In my lifetime, there have been a few moments when I’ve visited a city that has produced feeling like ‘I’m home’ – despite never having been there before. It happened while walking the streets of Paris, navigating through the crowds of New York City and while strolling through the redbrick buildings at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. An odd mix, no doubt, but all of these cities had their own unique atmosphere and charm that I formed an instant connection with.

Architecture in Arizona

desert nomad house - scenic.jpgLooking for an excuse to return ‘home,’ and being that my boyfriend is an architect, I thought the most unique birthday present that I could get him would be a weekend stay at the Desert Nomad House, a three-part home in Tucson designed by Arizona-based architect Rick Joy.

When we arrived, we both realized that the home was even more wonderful than we had imagined. Being able to experience it through the eyes of an architect only magnified its beauty. Noticing the small details, such as the hidden cabinetry, alignment of the seams in the windows and wood paneling and gorgeous thin skylights that boggle your mind when you begin to think about how they were built, really brings out the ingenuity of the Desert Nomad House. It was amazing to wake up to the sunrise over the desert landscape and towering Saguaros.

With such luxurious accommodations, I’m surprised we got outdoors as much as we did. But, both being grads of the University of Arizona, we did have a laundry list of restaurants and attractions we wanted to visit during our short trip.

Downtown Tucson

BarrioCourtyard-edited.jpgLocated in a seemingly unmarked tin warehouse, Ben suggested that we first stop at Barrio Brewery since we arrived in Tucson earlier than expected. Settling into the casual and quirky atmosphere of this downtown brewery, I got my vacation off to the right start with an ice-cold Tucson Blonde.

Feeling relaxed, refreshed and like we had to test out the home’s stunning modern kitchen, we headed to 17th Street Market to pick up some organic vegetables, fruits, herbs, juice, yogurt and a topnotch cut of steak.

Later that day, we headed back to downtown Tucson to try the highly recommended new eatery, The Hub. As I bit into my Vegchetta, a sandwich filled with grilled veggies, portabella mushrooms, caramelized onions, I immediately understood why so many locals suggested this restaurant. If you’re not about to leave feeling completely stuffed to the gills, you can also delight in a tasty treat at their creamery, featuring unique flavors such as honey basil and jalapeno spice.

Arizona Wildlife

Waking up and looking out at the desert each morning, we felt inspired to learn more about our natural surroundings and hiding neighbors. Driving past Gates Pass lookout, we drove through the stunning desert scenery to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum.

There, we saw Javelina sleeping under a bridge in an unfenced area of the museum, watched a mountain lion pace in its habitat and learned about ancient Arizona. The trip to the museum brought up memories of both of our past trips – oddly enough, both involving squirrels.

They say there’s no place like ‘home,’ and for me and many others, the saying is true for Tucson. From the small town charm that this expansive city still holds, to the rich southwestern history, it truly has a distinct and enchanting culture all its own. Maybe it’s time to find your sense of ‘home’ in the city of Tucson.

Jessica C. is a Midwesterner who now calls Phoenix ‘home.’ Having been a U of A Wildcat, she’s no stranger to all the distinctive, exciting things to do in Tucson.