Trade Boredom for Board Games

Your one-stop guide to the Tucson, AZ gaming community

|By Nina Kolodij

Nestled among the diverse outdoors and celebrated dining scenes of Tucson, AZ, is another kind of adventure—the quieter but equally robust world of gaming. The Southern Arizona city is home to an abundance of gaming stores, making it the perfect place to get into board games or try out trading cards. Whether you’d prefer to flip through a comic, sample the digital fare, or peruse hundreds of hand-painted miniatures, you’ll always win when you roll the dice on these go-to gaming shops.

Top-notch trading cards

Amazing Discoveries has four locations, including the original branch here in Tucson. Affectionately known as “AD,” this game shop covers just about everything in the realm of non-electronic gaming. Although AD is truly a jack-of-all-trades, its collection of trading cards is, well, amazing. A towering wall of cardboard boxes stuffed full of Magic the Gathering, Pokémon, and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards is just the beginning. If there’s a card you’re looking for, there’s a good chance it can be found somewhere in those boxes, or in the binders and glass cases behind the counter.

If you’re near the northwest part of town, head over to Polyhedron Game Store for a well-rounded shop with a thriving trading-card scene, especially Magic the Gathering. If you’re just starting out or are an old pro testing a new deck, Polyhedron has an event for you every day of the week. Casual and competitive players alike are welcome to join the “Learn to Play” event series—you don’t even need your own deck to participate in the fun. Starting to get more serious? Join one of many tournaments in an assortment of formats.

Sports lovers can find their home at Showtime Cards and Comics, the local expert on sports trading cards. Since its grand opening more than 20 years ago, Showtime has broadened its offerings to include the latest and greatest of trading card games. It’s become a place where two worlds collide, and fans of all flavors—be it sports fanatics or gaming gurus—can explore similar passions. For those interested in competitive gaming, Showtime’s weekly event schedule can be found on the store’s gaming Facebook page, ST Games and Comics.

Board games, miniatures & RPGs, oh my!

To prove that gaming really is for everyone, Tucson Games and Gadgets has two locations, and both are on a mission to cultivate beginning gamers and experienced veterans with a welcoming community and, of course, a bounty of games. TGG hosts a healthy assortment of demos and play-through sessions, so if you’re really stuck, there’s always someone—be it an employee or another customer—willing to show you the ropes for your chosen game. Have a thirst for gaming but no counter space to spare? TGG also offers private gaming rooms at no extra cost, so there’s always a place to have a blast.

Isle of Games will blow your mind with its knowledgeable staff and sheer diversity of products. Visitors can spend hours browsing shelves, before sitting down for a tabletop test-run. This inclusive store won’t hesitate to special order items that might be missing from its vast display, but it also throws in a twist of its own. Occasionally, the store will back a promising game in the Kickstarter phase, sharing exciting new projects with its customer base. For those interested in artistic ventures, the store hosts painting contests every two months—except instead of canvas, you’ll be working with miniatures.

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Video games & online virtuosos

Cast aside those overpriced video-game chain stores in favor of a local treasure: Game Trader. Immerse yourself in the world of retro gaming, or find joy in modern technology—this store has bought, sold, and traded its way to the title of biggest independent video-game store in town. On top if its gleaming collection of retro games and consoles, Game Trader offers comprehensive diagnostics and first-rate repairs on devices that have seen better days. Or, if you’re looking for a refresher on old gear, you can upgrade your game with rapid-fire controller mods or jazz up your aesthetic with a custom controller.

Be the talk of the town when the AZ Game Truck rolls up to your party. This mobile gaming trailer, featuring a classy limousine-style interior, can park in any 50-foot space and simultaneously provides entertainment for up to 24 kids (or adults!). Six televisions, eight consoles, state-of-the-art sound systems, and full climate control provide the ultimate gaming experience on any platform. The best part is that each experience is customizable and includes the help of an expert gaming coach, so there’s no need to stress over any complicated planning.

