No Ordinary Pies: Five Tucson Pizzerias That Rise Above

By Elise McClain

The love of pizza is a universally spoken and understood language. And while most people enjoy a good pie, not everyone agrees on what makes it good. From deep dish to cracker crust, pineapple or no pineapple, marinara sauce or alfredo, anchovies or no anchovies — the list goes on. So what’s the secret to great pizza? It all depends on whom you ask.

For Alexis Favis, Tucsonan and co-creator behind the popular @Pizzagrateful Instagram account and 365 Pizza Grateful food blog, great pizza comes in many forms. Sample Favis’s favorite, unmissable pizza joints in Tucson, and discover a cheesier side of town.

Photo courtesy of Fiamme

Fiamme Pizza Napoletana

When you ask most local pizza lovers and aficionados who has the best pizza in town, Fiamme is a usual suspect. Born from a hand-built pizza caravan, Fiamme could once be found at any number of local breweries, farmers markets, and bars throughout town. However, after years of touring his hand-built brick oven around Tucson, chef-owner-pizzaiolo Scott Volpe finally established a brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2017.

“This is a great place to have a classic margherita pizza,” said Favis. “Fiamme is a smaller and more intimate restaurant — you’re pretty much right there in the kitchen as the pizza is being made. As soon as you walk in, you can see the oven and the food. It’s a cool experience in addition to great pizza.”

Volpe delivers quality pies using fresh ingredients and Old World techniques, in wood-fired ovens fueled by locally grown mesquite wood. And if you visit on the right night, you might get a chance to spot Volpe flexing his tossing muscles. As five-time world champion of the annual Pizza World Championship in Parma, Italy, Volpe puts on an acrobatic and freestyle pizza-tossing performance like none other.

Photo courtesy of Walter's Pizzeria

Walter’s Pizzeria

Located in Tucson’s south side, Walter’s Pizzeria is the new kid on the pizza-making block. This New York-style joint serves slices, specials, calzones, paninis, and whole pies at unbeatable prices. You’ll find Walter’s inside American Eat Co., Tucson’s first all-local food court featuring seven restaurants, a coffee shop, raspados, a full bar, and an arcade. Perfect for group outings and family gatherings, Walter’s uses fresh ingredients to make unbeatable ’za.

“They serve a great variety of things at Walter’s Pizzeria,” said Favis. “But for those hungry for a classic slice of pepperoni pizza, this would be a good place to start.”

Photography by Evan Zavitz

Pizza Luna

The pie at Pizza Luna can best be described as Neo Neapolitan — handcrafted pizza concepts that marry thin crust with cutting-edge baking science and years of carefully honed techniques. This is the ideal spot to sample nontraditional, gourmet, and curated ingredients like three-day fermented dough, Humboldt Fog goat cheese, housemade sausages, Crow’s Dairy goat cheese from Buckeye, AZ and more.

“I would recommend the sausage rossa or fig, pig and goat,” said Favis. “All of their toppings are a bit more elevated. This isn’t a spot you go for a slice of pepperoni.

Photography by Evan Zavitz

Los Olivos Pizzeria

Los Olivos is a hidden gem that serves simultaneously unexpected and scrumptious takes on classic Italian dishes. Located in west Tucson, Los Olivos opened its door to the public in 2013 and has delivered delicious daily specials and family favorites every day since.

“Los Olivos is the ultimate friendly neighborhood pizza joint,” said Favis. “This place is my favorite because I love green olives on pizza, and they do that really well. They also have a pizza called La Mexicana with chorizo, bacon, jalapeño, tomatoes, beans, and onions that I highly recommend.”

With training in classic French and Italian cooking, chef-owner Quetzakoatl Lora prides himself on his ability to fuse unique and delicious ingredients. Order by the slice, or sample from a large selection of both far-reaching and traditional pizzas, pastas, and salads.

Photography by Jackie Tran

Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria

Having served Tucson for more than two decades, Rocco’s is an undeniable mainstay. Get a taste of the Windy City in the Old Pueblo, with world-renowned, authentic Chicago-style deep dish and wings. With local favorites like the Big Bad Wolf, the Kitchen Sink, and Fungus Humongous, Rocco’s couples quality ingredients, enormous portions, and affordable prices to deliver crave-worthy ooey-gooey chewy pies.

“Rocco’s thing is deep dish, and they do it well,” said Favis. “But surprisingly, it’s their thin crust that I love more. And more than I love their deep dish and their thin crust, I love their hot sticks most, and I do think they have the best wings in town. If you’re looking for a place that would please everybody, then this is definitely the place to go.”

Honorable mentions:

When asked to name the best pizza joints in town, Favis was hesitant to say, for fear of missing one.

“It’s tough to choose the best, because there’s a lot of great pizza in Tucson,” said Favis. “Reilly Craft Pizza and Drink, Empire Pizza, Magpies, and Little Anthony’s are all great too. And looking to the future, a new Detroit-style pizzeria is supposed to open in the coming months, which I’m really excited to try.”

Alexis Favis

As a lifetime lover of pizza, Alexis founded @pizzagrateful in 2016 to document the exploration of the Tucson Pizza scene that she shares with her husband Adam. In the same year, Alexis launched 365 Pizza Grateful, an online food journal that chronicled 52 different pizzas over the course of 52 weeks. Keep up with Alexis and her pizza journey on Instagram @pizzagrateful.

Arizona Dude Ranch Roundup

Lasso a lifetime memory at 10 guest ranches around Tucson

By C. Jill Hofer

More than a century ago, the nation was captivated by iconic images of the great American West. Travelers were drawn westward by Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West world tour, Western silent movies, and dime novels like The Shootout at the OK Corral. The dude ranch was born. Today, the desire for an authentic reprieve from modern life has never been stronger.

According to Russell True, former president of the Arizona Dude Ranch Association, author of Dude Ranching in Arizona, and co-owner of several dude ranches, “It’s the unwavering core principles of dude ranching that provide the timeless appeal. The ‘Six Hs’ are at the core of any good dude ranch: horses, hats, hospitality, heritage, honesty, and heart.”

Take a gander at a few of Arizona’s dude ranches. Explore the many options and cut your favorite from the herd.

FUN FACT: Western cattle ranchers used the word “dude” to describe city slickers. Many consider Teddy Roosevelt to be the original dude.

Photo courtesy of Tanque Verde Ranch

Tanque Verde Ranch
14301 E. Speedway Blvd., Tucson

Tanque Verde Ranch is located in the Rincon Mountain foothills, bordering Saguaro National Park East and the Coronado National Forest. The first guests arrived in 1928, 60 years after the ranch was established in 1868. Tanque Verde Ranch recently celebrated 150 years in operation as the oldest non-city owned business in town.

