Tucson Journals

Tucson - Oasis in the Sonoran Desert

A November 2000 trip to Tucson by jmineo

Mission San Xavier del Bac Photo, Tucson, Arizona More Photos
Quote: Tucson Arizona's population explodes during the winter as "snowbirds" flock south for resort style living in a warm climate away from the frigid North. We had the opportunity to experience the "snowbird" way of life first-hand at Westin's La Paloma resort. This place is nestled in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains just outside of Tucson's city limits within the Sonoran Desert, and gave us one of our best experiences in resort living we could have ever imagined.

Tucson - Oasis in the Sonoran Desert

Overview

Saguaro Cactus Silouette Photo, Tucson, Arizona
Quote:
My overarching memory of Tucson was that you don't need to pack much luggage because you'll be wearing shorts and t-shirts mainly throughout the year- it's that hot. Some of our memorable moments during our trips to Tucson were our stays at the La Paloma resort. In our mind there was really no reason for us ever to step foot off the resort proper. There was enough of "Tucson" within the resort to satisfy each of our return trips. Quick Tips: Be very careful driving in and around Tucson during the winter months. As I allude to in my journal, the "snowbirds" flock from the cold northern country to warmer climate in resort communities like Tucson. Many of the "snowbirds" are elderly citize...Read More

Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa

Hotel | "Westin's La Paloma"

Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa Photo, Tucson, Arizona
Quote:
Granted, prices are naturally higher at this resort than would be in the dead of summer, but we found this place well worth the money in the month of November. It''s hard to get in during the winter months, due to the weather being so pleasant and people using this as a summer retreat coming from northern country. The first thing that hits you is the drive off of Sunrise Blvd to get to the hotel check-in. A median divided the two lanes winding up to the resort with 20ft-high Saguaro cacti spaced with what seemed to be scientific precision. I swear they were all within one inch height of each other. Later at night we found that these cacti were completely wrapped with small lights, which added...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 12, 2001

Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa
3800 East Sunrise
Tucson, Arizona 85718
(520) 742-6000

Desert Garden Restaurant Photo, Tucson, Arizona
Quote:
Without a doubt try the resort restaurant, before scurrying about for other food fare. They have a southwestern flare to their dishes. Talking with the executive chef, they change their menu quarterly to bring in new customers, especialy local patrons in the hot summer months. They were featuring roasted garlic filet mignon with habanero chile sauce. Dish presentation looked like what you'd see in a food cuisine magazine: large plate with filet placed over a pool of sauce, garlic mashed potatoes shaped like a cactus with an assortment of veggies perfectly arranged. We lucked into a table near one of the windows which provided a view of the pool grounds below and the catalina Mountains above. Inc...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 12, 2001

Desert Garden Restaurant
La Paloma Resort
Tucson, Arizona 85718
(520) 742-6000

Terra Cotta Restaurant

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Restaurant | "Cafe Terra Cotta + a Steven Baldwin sighting!"

Quote:
We heard about this place from my daughter who went to school at the University of Arizona. Now that my wife and I have been there, I see where our hard-earned money went putting her through school. Seriously, this Mexican bistro is a beautifully made up place specializing in tapas. For those of you not familiar with that lingo, all I know is it happens to be small appetizer portions of Spanish flare foods. If you're into sampling foods this is the place to go. The cafe was painted with soft pastels and lighting was dim, but not dark. Believe it or not we saw Steven Baldwin (one of the younger Baldwin brother actors) come through the door and heard from our server that he was a regular there. ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 12, 2001

Terra Cotta Restaurant
3500 East Sunrise Drive
Tucson, Arizona 85718
(520) 577-8100

Bunbuku Japanese Cuisine

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Restaurant | "Bunbuku Sushi Bar and Restaurant"

Quote:
Sushi in Tucson Arizona??? Well, normally I'd agree - NO. But we have returned to this Japanese gem time and time again. You walk into this place, letting the cloth overhang at the doorway hit you in the head, then it hits you: You may have to wait to be seated. You're not waiting to be seated due to the crowds necessarily, you're waiting because you can count the tables on both hands. Further, the sushi bar runs the length of the restaurant, which is at best 10 feet, seating may five barstools. Once you get beyond your claustrophobic tendencies, the quaintness of the room takes over. The sushi...to die for! I don't see how they do it in the middle of the desert.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 15, 2001