Comic-book connoisseurs

Never miss a new release when you sign up for a comic book and magazine subscription at R-Galaxy. That’s right—this novelty toy and collectible store will set aside your favorite comics as they arrive hot off the press, and then let you know when they’re available for pickup. In store, you can sift through boxes of CDs, movies, posters, and games to find great deals on rare items. If you’d rather sample in bunches, R-Galaxy also maintains an impressive collection of more than 13,000 DVDs and Blu-ray disks available for rent.

Talk about award-winning style when you step into Heroes and Villains. The store has been awarded the title of Arizona Daily Star Readers’ Choice “Best Comic Book Store” for the past three years as well as The Tucson Weekly’s “Best Comic Book/Game Store” consecutively between 2009 and 2017. Heroes and Villains has made it a goal to share comics and gaming with the world while maintaining the highest standards in the trade. They take pride in offering an almost overwhelming selection of comic books as well as the usual game nights and tournaments.

Discover more of Tucson’s hidden gems in gorgeous murals and artwork.

The Surprising Sports Town of Tucson, AZ

Discover Tucson athletics beyond the UA Wildcats

|By Mish DeCarlo

Tucson is the proud home of the University of Arizona—a PAC-12 university known for consistently securing national sporting titles and for feeding athletes into professional leagues. However, sports don’t stop at the edge of campus, because Tucson is also headquarters to both minor-league and professional teams as well as tournaments. Sports are the pride and joy of the Tucson community, and teams like the Wildcats, Roadrunners, Sugar Skulls, and more make for excellent year-round sporting entertainment on both collegiate and professional levels.

Tucson Roadrunners

The Tucson Roadrunners are a professional ice-hockey team in the American Hockey League, affiliated with the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes. The Roadrunners play home games at the Tucson Convention Center, often drawing impressive crowds of more than 4,000 people.

Roadrunners home games are electric, as fans light up the TCC with exuberant yet competitively compelling chants. The energy in the rink maintains a high level of intimidation for any opponent. On top of regular games, the Roadrunners also host themed promotional nights, such as Whiskey and Wings, where fans sample delicious whiskey from various vendors and mouthwatering Buffalo wings from local and national restaurants. Harry Potter Night features characters from the wizarding world who host meet-and-greets with photo opportunities. One of hockey’s best feel-good traditions is the Teddy Bear Toss, where fans are encouraged to bring a new or unused plush item to the game to throw onto the ice after the Roadrunners’ first goal. All of the teddies are then donated to children in need.

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The Roadrunners season runs from October until April, including about 25 home games every year. For ticket information, call 1-866-77-HOCKEY or visit the Roadrunners website.

Tucson Sugar Skulls

The Tucson Sugar Skulls, a professional indoor-football team, had its inaugural year in 2018. Before the franchise was started, the Tucson community was given the opportunity to choose a name for their new team. After months of collecting suggestions, “Sugar Skulls” came out on top as an ode to the local tradition of creating decorative skulls made from sugar for the holiday Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), sometimes known as All Souls’ Day.

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The Sugar Skulls compete against 11 teams, spread throughout the country, in the Indoor Football League. Their season runs from March to June, and home games are held in the Tucson Convention Center Arena in downtown. For ticket and game information, visit the Sugar Skulls website.

FC Tucson

Every March, FC Tucson kicks off its season and plays until the end of October. FC Tucson is a soccer club, part of the USL League One, that made its way here in 2010 and has been scoring goals under the lights of the Kino Sports Complex ever since. FC Tucson is a larger group that includes professional teams for both men and women, as well as a youth soccer club that caters to more than 2,000 players. Regardless of experience level, FC Tucson encourages players to reach for the highest level of athleticism and foster a passion for the game. Fans can see the season schedule and purchase game tickets by visiting the FC Tucson website.

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University of Arizona Athletics

Wildcat fans are always eager to get back in Arizona Stadium to cheer on the University of Arizona Football team. The excitement of a PAC-12 match is hard to beat, but the women’s soccer and volleyball games early in the academic year come pretty close. Not too far behind, Wildcat Hockey players start their season in the late fall at the Tucson Convention Center.