FUN FACT: You could win a ranch vacation by signing up to receive exclusive offers and updates from Tanque Verde Ranch. Drawings are held April, August, and December.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding + Team Penning + Horsemanship Lessons + Guided Fishing + Hiking & Biking

Photography of White Stallion Ranch by Steven Meckler

White Stallion Ranch
9251 W. Twin Peaks Rd., Tucson

White Stallion Ranch has been in the True family for more than 50 years. The ranch is located on 3,000 acres of pristine Sonoran Desert and borders Saguaro National Park West for an even more expansive, wide-open landscape. A quick 35 minutes from the Tucson International Airport and 90 minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, this Spanish hacienda-style dude ranch carefully blends the frontier lifestyle with the amenities and services of a fine resort and includes an on-site bar.

FUN FACT: More than 200 productions and 31 feature films were shot at White Stallion Ranch, including the gunfight from the classic film Winchester ’73 starring Jimmy Stewart.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding + Team Cattle Sorting & Penning + Rock Climbing & Biking + Shooting Range & Archery + Weekly Ranch Rodeo

Photo courtesy of Elkhorn Ranch

Elkhorn Ranch
27000 W. Elk Horn Ranch Rd., Tucson

Elkhorn Ranch, owned and operated by the Miller family since 1945, is nestled into the Sonoran Desert grasslands in the foothills of the Baboquivari Mountains just an hour from the Tucson International Airport. “We ride into the rough and scenic mountains and explore the open desert grasslands of the Altar Valley. With about 10,000 acres of country for riding, guests experience true adventure in a wilderness setting,” said Mary Miller, co-owner.

FUN FACT: Thanks to their intimate size limit of up to 32 guests and a small on-site horse breeding program, horses outnumber guests more than three to one at Elkhorn Ranch.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding + Guided Hikes + Bird and Nature Watching + Tennis, Basketball & Shuffleboard + Heated Pool

Photo courtesy of Kenyon Guest Ranch

Kenyon Guest Ranch
80 Kenyon Ranch Rd., Tubac

Built from native river rocks in the foothills of the Tumacacori Mountains, Kenyon Guest Ranch is a stone’s throw from the highway and a world away from modern life. The water runs year-round along the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, lined with shady cottonwood trees. Guests follow in the footsteps (and hoofprints) of celebrities such as Cary Grant and Ricky Nelson. Nearby, Tubac offers plenty of opportunities to gallery hop, shop, stroll, and dine.

FUN FACT: Kenyon Guest Ranch resident cowboy poet and livestock manager Ross Knox holds the Guinness World Record for logging more than 50K miles in 17 years as a mule-packer in the Grand Canyon.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding + UTV & Fat Tire Electric Bike Tours + Labyrinth + Heated Pool + Poolside Bar

Photos courtesy of Kay El Bar Guest Ranch

Kay El Bar Guest Ranch
2655 S. Kay El Bar Rd., Wickenburg

The quaint Kay El Bar Guest Ranch lies outside the mining town of Wickenburg, an early hotspot for Arizona dude ranches. Built from adobe bricks, handmade by the nearby Maricopa Indians, this historic guest ranch offers an unhurried lifestyle, and unforgettable memories. Vacationers ride through scenic hills and canyons and enjoy close proximity to Wickenburg’s history, restaurants, and shops.

FUN FACT: This charming adobe ranch was built in the early 1900s, is listed on the Arizona and National Historic Registers, and is where actor Val Kilmer grew up.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horse Grooming + Horseback Riding + Hiking & Horseshoes + Hammocks + Bird and Nature Watching

Photo courtesy of Triangle T Guest Ranch

Triangle T Guest Ranch
4190 E. Dragoon Rd., Dragoon

Nestled in the boulders of Dragoon’s Texas Canyon, Triangle T Ranch is the setting of several original Lone Ranger movies and 3:10 to Yuma, starring Glenn Ford. The ranch is renowned as the winter camp of Apache Chieftain Cochise, and other esteemed visitors include the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and President John F. Kennedy. Co-owner Don Beesley encourages guests to experience a dude ranch getaway to “discover the magic and treasure the memories.”

FUN FACT: The Triangle T Texas Canyon Harmony Labyrinth is an exact copy of the Tohono O’odham design except that there is an opening into the center circle.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding + Mountain Biking + Labyrinth + Jeep & ATV Tours + The Rock Saloon & Grill

Photo courtesy of Tombstone Mounument Ranch

Tombstone Monument Ranch
895 W. Schiefflin Monument Rd., Tombstone

For the quintessential Old West look and feel, visit Tombstone Monument Ranch, a 13,000-acre working cattle ranch. Built to modern standards using remnants from original 1880s structures, it resembles a Western frontier town with a main street, saloon, and themed rooms such as the jail, bank, and sheriff’s office. Guests can catch the stagecoach or head to Tombstone on horseback between poker lessons, petroglyph hikes, and shows at the on-site saloon.

FUN FACT: Criollo cattle are purebred descendants of Spanish cows brought by Christopher Columbus. Tombstone Monument Ranch collaborates with The University of Arizona to offer a ranch-to-table experience with their on-site herd.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding + Working Ranch Experience + Shooting Range + Archery + Star Cinematic + Photo Shoot

Photo courtesy of Circle Z Ranch

Circle Z Ranch
1476 AZ-82, Patagonia

The Circle Z Ranch in Patagonia offers all-inclusive adventures with everything from horseback riding to guided nature walks. “Sonoita Creek traverses the heart of our property, which features more than 100 miles of trails through a riparian area, desert scrub, high grasslands, and mountains that rise dramatically from the desert floor,” said co-owner Diana Nash.

FUN FACT:  Circle Z Ranch offers a tennis court that doubles as a pickle ball court, complete with paddles, rackets, and balls.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding + Ranch Activities + Birding & Guided + Nature Walks + Hiking & Stargazing + Heated Pool

Photo courtesy of Spurcedale Guest Ranch

Sprucedale Guest Ranch
1228 Wiltbank Rd., Alpine

For an elevated experience, ascend to Sprucedale Guest Ranch in the pines of the White Mountains. The appeal of this family-owned and -operated dude ranch is much about what they don’t have. “We’re unique in that we’re off the grid with generator electricity, no TV, and cell service is limited to the lodge only,” said Tiffany Willis, manager. It’s easy to unplug in this high-country ranch in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

FUN FACT: The first guests of Sprucedale Guest Ranch were fishermen looking for shelter from a monsoon in the early 1920s. Today, it is the oldest continually run guest ranch in Arizona.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding (including a River Ride) + Cow Milking & Colt Leading + Rodeo Practice + Cattle Work + Hayrides & Bonfires

Photo courtesy of Rancho del la Osa

Rancho de la Osa
1 La Osa Ranch Rd., Sasabe

At Rancho de la Osa in Sasabe, the unique convergence of Native American, Spanish, Mexican, ranching, political, and celebrity history keeps guests coming back year after year. Three US presidents, Pancho Villa, and John Wayne have frequented this remarkably historic property on 590 acres surrounded by 120,000 acres of the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge.

