Discover Terrific Tucson
We caught up with Tucson local Julie Reed of Tucson In Style and got the inside scoop on why The Old Pueblo is worth a visit.
Amtrak: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to blog about Tucson.
Julie: I moved to Tucson for graduate school and fell head over heels in love with this place. I grew up near the ocean, but like many people, I feel such a strong pull to the Sonoran desert. The landscape is like nothing I’d seen before and I find it so wild and soothing.
Tucson seems to be a city under the radar. Tell us what’s neat about it.
Where to start? It’s a great size–big enough to allow endless exploration, small enough to feel like a town. It is both vibrant and serene. There’s also incredible biodiversity–in a single day you can take a morning hike among cacti, travel through scrublands, then picnic in a cool pine forest. And downtown is fantastic–after spending a day hiking in the mountains, you can eat, drink, and people-watch at any number of great restaurants, bars and cafes.
How would you describe Tusconans? Is there a local culture or common interests?
Tucson is very community-oriented and friendly. There’s a strong “maker” culture here—lots of creators, artists, and great ideas and innovation. It’s also a very playful town. I’ve been to so many pop-up events, clothing swaps, family bike rides, and dance parties. I’d say Tucsonans are quite fond of bicycles and beer. Cyclovia is a great event, where streets are closed to cars and people of all ages walk, bike and play. Tucson is a very bike-friendly town. There are some excellent breweries here, and restaurants, bars and cafes serve local beer as much as possible. Also,Tucsonans are unusually friendly. Visitors standing holding a map shouldn’t be surprised if they asked if they want help finding something. They’ll probably also be given a whole bunch of suggestions for dining, entertainment and recreation. It’s a great town for kids, too. I have two little ones and there’s so much to do, year-round. Local businesses are very family-friendly on the whole.
Where are the best places to grab a bite? Shop?Downtown and Fourth Avenue are great. The Amtrak stop is actually the place where the two districts meet. They’re short, walkable stretches of restaurants and shops. Fourth Avenue is unique in that it has no chain stores or restaurants–everything’s a Tucson original, except a Dairy Queen that’s been there forever. There are tons of thrift stores and out-of-towners are always thrilled by the low prices and great finds. My favorite places to eat–all in or near downtown and locally-owned–are B-Line, Reilly , 47 Scott, and Wilko. The corner of 6th Street and 6th Avenue, a few blocks from downtown, has a few treasures. Tap & Bottle is a must-visit for beer fans–they have 20 taps that constantly rotate, and give detailed descriptions of all the brews. Also on that corner is Ozma Atelier, a sweet boutique that has phenomenal vintage and designer clothing (runway-type stuff) for about 90% off retail.
Any interesting museums or things to do?
Oh yes! The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a “living museum”. It’s out in the middle of the saguaro forest and shows flora and fauna in their natural habitat. It’s stunning The drive out there, over Gates Pass, is mindblowing. Spending time in the desert, away from the city, gives you a chance to really take in the sounds, smell, and feel of the Sonoran desert.. Another great thing today is get a pass on the new modern streetcar,which runs from the University of Arizona campus through downtown and ends at the Mercado San Agustin. You could start on campus, there are great museums–Arizona State Museum focuses on the indigenous southwestern cultures. All Souls Procession, in early November, is a wonderful Tucson tradition that highlights the city’s strong community and creative spirit. It’s also really fun to venture out into other neighborhoods. Barrio Viejo and other historic neighborhoods have amazing architecture, colors, and history. We live between downtown and South Tucson, which is its own city. I’d recommend asking locals for their favorite taco stand–you’ll get a bunch of different answers, but all of them will be delicious!
Check out some of Julie’s recommendations yourself and book a trip to Tucson on the Sunset Limited! Been there before? Let other Amtrak-ers know your suggestions in the comments below.