During winter, Arizona Basketball returns to McKale Memorial Center—one of college basketball’s most iconic stadiums. A ticket to an Arizona basketball game is the hottest ticket in Tucson (get them fast, before they completely sell out!) and for good reason. The UA Basketball program ranks in the top 20 nationally and leads the PAC-12 Conference in attendance every year since the 1984–85 season. The ZonaZoo, UA’s student section, is recognized as one of the country’s most spirited crowds. The “sea of red,” where fans dress in school colors in reserved seating, sticks out immediately at any Arizona football or basketball game. The ZonaZoo has become monstrous force; it’s the largest student section in the PAC-12.

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There’s no better way to enjoy a spring day than at a Wildcat Baseball game at Hi Corbett Field. The Arizona Baseball program is one of the PAC-12’s premier programs, boasting 17 appearances in the College World Series. The program has sent many players toward the Major Leagues and beyond.

Cologuard Classic

The Cologuard Classic, a PGA TOUR Champions event, has been hosted by the Tucson Conquistadores, a local fundraising organization, for more than five years. The Conquistadores has contributed millions of dollars to local charities, through organizing a variety of golf tournaments, during its 50-plus years serving Tucson. The Cologuard Classic supports colon cancer awareness by promoting regular testing and early detection.

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Every spring at Omni Tucson National Resort, a 78-player field competes for a $1.7 million purse and 255 Charles Schwab Cup points. The tournament consists of three days of competition, but golf-enthusiasts—with or without experience—are encouraged to join Hall of Famers, major champions, and Tour favorites on the green for a special two-day Pro-Am. To participate in all the action, visit the Cologuard classic website.

Whether it’s football, hockey, golf, volleyball, baseball, basketball—or really anything sports-related—the Wildcats and the city of Tucson are always game.

Zip over to Arizona Zipline Adventures for more active fun.

Pumpkin Picking: Tucson-Area Patches

| By Amanda Oien

Halloween is creeping up and whether you need a pumpkin for carving or want a plump one for your porch, you better get one now before you find yourself gourd-less on October 31st.

With Nick and Laurie Buckelew permanently hanging up the hat on their pumpkin patch, there’s two local spots to get your pumpkins this year and channel your inner Sanderson Sister: Apple Annie’s Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard in Willcox and Marana Pumpkin Patch and Fall Festival in, you guessed it, Marana.

If you’re having trouble deciding on where you want to pick your perfect pumpkin, we’re here to help.

What You Need to Know: Apple Annie’s Pumpkin Patch

Apple Annie’s is located in Willcox, Arizona, which is about an hour from Tucson. But don’t let the drive deter you— it’s a pretty one. Plus, it’s a bit cooler too!

Two scarecrows dressed in overalls sit atop an Apple Annies wagon, surrounded by hay bales and pumpkins.

There’s no charge for admission or parking at the patch or orchard. If you plan on hitchin’ a hayride around the patch or orchard, it’s $4. 

You can pick pumpkins, veggies, and apples at the Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard, either yourself or at the barn stand. If you want to know what fruit and veggies you might find at the farm, check out their Harvest Calendar.

Apple Annie’s is home to Arizona’s largest corn maze, spanning 20 acres. Those 12 years and older, the cost is $8. If you’re bringing little ones, between 3-11 years old, the cost is $6.

Here comes the sun(flower!) Arguably one of Apple Annie’s best photo ops is their sunflower patch.

A straight walking path lined with towering sunflowers as the sun illuminates their bright green leaves.

Each weekend in October, Apple Annie’s hosts their Fall Pumpkin Celebration. The festivities kick off with an all-you-can-eat pumpkin and buttermilk pancake breakfast 8:30-10:30 a.m at the Orchard Grill. Or stop by for an applewood smoked burger for lunch. There’s truly something magical about eating at a picnic table in an orchard. If you still can’t get enough, feast on pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread, and homemade cider donuts.

