| By Louie Christensen
The University of Arizona is the pride and joy of Tucson—and for good reason. It is a mainstay on countless “Best Colleges” lists, its rafters are filled with National Championship banners from several sports and (fun fact) it’s also where the cult-classic movie Revenge of the Nerds was filmed. There are few metropolitan areas the size of Tucson that get as enthusiastic about their university as this town; it truly is the heartbeat of the city.
So whether you’re visiting to explore it as an option for yourself or the student in your life to attend, visiting to watch your team compete against an Arizona Wildcat squad, or are in town for the Nova sponsored NCAA Football Arizona Bowl, allow us to help you find the right hotel for your stay.
Aloft Tucson University
If this hotel was any closer to Arizona Stadium, it would be on campus. Aloft blends the trendy modern vibe you’ll find across other W Hotels with splashes of eclectic southwest designs. Standing seven stories high, guests staying on north side of the hotel will be graced with a view of Tucson’s first love...the Catalina Mountains. The hotel is situated on the northeast corner of campus, and with all of the University’s athletic venues being situated along its eastern edge, it makes for prime location for anyone visiting for a game or match.
Tucson Marriott University
Situated on the west side of campus, Tucson Marriott University puts you at the very heart of the student experience. Not only is the hotel located just off of University Blvd where a large handful of student-favorite restaurants, shops, and bars are situated, but you can also hop on the Street Car and get a ride down to Fourth Ave or Downtown where there are too many fantastic dining options to try in just one visit.
For those considering attending the University, several new student housing buildings just opened nearby the hotel—and yes they all have rooftop pools—so staying at the Tucson Marriott University will give you a sneak peak into for how your daily life might feel if you choose to live campus adjacent.
You might be in town for something University of Arizona related, but the thing that gets you really excited to travel is an unexplored city’s food scene. You’re in luck. Downtown Tucson is filled with some of the hottest restaurants, bars, and breweries in town. While you’re at it why don’t you stay at the most classic Tucson hotel around—Hotel Congress. This Tucson treasure opened in 1919 and was actually where bank robber John Dillinger was tracked down at the peak of his crime spree. Today it hosts the Club Congress concert venue, Tiger’s Tap Room (named after the bartender who has worked there for 60 years) and the ever-delicious Cup Café. If the University of Arizona is the heart of Tucson, then Hotel Congress is its soul. Fitting, since some rooms are said to be haunted by benevolent guests who are reluctant to leave.
If you’re hoping to not have to rent a car on your visit, or pay out the nose for Uber trips to and from campus, fret not. There’s a Street Car stop right around the corner, so you can get to and from campus car-free.
If the idea of staying in the heart of a city’s food scene tickles your fancy, but the thought of staying in a potentially haunted room above a hopping music venue doesn’t excite you...downtown Tucson’s newest hotel might be more to your liking.
This Marriott hotel is striking. Ultra clean modern lines, stunning city and mountain views, and a rooftop pool are only a handful of reasons why the AC Hotel belongs high on your list of accommodations. Two new restaurant concepts, Charro Steak and Charro del Ray, opened up directly across the street, making the trip from your last “best margarita you’ve ever had” home a safe and easy one. Not to mention its location directly along the Street Car line that will take you up to campus, or over to the Mercado San Agustin area for even more dining and shopping options.
If you weren’t aware, the Sonoran Desert that surrounds Tucson is extraordinary. So if you don’t mind driving fifteen minutes or so to get to the University, it’s hard to go wrong with JW Marriott’s Starr Pass. The resort is nestled in the rolling foothills just outside of downtown Tucson; far enough away to feel secluded, yet still close enough to be convenient. You’ll love the beautiful desert setting, designed to catch the unforgettable Tucson sunsets and the kids (and kids at heart) will love the Lazy River. Speaking of sunsets, it’s hard to beat Starr Pass’ Sunset Tequila Toast. This nightly ritual is complimentary and is followed by the story telling of Pancho Villa—can’t get more southwest than that.
Want to really make your trip to Tucson memorable? Bring your golf clubs and enjoy the 27 hole Arnold Palmer Signature desert golf course that winds in and out of the hills and washes around the hotel.
Tucson is a tale of two cities. You’re either in the heart of it all around the University and downtown, or you’re on the outskirts where there’s more desert wilderness than congestion. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Situated in one of midtown Tucson’s beautiful neighborhoods sits Arizona Inn, a protected oasis that will make you feel like a celebrity visiting the Old Pueblo in the 1930’s. The casita styled boutique resort hotel is so “classically Tucson” it’s almost unfair. The grounds are stunning, the decor is pure southwest, and its location near campus makes it an easy choice for anyone visiting that desires a tranquil home base.
While Arizona Inn isn’t located on the Street Car line, you are only a short walk ¾ mile away from one of the campus stops or a cheap Uber ride away from downtown.
Lodge On The Desert
Similar to Arizona Inn, but coming in at a rate that will leave some money in your pocket to really enjoy Tucson’s food scene, is the Lodge On The Desert. Also built in the 1930’s, Lodge On The Desert offers visitors a unique balance between being in the heart of the city and desert escape that really can’t be found in other southwest metros. You’ll find it hard not to be charmed by this elegantly designed hotel. If you’re looking for a little escape after the game or between tours around campus, Lodge On The Desert is located a comfortable 10 minute drive from the University of Arizona.
Homewood Suites by Hilton Tucson at St. Philip’s Plaza
Conveniently situated between the ever-beautiful Catalina Foothills to the north and the University of Arizona to the south, the Homewood Suites at St. Philip’s gives visitors a chance to see just that much more of Tucson. A stretch of the 120+ mile Tucson “Loop” sits directly next to the hotel. This paved pedestrian, bike (and horse) pathway runs along the Rillito River and has become a real treasure for the active city of Tucson. If you could live without the exercise but still want to enjoy the fresh air, St. Philip's Plaza is home to three great patio restaurants—Union Public House, Proof Pizza, and Reforma Modern Mexican. If you want to flex your “well I’m on vacation, so why not” muscle, take the scenic five minute drive up to La Encantada and enjoy all the shopping and dining you can handle. From Ra Sushi to LuLu Lemon, you’ll find a happy home to spend those vacation dollars or calories.
Westin La Paloma
Located in the Catalina Foothills, this resort may be one of Tucson’s marquee stays. You’ll need to drive fifteen minutes to get to campus, but when you’re trading in some extra time in the car for THAT view of the Santa Catalina Mountain range...it’s hard to call it a “sacrifice.” The resort features two full size pools (one for adults only and the other boasts a swim up bar), three hot tubs, a cold pool, a kid’s pool, and a three-story tall water slide.
You can take your choice of on-site restaurants, one of which started as an independent restaurant that chose to move onto the premises for the sunset vista the hotel’s foothill perch provides.
Be sure to bring your golf clubs and work your way around the challenging 27-hole Jack Nicholas-designed golf course. Local legend says that Nicholas was put off by unkind hosts when he first visited the site to design the course, so he took it out on the city by making a course that was extra difficult. True or not, you may want to bring an extra sleeve or two of golf balls. While the course is stunning, it is a challenge.
Welcome to Tucson
No matter which hotel you choose, one thing is for sure—if you’re visiting Tucson, you are visiting a city with an award-winning culinary scene, beautiful university campus, and the awe-inspiring Sonoran desert.
Crazy for college vibes? Plan your Wildcat Weekend.