FUN FACT: The Marshall Plan was drafted at Rancho de la Osa, and the ranch boasts the oldest continually occupied building in Arizona.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horseback Riding + Wildlife Refuge + Guided Off-Road Tours + Guided Fat Tire Electric + Bike Tours + Sport Shooting & 22 Range

Start making your plans to trade in your cellphones and televisions for a rustic retreat complete with crackling campfires under a starry Arizona sky.

Meet the Muralist: Keegan Rider

By Megan Ewing

As a Tucson native, Keegan Rider grew up surrounded by the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. From spending his childhood living on the Tohono O’odham Indian reservation to moving throughout South and East Tucson, Rider found inspiration in the everyday, focusing on the vibrant hues of the desert to influence his art.

A mural at a private residence in Winterhaven

“Each of these locations was very influential in developing my own personal artistic style. I was drawn to colorful traditional Mexican and Native American paintings,” Rider said.

Rider has always found art fascinating, but it wasn’t until high school that he focused on nurturing and developing these skills.

“I mainly worked with acrylic and oil paints on canvas but also focused heavily on pen and ink drawings and illustrations. It was during this time that I truly began to define my personal artistic style, and I even had my first solo art show when I was 15 at a venue called The Livingroom on 4th Avenue,” Rider said.

Lash Factor Studio mural at Meyer & Simpson

Rider’s roots have given him a deep love and connection with the community. Not only has the city of Tucson provided inspiration for his art, but its people provide endless support as he pursues his passion.

“The Tucson community is absolutely amazing when it comes to supporting local artists, and I have had the immense pleasure of working with a combination of businesses, non-profit organizations, local individuals, and the general public,” Rider said.

Murals bring beauty and joy to a place, and Rider’s mission is to spread happiness through his artwork.

Mural at the southwest corner of Olsen Ave. and Helen St. in the Blenman-Elm neighborhood

Rider has painted a plethora of murals for private residences, but you can view two of Rider’s murals on display at 415 S. Meyer Ave, 85701 in the Barrio Viejo neighborhood and the southwest corner of Olsen Ave. and Helen St. in the Blenman-Elm neighborhood. The first mural is at a business called the Lash Factor Studio and the second is located at a private residence but can be easily seen from the street and is happily shown off by the homeowner.

As for what’s next? Rider will continue to look forward to his next commission.

“I would say that my favorite mural is the next one that I haven’t done yet, because with each new mural comes new opportunities to display and expand my artistic skills. Each mural I complete is unique and customized to my client’s vision, and it’s always a refreshing and interesting challenge to blend my distinct artistic style with their ideas,” Rider said.

Interested in connecting with Keegan Rider? Check out his website or find him on Facebook, Instagram, or Etsy.

Casino Del Sol is on a Hot Streak

Who knew that the desert could be a hotbed of luxury?

But that’s what you’ll find at Casino Del Sol, Tucson’s home for premium entertainment, dining, gaming and spa services—true and complete luxury. Located just fifteen minutes south of downtown Tucson, desert scenery and mountain ranges give way to cutting-edge accommodations and unforgettable experiences.

A drone view of the Casino Del Sol pool lined with palm trees and the mountains in the distance.

Check into a luxurious guestroom at the resort at Casino Del Sol or at their brand-new hotel, Estrella at Casino Del Sol. Lay poolside at either of the two pools on property to soak up those famous Arizona rays.

A close up of a spaghetti bolognase at Bellissimo in Casino Del Sol

Stomach rumbling? Head inside to sample gourmet fares from the award-winning PY Steakhouse or homemade Italian dishes at Casino Del Sol’s newest restaurant, Bellissimo Ristorante Italiano. With more than a dozen on-site restaurants and bars there’s something for all palates, including the award-winning Festa International Buffet. In addition to mouth-watering food from all corners of the globe, you’ll witness impressive feats of culinary prowess at live-action cooking stations.

The gaming floor at Casino Del Sol

Ready to play? Unleash the power of the sun with over 1,300 state-of-the-art slot and video poker machines, or try your hand at eight different variants of blackjack and poker. Want to win big? Live the luxe life and head to the High Limit Lounge. With complimentary appetizers, beverages and dedicated staff to see to your every need, you’ll automatically feel like a high roller.

The sand traps at Sewailo Golf Course at Casino Del Sol
Sewailo Golf Club at Casino Del Sol Resort #8 Fairway and view of #8 and #2 double green. Tucson, Arizona

Want to tee up on a first-rate golf course? Don’t miss Sewailo Golf Club. The 18-hole, par-72 championship course measures 7,400 yards from the tees, with five different tee boxes on each hole to allow for players of all abilities. Blending the natural Sonoran Desert landscape of Tucson with picturesque lakes and streams, Sewailo is universally recognized as one of the top golf experiences in Arizona.

Guests gathered at the Casino Del Sol AVA Amphitheater to watch a show.

Looking for world-class entertainment? You’ve found it! AVA Amphitheater is one of the premier entertainment destinations in the entire Southwest, featuring comedy superstars, rock and roll legends and more! Whether your tastes run Toby Keith, Wu-Tang Clan or KISS, Casino Del Sol has got you covered.

No vacation (or staycation!) would be complete without a healthy dose of relaxation, so be sure to stop by the Hiapsi Spa for physical and spiritual renewal. Inspired by Pascua Yaqui culture and traditions, you’ll find truly exceptional services and treatments that are centered around your holistic well-being. Delight in the blissful indulgence of organic body treatments, deep tissue massage and signature skincare customized to your skin’s unique needs.

Casino Del Sol’s top priority is the health and safety of their guests and team members. There are safety measures in place to ensure visiting Casino Del Sol will be a safe and comfortable experience for all.

Indulge. Seek. Play. Live Your Luxury at Casino Del Sol.

Casino Del Sol
5655 W Valencia Rd
Tucson, AZ 85757
1-855-765-7829

Meet the Muralists: 3 Female Artists

Talented female artists bring Tucson’s buildings to life

Women and men of all ages and diverse backgrounds take to the streets of Tucson to transform blank walls into visually stunning works of art for residents and visitors to enjoy as they dine, shop, work, and live here. The city’s mural collection rivals those of much larger locales thanks in part to the City of Tucson’s history of promoting mural projects. Tucsonans also embrace and celebrate this form of artistic expression by commissioning their own works of art for homes and businesses alike.