Bonus Tip: If you love candy corn, try Apple Annie’s candy corn fudge. You won’t be disappointed.

What You Need to Know: Marana Pumpkin Patch and Fall Festival

Post Farms, where the Marana Pumpkin Patch and Fall Festival is located, is around 30 minutes from Tucson. Once you’re headed down Kirby Hughes Road, you’ll start seeing pops of orange in their 50 acres of homegrown pumpkin patch. 

The Marana Pumpkin Patch and Fall Festival offers free parking, but does charge for admission. Depending on which day of the week you visit, admission ranges from $11 to $15 per person. Kids 34'' and under get in free.

People pick pumpkins in the distance at the Marana Pumpkin Patch in Marana, Arizona. The sky is a twilight blue with the moon visible.

Before you head to the patch via wagon, get your money’s worth with everything included in your admission: entrance to the corn maze, petting zoo, pig races, jumping pillow, slide and swings—just to name a few. Because the patch and festival are open until 7 p.m, take advantage of the golden hues beaming over the pumpkin patch just before sunset. It’s not only cooler, but you’ll get beautiful photos too.

While a lot of activities are included in admission, some are not. The zipline will cost you an extra $7 and the pony ride is $5.

Bonus Tip: While an added cost, definitely get out those singles for the pumpkin cannon. For $1 a shot, you’ll have a smashing time.

If you’ve worked up an appetite, the festival has everything from pizza and corn dogs to apple cobbler and soft ice cream.

The Bottom Line:

If you’re a bit older, Apple Annie’s is for you. Whether you’re on a date, with friends, family, or out-of-towners, the farm and orchard are the perfect place to wander, take photos, and pick produce. Apple Annie’s has been around since the 1980’s, making it an Arizona staple.

If you’ve got kids, or if you’re a kid at heart, and are looking for more than a farm experience, Marana Pumpkin Patch is your perfect pick. It truly is a festival, with lots of kid-friendly activities.

Be sure to check each location's COVID-19 policies and as always, if you're feeling unwell, stay home.

Ghost Guide: La Llorona and Tucson's Haunts

La Llorona and the Ghosts Who Haunt Hotel Congress and Fox Theatre

| By Amanda Oien
| Photography by Kristen Brockel

A chill running down your spine, goosebumps dancing on your skin, a tight gasp for air. Is it a chilly October night, or is that an eerie haunt floating in the dark?

Don't Look Back

“Wrinkled skin dripping with fetid water, twisting fingernails covered with black muck, wailing and gnashing of teeth— and unspeakable sin. These images haunt the imaginations of millions of people…” Christopher Rodarte, La Llorona: Ghost Stories of the Southwest.

The cover of Rodarte's book, "La Llorona: Ghost Stories of the Southwest," is surrounded by black darkness, a pale woman's face is shown with dark eyes, dripping with black and plump, black lips.

Christopher Rodarte, born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and currently a teacher at Sam Hughes Elementary, said growing up, he heard a lot of stories about La Llorona. “It was really entrenched in my childhood, especially in the northwest region of Albuquerque,” Rodarte recalled. “There’s a lot of very dark sections of town without lights and it was definitely something we were well aware of as children growing up.”

La Llorona is one of the most famous ghosts in Latino folklore. According to Rodarte, the legend of the Wailing Woman may be the oldest ghost story in southwestern United States, South America, and Mexico.

Spanish for the weeping woman, La Llorona, sometimes referred to as “the ditch witch,” is a tale of a woman who, filled with anger, drowns her two children in a river. When she realizes what she’s done, she searches after them and drowns herself.

The ghost of La Llorona roams riverbanks, lakes, and abandoned wells searching for children to drown, just like her own.                           

Rodarte’s aunts and uncles claimed to have encountered La Llorona and told him about her story as he grew up. “It was really part of the lore, sort of the DNA, growing up, that she was definitely out there in those ditches and los arroyos—and there were plenty of them out there in Albuquerque just like there are in Tucson.”

