My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

36 Hours in Tucson for the Active Baby Boomer

2010/01/05by Donna Hull

Updated 01.01.2013


Saguaros stand tall in Saguaro National Park

36 hours in Tucson, Arizona? How would you spend the time? According to this week’s article (May 2010) in the The New York Times, you should visit old standbys like the Pima Air and Space Museum, Saguaro National Park, Cafe Poca Cosa and Maynards Market and Kitchen. Granted, you’ll have fun with the New York Times list of activities and restaurants, but what if you’ve already been there and done that?

At Tucson Cowgirl, writer Monica Surfaro Spigelman responded with her own version of 36 hours in Tucson, taking readers off-the-beaten-path. And Vera Marie Baderstcher at A Traveler’s Library fashioned a relaxing 36-hour itinerary on Tucson’s northwest side. Edie Jarolim at Will My Dog Hate Me?, chronicled Tucson fun for our furry friends, with so much to do that it took Part 1 and Part 2 to tell you about it. Well baby boomer travelers, I can’t leave you out. How about 36-hour active travel itinerary for Tucson? Let’s get started.


4 p.m.
Ringside Seat

First, we’ll head for Saguaro National Park West by way of Picture Rocks Rd. Once our vehicle crests the hill and dips into this lesser-used corner of the park, we’ll be surrounded by thousands of saguaros. A left turn onto Golden Gate Road will take us on a washboard, dirt road along the west side of the Tucson Mountains. We’ll stop at Ez-Kim-In-Zin lo, a picnic area that includes a hillside stone ramada. After hiking and birdwatchong on several of the desert paths, we’ll settle in the ramada to watch the sunset. Hope you brought your camera for the multi-colored light show.

6 p.m.
Mexican Cuisine, Ken’s Way
Since we’re on Tucson’s northwest side, we’ll retrace our steps, hang a left on Silverbell Rd. and head on over to La Olla Mexcan Café. At this cozy Marana eatery, Owner Ken Gallardo whips up Sonoran style classics, adding his own imaginative touches. Wait till you taste his tamale pie. Watch out Café Poca Cosa.

8 p.m.
Groovin to the Oldies
Wherever The Retro Rockets are playing, that’s where we’ll be, dancing to the oldies performed by Tucson’s best oldies band. We’ll be doing the swim, mashed potatoes, twist and swing until…well…uh…10 p.m. Don’t complain. I know it’s an early evening but we have an active day planned for tomorrow.

What if The Retro Rockets aren’t performing? Plan B puts us at the Cascade Lounge at Lowe’s Ventana Canyon dancing to more oldies.


9:00 a.m.
How can you visit Tucson without including a horseback ride? That’s just not western. We’ll saddle up for a morning ride at Pusch Ridge Stables. The trail will take us through scenic Catalina State Park where the Catalina Mountains loom over the lush Sonoran desert.

Ooh La La

Once we’re finished playing cowboy, we’ll drive towards mid-town for lunch on the patio at Ghini’s French Cafe. Tucked into a strip mall at Prince and Campbell, the small bistro offers breakfast and lunch with a French flair. I’ll have the Grilled Portobello and Smoked Gouda Salad please. Before we leave, we’ll step inside to purchase a decadent afternoon treat from La Baguette Bakery.

1:30 p.m.
Walk the Block
After lunch, a visit to the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block proves that art and activity mix. We’ll view the exhibits of Western and Latin American art as we walk through the historic buildings located in downtown Tucson. I hope you’re here in time for the Ansel Adams Exhibit.


3:30 p.m.
Shop the World
Next, we’ll pop on over to The Lost Barrio, a warehouse shopping district filled with treasures from around the world. Didn’t have room on the plane to lug home that African basket from your last world adventure? We’ll find it at People’s Imports. They’ll ship it home for you.

5:00 p.m.
Patio Time
Shopping’s over. It’s Happy Hour in the Catalina foothills. Let’s stop in for a drink at Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort. We’ll sit on the patio of the former exclusive girls’ school while a jazz combo plays soft melodies that will soothe our tired traveling souls.


