2014 US Southwest — Tucson, AZ


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Into the desert…

WHEN:  February 7 to February 12, 2014

After our visit to Phoenix, we drove to Tucson, AZ for no other reason than “why not Tucson?”   My DH had been to Tucson a number of years ago and was impressed by a fabulous garden he saw there.   For me, this would be my first visit and I was curious about this garden he kept yapping about.

Tucson is the second-largest populated city in Arizona behind Phoenix.   Just so you know…

So far on our trip, the weather had been cooperating nicely!    Our timing was perfect — just as it was getting hot in Phoenix, we were on our way to a cooler Tucson (due to its higher elevation).  Niiiiice!

Travel time from Phoenix, AZ to Tucson, AZ:    116 miles via I-10E  (approximately 1 hour and 47 minutes).  It was an easy drive.   So easy, I vaguely remember it.

Hotel:   We checked into the  Quality Inn & Suites ( 7411 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ) around 3pm.    Once we got on Oracle Rd. (a massive main road lined with tons of shopping and restaurants in the shadow of the Santa Catalina Mountains), it was easy to find.   The hotel was nice and comfortable.  Our room had a view over the Tohono Chul Park.   We watched the sun set behind the peaks of the Saguaro National Park from our hotel window.   Sweeeeet!

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Sunset in Tucson, AZ.

Activities:  Mostly, we just hung out in Tucson like we did in Phoenix and Scottsdale.  We enjoyed the weather, the malls, and the restaurants.

We started our exploration of Tucson at the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures — a 15,560 square foot, state-of-the-art museum displaying an entertaining and interactive array of antique and contemporary miniatures as well as enchanting artifacts.  There are over 275 miniature houses here.   It took us a couple of hours to see them all!    Most of the pictures did not turn out since the rooms were dark and the glare of the glass protecting the miniatures kept ruining the image.

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The miniature houses were indeed wonderful!

But let me tell you about that garden….

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Our morning drive to the Saguaro National Park was breathtaking!

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Wow-wee!

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Entry to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum located in the Saguaro National Park.

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The giant saguaro is the universal symbol of the American West. These majestic plants, found only in a small portion of the United States, are protected by Saguaro National Park, to the east and west by the modern city of Tucson.

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Cacti go as far as the eye can see!

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Lots of types of cacti are everywhere!

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We also found Joshua Trees here…

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…and Long Horn Sheep…

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…and birds of prey…

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…here comes a hawk now!

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Sunset in the desert is just as amazing as sunrise!

It is a given that if there is any attraction of a Hollywood nature nearby, I gotta go there!  The day after our visit to the  Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, we went to Tucson’s Hollywood offering — Old Tucson Studios.  Of course, this meant another drive through the Saguaro National Park — hate us if you must!

Old Tucson Studios is a movie studio and theme park.  It was built in 1939 for the movie Arizona, it has been used for the filming of several movies and television westerns since then, such as Gunfight at the O.K. Corral Little House on the Prairie, and my personal favorite — Young Guns 2. It was opened to the public in 1960, and historical tours are offered about the movies filmed there, along with live cast entertainment featuring stunt shows and shootouts.  It was a good time!  Interesting fact — we met quite a few snowbirds from Wisconsin during our visit here. 

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The Train Depot. Look familiar?

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The Saloon. Look familiar?

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Your basic desert backdrop. That is Monument Mountain on the right — a famous Arizona landmark that was used in numerous openings and closings of classic Western movies.

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The view of the famous desert backdrop. Admit it, if you are a fan of movie Westerns you have seen this thousands of times!

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At Old Tucson, there were lots of little skits and other entertainment to be seen.  We noticed that they recycle the same actors from one show to another.   These guys were pretty funny.

One last sight of interest was the San Xavier Mission del Bac.  We went on a lovely day that required yet another lovely drive through the Saguaro National Park — yeah, really!

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This mission is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona.

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The entry to Mission San Xavier del Bac.

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The church’s interior is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings.

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The dome of Mission San Xavier del Bac.

 

On our last morning in Tucson, we took a walk through the  Tohono Chul Park next to our hotel.

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It was our last look at the Arizona desert in the Tohono Chul Park .

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But we got to see an native hawk up close and personal.   What a magnificent animal!

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My DH says that this animal is pretty magnificent too!

Food Memories:    There was no lack of places to eat while in the Tucson area.   Here is a list of the places we enjoyed the most:

 Vero Amorie (Plaza Palomino, 2990 N Swan Rd, Tucson, AZ ) — Italian, Pizza.   This was our first stop when we reached Tucson because (1) we were hungry, and (2) it was close to the  Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures.   This was a nice lunch place with dark tables and white animal skulls on the walls.   Our waiter talked us into trying the Pizza with Salami, the Potato Mushroom Soup, and the Cherry Truffle Gelato!   All were excellent and he got a big fat tip for that!

 Saint House Rum Bar (256 E Congress St. Tucson, AZ 85701) — Caribbean.   There is not a lot to see in downtown Tucson.   The University of Arizona is located here and the downtown area is all about bars.   It had the worn look of a college town — lots of dark coffee shops, odd stores, and a few dance clubs with young students lined up outside.   However, this restaurant was modern and upscale — we figured this was where the parents ate when visiting their kid in school.   The place was packed and we decided to sit at the bar.   The bartender suggested a few appetizers so we agreed to try the Ceviche, the Jerk Chicken Wings, and the Cheese Roasted Ear of Corn.  The Ceviche was fresh and spicy and served with crisp tortilla chips.  The jerk chicken curled my toes — just as it should!  The Roasted Ear of Corn was fattening, messy, and soooo good!   Yeah, yeah, yeah — I had a Mojito too, it was fiiiiiine!

Wildflower (7037 N. Oracle Rd.  Casas Adobes Plaza, Tucson, AZ) — American.   Another upscale restaurant on a strip of road that turned out to be our “go-to place” for just about everything while in Tucson.   This place was noisy due to all the shiny surfaces but I really liked the chairs covered in a leopard-like print.   We shared the Scallops, Steak, and Sangria (actually I was the only one to drink the Sangria).   Overall, an excellent meal in a place just down the road from our hotel.

Giuseppe’s (6060 No. Oracle Rd, Casas Adobes, AZ) — Italian.   This place was right out of  “The Godfather” movie — except with cacti.    We were out all day and starving!  We stopped here for a late lunch and we were glad we did.   I ordered the Pork in a Cheese Sauce, my DH ordered the Meatballs and Pasta.   Both were yummy and huge!   Still, I saved room for the Vanilla Cake with Italian Cream and Chocolate — it was amazingly light and refreshing.    Actually, we liked this place so much that we came here again on our way out of Tucson. This time we tried the Stuffed Mushrooms and the Chicken Salad.    Another fine meal and we had enough leftovers for days!

Departing Thoughts:    I was expecting to find Tucson to be a smaller version of Phoenix.  But unlike Phoenix, I immediately liked the small town feel of the place!   During our stay, I found Tucson to be the old West I was searching for!  If you want to see the southwestern desert, Tucson is the place to go!    The Saguaro National Park is a “must see” attraction — even the drive in and out of the park was wonderful!

 

 

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