When Rodarte drives through the Albuquerque pecan orchards at night, he still twists the rearview mirror so he can’t look back. “When I’m out there past dark, oh you can forget it.”

While working on a screenplay, Rodarte encountered so many La Llorona stories that he felt compelled to put them into a book. The more he talked about it, the more people contributed and told him about their first-hand experiences with the ditch witch. And thus, La Llorona: Ghost Stories of the Southwest was created.

“It’s absolutely something that continues to exist throughout the culture and has really spread throughout the world,” Rodarte said.

Rest in Peace. Or, Not So Much.

From Prohibition to the 1934 fire, from the Dillinger Gang to thrilling nightlife, Hotel Congress has seen a lot in its 100 years. But the three ghosts that tend to wander the halls during Congress’ summer lull are one constant visitors can rely on.

David Slutes, the entertainment director at Hotel Congress, said their most common ghost, who predates the current ownership, is the Little Old Man.  He is often seen in the window of room 214 or walking the halls in the seersucker suit.

Another ghost,Vince, a resident who came off the train, started living and working in the Hotel in 1966 and never moved out. David laughed and said, “He’s a real curmudgeon.”

Skeletons crawl along the side of Hotel Congress in Downtown Tucson.

In his pre-ghost days, Vince would often get into spats with housekeeping. He would visit the Cup Café and leave his bagel plate and butter knife in the desk in his room. David said housekeeping would scold Vince, telling him to bus his own plates: “You work and live here. You’re not a guest!” they’d say.

In 2001, Vince passed away. A year later, Vince began leaving his bagel plate and butter knives in his desk in room 220—a room that hadn’t been occupied. Oftentimes the room would be locked from the inside.

Before becoming entertainment director, Slutes ran the front desk for several years. One evening, a guest came downstairs and asked, “Did you have anyone that would have come in my room last night?” The guest recalled hearing someone in the room, but once they entered and turned on the lights, no one was there. The guest told David that all the towels had been stuffed into the toilet.

Two weeks later, another guest had the same occurrence. This playful ghost found their fun in room 216. 

Hotel Congress’ most well-known ghost haunts room 241. A woman came to an untimely end in that room, prompting housekeepers to actively avoid it. David said at one point, housekeeping even switched out the paintings in the room to religious iconography, trying to control the spirit.
For awhile, guests had a good time staying in that room. Visitors even requested the “ghost room.” But now, Hotel Congress rents room 241 last.

David recalled one experience with room 241 when he covered the overnight at the front desk:
“I see this guy running, he has his bags, saying ‘I gotta get out, I gotta get out right now,’” David said.

“If there is such a thing as paranormal activity, that’s the room that has it, for sure,” David said.

Happy Hauntings

Just down Congress Street is the crown jewel of Tucson: Fox Theatre. During its opening night in April 1930, Tucson partied like it’d never partied before—even Congress Street was waxed for dancing. After closing in the 1970s and sitting empty for 25 years, the Fox Theatre has been restored and is once again a go-to for movies and performances.

A vertical marquee sign reading "FOX" in Downtown Tucson at the Fox Theatre.

Tamara Mack, the house manager for the Fox, said the Theatre’s most famous ghost is a little girl. During the closure in the 1970's, the roof caved in and the theatre became a homeless camp. “We don’t know all that happened during those times,” Mack said. “There’s still some curiosities about that.”

The Tucson Ghost Society has captured an apparition on video and has recorded six different Electronic Voice Phenomenons, including footage from the lobby of an orb that drifts out of the wall, rises up into the middle of the room, and moves to the back as it becomes a figure.

“I love to try to dispel things, you know, it’s an old building, but that one we can’t figure it out,” Mack said. People have seen The Little Girl at the stairwell and have heard giggling and hiccuping.

Some visitors see The Panhandler, but when they go to help him, he vanishes, Mack said.

