Looking for heat and then some? Head off to Tucson in southern Arizona, I guarantee you won’t need to take a sweater.
Tucson is Arizona’s second largest city after Phoenix but is a much more attractive option with the stunning Santa Catalina Mountains as a backdrop.
I stayed just a few nights and I wish it had been longer as there is a lot to tempt you away from any one of the world-class golf courses or resort hotels offering every amenity. I stayed at the beautiful Arizona Inn, which just oozes charm and tranquillity. Located in the downtown area, the hotel appears to be in the centre of a historical residential street and first impressions are that you are visiting a private house. But once inside the property opens out into 14 acres of gardens providing a blaze of colour. Water trickles over fountains and the pool area beckons. High spot of the day was the complimentary ice cream buffet served around the pool in the late afternoon. Food at the Inn is pricey as it is fine dinning at its best. I chose to explore restaurants outside the hotel and one of my finds was Daisy Mae’s Steakhouse. This is where you come to experience the true ‘cowboy’ steaks cooked on an open fire over mesquite wood. The restaurant is housed in an original trading post dating back to the 1870’s and has a chequered history. Today it has kept its authentic atmosphere and is a great place to enjoy some local ‘chow’.
If the cowboy bug bites you may want to saddle up and the Tanque Verde Ranch Resort situated at the foot of the majestic Rincon Mountains, just outside Tucson, is the ideal place. With over 400 horses available you are sure to find one to suit your abilities. The immaculate tack room would put many a wardrobe to shame with each horse having its own saddle, blanket and bridle al hanging from a named peg. Tanque Verde can arrange horse rides for all abilities as well as a variety of other outdoor activities. Keen horse lovers can even get married on the ranch.
As well as great dinning and shopping opportunities Tucson is home to the Pima Air & Space Museum, one of the largest air and space museums in the world. Pima is the last resting place of many famous aircraft from World War 2, President Kennedy’s Airforce One, commercial planes and an up to date exhibition of space exploration. Opposite the museum is a huge area known as ‘The Boneyard’ where row upon row of ‘retired’ military aircraft are stored – over 4000 in all – stretching out in long orderly rows under the scorching sun. If the heat gets too much outside then stroll around the Space Gallery and see inside the training version of an Apollo space capsule. The Museum runs plenty of guided tours, which vary from day to day, so check for details.
A visit to the Mission San Xavier del Bac is a surreal experience. Located just off the busy interstate I-19, this brilliant white adobe church is a great example of mission architecture. It is an active Roman Catholic Church serving the San Xavier Indian Reservation and you will often find Native Americans selling snacks in the car park. Give fry bread a try – it is like a cross between a big doughnut and a pancake and is served with savoury or sweet toppings.
If you get a taste for Mexican food, head to El Charro, Tucson’s oldest family run Mexican restaurant. The speciality is carne seca, traditional air-dried beef shredded and served with onions and chillies.
Tucson has many other attractions including the Saguaro National Park, a thriving programme of cultural events, museums and of course, many shopping opportunities. I just wish I could have stayed longer, but as it is, I will just have to come back one day. Visit www.visittucson.org which has heaps of information.
I flew with BA into Phoenix and then drove to Tucson; it takes a couple of hours on the highway and is an easy drive. A number of US carriers will take you directly into Tucson via a selection of US gateways. Visit www.BA.com or www.Expedia.co.uk for prices and routes. Alamo offer great value car hire throughout the USA.
For more information, visit American Sky.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends American Sky.