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What's New in Tucson?

Follow developments related to the travel and tourism industry in Tucson and Southern Arizona.


PRESIDENT SIGNS BILL PROMOTING SOUTHERN ARIZONA'S CULTURE & HERITAGE - After more than a decade of building a broad base of bipartisan support, the Santa Cruz Valley in Southern Arizona was designated as a National Heritage Area. The designation of the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area was included in Senate Bill 47, The John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (Title 6, Sec. 6001), which was passed by Congress on February 26, 2019 and signed by President Trump on March 12, 2019. The Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area encompasses the watershed of the Santa Cruz River, from Nogales and Patagonia, to Marana and Oro Valley. National Heritage Areas stimulate local heritage-based economic development by marketing regional heritage tourism, and promoting place-based foods, arts, crafts, and other traditional products. There are 55 National Heritage Areas in 32 states across country. For details, visit

Air Service

ALLEGIANT AIRLINES BEGINS NEW SERVICE TO BELLINGHAM AND PROVO - The Las Vegas-based low-cost carrier will add year-round service from Tucson International Airport (TUS) with nonstop flights to Provo, UT (PVU) and Bellingham, WA (BVU) beginning November 15 & 16, 2018. Allegiant plans to operate twice weekly service on each route. Exact schedules and fares can be found online at

FRONTIER AIRLINES RE-ESTABLISHES TUS-DEN SERVICE - Frontier Airlines is returning to Tucson and will re-establish seasonal, low-fare nonstop service between Tucson International Airport (TUS) and Denver International Airport (DEN) beginning Nov. 7, 2018. Roundtrip service is set for four days per week — Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. An end date for the seasonal service was not provided. Find flight schedules here

Downtown Tucson Development             

SHIPPING CONTAINERS ARE NEWEST HUB FOR FOOD & FUN - The number of locally owned small businesses at the Mercado San Agustin (MSA) food and retail complex has doubled (now 26) with the opening next door of the MSA Annex in May 2018. These 13 new shops and eateries are housed permanently inside converted shipping containers, next to a new 500-seat outdoor festival grounds for public events. The MSA and MSA Annex center are on the western terminus of the 4-mile Sun Link streetcar line connecting five downtown Tucson-area districts. 

NEW MULTI-USE CENTER BRINGING BOWLING & ROOFTOP DECK – The all-new City Park is expected to open by fall 2019 on Congress Street in downtown Tucson. This multi-use complex currently under development will house a food hall, two restaurants, an entertainment venue with a bowling alley and a pinball arcade, a bar, a private event space, and connecting ground-floor patios. The top level of the five-story structure will offer a 2,600-square-foot rooftop deck for events like concerts or conferences. 


14-STORY HOTEL, APARTMENTS GOING UP NEAR UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA - A new boutique hotel, market-rate apartments, retail, restaurants and a public plaza are coming to the University of Arizona area. The 14-story Graduate Hotel & The Collective Apartments at Main Gate will be built at 930 E. Second St., on land owned by The Marshall Foundation. Graduate Hotels is owned by Chicago-based Adventurous Journeys Capital Partners. Graduate Tucson will have 165 rooms, a ground-floor bar and cafe and a rooftop bar and swimming pool. The Collective, a 238-unit complex, will have a fitness room, private courtyards, a spa and its own rooftop pool. The development team expects a project completion date of July 2020. 

REBRANDED HOTEL MCCOY OPENS AFTER $2.5 MILLION FACELIFT – The newly named Hotel McCoy opened August 2018 after completing a major renovation and rebranding. This mid-century modern, single-story boutique property boasts an A-shaped entrance and features 93 rooms averaging 280 square feet with private bathrooms, free Wi-Fi, an outdoor pool and a cedar-lined sauna. All hotel amenities are locally sourced and eco-friendly, from lobby art to furniture and food and beverages. 

