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, that 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.
564 South Stone, Tucson
Hours: Friday from Noon to 3 PM.
Saturday, and Sunday from 1 to 5 PM.
Admission: $7. Free to students and young children.
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
(Part I saw Takeo laid off from Phelps Dodge in Morenci during the Depression after he witnessed the Bisbee Deportation. He was Japanese in a White Man’s Mining Camp. By all accounts he was welcomed into White society. Then came the attack on Pearl Harbor and all Americans of Japanese … Continue reading
On occasion, we invite knowledgeable writers to contribute to our website. Today, we have Mike Anderson, a borderlands historian and researcher, former Arizona history teacher, author of “Warren Ballpark” and articles published in the Journal of Arizona History and the Cochise County Historical Journal. In this article, he writes about … Continue reading
Ms. Karen & I had visited Yuma right after Christmas 2016. We discovered so much to see and do that we looked forward to returning in late March 2017. Our first day found us an hour north of Yuma, off a dirt road near the Yuma Proving Grounds; at Castle … Continue reading
This week, a reader of our Southern Arizona Guide newsletter wrote about his experience at Mi Nidito Mexican Restaurant. His impression was decidedly different than my original 2011 review which you can read here. J.C., a local Tucsonan who wishes to remain anonymous, wrote in March 2020. “I just finished … Continue reading
In Tucson, you will find that many of our gardens and parks display art and exhibits in tune with the themes of their parks. Often this art is exhibited outdoors. Some of the exhibits offer art for sale. All of them rotate their exhibits throughout the year. Buy a membership … Continue reading
One Friday afternoon, Neighbor Roy and I dined at Guadalajara Original Grill on Prince Road. Parking was easy and we were seated right away. A server brought us a big basket of chips and two kinds of salsa, hot and mild. I ordered a house margarita with a salted rim … Continue reading
As the weather warms, it is time to start thinking about a camping trip or three. There are plenty of campgrounds in Southern Arizona, but very few of them are where we would like to spend a pleasant weekend. Most have been turned into barren wastelands, devoid of trees or … Continue reading
Neighbor Roy and I went to Proof for pizza one Friday afternoon. We entered St. Phillip’s Plaza from River Road on the north side of this shopping center and the place was right in front of us. As we entered the building, we could see that hardly anyone was there, … Continue reading
Art Museums Here is our list of Art Museums found around Tucson and Southern Arizona. The art on display in these museums are not for sale. The museums exist on donations, memberships and fees for admission. We will be publishing a list of some of the more prevalent Art Galleries, … Continue reading
To learn about more worthwhile museums in Tucson, whether art or other, see our list of the Best Museums here.