Here we showcase four of Tucson’s female muralists. Each has a deep love of art and is extremely talented, yet each creates for their own reasons and from their own perspectives.

Camila Ibarra stands in front of her black lives matter mural at Hotel Congress.

Camila Barra

Black Lives Matter, Hotel Congress

Like many people across the country, Camila Ibarra saw the Black Lives Matter movement unfold before her and wanted to do something to show her support. Working as a server, her schedule didn’t allow her time to attend protests. Frustration led to an “a-ha” moment—she can paint.

“I wanted to get involved in the movement and was getting frustrated that I wasn’t doing anything. I called Hotel Congress to ask if I could donate a mural. Within two days, it was complete,” says Ibarra.

Mere hours before she put brush to wall, Ibarra found inspiration for this piece through the trials and tribulations of the moment. Through the night, she searched online for the most fierce and strong Black woman she could find to create the subject for her piece. Then she added a face mask to demonstrate the fight for rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. She had what would become her mural painted on canvas by 3 a.m. on the day of installation.

Ibarra’s love of painting began as a young girl in Tucson. It wasn’t until she took a high school art class that she realized just how much art called to her. Since then, she has worked on art projects daily, even as she attends Arizona State University pursuing a civil engineering degree.

“My passion is art. I do art every single day of my life. I got a scholarship to learn something new, so I took advantage of the opportunity,” she says.

The Black Lives Matter mural is only the third mural for Ibarra. As a sophomore in high school, she painted her first mural on a school cafeteria wall, followed by one at a local aquatic center. Of her newest painting, she says, “I’m in love with it. I can’t believe I came up with it.”

Adia Jamille

A black woman in a bright pink tank top and yellow skirt stands in front of her black lives matter mural.

Black Lives Matter When They Are Alive, MSA Annex

When this fiber artist heard Tucson muralist Joe Pagac was looking for black artists for a Black Lives Matter mural project, Adia Jamille seized the opportunity to paint her first mural at the MSA Annex at South Avenida del Convento and West Cushing Street. Art has always been a driving factor in Jamille’s life, leading her to study interior design before switching to fiber arts, ultimately earning a bachelor of fine arts degree in fiber arts from Arizona State University.

Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Jamille moved to Tucson with her husband and young son. At home with a new addition to her growing family, she couldn’t join the Black Lives Matter protests, but realized her voice could still be heard through her art.

A colorful black lives matter mural.

“I didn’t know what the other artists would be painting, and I wanted to do something different,” explains Jamille. “The discussion started about all these people being killed. I wanted to back up and look at what we should really address: black people and the quality of life we get to experience or not get to experience.”

Jamille is known for creating vibrant, colorful embroidery on black canvases. Her mural mimics the style to resemble her fiber art. She chose an array of symbols to represent black lives and living using her signature bright colors. “We have all of this color in the world; we need to embrace it and enjoy it,” she says.

Jessica Gonzales

A Hispanic woman stands in front of her colorful mural of a grandmother painted on a wall.

Imagination Navigation, Antigone Books and The Path Unpaved, Stone Avenue/Alameda Street

Jessica Gonzales was born to be an artist. With an artistic family, art surrounded her growing up. When she was 12 years old, her family relocated to Tucson. She studied art leading to a bachelor of fine arts degree in 2D art with a focus on painting earned from The University of Arizona in 2012. Fast-forward to today, and Gonzales is a well-known professional artist about town, beautifying businesses and residences with her signature blend of bright colors, with nods to the desert landscape she calls home.

“I tend to choose uplifting themes, which also applies to how I choose the color palette. I like things to be bright and joyful,” says Gonzales. “Representing cultural diversity is important to me. I also love to apply elements of the desert because I love it here, and it’s important to represent Tucson, especially the plant life.”

A close up of a colorful mural of a young woman wearing headphones

The Path Unpaved, which she painted at Stone Avenue and Alameda Street, is one of her favorites and is themed around self-exploration, breaking outside of comfort zones, and trying new things to absorb all that life has to offer. Another favorite mural, on the side of Antigone Books on Fourth Avenue, is called Imagination Navigation and holds a special place in her heart.

“I was swimming with my sister in a public pool, and we were looking at a blank wall. We shared a long conversation that day about what I could paint. We talked about transforming desert animals into hybrid sea creatures. When the opportunity arose to paint the bookstore, I thought of pop-up books and merged that concept with those creatures we dreamed up that day in the pool. It was really fun and very special to me,” she says.

Sue Kay Johnson

All Souls Mural, Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood

Making art has been a way of life for Sue Kay Johnson since she was a child in Illinois. She pursued her passion, earned various degrees in art and education from The Art Institute of Chicago, and studied and taught art abroad in Italy.

This talented sculptor and painter moved out West in 1986 to teach figure sculpture at The University of Arizona. Today you can find her teaching art at the Pima Community College–West Campus (she once taught other mural artist Jessica Gonzales) and at the Tucson Museum of Art.

Not only did she paint the block-long mural at 9th Avenue and University Boulevard that is filled with mythical figures, colorful animals, and people in and out of decorative masks on parade, she brought the actual parade it’s inspired from to Tucson—the beloved annual All Souls Procession.

A colorful mural of mythical figures are painted on a wall.

“This mural is where all the old cemeteries were located in Tucson. The first part of the mural is about the community garden and the older buildings in the area. The next part is about the processional parade, and the last part is about transformation after death or rebirth,” she explains.

Johnson began Tucson’s All Souls Processional Parade in 1990, after her father, a veteran of World War II and a survivor of Pearl Harbor, died. She drew her inspiration from parades she’d seen while traveling through Europe and Mexico and cities in the United States such as New Orleans, San Francisco, and Chicago. This was her way to honor and celebrate his life and process his death while inviting all in the community to honor their own lost loved ones. She combined her art therapy degree and the Mexican Día de los Muertos tradition to begin what has become one of Tucson’s most attended events.

The annual parade celebrated its 30th year in 2019. Well over 150,000 people join in the two-mile-long human-powered procession through downtown Tucson each year. It ends in the ceremonial burning of a large urn filled with the hopes, offerings, and wishes of those in attendance for their loved ones who have passed.

Together these women are making their mark on Tucson, its residents, and its visitors through art. Ibarra will create art while she pursues her academic endeavors in engineering. Jamille will grow her fiber art and other businesses while hoping to paint another mural. Gonzales continues to paint outdoors as a way to connect to her community while also giving back. And Johnson keeps teaching and inspiring more artists who might someday add to Tucson’s growing collection of murals.

