;e Santa Cruz River ;oodplain where Tucson resides has been home
to extensive farming for more than 4,000 years—the longest known history
of cultivation in the United States. Dedicated to preserving the unique
terrain, the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace began the Mission Garden Project,
a phased part of the Tucson Origins Heritage Park. ;e only park of its
kind in the country, it’s a living timeline of distinct periods in the region’s
history. Upon completion, it will include agriculture from the Early
Ancestral, the Tohono O’odham, Spanish, Mexican, Chinese, and Territorial
Perhaps best of all, the garden serves as an edible museum, bursting ripe
with anything from sour oranges, pomegranates, apricots, Mexican limes,
and pears to plums, native corn, squash, and ;gs. And yes, you can taste
while you walk.
Freshly grown crops won’t be the only thing you’ll want to eat in Tucson,
though. ;e city’s location just above the border means you’ll ;nd more
Mexican cuisine here than anywhere else in the country. Nicknamed
appropriately, the ‘Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food’ lies to the south of the
city, and it’s a massive concentration of amazing Mexican restaurants.
Don’t come just expecting tacos and burritos all day, however. ;ink
truly authentic dishes: Raspados, snow cones with fresh fruit and ice cream;
toritos, shrimp-stu;ed chiles wrapped in bacon; and caramelos, meat-;lled
cheese crisps. Last but certainly not least is the Sonoran hot dog—in huge
abundance—wrapped in bacon and topped in beans, pico de gallo, and
mayonnaise on a so; bolillo roll. ;ese creations have been converting
hot-dog-haters to admirers for decades.
;e Latin in;uence continues throughout the city in art and architecture,
not just food. Spend some time viewing Tucson’s thriving mural scene,
which o;ers passionate, insightful glimpses of the region’s socio-economic
issues and civic values. A good starting point is El Rio Neighborhood
Center, where the current Mexican-American mural culture of Tucson
began. Six intricate murals conveying social values cover the walls of El Rio,
and the art extends throughout the western and southern parts of the city.
Things to Do in Tucson
El Guero Canelo: That ridiculous, overloaded delicacy
mentioned earlier known as the Sonoran hot dog?
You’ll inevitably try them from carts in the park or trucks
on the street, as there are more than 200 such vendors in
Tucson. If you’re going to pick a Mexican restaurant to have
a sit-down meal in, El Guero Canelo boasts a boatload of
awards for their bean-pico-bacon-wrapped delights.
Saguaro National Park: The towering neon cactus
emblazoned with the city’s name that greets you upon
entering isn;t the only green prickly yo;;ll find in T;cson;
Surrounding the city on the east and west is Saguaro
National Park, dedicated to protecting the
nation’s largest cacti.
Pizzeria Bianco: Finding an amazing pizza outside Italy
or Brooklyn isn’t easy, but famous chef Chris Bianco has
changed that—and pizza itself, according to Zagat. His wildly
popular Arizona-based restaurants are responsible for an
artisanal pizza revolution, earning awards and admiration
from the likes of Rachael Ray, the New York Times, and
James Beard Best Chef.
PIMA Air and Space Museum: Explore more than
300 aircraft—including JFK’s Air Force One—collected in
six hangars and on 80 acres of dusty Arizona ground.
Fighters, civilian craft, helicopters, WWII planes, and cargo
planes ... you’ll be shocked at how little this looks like a peek
out the airport window. Book a Boneyard Tour to see the
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base next door, where more
than 4,000 aircraft sit in a graveyard of sorts.
National Optical Astronomy Observatory: Kitt Peak
National Observatory lies about 50 miles outside Tucson,
but it’s worth the extra mileage. Reserve a spot in an
astronomer-led stargazing session that includes dinner,
lessons on constellations, and a chance to use dome-mounted telescopes to see galaxies, planets, and stars
way up above Tucson.
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