The Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase can be overwhelming, but you can do it like a pro.
by April Bourie
It was certainly easier to navigate the first Tucson Gem & Mineral Society show in 1955, held at a local elementary school. After all, there were only 1,500 attendees and 15 vendors. Now, it would be nearly impossible to count the vendors across the 40+ shows where nearly 60,000+ shoppers hunt for treasure. We asked veteran merchants, show hosts, and regular Gem Show attendees for their tips to a fun and successful experience.
Figure Out How You'll Get Around
You can definitely see more in Tucson with a car – Saguaro National Park, Mission San Xavier del Bac, and Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum are on the edges of town beyond the reaches of public transportation, for example. Getting around the various shows (and parking, although some shows offer valets) can sometimes be a challenge, even if it can be easier to haul away your finds in your own vehicle. Consider using GemRide, a free shuttle service connecting nearly all the shows in several convenient loops. (unavailable in 2023). Note: Sun Tran, Sun Link, Sun Van, Sun On Demand, Sun Express and Sun Shuttle rides continue to remain fare free at the direction of the Mayor and Council. (as of 2023)
Think Outside The Box
Even with gems, minerals, and fossils in the larger event name, there’s plenty to see beyond those. The African Art Village is a favorite of visitors, with more than 100 exhibitors offering art, clothing, beads, and more. Or think way outside the box and consider heading over to Centennial Hall on the University of Arizona campus for a Broadway show.
Plan Ahead, Way Ahead
Hotel rooms book up exceptionally fast. Tucson is essentially full during the busiest part of the Showcase, so once you decide you want to attend the next show, start planning as soon as possible. With your hotel booked, make reservations for resort or downtown restaurants as well since those, unsurprisingly, fill up quickly, too.
Use Instagram To Your Advantage
Want to get a preview of what to expect at a show? Search for the location on Instagram. In the social media era, excited shoppers share what they’re seeing online, so you can get a sneak peek before heading over.
Let Us Help
At Visit Tucson, we aim to be your Gem Show resource: We publish a guide each year with listings for all the shows, (whether they’re open to the public) with location, hours, and more. Plus, we have a website that aims to keep attendees updated with the latest in Showcase news. If you’re at the airport or the convention center during the Showcase, visit our information tables for personal assistance.