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(photo by Mark Voss)
One of my dream trips: see the Grand Canyon and see the Grand Canyon we did (the Cypriot chaperoned me to make sure I wasn’t one of the 250 idiots who need to be rescued every year). We started our journey in the university town of Tucson and worked our way up the state to the Grand Canyon, hitting Phoenix, Jerome, Sedona, Flagstaff and then headed west to finish off in Vegas. Words and pictures cannot describe how incredible the landscape is…it’s no wonder that Frank Lloyd Wright, Max Ernst and other artists made it their home. The food ain’t bad either. So to start off here are my top ten Tucson attractions not to miss
PIMA AIR & SPACE MUSEUM
6000 East Valencia Road Tucson, AZ, (520) 574-0462
Airplanes are the name of the game here at the Pima Air and Space Museum. It really is unmissable if you are lingering round Tucson looking for something to do and you like airplanes. Right on the outskirts of the city, not only is it a museum of all types of aircraft, they even have tours of the largest “boneyard” in the country. It’s over 150 acres and there’s everything from World War II bombers to Kennedy’s Air Force One to the very silly Hoppihopter. One wrong step in that thing and boom…
EL GUERO CANELO
2480 North Oracle Road, Tucson, AZ, (520) 882-8977
Recipe for the Sonoran Hotdog: Leave the Pima Air and Space Museum, drive to El Guero Canelo, order the hotdog and Grapefruit Jarrito, take your ticket, and wait. Two minutes later pick up the hotdog, garnish it with salsa, guacamole, roasted green onion from the condiments bar, sit and then devour. As you munch, you realize why you are eating it here at El Guero Canelo – the bread. It’s all about the freshly baked buns – really delicious and no where else. For those who don’t know, the Sonoran hotdog is a specialty of Tucson: a bacon-wrapped dog nestled into its bun, heretofore described, topped with beans, chopped tomatoes, onions, and jalapeno sauce, cheese, mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard. It may sound gross but the combo is amazing. Jarritos are a brand of fruit flavored Mexican sodas that are made with natural sugar instead of corn syrup. They also have a cool website and great flavors. The perfect chaser for the perfect hotdog.
SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK & TUCSON MOUNTAIN PARK
The Saguaro (the g is silent) is your standard cactus plant – the one that looks like a man waving to you on the side of the road. You’ve seen it in every movie along with tumbleweeds and cowboys….but have you ever seen 1,000,000 of them going for miles and miles? Probably not – unless you’ve been to the Saguaro National Park and Tucson Mountain Park. The drive is magnificent, taking Kinney Road toward Old Tucson Studios, and making sure to stop at every view points along the way. It’s why you went to AZ in the first place.
OLD TUCSON STUDIOS
201 South Kinney Road, Tucson, AZ 520-883-0100
From the classic Rio Bravo to Paul Newman’s Hombre to Tombstone with Val Kilmer and Kurt Russell, all of these films have one thing in common – they are westerns and they were filmed at Old Tucson – ok, that’s two things. Although still used as a film set, it is more of a theme parks where you can ride a horse and carriage, shoot a Colt Buntline Special or rustle up some grub. Have to admit, it was fun.
MISSION SAN XAVIER DEL BAC
1950 West San Xavier Road, Tucson, AZ 85746: (520) 261-9760
The next stop after Old Tucson was this beautiful white 18th century mission on the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation. A luminous beacon of light in the middle of the dusty landscape about ten miles outside of central Tucson, the MIssion stands as a reminder of the Spanish church’s riches, reach and power. It is still thriving today as a community center and a school for the Tohono O’odham. No one knows who the architect was but it is unlike anything else you see in this part of the world.
1219 S. 6th Ave., Tucson, AZ, (520) 624-2561
Supposedly Krispy Kreme was run out of town by the Le Caves’s vegan creations. Fruit filled, powdered covered, chocolate schmeared, to me the proof is in the simple plain doughnut. One bite and you understand why they have been around since 1935. Sitting here now, I am dreaming of that soft fried cushion of deliciousness.
LIL ABNERS STEAK HOUSE
8501 North Silverbell Road Tucson, AZ, (520) 744-2800
As opposed to Le Caves, Lil Abners is not vegan friendly. A pit outside welcomes carnivores from all over to bless the holy meat products. We were given no menu but walked through all the animal bits on offer. You kinda have to try a steak given it’s a steak house but the ribs were an equally good choice. Served with the standard AZ side dishes of beans, hot buttered bread, baked potato and side salad dowsed in blue cheese dressing, the meats were the cherry on top of the sundae. All downed with a beer, this is American cuisine at its best.
ROSA’S MEXICAN FOOD
1750 East Fort Lowell, Tucson, AZ, 520-325-0362
On the other side of the border (not literally), a whole different cuisine is being served up. A few more choices that just meat and more meat, this local joint is the place to go, especially when you planned to go to Mi Nidito, which is closed on Monday and Tuesday. Don’t be put off that Rosa’s is in a strip mall – some of the best restaurants in AZ are – and the diner feel. This place is third generation and been around for ages. The chili relleno are amazing and so is everything else. Mi Nidito – kiss my grits!
The side trip that everyone takes, thanks to the OK Corral and all that Earp business. Here at Best Bits, we try and find something good about everywhere but it’s gotta be said that the best part of Tombstone was not the reenactment of the famous shoot-out, not the paved roads through town (where was the tumbleweed, I say??), nor the proliferation of olde stores selling tourist junk but Big Nose Kate’s Saloon and its never-ending supply of Overholt Whisky. Overholt was actually drunk by the Earps and everyone else at that time. Cheers to that. It made our jaunt to this famous site a little more pleasureful.