UNDER CANVAS TO OPEN FIRST WINTER GLAMPING EXPERIENCE AT TANQUE VERDE RANCH - Under Canvas, the fastest growing adventure-hospitality company in America opened Under Canvas Tucson at Tanque Verde Ranch in December 2018. Under Canvas offers a winter glamping escape at America’s oldest dude ranch, providing an authentic western experience for travelers. Among the ranch’s 640 acres, Under Canvas Tucson features 26 safari-style tents including the Deluxe, Stargazers and Suites that feature en-suite bathrooms.

PASCUA YAQUI TRIBE BREAKS GROUND ON EXPANSION PROJECT - The Pascua Yaqui Tribe and Casino Del Sol broke ground on an extensive hospitality project, which includes a new 151-room hotel, new 90-space RV park, an expansion of the current 19,000 square feet of meeting space at Casino Del Sol, and a new Event Center at its sister property, Casino of the Sun in July 2018. Hotel construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019. Casino Del Sol, located in southwest metropolitan Tucson, is Arizona’s only Forbes Four Star and AAA Four Diamond casino resort.

HOTEL CONGRESS CELEBRATES 100 YEARS - In 2019, the most iconic locale in Tucson celebrates a landmark birthday, and it is sure to be the celebration of a century! Originally constructed to lodge weary train travelers heading out west, the Hotel Congress has evolved throughout the past century into the cultural hub of the Southwest. 

RENOVATIONS SPRUCING UP DOUBLETREE BY HILTON TUCSON-REID PARK - Tucson-owned Nor Hotel Properties is undertaking a large-scale renovation of its DoubleTree by Hilton Tucson – Reid Park in midtown Tucson.  The hotel’s 287 guest rooms, lobby bar, and two restaurants were completed last fall; the hotel ballroom, meeting rooms and courtyards (25,000 square feet of meeting space) are due to be remodeled by summer 2019. 

HILTON TUCSON EAST ENJOYS 30TH ANNIVERSARY MAKEOVER - Hilton Tucson East in midtown Tucson, celebrated its 30th anniversary with a $10 million makeover unveiled in April 2018. The renovation included all 232 guest rooms, and upgrades to meeting rooms and ballrooms and swimming pool area, a new restaurant and bar, and modernized HVAC and water systems.

TANQUE VERDE RANCH ADDS NEW EVENT BARN – Overlooking the Saguaro National Forest’s East District, Tanque Verde Ranch, owned by Cote Family Destinations, plans to construct a brand-new Event Barn. With completion scheduled for fall 2019, the 20,000-square-foot Event Barn will offer a picturesque space for social gatherings, corporate group functions, weddings and more. 

WHITE STALLION RANCH IS USA TODAY READERS’ CHOICE FOR BEST FAMILY RESORT -  White Stallion Ranch has been named one of America’s top 10 best family resorts of 2018 by readers of USA Today. Located on 3,000 acres and bordering two miles of Saguaro National Park’s West District, White Stallion Ranch has been owned and operated by the True family of Tucson for more than 50 years. 


DON GUERRA AND EL CHARRO CAFE ARE 2019 JAMES BEARD AWARD SEMIFINALISTS - Don Guerra of Barrio Bread (Outstanding Baker) and El Charro Cafe (Outstanding Restaurant) are among 20 semifinalists in their respective category. The list will drop to five finalists on March 27, 2019 and the awards will be presented in Chicago, IL on May 6. See the full list here

THE FLORES FAMILY BRINGS NEW FLAVOR TO DOWNTOWN TUCSON - The family behind El Charro Café , Charro Steak and Sir Veza’s opened Charro del Rey in downtown Tucson, in January 2019. The menu features the Flores’ family take on Mexican-style seafood inspired from Culiacán, Sinaloa, and San Carlos. 

TITO & PEP OPENS IN MIDTOWN TUCSON - After working 20 years for celebrated chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Tucson native chef John Martinez returned home to open Tito & Pep in November 2018. The neighborhood bistro provides exceptional service, quality food and beverage, in a relaxed atmosphere. The menu is a contemporary take on bistro dishes, with small shareable plates as well as larger entrees and a highly curated wine list. 

