The Instagram Guide to Tucson, Arizona

Speckled with saguaros and bursting with brilliant modern art, here’s what to plan for a weekend in Tucson, AZ.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tucson might be best known for its spectacular hiking trails and natural beauty, but the city offers much, much more. Tucson is the first city in the United States to be recognized as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy; it also offers inspiring modern art galleries and is home to the country’s most renowned health resort. For star-studded nights, the dark skies around Tucson make for exceptional stargazing. Visiting during shoulder season is ideal for mild weather and a blooming Sonoran desert, but if you can handle the heat, the summer brings discounted rates and less crowds. 

Whenever you decide to visit, read on for the cant-miss stops for a trip to Tuscon.

Shop Local at the MSA Annex

Head to the MSA Annex to grab lunch and poke around artisan shops, all built into converted shipping containers. From ice cream to boutiques to cocktails, you can spend an entire afternoon at the local-focused outdoor marketplace adjacent to the Mercado San Agustin.

Stay at Canyon Ranch

Visiting Canyon Ranch is a transformative experience. More than just a resort, the holistic health spa guides you in intentional pathways, from improving relationships to finding purpose in your profession to physical well-being. You’ll find delicious farm-to-table food at their all-inclusive, on-site restaurants and a wide range of activities from meditation to archery. 

Hike Through Sabino Canyon 

Check out Tucson’s iconic saguaros at Sabino Canyon, a hiking and recreation area at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains. From October through April, the lower temperatures offer great weather for being active and in the warmer months, visit the creek and cool off in the shade. If you’d rather see the canyon without hiking, shuttles leave frequently with nine stops and a narrated ride to allow you to explore the area without breaking in your hiking boots. 

The DeGrazia Gallery is much more than an art gallery, it's now a 10-acre National Historic District which includes the Gallery in the Sun Museum with six permanent art collections as well as rotating exhibitions. Designed and built by famed Arizona artist Ted DeGrazia, it is a regional landmark and immersive example of Southwestern art and architecture.

Get Lost in the Tucson Botanical Gardens

An oasis set in mid-town Tucson, the Tucson Botanical Gardens offers much more than just plants; the 5.5 acres are filled with sculptures, butterfly exhibits, cafes, and more. The peaceful grounds are a diverting way to spend a morning in nature without leaving the heart of the city. 

Find Culinary Heritage at El Charro Café

El Charro Café is one of Tucson’s delicious examples of its 4,000-year culinary heritage that earned the city the honor of being the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the U.S. The Mexican restaurant’s claim to fame is that they invented the Chimichanga, a menu item definitely worth trying, and they also serve up a full range of dishes like enchiladas, tacos and more.

Michelle Stansbury

Michelle Stansbury is a San Diego-based freelance writer who writes about travel, food, and relationships. Misuse of the word "literally" drives her figuratively insane.