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What's New in Tucson?

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

UNESCO Designation 

TUCSON DESIGNATED FIRST UNESCO CITY OF GASTRONOMY IN USA

In December 2015, Tucson was named a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) City of Gastronomy, the first city in the U.S.A. to earn this designation. Tucson was selected for its 4,000 years of agricultural history, active preservation and promotion of native/heritage crops and for the wide variety of dining opportunities available in the area. The City of Gastronomy title creates awareness of Tucson’s diverse cultural products by drawing attention to the city's locally owned restaurants that use local ingredients and flavors, and its abundance of food festivals and farmers’ markets. Find more details here and read this article.

'World Festival & Event City' Designation 

TUCSON AMONG 9 DESIGNATED CITIES WORLDWIDE 

Tucson was named a “World Festival & Event City” by the International Festivals & Events Association (IFEA) in September 2017 after the city submitted a lengthy application. The recognition acknowledges the city’s "community leadership and ongoing, concerted efforts to provide and support a positive local environment that is conducive to and encourages the success and growth of festivals and events." Tucson supports more than 40 annual festivals and events and many others throughout every month of the year. Tucson is among nine other cities globally that received the designation in 2017. Read the press release here.

Air Service

ALASKA AIRLINES LAUNCHES NONSTOP SERVICE BETWEEN SJC AND TUS

Alaska Airlines launched daily nonstop service between Tucson (TUS) and Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) on August 28, 2017, which provides quicker access to Tucson and the tech company campuses of Silicon Valley and south Bay Area. The flight leaves San Jose at 5:35 p.m. each evening, arriving in Tucson at 7:45 p.m. The return flight departs Tucson at 7 a.m., arriving in San Jose at 9:24 a.m. Nonstop service is aboard an Embraer 175 jet featuring 12 seats in first class and 64 coach seats.

SUN COUNTRY LAUNCHES NONSTOP SERVICE BETWEEN MSP AND TUS

Sun Country Airlines will return to Tucson International Airport when they launch seasonal nonstop service between Tucson (TUS) and Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) on December 21, 2017. The flight will operate three days a week; Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays through April 15th. The flight will depart Minneapolis-St. Paul at 7:55 am and arrive in Tucson at 10:20 am. The return flight will depart Tucson at 11:10 am, arriving in Minneapolis at 3:10 pm. Nonstop service will be aboard a Boeing 737-700 featuring 12 first-class recliner seats and 114 coach seats.

Downtown Tucson Development             

MARRIOTT'S NEWEST ARIZONA HOTEL OPEN IN DOWNTOWN TUCSON

Tucson’s newest downtown hotel opened in mid-September 2017. The eight-story AC Hotel Tucson Downtown, located on the  Sun Link Streetcar route, is the first hotel to be built in downtown Tucson in over 40 years. The all-new hotel features 136 rooms, a rooftop pool and poolside bar, a restaurant, a fitness center, a 200-space public parking garage, and nearly 6,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. The top three floors contain the hotel's guest rooms. The next four floors below constitute a parking garage. On the bottom floor is the lobby and lounge. Six of the 136 rooms are suites. The hotel’s amenities for business travelers and small groups include an on-site business center with fax and copy services plus Wi-Fi in all areas, the latest high-tech equipment, and catering services ideal for corporate meetings, training sessions or presentations. 

ANELLO PIZZERIA OPENS IN WAREHOUSE ARTS DISTRICT

Anello Pizzeria has opened in a red-brick space at 222 E. 6th St., in the Warehouse Arts District, downtown Tucson. The restaurant serves wood-fired, hand-tossed pizza made with fermented natural sourdough and fresh ingredients. The menu is designed to “not break your wallet,” with pizzas priced around $11 and most other items capped at around $6. The owner and pizza maker, Scott Girod, previously worked under legendary pizza maker Chris Bianco.