El GUERO CANELO'S SONORAN DOG WINS JAMES BEARD AWARD - El Guero Canelo, a popular vendor of Tucson’s famous Sonoran-style hot dogs, won one of five 2018 America's Classics James Beard Awards, awarded at the James Beard Awards Gala in Chicago on May 7, 2018. These Sonoran hot dogs are a cross-border creation featuring thick, fluffy bolillo rolls baked for them in Magdalena, Mexico and brought north, ready to hold the bacon-wrapped dog, pinto beans, raw and grilled onions, tomatoes, jalapeño sauce, mayonnaise, and mustard. See it here.

TEN55 BREWING AND SAUSAGE HOUSE -  Ten55 moved its taproom to Congress Street and opened Ten55 Brewing and Sausage House in August 2018. The 3,880-square-foot space has a dozen Ten55 beers on tap, plus six "old world" Belgian and German beers, two ciders and five wine taps along with 15 different sausages crafted by local chef Ivor Cryderman and local butcher Ben Forbes

IRON JOHN’S BREWING CO. MOVES DOWNTOWN - Iron John's Brewing Company opened a second location, a tap room on Congress Street in downtown Tucson. The 35-seat bar, Iron John's Congress Taproom, opened in July 2018 with a selection of 10 different taps and an ever-changing lineup of small batch, crafted beer as well as a few wines, cold-brew coffee, and a house kombucha. Customers are welcome to bring in food from outside. 


80 YEARS AS THE SPIRIT OF THE OLD WEST - Old Tucson marks 80 years in business with an open-to-the-public special event at the venue's Town Hall on April 13-14, 2019. The program includes recognition of special guests, readings of cool kudos from distinguished fans, and a happy birthday sing-along and tribute to southern Arizona’s one-of-a-kind Wild West attraction and premiere film location. There will be an alumni stunt show and musical performances in addition to Old Tucson’s signature dance hall and staged entertainment. On Sunday, a free screening of the 1940 American Western film ARIZONA—the movie that started it all—in the Grand Palace is open to the public. For more information, or to RSVP, contact Mary Davis, (520) 908-4811, or

HISTORIC GEM - The Mineral Museum and Regional Visitor Center will be relocating to the Historic Pima County Courthouse in 2020. The Gem & Mineral Museum will feature the University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum, one of the finest gem, mineral and meteorite collections in the world, to be displayed in a 11,7000 sq ft, state of the art exhibition gallery. Joining the Gem & Mineral Museum will be a Southern Arizona Heritage Visitor Center featuring information about where to go to enjoy the history, culture, food, ecology and recreational amenities of Southern Arizona. 

IGNITE SIGN ART MUSEUM – Ignite Sign Art Museum opened in October 2018 and houses more than 250 signs, clocks and other advertising pieces of varying makes, shapes and sizes, that once promoted businesses and products in Tucson and across the country. The 7,000-square-foot museum will also hold events and classes on sign-painting, neon and other topics within the museum, in addition to rotating exhibitions.

ARIZONA’S OLDEST VISUAL ARTS ORGANIZATION TURNS 95 – The Tucson Museum of Art (TMA) is celebrating its 95th season, September 2018 - April 2019, with three major exhibitions: 30 Americans: The Rubell Family Collection (showing works by many of the most important African American artists of the last three decades), the metaphorical works of Cuban-born artist Carlos Estévez, and Travelogue: Grand Destinations and Personal Journeys

Signature Events

TUCSON JAZZ FESTIVAL – The only major jazz festival in January in the USA, the annual Tucson Jazz Festival presents 10 days of live music featuring legends and emerging talents of all jazz genres, from straight-ahead to contemporary, at outdoor and indoor downtown venues like the Fox Tucson Theatre and Rialto Theatre as well as at the free Downtown Jazz Fiesta presented on Martin Luther King Jr Day. January 2020

