Woman posing with wild west characters
O.K. Corral, Tombstone

How to Vacation Like a Local in Southern Arizona

Where to go and stay to experience the local culture in and around Tucson

Tucson is definitely the hub of activity in southern Arizona, whether you're looking for outdoor freedom, dining explorations or a cultural escape. This city also takes pride in being easy-going and welcoming, making it a sun-soaked, laid-back, gem of the Southwest that is a gateway to history, culture and creativity.

Tucson's food culture

When Tucson became the first city in the U.S. to be designated as a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy, no one from Tucson was surprised. The local culinary scene has long been ripe for exploration.

Start by eating lunch somewhere along the Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food, a stretch of funky-to-fine dining options where you'll taste the best Mexican cuisine north of the border. Happy hour on the patio at Hotel Congress is another must. Order the tofu street tacos and Ghost Orchid cocktail while you watch the sunset over a downtown that becomes more vibrant each day.

For dinner, Tucson always provides new territory to traverse with creative chef-driven restaurants, like Signature Grill, which has an inventive menu of American Indian, Mexican and cowboy cuisine, and Primo, which serves handcrafted Italian dishes from the mind of Chef Melissa Kelly. Both are at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa and boast scenic views filled with nature and big skies. If you're in the mood for a late-night snack, Batch Café & Bar is a guilty pleasure stop for a surprisingly delicious combination of whiskey and donuts.

Tucson's expansive outdoors

Fall and winter in Tucson provide perfect weather for almost any outdoor activity. Watching the sunrise over the city from the top of Tumamoc Hill is how many locals start their days. If you want a trail a little less traveled, the surrounding mountains provide plenty of opportunities to look at the world in a new way. Every time you stand on top of a summit, you can feel a sense of limitlessness as you look out over the desert.

The Catalina Mountains offer tough but rewarding climbs like Finger Rock Trail and Pusch Ridge, but there are also easier and just as satisfying hikes in Catalina State Park. For a color-filled view, definitely hike Linda Vista trail in Oro Valley. Insider tip: always check the timing of the day's sunset before you head out and make sure to leave in time to get a glimpse of the sky turning incandescent rouge as the sun dips into the horizon.

The Old West

Save a day for some true-blue Old West history. Tombstone is a hamlet southeast of Tucson whose streets are still thick with the dust that clung to boots worn by Old West lawmen like Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp. Visitors can walk the streets of the Wild West in Old Tombstone, or ride a stagecoach to see exhibits and learn the true story of the O.K. Corral.

Take a wrong turn and you may find yourself in the presence of a gunfight, and then just watch, as a pair of rough-and-ready outlaws face-off, ten-gallon hats shielding steely eyes and the sleeves of long leather dusters pulled out of the way of itchy trigger fingers. The town's explosive celebration of its infamous past and the haunted tours given just after dusk propel you back into a one-of-a-kind Old West experience.

These recommendations will get you started, but there's plenty more to see. Discover the wines, mines, and cactus spines of southern Arizona.

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The Old West

O.K. Corral

On October 26, 1881, long-simmering friction between the Earps and the Clanton-McLaury gang erupted in the vacant lot behind the O.K....


O.K. Corral

On October 26, 1881, long-simmering friction between the Earps and the Clanton-McLaury gang erupted in the vacant lot behind the O.K....