MULTI-USE SPACE UNDER CONSTRUCTION IN DOWNTOWN 

City Park, a retail-restaurant-office complex, under development by Bourn Companies at 40 E. Congress Street in downtown Tucson, is scheduled to open in mid-2018. The first floor of the proposed five-story City Park building will house a food hall; the first floors of the existing neighboring buildings will house two new anchor restaurants, one on each side. The three buildings will be connected through spacious ground-floor patios. The second floor of the new building will house an entertainment venue that will include a bowling alley, a pinball arcade, a bar and a private event space. The top level will offer more available flexible space for either retail or offices and a 2,600-square-foot deck for outdoor events like conferences or concerts.

SHIPPING CONTAINERS TO PROVIDE RETAIL & RESTAURANT SPACE

The Mercado San Agustin (MSA), a retail and restaurant development on the west side of downtown, is expanding with a "container village" scheduled to open in December 2017. The MSA Annex, south of the Mercado, will feature retail and restaurants housed inside modified shipping containers. In addition to the shops and restaurants, the Annex will be home to a festival grounds, with seating for 500.

Hotels & Resorts  

EMBASSY SUITES HILTON TUCSON PALOMA VILLAGE COMPLETES RENOVATON

The Embassy Suites by Hilton Tucson Paloma Village has completed a 12 month, $2.8M renovation of its guestrooms and public spaces. Located at Skyline Drive and Campbell Avenue in Tucson, the hotel is 7 miles from the University of Arizona and 15 miles from Tucson International Airport. The hotel features 2,700 square feet of indoor meeting space, including three meeting rooms, as well as a heated outdoor pool, business center, a small gift shop and a fitness center. For details, visit the hotel's website here.

NEW ARAVAIPA FARMS ORCHARD & INN OFFERS COUNTRY COMFORT

A quaint, country-style boutique property focused on farm-to-table dining, and hiking in nearby Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, Aravaipa Farms Orchard and Inn, in Mammoth, AZ, is located off Arizona Highway 77, between Globe and Winkelman, a convenient stop on the scenic road between Scottsdale and Tucson. This 46-acre, shade-filled compound features fruit orchards, recently re-established with hundreds of newly planted trees, and vegetable gardens, planted by BKW Farms, that provide fresh produce for on-property meals as well as to sell at local farmers’ markets. Overlooking the orchards, there are a sparkling pool and bountiful estate garden, five well-appointed casitas and a three-bedroom main house that accommodate groups from 2 to 22 in air-conditioned comfort with private baths, walk-in showers, queen-sized beds and luxurious bedding.  

REVIVED HISTORIC DUDE RANCH REOPENS SOUTH OF TUCSON  

Rancho de la Osa, historic ranch that includes one of the last great Spanish Haciendas still standing in America, recently was purchased, refurbished and reopened and, in May 2017, was accepted as an accredited member of the Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA), the seal of approval for upholding the highest standards in the industry. With beautiful architecture and a storied history, the fully restored property dates from the 1700s; it was operated as a guest ranch from 1925 to 2014. Its 10 buildings include an adobe structure reputed to be the oldest continually used building in Arizona. Former guest John Wayne and his crew stayed here when filming in southern Arizona. “Gone With the Wind” author Margaret Mitchell wrote while she wintered at the ranch. William Clayton drafted parts of the Marshall Plan from his desk at the ranch. The ranch is secluded on 240 acres, roughly 70 miles southwest of Tucson, near Sasabe on the U.S.-Mexico border, adjacent to the 117,000-acre Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. The new owners have retained the emphasis on history and cuisine but have brought back horses and cattle and add adventure-style experiences such as rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, stargazing.

HILTON TUCSON EL CONQUISTADOR COMPLETES MAJOR RENOVATION

Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort, set on 500 acres at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, completed a multimillion-dollar renovation encompassing all areas of the property in February 2017. Uniquely Southwestern experiences are at the heart of the renovations that include improved indoor/outdoor amenities guest rooms, gardens, and new wildlife and nature viewing programs. The redesigned main Desert Springs Oasis pool has new poolside cabanas, a larger pool deck with additional sunning areas and several outdoor fire pits for poolside mingling after dark. The renovations are intended to provide guests with greater opportunities to experience the desert Southwest and include new indoor/outdoor amenities, refreshed guest rooms, creative garden concepts, wildlife and nature viewing programs, and a formal adventure and activity program. 

