Flavorful Food in Southern Arizona
BOCA Tacos & SONA Tortillas
The afternoon starts off with stops along the Downtown Tucson Taco Tour, featuring local favorites such as Anita Street Market, Ermanos, and BOCA Tacos y Tequilas (pictured above by @elcapitan8 on Instagram).
Since opening BOCA nearly 10 years ago, Chef Maria Mazon has made a name for herself thanks to her solid, often uniquely flavored tacos made using traditional Mexican methods. Along the way, she's been featured on the Food Network, as well as in stories by The New York Times and USA Today. Mazon's most recent venture is SONA Tortillas, which sells fresh handmade corn tortillas on the weekends from inside BOCA's outdoor patio.
Instagram: @bocatacos and @sonatortillas
Charro Steak & Del Rey
Following check-in at the hotel and a walk around downtown (recommended: 4th Avenue and/or the Mercado District), it's time for dinner.
Inspired by food found in the Mexican state of Sonora, Charro Steak is the newest restaurant from the family behind El Charro Cafe, America's oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family. Diners can expect locally sourced, all-natural ingredients and meats raised without added hormones or antibiotics. Choose from expertly grilled steaks, fish and lobster seasoned with Mexican spices and herbs, and even Chef Carlotta's vegan hemp tamales. (Photo: Pedro J. Berruecos)
Hub Ice Cream
What's dinner without dessert?
This small-batch ice creamery produces 30-plus flavors of ice cream and sorbet weekly, with flavors ranging from the usual—cookies & cream and mint chocolate chip—to the experimental, such as ricotta and fig, avocado and Sonoran Desert honey, and a berry sorbet made with roasted barrel-cactus seeds sourced from Nogales, Ariz. The menu changes weekly, so we won't judge if you decide to make regular visits.
Facebook: @HubIceCream / Instagram: @HubIceCream
Tanque Verde Ranch
Get your blood pumping, and beat the crowds, with a moderate morning hike at Tanque Verde Falls on Tucson's east side. About 2.5 miles roundtrip, you'll hike over boulders and a dry riverbed before coming across a small desert oasis. Having worked up an appetite, it's time for breakfast at Tanque Verde Guest Ranch.
Rated the #1 Top Resort in the Southwest by readers of Conde Nast Traveler in 2021, this 150-year-old guest ranch sits on 60,000 acres next to Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest. They offer traditional ranch activities such as horseback riding and cowboy cookouts; however, Tanque Verde raises the bar with additional luxury amenities including a spa, mountain biking and hiking trails, yoga, daily kids programs, art workshops, and more. Bonus: Most of their activities can be reserved á la carte without a stay (subject to availability).
Mt. Lemmon Cookie Cabin
The next destination is Mount Lemmon, the highest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains. The drive up is one of the most scenic in Arizona and takes about 40 minutes, assuming you don't stop at any of the vistas or numerous trails.
When you reach the top, take in the views and grab a sweet snack at Mt. Lemmon Cookie Cabin. Find the right cabin by following the smell of fresh-baked cookies. These cookies are BIG—like the size of your face BIG. Not sure what flavor to get? Go for "the Sampler," a six-cookie combo in the shape of a flower. (Photo: @tasteoftucson on Instagram)
Now it's back to downtown and time to explore Tucson's murals. See some of the most well-known (and often photographed) murals by following Beyond Tucson's "14 Mural Walk" 2-mile route, starting from Maynard's restaurant.
Note: If you happen to be around on a Monday, take part in Meet Me at Maynard's, which includes the mural walk among its routes. Finish a route and receive discounts at local restaurants as you enjoy live music and drink specials.
Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink
Reilly gained a bit of infamy for opening in the former location of a funeral home, but it's "been knockin' 'em dead" with its wood-fired pizzas and brussels sprouts (yes, seriously, brussels sprouts). Outside, tucked away from the street, is a beer garden with 28 rotating tap beers, 8 tap wines and even more to eat. Grab a cocktail from the downstairs speakeasy, Tough Luck Club, or hold off for post-dinner drinks nearby.
After dinner, treat yourself with pearls. Well, pearl shots, more specifically.
HighWire Tucson uses molecular-gastronomy techniques to elevate the simple cocktail. Their signature is the Pearl Shot: a Vodka-based cocktail molded into a bubble and served on a Chinese soup spoon. Past flavors include watermelon cucumber, salted caramel, and Mexican candy. Other molecular favorites include the Glitter Bomb Mimosa and Bubble Margarita. (Photo: @fare_expeditionsaz on Instagram)
Arizona Winery Tours
After breakfast at a place of your choice, it's time for a road trip south of Tucson.
Arizona Winery Tours offers all-inclusive tours from the Tucson area to local wineries in the state's three largest wine-growing regions: the Verde Valley, Sonoita-Elgin, and Willcox — all American Viticultural Areas. Enjoy visits to several tasting rooms, lunch and snacks, all wine-tasting fees, a souvenir glass and transportation. Tour operators can customize trips based on your preferences, but for this trip, @WelcometoArizona traveled to Elgin wineries Twisted Union Wine, Callaghan Vineyards (pictured above), and Rune Wines in Sonoita.
Dos Cabezas WineWorks
Wine-d down the day with a stop at Dos Cabezas, a small family-owned and-run vineyard in Sonoita. The family recently started Pronghorn Pizza at the vineyard, serving wood-fired pizzas, salads, charcuterie meats and cheeses, and non-alcoholic drinks. Don't forget to pick up some bottles (or cans) of wine to enjoy back home.
El Pancho Villa — Tacos Y Burros
Morning begins with a breakfast burrito (or taco) at this small Mexican restaurant in Patagonia. In addition to cheese, potatoes and eggs, burritos come filled with chorizo, machaca, veggies, bacon or ham. While there, pick up some pan dulce (sweet breads) or Mexican candy to snack on later.
Patagonia Lake State Park
Patagonia Lake State Park in Patagonia is a great place for fishing, water skiing, camping, picnicking, and hiking all year round.
Patagonia Lumber Co.
After an afternoon of hiking, swimming, paddleboarding or just enjoying the cooler weather in Patagonia, stop for some people watching and live music (currently on weekends only) at Patagonia Lumber Co. Don't be fooled by the name, the space doesn't sell wood, but you can find beer, wine and often several food trucks to feed those hunger pangs.
Occasionally reps from mountain bike companies stop by to show off their latest bikes that you can borrow for a quick ride with the group. Gravel biking is a big deal in this area of the state, so you're likely to come upon a few enthusiasts willing to share their favorite trails.
After spending most of the day in Patagonia, it's time to head back to Tucson. You can take Interstate 19 and stop at Tubac for some quick browsing of the local art, or travel north on State Route 83 through Sonoita and the surrounding landscape of Las Cienegas Natural Conservation Area.
For dinner, make reservations for BATA, one of Tucson's newest restaurants. Located in a historic 1930s warehouse, BATA is short for robata, a Japanese style of grilling that inspired the chef's take on the menu. All of the items will be touched by fire, whether that's grilled, flame-dried, charred, smoked, and so on. The menu will also change daily, so an open mind and curious palate is a must.