Grab & Go

Enjoy Tucson’s best takeout in picnic-perfect settings

Experience a year-round phenomenon in Southern Arizona...picnics! Let local delis and markets do the heavy lifting so your crew can stay in vacation mode. And stay outside. Because really, what’s more Arizonan than sharing a meal surrounded by the beauty of the Sonoran Desert? Up your alfresco game with these local favorites.

Vantage Point

A blue tray sits on a wooden table filled with a burger, sweet potato fries and a salad.

Provisions: Take your pick from the many portable food options at Mercado San Agustín and MSA Annex. The open-air plaza and shipping-container shopping complex along Santa Cruz River Park serves up street tacos from Seis Kitchen, veggie burgers from Beaut, and sushi rolls from Kukai. Be sure to add a box of Mexican pastries from La Estrella Bakery. With lunch in hand, drive up to "A" Mountain, just a few blocks away.

Setting: Sentinel Peak, or "A" Mountain, offers a quick urban getaway with the best views in town. The mountaintop park has a few picnic tables and ramadas, but it sees steady traffic during the day so prepare to tailgate. Rocky paths lead to the “A”—built by University of Arizona students in 1916—and full-circle views of the metro and surrounding mountain ranges.

Calories In, Calories Out

A toasted club sandwich cut in half sits on a Baggins wrapper.

Provisions: Ask anyone in Tucson if they know where Baggin's Gourmet is, and they’ll mention two or three nearby. They might even reveal that the Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese enters uncharted territory and that cream cheese on any sandwich just makes sense. For almost four decades, Tucson’s favorite sandwich shop has grown to 11 locations. No need to bring extra sweets to the picnic—each bag comes with a chocolate chip cookie hidden inside. 

Setting: The Baggin's location at Speedway and Kolb is almost six miles south of another Tucson tradition, Sabino Canyon. Pack in gourmet sandwiches and ride the tram into the canyon. Many picnic tables dot the winding route through the Santa Catalina foothills. Hop off the tram when the mood strikes and enjoy a waterside picnic surrounded by the spectacular scenery of the Coronado National Forest. Hike off lunch on any of the marked trails before hopping back on the tram.

A Tucson Twofer

A close up of a tamale sitting on a colorful placemat with a side of beans.

Provisions: At Tucson Tamale Co., choose from green chile pork, chipotle beef, or red chile chicken tamales, plus vegan options such as blue corn veggie or black bean tamales. These steamed packages of regional flavor add a punch to picnic spreads, especially when dabbed with housemade chile sauces. Add sides of pinto beans and Spanish rice to eat like a local. Sneak in some pumpkin tamales for a sweet finish that will remind the crew of Thanksgiving.

Setting: From Tucson Tamale Co.’s eastside location on Tanque Verde Road, head 15 minutes east to a desert oasis near Saguaro National Park East. Agua Caliente Park, named for the warm-water ponds formed by springs below, is a hidden gem perfect for a family picnic. Find plenty of shaded tables or spread a blanket on the grass, and look for the native critters that congregate under a canopy of mature mesquite trees and towering palms. After lunch, visit the art gallery, visitor center, and Tucson Audubon Society Nature Shop on-site.

Points of Pride

A close up of a gourmet pizza

Provisions: Sandwiches taste better with locally sourced produce and bread baked in house. At Time Market, the wood-fired pizzas are heaped with housemade ingredients, too, such as mozzarella and fennel sausage. Within walking distance of The University of Arizona campus, this local gem combines a deli, bakery, coffee shop, and market to help visitors picnic like pros. 

Setting: Any trip to Tucson should include a visit to The University of Arizona campus. From the market, stroll east a few blocks on University Boulevard and enter the campus through Main Gate. Grab the covered picnic ramada next to Centennial Hall if it’s available. Or, find pockets of shade and patches of grass along the mall or around Old Main, the original building at Arizona’s first university, established in 1891.

Sunset Seekers

A close up of a deli sandwich sitting on a counter with a blue moon beer with an orange wedge on the rim.

Provisions: The “sausage” in Sausage Deli dates back to the shop’s roots as a German grocery store in the 1970s. In the decades since, students at The University of Arizona have made this tasty midtown sandwich shop a local staple. Today, sausage and peppers are on the menu on Wednesdays, but plenty of hearty choices like the Reuben or meatball sub are always available. Other options, smeared with grainy mustard, horseradish, or sauerkraut, make these grown-up, dinner-worthy sandwiches perfect for a sunset picnic.

Setting: Take Speedway Boulevard about 10 miles west until the cacti in the dense saguaro forest outnumber the houses. As you approach the crest in the Tucson Mountains, pull over at the Gates Pass scenic overlook. From there, rugged trails lead to places to perch on rocks and watch the best sunsets in town. Plan a return trip to visit two of Tucson’s iconic attractions, Old Tucson and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, located in the valley below.

Photobomb the Scenery in Tucson

Discover the best places to take Instagram photos in Tucson, AZ

By Ciara Jean

Tucson is known for being a college town. Because most Instagram users are between the ages of 18 and 34, a lot of IG pictures of Tucson are taken around campus. Don’t get me wrong, the University of Arizona is a gorgeous place to take beautiful photos, but Tucson is more than UArizona. It’s filled with culture, amazing food, and unforgettable desert adventures that give you Instagram-worthy photo ops. Plan your next photoshoot at these adventurous places around Tucson.

Sentinel Peak, “A Mountain”

Photo courtesy of Mikaela

Known for its giant white “A” painted by students from the University of Arizona in 1915, Sentinel Peak is a scenic spot to take stylish photos. Filled with a rich history and agriculture, the peak is known for being one of the city’s best lookouts to watch sunrises and sunsets. People have the option to walk or drive up the mountain to get to the top, so whether you want to hike and take an “I accomplished the mountain” photo or drive and take a “fashionista” photo, there are many locations on the mountain to snap your shot. You would be on high ground, so you have the option for your background to be the mountain or the gorgeous city.

Location: 1000 S. Sentinel Peak Rd.
Best time to go: Sunset (Please note: The park closes 30 minutes after sunset, and the road is closed to vehicles on Mondays.)

Historic 4th Avenue

Photo courtesy of Stacey Gregory

As one of the most popular spots in Tucson, 4th Avenue is packed with multiple picture opportunities. Lined with dozens of restaurants, locally owned stores, and colorful murals, the Avenue will bring your photo ops alive to life with character, culture, and beautiful hues. Historic 4th Avenue is directly northeast and adjacent to downtown Tucson and takes part in keeping the city center thriving. You can show off your favorite food spots and take photos inside restaurants, making everyone jealous of what you are experiencing in this UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Depending on the time of the year, events, fairs, and activities take up the street and bring a whole new kind of background. 