Bunbuku Japanese Cuisine
4520 East Broadway Blvd
Tucson, Arizona 85710
(520) 325-6953

Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse

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Restaurant

Quote:
This is a rough and tumble place to get steak. If you wear a necktie, the staff will loudly (and with customer jeering) cut it off and post it one the wall. I'm not kidding! If you're a vegetarian - don't even bother with this place. The only thing without meat are the salads - and thats if you hold the bacon bits. Every piece of meat here is mesquite grilled. The basic cut is a 22oz T-bone for $10 served up with beans and salad. Baked potato is extra. I usually order the Cattleman's 30 oz T-bone for $15, medium rare. The inner part of the steak was cool meaning it had been cooked from the cooler rather than being cooked from room temperature. The steak was also on the dry side wit...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 10, 2001

Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse
6541 East Tanque Verde Road (trail Dust Town)
Tucson, Arizona 85715
(520) 296 4551

Jason’s Deli

Restaurant

Quote:
I know there are Jason’s Deli’s in other parts of the country, but I'm adding it here because they are few and far between, and the food in this grand sandwich shop is healthy without busting your pocketbook. Because it is relatively close to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, lunchtime is busy and may be dominated by servicemen and women in flight suits during the week (me being one of them when I was on active duty). It's best to get in before 11am or after 1:30 for a more relaxing meal, else you'll be battling the crowds fromm the base. But, even if you see a line when you drive by, know that it moves quickly and is worth the extra five minutes for a tasty meal. Beats the heck out of McDonald’s, and you...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 30, 2001

Jason’s Deli
5420 E Broadway Blvd
Tucson, Arizona 85711
(520) 790-7000

Dao's Tai Pan's

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Restaurant | "Dao's Taipan"

Quote:
This is a Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant located in front of St. Joseph’s Hospital on the east side of town (directly across from the Wilmot Branch Library). Most Vietnamese-owned restaurants in Tucson wouldn't survive on their own without fusing dishes or offering other ethnic cuisine with the Vietnamese items on the menu. Thus, the Chinese items on the menu. Vietnamese food has long been a favorite of mine, not simply because my wife is Vietnamese, but the foods are fresh and without the heavy sauces found in most Chinese-American restaurants. My favorite dishes here include Goi Coun, or fresh spring rolls, and noodle dishes with chicken or pork (number 24 and 25 on their menu). Of course there are...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 30, 2001

Dao's Tai Pan's
446 N Wilmot Rd
Tucson, Arizona 85711
(520) 722-0055

Biosphere 2

Attraction | "Back to the future - Biosphere 2"

Quote:
Okay, I didnt want to go here but my better half did so, needless to say, this was one of our excursions while at Tucson. We paid our 12 bucks for a tour of Biosphere 2, which is one of the largest living laboratories in the world. If I got one thing out of this tour it would be that this was one huge greenhouse. Actually, the compound was hard to walk, going from one area to the next. If you're a plant lover, you'd love this place. Within Biosphere 2 are several different "biomes", which was a fancy name for an "ecosystems". Researchers use these to experiment on different Earth systems. We saw what they called a salt water ocean, which looked like an oversized fish tank to me. The tour guide ...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on January 12, 2001

Biosphere 2
32540 S Biosphere Rd
Tucson, Arizona 85623
(520) 896-6200

The Boneyard Tour, AMARC Facility

Attraction | "Davis-Monthan AFB "Boneyard" Tour"

Quote:
For the military aircraft history afficionados, Davis-Monthan (D-M) AFB contains hundreds of acres of old (and new) airplanes. Technically they call it the AMARC (Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center)facility, but everyone else knows it as the "Bone Yard". The base gives tours which are free but must be coordianted through the base public affairs office. You'll have to stop at the main gate at D-M to get a temporary sticker if your not military or DOD. Once at the bone yard, they do not allow POVs on the premise. You have to pre-arrange a tour with the public affairs folks. We saw hundreds of aircraft, including old generation B-52's that were being cut up by huge guillotines to sa...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 12, 2001

The Boneyard Tour, AMARC Facility
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base
Tucson, Arizona

