Updated 12.13.2018: When it comes to American Southwest adventures, Tucson is full of them. Having lived in this southwestern city for eleven years, I can safely say active boomer travelers won’t be bored. But what if you have to stuff all of that adventure into 36 hours?
Finding fun in Tucson in only 36 hours
How do boomer travelers make the most of 36 hours in Tucson, Arizona? According to an article 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 there’s so much more to do in Tucson.
Planning a trip? Start your search for hotels in Tucson with us?
How about a 36-hour active travel itinerary for Tucson? Alan and I lived in the Old Pueblo for eleven years, so I know the best places to send you on a 3 day trip to Tucson. Let’s get started.
36 Hours in Tucson: Day One
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. Are you ready for an amazing Tucson sunset?
We’ll stop at Ez-Kim-In-Zin-lo, a picnic area that includes a hillside stone ramada. After hiking and birdwatching 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.
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.
Groovin to the Oldies
Wherever The Tucson 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.
I know it’s an early evening but we have an active day planned for tomorrow. Horseback riding anyone?
What if The Retro Rockets aren’t performing? Plan B puts us at the Cascade Lounge at Lowe’s Ventana Canyon Resort dancing to more oldies.
3 days in Tucson: Day Two
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.
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.
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? Maybe you’ll find one at Petroglyphs. And they’ll ship it home for you.
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.
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?
Tucson long weekend: Day Three
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.
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.
Thinking about visiting Tucson during the Gem Show? You’ll need our Tucson Gem Show travel tips.
Time’s up. Our 36 hours in Tucson are over. Did I leave anything out?
Looking for more Tucson travel ideas?
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.
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