Location: 4th Ave. between University Blvd. and 9th St.
Best time to go: Daytime or sunset

Greetings from Tucson Mural

Photo courtesy of Stacey Gregory

If you haven’t seen the Greetings from Tucson Mural yet, then you need to go visit the most Insta-famous street art in Tucson. This Tucson landmark displays everything about what makes up the city of Tucson. Victor Ving and Lisa Beggs, the creators of the mural, spent time with the locals to make sure that the mural reflects the culture of the city. The art features the University of Arizona, the Sonoran Desert, Tucson landmarks, Mexican culture, and the amazing food you can find here.

Location: E. 7th St. & N. Arizona Ave.
Best time to go: Sunrise or sunset so that the sun isn’t too strong

Fox Tucson Theatre

Known for its beautiful Southwest Art Deco architecture,  has unique decor on the inside and outside of the building. The nonprofit theater was built in the 1930s and is distinctive from the outside for its eye-catching neon lights and vintage sign. With its location in downtown Tucson, it is the perfect place to take nighttime photos when you are out on the town. Although the inside is a two-tiered theatre filled with red velvet seats and colorful ceilings, the most vibrant photos can be taken outside in front of the ticket box or from a distance to get all the lively lights in the background.

Location: 17 W. Congress St.
Best time to go: Night

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Photo courtesy of Stacey Gregory

If you are looking for a different kind of nature photo without a desert background, the Tucson Botanical Gardens is a stunning green paradise. Bursting with color, the trees, plants, and architecture create a bright background and a happy photo. The garden is filled with art, culture, and history, so there are many options for backdrops depending on the picture that you are looking for. There is a fee and limited hours to visit the garden, but it is worth stopping by to soak up the aesthetically pleasing setting.

Location: 2150 N. Alvernon Way
Best time to go: Right when they open when the sun is still low

Barrio Viejo

Photo courtesy of Amanda Conkel

One of Tucson’s oldest neighborhoods, Barrio Viejo is filled with culture and bold colors. Traditional Sonoran adobe homes built in the 19th century—both residential and businesses—are painted in vibrant, bright shades that reflect the personalities of Tucson locals. With centuries of history in the area, Barrio Viejo is mainly made up of 19th century homes and commercial buildings. During the 1880s and 90s the neighborhood was a culturally diverse community of working-class people from Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. In the 1960s most of the neighborhood was bulldozed to create the Tucson Convention Center. The neighborhood is not what it used to look like as it has gone through changes during city development, but many houses have been preserved. With the right lighting and a decent area, photos can be just as colorful as the community.

Location: Between I-10 and Stone Ave. and Cushing and 18th Sts.
Best time to go: Early in the day when the sun hits the buildings

Hotel Congress

A Tucson staple, Hotel Congress is recognized for its rich history and countless annual events and activities. Built in 1919, the hotel has been expanded and renovated over the years to become more than just a hotel. Whether you want to stay in their haunted rooms, participate in their nightlife and experiences, or dine there, the location offers many photo ops that will fill in the gaps in your Instagram feed. Hotel Congress is filled with neon lights both inside and outside, so you can’t miss it when walking or driving downtown. Plus, bars surround the landmark, so getting the red neon sign in the background is easier than you think. The outside walls are covered in murals if you want art in your background. Other backdrops include their outside patio, the stairs in the lobby with the Tap Room Bar sign in the background, phone booths, and their southern-style rooms.

Location: 311 E. Congress St.
Best time to go: Night would be ideal for most photos, but during the day would give you other options too.

If going around town makes you want to eat, check out this Dining Guide for your restaurant ideas.

Camping Made Easy in Southern Arizona

Discover 7 can’t-miss campsites near Tucson

By Ciara Jean

Southern Arizona is known for its beautiful scenery. Sunsets and sunrises, mountains, saguaro cacti, and green bushes all around is what makes Southern Arizona the best place to take an overnight trip in the Sonoran Desert. Start planning your getaway under the stars with this list of seven amazing campsites any outdoor enthusiast must explore.

Colossal Cave Mountain Park

If you are looking for an adventure within another adventure, Colossal Cave Mountain Park is the perfect place to camp. Located in Vail, Arizona, less than 40 minutes outside of Tucson, the campground has 30 campsites within two large areas, El Bosquecito and La Selvilla, and multiple smaller spots. During the day, there are plenty of family-friendly activities including a guided cave tour, guided horseback riding, and hiking and biking trails. At night, you can start a campfire under some of the largest saguaro cacti and mesquite trees in Arizona.

The campground is more tailored to tent camping, but there are some areas where a limited number of RVs can park and camp too. The sites come with tables and barbecue grills but have no electric and offer limited places to use the restroom and refill water.

Address: 16721 E Old Spanish Trail, Vail, AZ
Tent camping: $10 per vehicle/night
RV and Horse Trailer Camping: $15 per vehicle/night

Rose Canyon Lake

If you are looking to go camping during the warmer months, Rose Canyon Lake is a beautiful destination. Located on Mount Lemmon, the campground has an elevation of 7,000 feet and is surrounded by ponderosa pines and oak trees that give the feeling you are camping in the forest. This is a good location for hiking, fishing for stocked trout, and bird-watching. Plus, it is close to nearby activities on Mount Lemmon, such as the shops and restaurants in Summerhaven.

There are more than 70 campsites, with half reservable and the other half on a first come, first served basis. The campground accommodates both tent camping and RV camping, but there are no electric outlets for either. Credit cards are not accepted, so bring cash.

Address: Catalina Hwy, Mt Lemmon, AZ
Cost: Sites start at $24 per vehicle/night

Picacho Peak State Park Campground

Photography by Kevin Dooley flickr

If you want a more developed option, Picacho Peak State Park Campground is a great place to stay. When coming into Tucson from Phoenix, there is no way you would miss this beautiful peak right off Interstate 10 just 40 miles outside of Tucson. The campsites are located at the bottom of the peak and offer more than 85 sites for both tents and RV campers.

There are multiple activities for families and individuals, such as hiking trails, historical markers, animal watching, and playgrounds for children. Nearby there are also opportunities to go skydiving, visit the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch, and see national monuments like the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.

The state park usually has both reservable spots and first come, first served spots, but due to COVID-19, they are only accepting reservations. Their facilities include restrooms, showers, electric sites, sewage dump station, and trash dumpsters. There is a $7 entry fee to the state park.