11:00 p.m.
Soak in the View
I’ve booked a room for you at Marriott Starr Pass. Before your head hits the pillow, soak those achy baby boomer muscles in the hot tub. Be sure to look up. How many satellites can you count crossing the Tucson dark, night sky?


9:00 a.m.
Tweet Tweet
We’re dining with the birds this morning at Tohono Chul Park. Picture a flagstone patio shaded by mesquite trees. Birds stop by to drink in the fountain or steal a toast crumb from your plate. I’m ordering the Huevos Rancheros. What about you? After our meal, we’ll walk through the demonstration gardens and nature trails before viewing the art exhibits.

10:00 a.m.
Meet the Old Pueblo

Before I drop you off at the Tucson Airport, which is THE best, most hassle-free way to travel in and out of Tucson, we’ll stop downtown to walk the Presidio Trail. The turquoise stripe on the sidewalk will lead us on a 2+ mile loop through the historical sites of old Tucson.

Time’s up. Our 36 hours in Tucson are over. Did I leave anything out? Post a comment to add your favorite active Tucson excursion. Maybe I’ll extend the trip to 72 hours in a repeat post. But first, I’m headed for the gym to train. You guys are wearing me out!

A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of New Mexico Backroads Weekend Adventure.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

ReadyMom January 5, 2010 at 6:45 pm

I’ve visited the Tohono Chul Park and it was just lovely. Thanks for all the great suggestions.


Sheryl January 5, 2010 at 6:37 pm

I'm exhausted just reading this! But I love, love Tucson and want to go back again. Thanks for these fabulous tips.


pen4hire January 5, 2010 at 6:47 pm

And the beat goes on in Tucson–proving that there is no end to the variety of our fair city. I can't be left out of this marathon of 36 hours in Tucson. I'll have one on my site next Tuesday.


holeinthedonut January 5, 2010 at 6:53 pm

What fun! I lived in Phoenix for 11 years and visited Tucson several times, but there are things on this list I never knew about. Hard to believe I've never done the Presidio Trail. Guess that just means I'll have to come back for a visit.


judystock January 5, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Donna. loved your short trip to Tucson. Makes me want to go this minute. Okay maybe in a couple of months. Sounds really, really interesting. thanks for the guided tour.


Sandy2118 January 5, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Wow! This information is so detailed and precise! Thank you.

What a shame I can't jump on a plane this afternoon.


Tucson_Cowgirl January 6, 2010 at 5:04 am

Good stuff (and not just for boomers). I will try La Olla for sure….and I'll also look forward to @pen4hire's list!


Sonya January 6, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Happy New Year, Donna! Thanks for these excellent Tucson travel tips!


MeredithResnick January 7, 2010 at 1:14 am

I did my undergrad work at the U of A. If you've never seen the campus, it's absolutely stunning. I highly recommend it. There are museums there and the planetarium. Lots of good little restaurants in the surrounding area, too.


sstiavetti January 7, 2010 at 8:29 am

You know, I've been all over Arizona (LOVE it) but never to Tuscon. Will have to check it out.

Where do you get all of your energy?!


Kaye Swain January 14, 2010 at 12:34 am

How fun! I've never had the pleasure of visiting Tucson, but this article sure does make me wish I could. I LOVE Mexican food and the music sounds grand. Thanks for a fun trip in my reading.


Kathryn March 11, 2011 at 12:58 am

Don’t forget El Corral Restaurant for the best steaks at the best prices west of the Pecos River.


Kathryn March 11, 2011 at 12:58 am

Don’t forget El Corral Restaurant for the best steaks at the best prices west of the Pecos River.


Donna Hull
March 11, 2011 at 1:23 am

Can you believe that we’ve never been to El Corral? I’m adding that to
the to do list right now.


international drive hotel July 13, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Sounds like a really fun trip! Did you camp out or stay at a local hotel? What kind of wildlife did you see too?


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