Culinary

CULINARY DROPOUT AT GRANT ROAD LUMBER YARD 

Restaurateur Sam Fox has opened a Culinary Dropout location at the site of former Tucson landmark Grant Road Lumber. The 20,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor space, with 12,000 square feet enclosed and total seating for about 400, has a full dining room and bar, an outdoor gaming area, and a 150-person private dining and event space. The restaurant will serve comfort food/gastro-pub fare and inventive cocktails, and will feature live music by local talent. Tucson native Sam Fox launched his restaurant empire in his hometown in 1998. This is his sixth Culinary Dropout location and the newest Fox Restaurant Concepts space in Tucson.

TEA HOUSE ADDS DOWNTOWN TUCSON LOCATION

The Scented Leaf Tea House & Lounge has opened its second location, at 308 E. Congress Street in downtown Tucson, following the success of its popular original site on University Boulevard, adjacent to the University of Arizona. The Scented Leaf is known for selling premium, loose leaf, organic teas on tap (iced or hot) as well as smoothies and some snack items. The downtown location features four more teas on tap than the University Boulevard location’s original 12 and has 32 loose leaf teas available instead of 65.

NEW GUIDED TOURS OF SELECT CRAFT BREWERIES

Old Pueblo Brew Tours recently opened in Tucson and offers a mobile artisan craft beer journey through some of the Old Pueblo's best breweries. Guests meet at a designated brewery and are shuttled by van during the tour. Brewery participants include the established Borderlands Brewing Co. and newbie Dillinger Brewing Co. Tours can be booked online.  

NEW ASIAN BISTRO OPENS ON STREETCAR ROUTE

MiAn Sushi & Modern Asian Cuisine is an upscale Asian bistro and bar that has opened in downtown Tucson on the ground floor of the nine-story Tucson Electric Power headquarters, 88 E. Broadway, on the Sun Link Streetcar route. The nearly 5,000-square-foot restaurant is designed with a modern look and seats 160 diners inside and 120 on the patio. MiAn's owner/chef is Bin An, who grew up working in the restaurants of his father,  legendary Tucson restaurateur Kwang C. An. The menu features a non-traditional array of sushi, Japanese noodles, and Chinese fusion.

BAR-EATERY OPENS NEAR STUDENT HOUSING, DOWNTOWN

The Funky Monk, the newest concept restaurant from Scottsdale-based Square One Concepts, has opened downtown at 350 E Congress St., adjacent to The Cadence student housing on the Sun Link Streetcar route. The Funky Monk has a full-service bar and nightclub atmosphere. Patrons are invited to chow down on delicious food, throw back some groovy cocktails, and get funky on the dance floor!”

WELCOME DINER, A PHOENIX FAVORITE, OPENS ITS SECOND SITE IN TUCSON

Welcome Diner Tucson opened in October 2016 in a renovated classic mid-century diner restored to its former glory just east of downtown. Welcome Diner has an exceptionally small place (as well as a chicken and donuts spot) in Phoenix, but this restaurant is a bigger, more complete expression of their local-food-oriented, comfort food mission. 

Attractions

PACKRAT 'MIDDENS' FOCUS OF NEW EXHIBIT AT DESERT MUSEUM

Packrat "middens" are among the best records of environmental change over the last 50,000 years in the Southwestern United States. Learn about these treasure troves, actually trash piles near the houses of packrats, at the newest exhibit at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, “Packrat Playhouse: Hidden in the Midden,” scheduled to open in spring 2018. Kids can scramble around this exhibit, which features a large, indoor play and learning space that simulates a packrat house, with prickly pear cactus and cholla stems on spider webs. Adults will learn about the habitat and habits of packrats in the Sonoran Desert. This exhibit, like all others at the museum, exists to augment and interpret the natural surroundings of the Sonoran Desert region.

RENOVATION & EXPANSION AT TUCSON MUSEUM OF ART

In June of 2017, the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block, a downtown Tucson landmark, embarked upon a renovation project and new programmatic structure. The Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block has not had a major renovation in over 15 years. The museum welcomes over 100,000 visitors each year and has held some of Tucson’s most iconic and important exhibitions. The museum is undertaking a multi-phased capital campaign renovation project that will increase the museum’s capacity to exhibit its permanent collection, support blockbuster exhibitions, and expand access to the region’s oldest and largest visual arts institution.