Reconstruction brought a new stage to the Fox, but if you look closely, you’ll notice an inverted block over the center of the stage. “The theory is that there was a workman who died while working on the stage, and that they did that to honor him,” Mack said.

The auditorium inside Fox Theatre is original with a painted ceiling, chandeliers and wall sconces.

Fox Theatre brings history to people by embracing happy ghosts, as Mack refers to them, and invites paranormal peepers to the Theatre for free ghost tours during their Halloween movie nights, and an annual lights-out ghost hunt.

“Nothing has ever scared me so that I wouldn’t want to be here,” Tamara said. “I don’t get those kind of vibes. It’s just things I can't quite explain.”

Encore

If you find your stomach aching for food after running from La Llorona along the banks of the Santa Cruz River, or your throat shriveled after wandering Downtown Tucson’s haunts, finish out the night with a slice of pizza and a brew at Reilly Craft Pizza and Drink. It’s to die for...No, really. Before its artisan pizza and beer garden days, it was Reilly's Funeral Home, built in 1906.

Developing Roots in Tucson

Doing our part to make our city the best place to work and live

| By The Chamber Edge

Phenomenal outdoor experiences, an impressive arts and cultural community, exceptional higher education programs, diversity in housing communities and growing industry sectors are common drivers for bringing people to Tucson. In fact, Tucson's been getting more national recognition for why it's a fantastic place to live, work and place, such as "hot spot for technology and innovation" (AZ Big Media), one of "The 12 Best Places to Live in 2019" (Outside Magazine) and "3rd Fastest Growing Technology Metropolises in US" by Oliver Wyman and in 2017 ranked "Hippest Cities in the US for Under 30" by Business insider. We have soaring growing entrepreneurship programs supported by Startup Tucson, Startup Unidos and the University of Arizona Center for Innovation.

I came here from Texas for my undergraduate and graduate degrees and our Board Chair, Barbi Reuter, moved here from the East Coast when she was a tween. We have both developed roots by raising our families here. But now that we're in our current roles at the Tucson Metro Chamber, we're motivated to do our part to get the word out that Tucson is an exceptional place to start your career, grow a business or relocate your company.

Nationally, reports show that employers universally have concerns related to attracting, retaining and growing talent. We have championed this issue in a variety of ways. You may have already heard about the impressive 66% hiring rate we had from the two hiring events we facilitated. We have partnered with veterans group, the University of Arizona and Pima Community College on ways to engage talent, develop curriculum to address industry needs, and retain talent in Tucson after they graduate. Our workforce innovation summit proved to be a powerful collaboration among many high-level representatives from companies that are all dedicated to developing our talent, starting as early as middle school, to ensure we have the talent to fill all of the emerging needs across many industry platforms. The overarching takeaway is that we have learned that once these connections are made magic happens, Therefore, the Chamber will continue to centralize people, industry and job trainers with the goal of growing the talent pipeline long into the future.

As talent attraction becomes even more competitive, the Chamber will introduce programs for employers and community members to utilize and solidify the necessary relationships between each other and the workforce. As an example, internship programs are proving the key to retaining graduating talent.

The Chamber will continue to grow strategic relationships between our higher education institutions, training partners and employers. We KNOW Tucson is a fantastic place to innovate, grow and evolve.

Tucson's Atomic Ranches

|By Louie Christensen

|Photography by Brielle Farmer

If you haven’t noticed, the Midcentury Modern look is back. Homes from this magical era are being splashed across architecture and lifestyle magazines, and home renovators and interior designers have caught on. Far from the glitz and glamor of the Hollywood hills (and it’s astronomical real estate prices) sits a true midcentury modern diamond in the rough…Tucson, Arizona.

It’s easy to view Tucson as a city that grew out of a Wild West town, filled to the brim with nothing but Spanish Mission architecture and Santa Fe styled homes. The reality is that Tucson is a midcentury boomtown. Tucson’s population exploded during the 1950’s and 60’s, filling the town with thousands of midcentury modern ranch homes now known by many as “Atomic Ranches”.