TUCSON DESERT SONG FESTIVAL  - The Tucson Desert Song Festival (TDSF) fills concert halls in February with singing in orchestral, chamber, choral, and solo formats. Performers include internationally celebrated soloists and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra (Arizona's oldest continuing professional performing arts organization, formed in 1929), Tucson Chamber Artists, UA Presents, Arizona Opera and others, in conjunction with master classes and lectures at University of Arizona School of Music. January-February 2020

TUCSON GEM, MINERAL & FOSSIL SHOWCASE - In early February, the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase attracts serious collectors and everyday treasure hunters seeking gems, minerals, beads, fossils, jewelry, apparal and much more. This big event consists of more than 40 different shows spread out at at dozens of locations, ranging from resort hotels and exhibit halls to roadside tents and vacant lots. Most shows are open to the public with free admission. February 1-16, 2020

TUCSON RODEO & PARADE - The Tucson Rodeo & Tucson Rodeo Parade salutes Tucson’s Old West spirit every February. The Tucson Rodeo is the first major outdoor event on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association schedule and the parade is the largest non-motorized parade in the United States. This event dates to 1925 when local ranch hands saddled their horses and hitched up their buggies for the annual “celebration of the cowboys.” February 15-23, 2020 

24 HOURS IN THE OLD PUEBLO - Tucson's own Epic Rides presents 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, one of the largest 24-hour endurance events of its kind in the world; this single-track mountain bike ride in Sonoran Desert terrain with outrageous costume-clad pedalers and DJ-spun tunes is so popular that registration sells out early every year. February 14-16, 2020 

TUCSON FESTIVAL OF BOOKS - In mid-March, the Tucson Festival of Books features panel presentations by best-selling and emerging authors; writer workshops; chef demonstrations; storytelling and a literary circus; programming for teens; a poetry venue; exhibitor booths; live entertainment; food vendors. The festival takes place on the University of Arizona Mall during the university’s Spring Break, so visitors have the beautiful campus and its parking spaces, virtually to themselves. March 2020

COLOGUARD CLASSIC - PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS TOUR - The Cologuard Classic, a PGA TOUR Champions Tour event, is played in late February at Omni Tucson National Resort on its famed Catalina Course, a popular PGA venue since the 1960s. The 78-player field features legends of pro golf who compete for a $1.7 million purse. The event’s no-cut format includes three days of competition with players participating in pro-am events. Steve Stricker won the 2018 tournament. February 23-March 1, 2020

AGAVE HERITAGE FESTIVAL - Agave Heritage Festival is a two-week-long fiesta on or near May 5 that celebrates the art, science, and cultural traditions behind the practice of producing agave-based spirits and other products.The fiesta extols the indigenous agave plant with a tradeshow, seminars, workshops, demonstrations, and tastings of tequilas, mezcals, sotols, and bacanoras at Hotel Congress and several other Tucson venues, indoors and outdoors. Programs and guest speakers hail from both sides of the United States-Mexico border. April 23 - May 5, 2019

TUCSON 23: MEXICAN FOOD FESTIVAL - Samplings of some of the most authentic and delicious food available north of the international border is offered by local restaurants and breweries at the Tucson 23: Mexican Food Festival, a toast to Tucson’s “Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food” distinction. June 15, 2019 

ALL SOULS PROCESSION - The All Souls Procession is a people-powered Tucson tradition blending rituals of All Souls Day and Dia de los Muertos. Myriad altars, performers, installation art, and creatives of all kinds collaborate for almost half the year to prepare their costumes and offerings for this amazing event that draws roughly 150,000 participants in early November. November 8-10, 2019

EL TOUR DE TUCSON - Every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Tucson hosts an epic installment of El Tour de Tucson. The largest perimeter bicycling event in the United States is a fun adventure ride attracting an average 9,000 cyclists of all ages and abilities from throughout the United States and worldwide, consisting of novice, intermediate, advanced, and professional riders. November 23, 2019

TAMAL & HERITAGE FEST - Celebrate the rich tastes, smells and variations of tamales from the Southwest and Mexico, and discover the culinary tradition of making tamales for Christmas at the annual Tamal & Heritage Fest at AVA Amphitheater at Casino Del Sol Resort. Concerts by mariachi bands and performances by Mexican folk-dancers amp up this borderland celebration. December 2019.


