Tucson, Arizona, is a sprawling sun-drenched jewel. It was the first U.S. city designated as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy; sampling local flavors and markets is key to understanding Tucson. The El Presidio Historic District is home to 19th-century adobe buildings, and more than 100 contemporary murals are splashed around town. The whitewashed San Xavier del Bac Mission (c. 1790) features beautiful frescoes, while the Old Tucson Studios serves as an Old West movie studio and theme park. And the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona has unparalleled collections. Only in Tucson.
Listen to a timeless Sonoran Desert concerto: rustling mesquite leaves, melodic Gambel’s Quail, and the thrum of cicadas. Explore rich biodiversity at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and pass through multiple life zones on the Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway for views and hiking. Take a tram or hike in Sabino Canyon. Tucson’s heart opens as the desert cools, saguaros stand sentinel, and a billion stars dance. — Kim Grant