TOPGOLF BUILDING NEW LOCATION IN TUCSON 

Global sports entertainment company Topgolf® is constructing its third Arizona location, which will be off Interstate-10 and Orange Grove Road, in Tucson. The 53,000-square-foot venue is scheduled to open in late 2017. The three-level venue will feature 1,500 square feet of private event space and 72 climate-controlled hitting bays that can host up to six players at one time. The venue also will feature a restaurant and bar, big screen televisions and music in the hitting bays. Year-round programming will include events for kids and families, social leagues, golf tournaments, and golf instruction.

NEW GEMS EXHIBIT DAZZLES & INSTRUCTS

Celebrating Tucson’s tradition of hosting the largest gem show in the world, a new exhibit of gem and mineral specimens from around the world has opened at Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium, on the University of Arizona campus. “A Modern Gem and Jewelry Collection” runs through January 2018. The exhibit features jewelry creations from 20 American Gem Trade award-winning lapidary artists and designers; gemstones from six countries, including the renowned Buddha Blue sapphire, faceted around 1400-1500 A.D.; and a gem-cutting history display. 

Signature Events

TUCSON DESERT SONG FESTIVAL - 2018 LEONARD BERNSTEIN CELEBRATION

The Tucson Desert Song Festival (TDSF) will celebrate the life and music of Leonard Bernstein, the iconic conductor, composer, pianist and educator, January 16-February 4, 2018. The TDSF, in partnership with Tucson’s leading arts organizations, will present 30 events honoring Bernstein during what would have been his 100th year. The festival will provide a rich and unusual context in which to experience Bernstein’s work. TDSF Director George Hanson, who served as an assistant to Bernstein, has curated a festival that draws from all aspects of Bernstein’s compositional range, including films, lectures, symposiums and master classes. Jamie Bernstein, narrator, writer, and broadcaster, will be TDSF’s Artist-in-Residence, sharing insights and memories of her father.    

TUCSON HOSTS NORTH AMERICA’S LARGEST GEM SHOW

In late January, early February every year, Tucson hosts the world of international gem and mineral trading, collecting, and bargain-hunting during the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase. Tucson's “gem show” actually includes over 40 different shows at dozens of locations, ranging from resort hotels and exhibit halls to roadside tents and vacant lots. The mix of vendors varies from year to year, and most shows are open to the public with free admission. While this event attracts serious collectors from around the world, it's the “treasure hunt” that makes it one of the biggest and best events of its kind. Thousands of people from all walks of life come to gawk at gold, oooh over opals, and dig fossils.  

'TUCSON RODEO' & 'TUCSON RODEO PARADE' SALUTE COWBOY CULTURE

The largest non-motorized parade in the United States dates back to 1925 when Tucsonans saddled their horses and hitched up their buggies for the “celebration of the cowboys.” Today, an estimated 200,000 spectators view the two-hour spectacle, which still includes western-themed floats and buggies, horse-drawn coaches, Mexican folk dancers, marching bands, and outfitted riders. The Tucson Rodeo, the first major outdoor event on the PRCA schedule, gives visitors an opportunity to see authentic cowboys and cowgirls display their abilities in the only sport in the world developed from work skills. The Tucson Rodeo and Tucson Rodeo Parade salutes Tucson’s Old West spirit every February.

'TUCSON FESTIVAL OF BOOKS CELEBRATES LITERACY

In mid-March, the Tucson Festival of Books celebrates from the University of Arizona Mall with a program that 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 during the university’s Spring Break, so visitors have the beautiful campus, and its parking spaces, virtually to themselves.

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS PLAY POPULAR TUCSON COURSE

Tucson Conquistadores Classic, a PGA TOUR Champions event, is played in mid-March 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, in 2017, compete for a $1.7 million purse with $255,000 and 255 Charles Schwab Cup points for the winner. The event’s no-cut format includes three days of competition (Friday-Sunday) with players participating in pro-am events on Wednesday and Thursday. Veteran golfer and golf course architect Tom Lehman won the 2017 Tucson Conquistadores Classic.