Address: 15520 Picacho Peak Rd, Picacho, AZ
Cost: $25–$30 per vehicle/night depending on the season

Patagonia Lake

Photography by Alan Stark flickr

For family fun, Patagonia Lake is a wonderful spot. Located in Nogales, Arizona, about an hour and a half from Tucson, the park has two campgrounds and 105 campsites around the huge lake. Some spots are more secluded, while others are side by side to accommodate larger groups. They also offer boat-in sites for camping on boats. Activities for all ages include a designated swimming area, boating, kayaking, and hiking trails. Canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and paddleboats are also available for rent at Lakeside Market. Birds seem to find this lake a paradise, so if you like to bird-watch, this is a prime spot. The park is known for waterskiing and fishing.

The campsites include a firepit, tables, barbecue grills, and electric. Some have ramadas and water spouts. The beach has a picnic area and outdoor showers.

Address: 400 Patagonia Lake Rd, Nogales, AZ
Cost: $15–$20 per vehicle

Roper Lake

This campground is for people who want to camp but are not sure if they want to stay in a tent. Roper Lake is located in Safford, Arizona, nearly two hours away from Tucson, and has three campgrounds. Two campgrounds, Hacienda and Cottonwood, offer 45 campsites for tent and RV camping, but the third campground, Gila, offers eight cabins, five non-electric sites, and 14 group camp areas.

Activities here include a designated swimming area with a beach, boating, fishing, and many hiking trails. If you want to adventure off the campground, check out the Hot Well Dunes, Mt. Graham International Observatory, and Discovery Park: Nature’s Hideaway

Hacienda and Cottonwood sites come with water, electric, firepits, picnic tables, and some small ramadas. They also include bathrooms and hot showers by the entrance of the campgrounds. The Gila cabins come with a variety of furniture, beds, electric, and air conditioning and heating.

Address: 101 E Roper Lake Rd, Safford, AZ
Cost: $10 per vehicle for entrance fee, $65–$70 a night for cabins

Parker Canyon Lake

Photography by Alan Stark flickr

If you want a great escape from the Arizona heat, Parker Canyon Lake is the best place to be. Located in Elgin, Arizona, this campground is more than a mile high in elevation. Therefore, it is 20 degrees cooler in temperature than Tucson. They have 40 campsites and 25 RV sites scattered among oak trees and junipers. The campgrounds are just a short walk from the lakeshore and a short drive from the boat ramp and fishing pier. Activities here are boundless and include swimming, fishing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, boating, and pedal boating. You can bring your own equipment or rent it. You are also able to rent fishing boats, fishing gear, and get your fishing licenses.

Bathrooms are located at the campgrounds, and they have a small concession-operated marina and store open every day. Drinking water, picnic tables, and bear-proof food lockers are available at the campground too.

Address: 9000 S Parker Canyon Rd Elgin, AZ
Cost: Parking: $8 per day or $10 per week
Camping: $20 per night

Saguaro National Park

Photography by John Fowler flickr

Located in the Rincon Mountain District, Saguaro National Park East will have you camping with only what you can carry on your back. This campground is for nature lovers. It is packed with endless hiking trails and wildlife watching. If you are ready to escape electronics, then this is your haven.

The six campgrounds can only be accessed by hiking, but be warned—these are intense hikes with an incline into higher elevations. It is highly recommended that you bring a gallon of water, per person, per day. Temperatures are much cooler at a high elevation, so wearing layers is a must. Permits are required to camp and can be purchased online. The campsites do have bathrooms. There are some sites that do not allow fires. For more information about each campsite visit their website.

Address: See website for campground locations.
Cost: $8 per night, $25 for permit

 

Souvenirs of the Southwest

Where to Find Reminders of Tucson to Take Home

By Stacey Gregory

Tucson is a magical place that beckons to people from all over the world. Whether you’re visiting the desert or you call this amazing landscape home, you surely want to purchase souvenirs for yourself and your loved ones. We’ve rounded up four one-of-a-kind shops to find mementos and keepsakes to treasure for years to come.

Why I Love Where I Live

Photography by Betsy & John Photography

What began as an exercise to seek beauty in a city she initially didn’t want to live in became a celebration of the Tucson lifestyle for transplant Kristin Tovar. It all started when she met and married Alex, a Tucson local who didn’t want to leave the Old Pueblo. Camera in hand, she set out to find beauty in the desert, posting on her Instagram page called Why I Love Where I Live. Her account struck a chord with people near and far, growing an active following. The page led to community art events, which led to a T-shirt design, which led to more products the couple sold at local markets. Eventually, they ran out of room storing wares at their home, and the 320-square-foot brick-and-mortar store opened in the Mercado Annex in May 2018.

Today, you can find a wide variety of Tucson-centric products, many of which are designed by local artists, displayed about the expanded 800-square-foot location in the Annex. The white space is the perfect backdrop for the colorful creations that adorn shirts, socks, hats, stickers, patches, ornaments, and more. There’s even a children’s section designed to infuse a love of where they live in kids through clothing, books, and games.

The Happy Saguaro

Photography by Betsy & John Photography

For more than 30 years, The Happy Saguaro has been the place where Tucsonans and visitors alike shop for Southwest home decor and unique gifts. The store itself is a sight to behold, with personally hand-selected pottery and art that is sourced directly from Mexico, Native American reservations and nearby Southwest states covering the floor, walls, and ceilings, many in bright, vivid colors that excite your imagination.  

Sacred art includes milagros (the Mexican sacred heart), crosses, statues of religious figures, and catrinas (elegantly dressed skeleton figures used as a symbol of the Día de Los Muertos celebration). For your home, discover beautiful collections of ceramic tableware, glassware, lighting, furniture, and Talavera and Native American pottery. 

The wonderland of Southwest goods spills out onto a patio filled with small to supersized pots and metal home and garden accents in all shapes and sizes from barrel cacti for your garden to kokopellis and geckos to hang on your walls. You’ll even find apparel, handbags, and jewelry.

Creative Kind

Photography by Susannah Lynn

A quest to connect with new people led Theresa Delaney to host her first workshop where people from around Tucson gathered to create a fun DIY project. She grew from hosting workshop pop-ups in restaurants to a downtown venue to what is now known as Creative Kind, a brick-and-mortar shop at the La Encantada Shopping Center in the Santa Catalina Foothills. More than a shop, Creative Kind is a place for people to gather, connect over creativity, and make or discover something beautiful through weekly instructed craft workshops, experiential online workshops, and drop-in DIY projects, as well as through curated goods for sale from small businesses and local makers.

