent exhibits depict early Tucson businesses, such as drug stores, barbershops, hotels & saloons, and introduce us to many of the growing community's prominent individuals.
Here too is the Dillinger exhibit about how, in 1934, Tucson police captured one of America's Most Wanted.
To see our brief video, click HERE.
The museum is located in the Wells Fargo Building at 150 N. Stone Ave. Be sure to call for hours. (520) 770-1473
Southern Arizona Transportation Museum
First stop: Callaghan Vineyards. Lisa Callaghan (right) poured the wine and described the characteristics of each. Here the group received their wine glasses that they would take with them to the other wineries. On a pleasant Sunday in July, our group of 5 intrepid adventurers set out from Tucson about … Continue reading
Hummingbird Lovers: Book Lovers: A brand new book by Marcy Scott is out. It is an exhaustive compilation of hummingbird plants in the Southwest. Everyone loves hummingbirds. Their beauty, size, energy and performance antics inspire us. Marcy Scott has written a book about these endearing critters; their description, environment, migratory … Continue reading
Mike Foster shows us another culture and talks about Mercedes, a traditional healer from a small town not far from the Sea of Cortez. There is no modern medical doctor or clinic here. Mike Foster, San Pedro River Videos, is an ardent supporter of the Friends of the San Pedro … Continue reading
This is the first of a six part series about the longest war in American History. The saga of the Apache Wars is both complex and compelling. For over a quarter century, roughly 1861-1886, hundreds of ambushes, raids, massacres, and full-fledged military battles occurred over a huge, rugged, and diverse … Continue reading
Did you ever wonder how Mr. Lemmon got its name? No, Mt. Lemmon is not named after a tree. It is spelled with two “M”s , not one. Mt. Lemmon is named after botanist Sara Plummer Lemmon, wife of another botanist, John Lemmon. In the 1880’s, few white people had … Continue reading
(July 2015) As we often do in the heat of summer, last Sunday we headed for higher elevation. Carr Canyon is just south of Ramsey Canyon and a lot less crowded than Mt. Lemmon. For a second year in a row, we picnicked at Reef Townsite Campground near the top … Continue reading
As many of you already know, we are on a mission to discover the Top 10 Steakhouses in Tucson. The first year of the Guide, we published the Top 3 Mexican Restaurants. The following year it was the Top 10 Burgers in Tucson. Last year we ranked the Top 10 … Continue reading
“No white man who ever in the service, or employment, of the United States … can keep pace with an Apache on foot when he is in a hurry …” Lt. Charles Gatewood from His Apache Wars Memoir. **************** I have often thought that if Tucsonans knew the actual history … Continue reading
With the resurgence in interest in native Arizona foods, we are rediscovering what foods are readily available in our desert environment. From mesquite flour, to prickly pear, palo verde beans and here, Cholla buds, which are actually a delicacy in some circles. Watch this video produced by Mike Foster, from … Continue reading
Southern Arizona is an interesting mix of modern life and ancient tradition. Here is one of those stories in the Mule Mountains close to Bisbee. Enjoy. Mike Foster, San Pedro River Videos, is an ardent supporter of the Friends of the San Pedro River which serves to educate people about … Continue reading
To learn about more worthwhile museums in Tucson, whether art or other, see our list of the Best Museums here.