'AGAVE HERITAGE WEEK' EXTOLS INDIGENOUS PLANT

To mark Cinco de Mayo, Agave Heritage Week is a weeklong fiesta on or near May 5 for ages 21-and-over that celebrates the art, science, and cultural traditions behind the production of agave-based spirits.The fiesta extols the indigenous agave plant with a tradeshow, seminars, and tastings of tequilas, mezcals, sotols, and bacanoras at Hotel Congress and several other downtown Tucson venues. The full week allows for strong influences, such as guest speakers and cocktail-making demonstrations, from both sides of the United States-Mexico border. 

LARGEST PERIMETER CYCLING EVENT IN U.S. CIRCLES TUCSON 

Every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Tucson hosts another epic installment of the city’s one-and-only El Tour de Tucson presented by Casino Del Sol Resort. The largest perimeter bicycling event in the United States features 106- 76-, 54-, 37, and 28-mile rides, and the Fun Ride of 11, 5, or 1/4 miles. “El Tour” 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.

'ALL SOULS PROCESSION' MOVES IN MEMORY OF LOVED ONES 

The All Souls Procession is a people-powered and volunteer-driven grassroots Tucson event described as one of the most inclusive and authentic public ceremonies in North America today. In early November, over 150,000 participants fill the streets of downtown Tucson for the two-mile-long Procession, which ends with a performance that includes a ceremonial burning of the contents of a large urn -- filled with notes onto which participants have written prayers, hopes, offerings, and wishes for those who have passed -- that is hoisted above the crowd. 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. 

'TAMAL & HERITAGE FEST' HIGHLIGHTS HAND-CRAFTED TREATS

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. Sample tamale-making contest entries made with meat, cheeses, veggies, chiles, sweets, and other traditional Southwestern spices wrapped into one package. Concerts by mariachi bands and performances by Mexican folk-dancers amp up this borderland celebration.

Accolades

TUCSON NAMED A BEST AMERICAN SMALL CITY

Tucson was named #2 of 10 "Best Small American Cities" (population under 1 million) for 2017 in a report by Resonance Consultancy, ResonanceCo.com, on June 15, 2017. Tucson came in second among small regions, behind Honolulu and ahead of tourism hubs such as Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Asheville. Tucson ranked highly in three of the six categories - first for product (which includes local institutions and attractions), second in programming (food, culture, nightlife and more), and third for promotion (the amount of news coverage and quality of online reviews). See the report summary here

TUCSON ON A 2017 TOP 10 CITES 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 realtor.com. 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.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC INCLUDES TUCSON AMONG 2017 BEST WINTER TRIPS

Thanks to our great food scene, Tucson was recently included on National Geographic’s list of Best Winter Trips 2017, the only American city on the list. 

TUCSON INCLUDED IN LIST OF TOP 5 UNDER-THE-RADAR FOOD TOWNS

Tucson topped this July 2016 list of top under-the-radar food towns as ranked by Wine Enthusiast.

MT. LEMMON HIGHLIGHTED AS ONE OF THE TOP 7 BIKE RIDES IN THE WORLD

Read about the top seven bike rides in the world in this June 2016 article in 1843, the ideas, culture and lifestyle magazine by The Economist.

TUCSON NAMED A TOP 20 SUMMER VACATION DESTINATION

In May 2016 Frommer’s released their list of 20 Best Summer Vacation Destinations including Tucson. See the full article here.

TUCSON NAMED A TOP 5 CITY FOR MILLENNIALS  

In this article from the September 2015 issue of Money Magazine, learn why Tucson was named a top five city for Millennials along with Seattle, Austin, Columbus and Atlanta.

TUCSON INCLUDED IN TOP CITIES FOR CONFERENCES AND MEETINGS

In August 2015, Tucson was included in Cvent’s list of top 50 meeting destinations for only the second time; an article in USA Today includes additional details. In November 2015, Tucson was included in Successful Meetings' list of top 10 cities for conferences.


Contact

Mary Rittmann

Director of Public & Community Relations

MRittmann@VisitTucson.org

800-638-8350 ext. 127

Dan Gibson

Director of Communications

DGibson@VisitTucson.org

800-638-8350 ext. 133 

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