Tohono Chul Park

Attraction

Quote:
Pluck your $2 donation down and walk down the winding nature trail through Tohono Chul's various gardens. You not only get a feel for the Sonoran Desert itself, you get a look at some of the desert's diverse plantlife. You may even catch a roadrunner or quail scurring across the trails. Be sure to tour through the Exhibit Hall, which is a renovated historic home. You can also enjoy breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea in the Tea Room and shop in the Greenhouse and Museum Shops. We ate lunch there in the converted house's courtyard. There was plenty of shade while we ate under the Mesquite trees to keep us cool. The food wasn't particularly noteworthy, especially given the distraction of the beaut...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 18, 2001

Tohono Chul Park
7366 North Paseo Del Norte
Tucson, Arizona 85704
(520) 742-6455

Mount Lemmon

Attraction

Quote:
It's hard to believe that by driving only 30 miles north from the sizzling city limits of Tucson the temperature could drop 30 degrees on us. But the road to the village of Summerhaven on top of Mount Lemmon is straight up, and it offers a very accessible reprieve for any desert dweller looking to escape the heat. Its the local Tucsonians that generally frequent the cooler climate on Mt Lemmon. On the way up you'll run into Summerhaven, an unlikely alpine village in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. Its small but it has all you need: a few lodging establishments, several outstanding restaurants, shops and easy access to hiking and mountain biking opportunities in the surrounding Coronado National Fo...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 15, 2001

Mount Lemmon
Catalina Highway
Tucson, Arizona 85619
+1 520 547 7510

Mission San Xavier del Bac

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Attraction | "San Xavier Mission"

Mission San Xavier del Bac Photo, Tucson, Arizona
Quote:
In the vast desert just outside Tucson, Arizona, one would not expect to find a beautiful church. Following the signs from the highway directs you toward Mission San Xavier (pronounced as "hauv-e-air") del Bac, you approach this majestic "white dove of the desert" (as it is affectionately called). It is truly an awesome experience. The sheer size and bright color against a blue sky and the tan colors of the desert make San Xavier a striking sight. We never once saw this place during the four years we lived here; however, during our last visit back to Tucson we finally did it!

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 15, 2001

Mission San Xavier del Bac
1950 West San Xavier Road
Tucson, Arizona 85746
+1 520 294 2624

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

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Attraction | "Sonora Desert Museum"

Quote:
A leisurely morning is ideal for a trek to this park/museum. Look for signs to Tucson Community College, West Campus on I-10 then continue driving on the windy road. Our drive took us through the Saguaro National Monument, with its miles and miles of those enormous cactus "trees", into Tucson Mountain Park, site of the Desert Museum. The "Desert Experience" would be a better name for the museum, since it contains dioramas, aquariums, and a very educational earth sciences center. Outdoors, its spacious grounds are the best place to learn about Arizona's wealth and variety of cactuses and animals, since hundreds of indigenous plants and animals live in near-natural settings there. Kids of all ages wil...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 27, 2001

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
2021 North Kinney Road
Tucson, Arizona 85743
(520) 883-1380

Pima Air and Space Museum

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Attraction | "Pima Air Museum"

Quote:
Tucson enjoys what must be the world's finest outdoors exhibit of military aircraft from the earliest and smallest to the latest and greatest. Don't confuse this air museum with the Davis-Monthan AFB boneyard museum that is also opened to the public for tour. In the Pima museum, most are American aircaft, but there are Russian, British and other craft too, and some really historic attractions. Contray to the boneyard, these aren't mothballed for potential use by the government in case a major conflict breaks out and they have to resort to reviving airframes. We saw a B29 Super Fortress which had seen action during WW2, and the presidential plane which JFK used on his final trip. I was particularly i...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 27, 2001

Pima Air and Space Museum
6000 East Valencia Road
Tucson, Arizona 85706
(520) 574-0462

Quote:
I couldn't find a category that quite fit this little nugget of fun. It's a secret kept by residents of Oro Valley, a small suburban town just northwest of Tucson. Tangerine Road serves its purpose well, connecting what otherwise is a remote community from the heavily utilized Interstate 10. Without this "road" residents of Oro Valley have to backtrack miles into Tucson and merge much further south on I-10, which obviously can be an issue if you intend on traveling north on I-10. Therefore, Tangerine Road is pretty much categorized as a required "run" for Oro Valley residents heading north to Phoenix and the like. Having said all that, Tangerine Road is a 17 mile east/west stretch between I-10 an...Read More