The moment you enter Creative Kind, you are enveloped in the soft beige and orange hues of the desert. It’s a fitting spot to discover desert-inspired vinyl stickers, notepads, jewelry, postcards, candles, and even salts and cocktail mixes from Arizona. With a Creative Kind Circle membership, you can join in the fun anywhere in the world by participating in online workshops and accessing a full library of DIY downloads and mini videos, message boards, live events, and more.

& Gallery

Photography provided by & Gallery

Fourth Avenue is lined with shops, bars, and restaurants, to be sure. One eclectic shop is actually an art gallery “for weirdos” called & Gallery. The concept is pretty brilliant. The gallery is owned by Eat Sleep Work, a design and marketing company based in Los Angeles, California. The front is the retail shop where you can purchase prints and merchandise created by Tucson artists. The next section is an exhibition space for art events and shows. Even further back is the Eat Sleep Work office where web design and marketing magic happens. 

The white-and-black walls inside & Gallery are adorned with contemporary art, pop art, and unusually wild and wacky creations by local artists, including many up-and-coming young artists. Choose from high-end and limited-edition art prints, comic books, toy sculptures, and stickers. Frequently found works include Marcoso’s pop art, Gabby Vee’s loud and graphic comic punk comic books, Ben Mackey’s comic books, and soft and cartoony fun works by Sophie Mictear, a well-known nonbinary artist.

No matter which shop you choose, you’re sure to find the perfect mementos to remind you of your time exploring Tucson, to give as thoughtful gifts, or to celebrate the love you have of where you live. When you do stop by, be sure and tell them you saw it first in Tucson Guide.

The Patio, Please: 10 Perfect Restaurant Patios

By Elise McClain

Tucson is home to some of the Southwest’s most breathtaking outdoor spaces. Why not take it all in over a delicious meal? From bohemian patios to epic courtyards, enjoy stunning views, great food, and unparalleled ambiance at one of these 10 spectacular restaurant patios.

Caruso’s Italian Restaurant

Dine on a patio that has served fine Italian food to the Tucson area for more than 60 years. Caruso’s, located in the Historic Fourth Avenue District, is a family-owned and -operated community favorite. Pass through the green wrought iron entrance from the hustle and bustle of downtown and enter the welcoming and secluded patio. Enjoy traditional Zagona family recipes complete with handmade sauce that has been made by a family member for three generations at tables adorned with red and white checkered tablecloths, under romantically lit trellises.

The Cup Café 

The Cup Café, located in the historic Hotel Congress, has served Tucson residents for three decades. Situated in the heart of downtown, The Cup (as locals call it) offers a wide array of dishes from their all-day menu (breakfast for dinner or dinner for breakfast anyone?). Enjoy the relaxed patio atmosphere, paired with world-class huevos rancheros, fresh-baked pies, and locally sourced coffee. 

Noble Hops Gastropub

Admire the sweeping mountain views of Pusch Ridge at Tucson’s original gastropub, Noble Hops in Oro Valley. This spacious, 750-square-foot, rustic patio is perfect for any season. With built-in heaters, large gas firepits, and cooling water misters, guests can enjoy near-panoramic views of the Santa Catalina Mountains year-round while sipping on locally brewed craft beer and devouring gastropub fine fare.

Tavolino Ristorante Italiano 

At Tavolino Ristorante Italiano, enjoy access to a chic, comfortable, and secluded patio in the Santa Catalina Foothills. Dine on fresh, award-winning Italian fare while taking in the stunning desert surroundings from this European-style porch. Known for its sophisticated atmosphere, Tavolino Ristorante Italiano serves as the perfect date night spot. 

Cafe Passé

This bohemian patio is located on the historic Fourth Avenue, and is accessible through Cafe Passé, which bills itself as a café and drinkery. In the back, visitors will find a private and intimate patio shaded by mesquite and palo verde trees. On any given day, guests can enjoy some of Tucson’s best caffeinated brews and craft cocktails — with or without breakfast, brunch, or lunch, as well as live music and poetry readings. 

The Boxyard

Ever been to a shipping container food hall before? Check out The Boxyard, located on Fourth Avenue and constructed entirely of recycled cargo containers. Inside this complex are four restaurants, two bars, a coffee shop, and both ground-level and rooftop patio spaces. Perfect for groups, the Boxyard caters to all types of tastes and culinary interests, using an epic courtyard to tie it all together. Enjoy the airy outdoor space surrounded by murals and local public art, while indulging in delicious brews and chews. 

St. Philip’s Plaza

Perhaps one of the most iconic patios in the Tucson area, St. Philip’s Plaza serves as a large, communal drinking and dining space for local-favorite restaurants Union Public House, Reforma, and Proof Artisanal Pizza. Grab some grub from any of these establishments and spread out beneath the shaded eucalyptus trees and twinkling patio lights to drink and dine. Plus, you’ll find boutique shopping, galleries, and professional offices, as well as live music, and a weekend farmers market.

Tohono Chul Garden Bistro

Picture The Secret Garden, but paired with a world-class restaurant that serves locally sourced ingredients and craft cocktails—that’s Tohono Chul Garden Bistro. Nestled away in the lush and verdant landscaping of Tohono Chul park, this bistro patio is the perfect place to steal away for brunch. Enjoy a dish from their seasonal menu, sip on their signature Prickly Pear Margarita, and recharge. After dining on the patio, tour the gardens, visit the galleries, or check out the gift shop and on-site nursery.

The Mercado San Agustín and MSA Annex

The Mercado San Agustín offers a wide array of shopping and dining experiences in one spot. Boasting local coffee roasters, boutiques, bakeries, and restaurants, this Spanish Colonial-style courtyard is always bustling with activity. Dine on tacos from the local favorite Seis Kitchen while enjoying live music outside. Or indulge in Agustín Kitchen for a candlelit date night under the stars. And with the MSA Annex located just down the street, patrons can experience beautiful open-air dining and shopping from recycled and modified shipping containers. Relish in the juxtaposition of these two spaces as you dine on delicious delicacies and shop from local merchants.

Locale Neighborhood Italian 

Locale Neighborhood Italian opened its doors in December 2020 in a 1939 historic farmhouse located near Alvernon Way and Broadway Boulevard in midtown. It took a year to transform the 8,000-square-foot space into a modern Italian restaurant, complete with an expansive wrap-around patio. The menu is inspired by the deeply rooted culinary traditions of Italy and enriched with ingredients grown by Arizona family farms. It should come as no surprise the lasagna is their most popular dish. You’ll also find a variety of salads, appetizers, pasta dishes (some served family-style), Roman-style pizzas, sandwiches, and entrées, including American classics such as the Locale Burger and a rib eye. Sit inside or outside, where centuries-old palm trees dot the landscape for a perfect place to stop for a meal or to simply have a cocktail in this urban oasis.