VISIT TUCSON SPORTS IS A 2019 READERS' CHOICE AWARD WINNER - Tucson Sports was selected as a 2019 Readers' Choice Award Winner by SportsEvents Media Group, the leading industry publication focused exclusively on helping sports event planners produce excellent competitions in the United States.

TUCSON MAKES TRIPADVISOR TOP 7 LIST - Tucson was featured in TripAdvisor’s list of “7 Rising U.S. Cities That Should Be On Your 2019 Travel Bucket List.”  Tucson’s history and culture were highlighted in the feature, including an emphasis on the unique convergence of historic neighborhoods and buildings with a college-town atmosphere and world class golf. 

#1 of 10, MOST DOG-FRIENDLY CITIES IN AMERICA 2018 -, July 24, 2018. The survey evaluated data on median home value, dog parks, walk score, dog-friendly restaurants, dog-friendly shops and average amount of precipitation per year. 

TUCSON IS 8TH-BEST CITY FOR RECREATION - Tucson was ranked as the 8th-best city for recreation out of 100 cities across the nation. The study evaluated the recreational facilities themselves, costs, quality of parks, and the weather. 

THE MOST AFFORDABLE TRAVEL DESTINATIONS IN THE U.S. Tucson ranked 10th-most affordable for individuals and 11th-most affordable for families, in study by SmartAsset, June 2018.

TUCSON NAMED ONE OF AMERICA'S BEST PLACES FOR BIKES – The City of Tucson is one of America’s best places for bikes, according to the PlacesForBikes City Ratings. Tucson ranked fifth overall based on levels of bicycle ridership, low-stress network connectivity, bicycle safety, growth rate of bicycle infrastructure and events, and community perceptions of bike-ability. See the America's Best Places for Bikes ratings, May 2, 2018.

TUCSON NAMED "THE MOST UNDERRATED VACATION SPOT IN ARIZONA,” The Daily Meal, All Things Food & Drink, May 8, 2018.

CONGRESS STREET WINS NATIONAL HONOR - Congress Street in Tucson was deemed by the American Planning Association (APA) as one of five Great Streets on the APA's Great Places in America list of October 2017. Designees are selected annually and represent the gold standard in terms of having a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement, and a vision for the future.

TUCSON ON THE BUSINESS INSIDER'S 'TOP 10 CITIES' LIST - Tucson ranked #9 on the Business Insider list of “10 US cities where everyone wants to live right now,” released June 6, 2017. Phoenix is the only other Arizona city on the list, ranked #6. The ranking was based on three data sources from See the article and top 10 list here.

TUCSON NAMED A CVENT TOP 50 MEETING U.S. DESTINATION - Tucson ranked #48 on Cvent's 2017 List of Top 50 Meeting Destinations in the United States. Tucson previously ranked in this list in 2016 (#49), in 2015 (#48), and in 2013 (#38). Cvent is a software-as-a-service company specializing in global meetings, event and travel management technology.  

TUCSON NAMED A 'BEST WEEKEND GETAWAY' BY U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT - Tucson ranked #7 of the 12 "Best Weekend Getaways,"  based on analysis of expert and user opinions, by U.S. News & World Report's travel rankings, March 31, 2017.

TUCSON ON TRIPADVISOR'S TOP 10 DESTINATIONS ON THE RISE FOR 2017 - Tucson was selected by travelers as one of the top (#7) U.S. destinations on the rise, per TripAdvisor. Tucson’s history, culture, attractions, outdoor adventure, and the University of Arizona were prominently featured in the listing.

For More Information Contact:

Mary Rittmann

Senior Director of PR & Communications

800-638-8350 ext. 127

Dan Gibson

Director of Communications

800-638-8350 ext. 133


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