The Best-Kept Hidden Gems in Tucson According to Locals
As Arizona’s second-largest city, Tucson has something to offer everyone who calls this vibrant city home. If you’re wondering what it’s like living in Tucson, the sun shines over 350 days a year, perfect for those who love summer weather and outdoor activities. You can walk along the lively streets of downtown and enjoy the popular eats, or wander outside the city and be surrounded by the beautiful desert scenery and the gobs of cacti.
While there are many famous attractions to check out like Saguaro National Park, The University of Arizona, and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, there are also many lesser-known hidden gems that only a local would know about. So whether renting an apartment in Rincon Heights or buying a house in Armory Park, grab your sunscreen, and let’s check out the hidden gems in Tucson.
Hidden Gems in Tucson for the art lovers
If you’re an art lover, Tucson is the place for you. Home to the Tucson Historic Warehouse Arts District in downtown Tucson, you’ll find art walks and galleries galore. Not only does this city have a great arts scene, but it also showcases local crafts at the Old Town Artisans. Many neighborhoods close to downtown hold the same love for art, including the West University neighborhood and Iron Horse.
Tucson Poetry Community
The Tucson poetry community is as rich and varied as the plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert. Check out the POG’s reading series, which has been presenting innovative poetry to this desert community for 26 years. Past readers have included Anne Waldman, Rae Armantrout, Ofelia Zepeda, and Orlando White.
Tucson Gem Show
Susan, a mixed media mosaic artist of Mosaic of Susan, spends a month every year in Tucson visiting the World Famous Gem Show. The Gem Show takes place every fall and winter, where you can browse and purchase gemstones and one-of-a-kind jewelry. “After a busy day of shopping, my favorite place to eat and relax is the charming Flora’s market.”
Arizona Friends of Chamber Music
For classical music enthusiasts in Tucson, Arizona, Friends of Chamber Music is a local non-profit organization that presents world-class chamber musicians live in concert. Surround yourself with chamber music in an intimate setting that will keep you engaged. You can find these performances in the heart of downtown at the Leo Rich Theatre.
Arizona Poppy Shop
“The Arizona Poppy Shop is the grooviest boutique in all of Tucson”, says Lex Gjurasic, a local artist. This unique store is owned by Sonoran Rosie, a beloved local herbalist passionate about handcrafting sustainably foraged beauty products. When Arizona Poppy Shop opened, Rosie was intent on not just featuring her products but also the colorful art, jewelry, clothing, and vintage goods of other regional makers, including my original paintings.
Tucson’s hidden gems for those who want to learn something
If you relocate to Tucson to learn something new, you’re in the right place. There is plenty of programs available to residents of all ages. From north of downtown stretching to Tucson’s southeast side, you’ll be able to find something new to learn.
Coy’s Chess Camps And Classes
Molly Coy, the owner of A Tale of Two Kings, a local chess academy offering classes and private lessons shares, “A great hidden gem in Tucson is Coy’s Camps And Classes in the Tucson Mall. You’ll find chess lessons, tournaments for all ages, and camps for kids. They also offer occasional other activities like Robotics.” Step into a welcoming atmosphere for those who wish to join and play a game.
UA Tech Park
The UA Tech Park is a technology playground, a type of green oasis tucked in the middle of the desert, where startups and tech giants work alongside one another in a fast-paced environment. The friendly and diverse community of the UA Tech Park consists of over 100 companies and nearly 6,000 employees.
Hidden gems in Tucson for the outdoor enthusiast
Tucson is surrounded by adventure opportunities. From hiking through Saguaro National Park to rock climbing or biking on Mount Lemmon, there’s truly something for everyone to do outside in Tucson
Heidi Nielson, who creates fine art in Tucson, recommends checking out the hidden hiking trail at Sentinel Peak. “I rarely run into anyone else on it, so it’s my favorite for a quick solo hike with art supplies. Even though it’s near the middle of the city, you feel surrounded by nature, and I can always find a quiet place to paint.”
Photo courtesy of Audria Abney Photography
Built in the 1930s, the Bowen Homestead is at the center of many trails and an excellent spot to propose to your partner or take photos with your family. Audria, a Tucsonan photographer of Audria Abney Photography, recommends Bowen Homestead: “The stone house and unbeatable views are accessible from several routes, but my favorite is a 3-mile round-trip hike starting from the Bowen Trailhead. Fuel up before or after your hike at Mercado San Agustin. You’ll find several local favorites such as Seis for regional Mexican cuisine or Presta Coffee for your coffee-fix.”
“My favorite part of Catalina Foothills is hiking in the less trafficked Esperero Canyon.” Says Hannah, a Tucson artist of The HB Collection. “After seeing the beautiful sights, stop at Three Canyons, just five minutes away. They have a massive outdoor seating space to feel like you are in the comfort of your backyard with twenty-plus brews on tap and live music.”
Tucson Balloon Rides
The early morning alarm will be worth the experience as you sail over the Tucson Mountains and Saguaro National Park West at sunrise. Juli shares travel insights on her blog, Celebrate and Explore, and recommends Tucson Balloon Rides. “Kevin and his team will provide exceptional service and treat you to a surprise once you land. The quiet and calm balloon ride will truly be the most memorable way to experience Tucson’s landscape.”
Located just west of downtown Tucson, Tumamoc Hill offers visitors a strenuous workout with a magnificent view of the Tucson valley. Why I Love Where I Live, a movement committed to cultivating a love for Tucson shares that Tumamoc Hill is “the ultimate reward. Hike the hill at either sunrise or sunset, and you might even run into some local wildlife, including deer, javelinas, coyotes, and more. After the climb, head to St. Mary’s Mexican Food to recharge on one of their famous burritos. We recommend trying either the red or green chile.”
Hidden gems in Tucson for the neighborhood explorer
Throughout this city, you’ll find lovely neighborhoods full of culture. From Menlo Park to the Sam Hughes neighborhood, there is plenty to explore. Who knows, you may even find a new neighborhood you’d like to move to.
Photo courtesy of La Suprema Works & Events
Tucson’s second oldest neighborhood, Barrio Viejo, is full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. It’s home to numerous local restaurants, historic architecture, and more. Jacinta, a Community Builder of La Suprema Works & Events, recommends a leisurely walk through the neighborhood to soak in the rich history. “While you explore, don’t miss the blue corn scone at Exo, Enchilada lunch special at El Minuto, Beet sandwich at Five Points, Alicha Doro at Cafe Desta, and a refreshing cocktail at Nightjar.”
Sentinel, Convention Center, Presidio, Fourth Avenue, Main Gate, and Congress Street are the six districts that make up downtown Tucson providing their own history and experiences. Packed with restaurants, art, entertainment, and hotels, there’s no shortage of possibilities of what to do here. Explore each district by the Sun Link Tucson Streetcar, and learn more about what this great city has to offer.
Other hidden gems to check out in Tucson
Tucson LGBT Chamber of Commerce & Foundation recommends breaking a sweat anywhere on the Arizona Trail and soaking in the incredible biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert. “Afterward, grab an afternoon beverage at Tucson’s Hop Shop. If their food trucks don’t hit the spot, head to La Cocina to experience one of the most intimate outdoor patios in town. If the downtown vibe isn’t for you, the rooftop bar of The Graduate has one of the best views. All of these businesses listed above are members of the Tucson LGBT Chamber of Commerce, so you know they’re a safe place to go no matter who you are.”
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