There are hundreds of stunning Atomic Ranches, like the recently purchased Camino Arco hilltop estate designed by Tom Gist, scattered throughout Tucson’s picturesque Catalina Foothills. But, many are financially out of reach for the average homebuyer. Fortunately, there are quite a few affordable midcentury modern neighborhoods across Tucson longing for buyers who will cherish the bold style and restore the timeless character these historic homes posses. 

Windsor Park

Windsor Park consists of over 120 midcentury modern homes featuring bold rooflines, double carports and most importantly…large windows. Originally advertised as “almost living outdoors” with more than 575 square feet of glass in a 3 bedroom home, the builders clearly knew how important the beauty of Tucson’s desert was (and continues to be) to Tucsonans.

The combination of modern design and quiet neighborhood, featuring almost a dozen cul-de-sacs to ensure quiet streets, landed Windsor Park the American Home Magazine’s “Best Home for the Money” in 1963.

Indian Ridge Terrace

Billed as being built “For gracious suburban living”, this midcentury modern suburbia was built by the then famous Lusk Corporation from 1955 to 1964. Using a network of cul-de-sacs and natural desert vegetation, the neighborhood was designed to feel extremely private; and through careful planning the builders promised that “individuality is preserved by insuring that no identical homes in design and lot arrangement appear on the same street”.

The homes were originally built with carports instead of garage doors not only to save on home costs for the buyer, but also to retain a sense of “neighborly openness” among residents. Thanks to the feeling of privacy, many original residents felt comfortable enough having the front of their homes built with massive front windows, adding a sense of pizzazz and modernity to the Atomic Ranches found throughout. It cannot be over emphasized how important individuality was for Indian Ridge Terrace, so you’ll be able to find your perfect home no matter what your unique midcentury modern tastes call for.

San Rafeal Estates

You know your neighborhood is onto something as a developer when it sells out of new homes within two years, and that’s exactly what happened to the award winning San Rafael Estate neighborhood in the mid 50’s.

This is a rather small neighborhood, consisting of three small streets branching off of the two main drags. Many of the homes carry the same clean roofline, and flat burnt adobe brick facade, but some have upkicked A-line gables and large windowed walls. These understated homes may not tickle the fancy of hardcore Midcentury Modernists, but would be perfect for someone looking for something more approachable.

A ranch house in Tucson, Az's San Rafael neighborhood
A brick ranch-style house in San Rafael

Harold Bell Wright Estates

Harold Bell Wright was among the most popular American authors in the 1920’s, so popular that 15 of his 19 novels were turned into motion pictures. Much of his work was written from his beautiful desert home hiding in little Tucson, Arizona. In 1936, Harold felt that Tucson was becoming overdeveloped and moved to a ranch just outside of San Diego, California—a move that sounds a bit ironic today.

The area around his Tucson property was later subdivided and developed, but the roads that crisscross the area were named after some of his famous character like Barbara Worth Drive and Marta Hillgrove. 

These properties sit on larger acreages than most homes in the midtown Tucson area. This inspired many of the architects to incorporate more Spanish Mission and California chic features into their designs. What we are left with is a smorgasbord of styles, lot sizes and inspirations that come together to form a unique neighborhood with a character all its own.

Wilshire Heights

Originally advertised in 1954 as “your calling card to a lifetime of happiness–Beautiful Wilshire Heights…Building restrictions that reflect your good taste.”

A little slice of 1950s paradise in Wilshire Heights

Unlike many building developments of this size, Wilshire Heights did not have a solo homebuilder, rather several architects designed homes of all midcentury shapes and styles that fell within the neighborhood’s aforementioned tasteful building restrictions. They range from rather simple, to those that are unapologetically midcentury modern; you can even find homes from the nationally renowned architects Tom Gist, William Wilde and Arthur Brown.

