Perfect Getaway: Tucson, Arizona

Start the new year with serenity at this desert locale.
Bobcats are just some of the many animals you will find at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Photograph Courtesy of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The quiet Sonora Desert city doesn’t try to lure anyone with nonstop activity and glitz. Rather, it’s the perfect place for new beginnings and introspection that come from stepping back from busyness, particularly in the post-holiday season. The open space, gorgeous views, and clear nights might be just what you need to reset your agenda for 2023. Try some nationally recognized local food, take in the giants of jazz at this month’s festival, and unwind with just the right combination of touring and rest.


Part zoo, part botanical garden, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum beckons visitors to the hill just above Tucson. Amazing views and desert animals are on display every day for you to spend a few hours walking the outdoor paths ($27.95 and up), and this time of year is ideal for being outside. You’ll see coyotes, wolves, mule deer, bobcats, foxes, lizards, and more. The gardens full of native plants and flowers are worth the trip on their own.  


The pueblo-style lobby and thoughtful landscaping provide a warm Southwestern welcome to guests at Lodge on the Desert boutique hotel. Rooms are large yet cozy with fireplaces and local decor ($143 and up). Daily breakfast is complimentary, and there’s a fitness center and outdoor pool on the 5-acre property. The hotel is centrally located, making it a wonderful place to rest after a day of exploring. 


Find James Beard Award semifinalist Maria Mazon and her top-notch tacos at Boca in the historic center of town. The intimate indoor space filled with hip servers elicits an in-the-know vibe, and there’s a dog-friendly patio. The biggest challenge here is narrowing your list of which tacos to try (most are around $5 each). Options include traditional flavors such as chicken with mole, shredded pork, and barbacoa beef as well as beyond-the-norm fillings like a bacon-wrapped hot dog. Start with a cocktail and the chips and salsa flight—fried-to-order chips and incredible house-made salsas—while you peruse the menu and make the difficult choice. Or just order one of each and enjoy. 


A destination for more than 40 years, Tucson Botanical Gardens offers a beautiful respite and several styles of plantings, including a cactus garden, Zen garden, herb garden, xeriscape garden, and children’s discovery garden. The most enticing draw this time of year might be the butterfly pavilion, a tropical greenhouse that is home to hundreds of species from all over the globe fluttering among orchids, sword ferns, and bromeliads. The space is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ($13 and up). 

Enjoy breakfast, brunch, or lunch at lovely Prep & Pastry. Photograph Courtesy of Prep & Pastry


A short distance from the University of Arizona, the Campbell Avenue location of Prep & Pastry is the best bet for breakfast or lunch. The charming indoor space fills up fast, even on weekdays, and for good reason. Gourmet food that’s rich and satisfying takes center stage here with dishes such as cast-iron duck confit ($16) and the Monte Cristo: ham and Swiss cheese with pineapple jalapeno mascarpone on herbed brioche French toast ($13). Freshly baked pastries entice customers on the way out—even those with full bellies. 


Head to the foothills for a relaxing stay at Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort ($195 and up). Decor that blends with the serene desert surroundings captures the local spirit and adds luxurious touches. The property began welcoming guests in 1944 and has been renovated and restored since, including the addition of 40 rooms and a lap pool in 2021. The spa offers treatments such as a signature blood orange body scrub ($165), and guests can lounge at one of the three outdoor pools and take in the amazing mountain views.

Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort added 40 rooms and a lap pool in 2021. Photograph Courtesy of Visit Tucson


The largest cacti in the nation are protected at Saguaro National Park, which surrounds Tucson to the east and west. The eastern part has been open longer (since 1933) and thus has older Saguaro forests. Your pass is good for seven days ($25 per vehicle) and covers both sections of the park. You won’t see flowers on the giant cacti until later in the year, but now is a good time for short strolls or daylong hikes since daytime temperature averages around 65 degrees. 


Jan. 13 through 22: The Tucson Jazz Festival jams with headliners such as Dee Dee Bridgewater, Terence Blanchard, Kurt Elling, Samara Joy, Arturo O’Farrill, and many more.