Glenn Heights

Name a commercial midcentury building in Tucson and there’s a really good chance it was designed by William and Sylvia Wilde. The couple designed homes and buildings together until Sylvia passed away in 1954. William’s designs became noticeably more masculine and structural, almost as if Sylvia held all of his grace and delicacy.

While William is better known for the beautiful commissioned homes and commercial buildings he designed across Tucson, he also built the four model homes for the Glenn Heights Neighborhood. His four designs were then duplicated throughout the small neighborhood, and slightly customized to the buyer’s liking. This allowed the average Joe to move into a well thought out and trendy home. Today you are offered the same option.

Winterhaven

Now, If you are a Tucsonan, you are probably thinking about Christmas. Winterhaven may be famous for the annual Festival of Lights they put on through the Christmas season, where the majority of the neighborhood decorate their homes for the holidays. But, underneath all of those twinkling lights and Christmas themed cutouts hide some drop dead gorgeous homes.

Towering Aleppo pines are a fixture in Winterhaven

Walking along Winterhaven’s wide (really wide), meandering streets lined with Aleppo pine trees, hedges and front lawns, you almost feel like you’re in a quiet Midwest town. That was no accident. The builder, C.B. Richards, drew his inspiration from the community of Shaker Heights located just outside of Cleveland, Ohio…which was originally based on a British neighborhood built in 1912. Like Shaker Heights, the residents of Winterhaven had to meet minimum construction cost and to match the neighborhood’s aesthetic. The first homes were completed in 1949 and by 1961 all but seven were built. Because of it’s based on X which came from Y heritage, the homes in Winterhaven have a very quaint—how should I put it—Midwestern midcentury atomic ranch styled English country home feel to them, with each pulling slightly heavier from one style than the next. That sounds like quite the mixture, but it makes for a neighborhood that feels like home even when it isn’t dressed in its Christmas best.

Villa Catalina Townhomes

There are plenty of condos in Tucson that were inspired by midcentury modern styles. If you squint, or catch it at the right angle you can really see it…and then there are the Villa Catalina Townhomes. If Midcentury Modern was an aura, you could see the glow coming from this corner of town from miles away.

Seriously, the only thing missing from this scene is Wendy Peppercorn sitting in the lifeguard tower, Natalie Wood smoking on her patio while Carry Grant mixes a few Gibsons at the wet bar. (How much would round the clock period actors cost?)

Classic midcentury design abides at this 55+ community

This complex is begging for residents who understand what a true treasure this place is, people who can fully embrace the Midcentury Modern lifestyle, and make it something special.

Broadmoor-Broadway

This beautiful neighborhood is tucked behind the Sunshine Mile, a storefront lined strip of Broadway Boulevard originally built during the midcentury that is set for a beautiful renovation in the coming months. What could be better than driving by a mile and a half of stunning commercial midcentury modern architecture before pulling into your equally historic home?

The majority of the neighborhood was built between 1945 and 1955, which predates many of the more “out there” designs that came to represent midcentury modern architecture. While that may disappoint some, these homes carry an extra “classic Tucson” feel that will send nostalgic vibes through any Tucsonan that grew up in midtown. 

Decidedly Tucson details compliment this classic ranch house in Broadmoor-Broadway

Like Wilshire Heights, you can find homes designed by Tucson’s top midcentury architects, and also some more affordable copycats. There are some true gems hiding in this nationally recognized Historic District if you’re lucky enough to find one.

Special Acknowledgement:

There may not be a more iconic midcentury modern designer across Arizona than Ralph Haver. He designed homes that were perfectly styled for the Arizona climate and lifestyle, calling them Perfect Arizona Type Home (PAT Home). Featuring a 1:12 low pitched gable roof, wide floor plans, clerestory and Lucky 7 shaped windows, his homes have become synonymous with midcentury modern homes in Arizona.

Ralph Haver lived in the Phoenix Valley, so that is where the majority of his work resides. But, you can find some of his PAT Homes and other designs across Tucson’s midtown and eastside. Consider yourself extremely fortunate if you can find one in your target neighborhood.