What's New in Tucson?
Follow developments related to the travel and tourism industry in Tucson and Southern Arizona.
Downtown Tucson Development
SANTA CRUZ VALLEY NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA - In March 2019, the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area in southern Arizona became one of 55 designated National Heritage Areas in 34 states across the country. This 3,300-square-mile, ecologically diverse landscape encompasses the watershed of the Santa Cruz River – from Nogales and Patagonia, through Tucson, to Marana and Oro Valley – and is home to Arizona’s earliest civilizations and a bounty of natural and historical assets. For visitors, there are 10 distinctive culture and heritage experiences that highlight significant aspects of this rich region, including the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, state and national parks, historic Spanish missions, ranches, an artist’s colony, natural and conservation areas, and opportunities to sample locally produced foods tied to the region’s history and cultural identity.
TUCSON'S DOWNTOWN CLIFTON HOTEL COMPLETES EXPANSION - The Downtown Clifton Hotel announced the completion of their $4.5 million expansion in downtown Tucson. The construction consists of four new 2-story buildings and two 1-story buildings. The expansion added 20 new guest rooms, designed by owner Moniqua Lane, and opened to the public on Oct. 3, 2019. The Clifton also added a new on-site lounge and kitchen called The Red Light Lounge. The menu, designed by Executive Chef Alex Ohayon, features sophisticated comfort food and upscale drinks.
JW MARRIOTT STARR PASS RESORT & SPA COMPLETES PROPERTY ENHANCEMENTS AND RENOVATIONS - Tucson’s JW Marriot Starr Pass Resort & Spa finished a $3.5 million property enhancement and renovation to include a redesign of the Hashani Spa, lobby, and gift shop and added a new Starbucks and JW Market. The 20,000-square-foot spa underwent a complete indoor transformation featuring new design, furniture and equipment and upgraded the spa’s adult only pool area. The resorts lobby was completely redesigned with an open floor plan and added seating. The new JW Market, located on the lower lobby level, offers locally sourced grab-n-go snacks, a variety of to-go flatbreads, sandwiches, and soups, local ice cream from Isabella’s, and a rotating list of wine and beer. Relocated to the upper lobby level, Starbucks has almost doubled in size from the previous location and offers guests more seating options. The resort’s gift shop was redesigned and added new furniture. The exterior of the entire resort was enhanced with new paint and roofing.
NEW HOTEL, EVENT CENTER AND EXPANDED CONVENTION SPACE OPEN AT CASINO DEL SOL & CASINO OF THE SUN - Sitting on just over two acres adjacent to the existing Casino Del Sol, a new 151-room hotel, Estrella at Casino Del Sol, opened November 2019. Amenities of the new hotel include two meeting rooms, a video arcade, a lounge area, and a fitness center. The hotel has its own pool equipped with a 100-foot pool slide and pool bar. In May 2019, Casino Del Sol completed a 9,600-square-foot expansion to its existing Conference Center, including a second ballroom and more breakout rooms, and can now accommodate more than 3,000 guests. Casino of the Sun concurrently opened a brand-new event center, the 11,000-square-foot Sunset Room, located adjacent to Casino of the Sun, which can host up to approximately 750 guests for meetings and events.
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.
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 2020.
TANQUE VERDE RANCH ADDS NEW EVENT BARN – Overlooking the Saguaro National Forest’s East District, Tanque Verde Ranch, owned by Cote Family Destinations, has constructed a brand-new Event Barn. The 20,000-square-foot Event Barn opened November 2019 featuring a spacious dining room, indoor/outdoor rustic bar, a fully functional kitchen, and an expansive entertaining lawn. Comfortably entertaining up to 350 guests, The Barn at Tanque Verde Guest Ranch offers a picturesque space for social gatherings, corporate group functions, weddings and more.
DOUBLETREE TUCSON CONVENTION CENTER BREAKS GROUND - The long-awaited 170-room DoubleTree by Hilton broke ground in May 2019 on the Tucson Convention Center's south parking lot. The six-story structure will have a second-story pool, 4,000 square feet of meeting/event space, a mesquite-themed restaurant and two bars. One bar will be inside the hotel property, the second at the entrance to the TCC. The hotel is expected to open by the end of 2020.
HOME2 SUITES / HAMPTON INN SCHEDULED TO OPEN IN DECEMBER 2020 - Tucson's first dual-branded Hilton broke ground downtown in August 2019. Designed for extended stay guests, the 123-room Home2 Suites will share a common porte-cochere and lobby with the 76-room Hampton Inn. Other shared amenities will be exercise and pool facilities. The six-story hotel is expected to open in December 2020.
THE CORONET MOVES TO BARRIO VIEJO NEIGHBORHOOD - After five years on North Fourth Avenue, The Coronet has moved to the space previously housed by Cushing Street Bar & Restaurant after closing its doors earlier this year. With the new space comes a larger kitchen and expanded menu. The new location also offers a new patio cafe, Fonda de la Hermanita, with counter service as opposed to table.
NEW CHEF AT PENCA RESTAURANTE - Having worked his way up from sous chef at Hacienda del Sol, to chef de cuisine at Ume at Casino del Sol, and then to executive chef at Cielos at Lodge on the Desert, David Solorzano is now the Executive Chef at Penca, which is known for its Central Mexican cuisine. While Solorzano isn't changing the menu, he is tweaking it to highlight Central Mexico's culinary ingredients and traditions.
THE FLORES FAMILY BRINGS NEW FLAVOR TO TUCSON - The family behind El Charro Café , Charro Steak and Sir Veza’s opened Charro Vida in May 2019 in the Casas Adobes Plaza. Charro Vida pays homage to Mediterranean, European and Sonoran Desert heritage. Focusing on local produce and sustainable proteins, the kitchen features two distinct, separate cooking areas: one that cooks proteins and one that exclusively cooks plant-based items. This restaurant opening is on the heels of Charro del Rey which opened in downtown Tucson in January 2019. This 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.
"CRAWL" YOUR WAY THROUGH SABINO CANYON - Sabino Canyon Crawler, an emission-free electric shuttle, enhances the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area experience and is designed to protect the area’s natural and cultural resources. Seating up to 60 passengers, these electric shuttles offer an enhanced interpretive program that shares details about how Sabino Canyon was formed, what kind of plant and wildlife live in the canyon, seasonal changes that occur in the canyon, plus important historical and cultural information.
HISTORIC GEM - The Gem & Mineral Museum and Southern Arizona Regional Visitor Center will relocate to the Historic Pima County Courthouse in 2020. The Gem & Mineral Museum will house the University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum, one of the world's finest collections of gems, minerals and meteorites, to be displayed in a 11,7000-square-foot, state-of-the-art exhibition gallery. The visitor center will feature travel information about history, culture, food, ecology and recreation in 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.
Featured Annual 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
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 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
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
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
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/May, 2020
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 2-3, 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.
NOVA® HOME LOANS ARIZONA BOWL - Tucson's official football festival, the annual NOVA® Home Loans Arizona Bowl plays at Arizona Stadium on the University of Arizona campus in December. This annual post-season college football game matches teams from the Mountain West and the Sun Belt conferences (teams are announced in the fall) and is televised by CBS Sports Network. Dec. 31, 2019
MONSOON CHOCOLATE WINS 2 MORE INTERNATIONAL CHOCOLATE AWARDS IN WORLD FINALS - Monsoon Chocolate was recognized with 2 additional awards in the World Finals while competing with other award-winning companies from all of over the world. This brings the total to 16 International Chocolate Awards received in 2019.
TUCSON RANKED 37 OUT OF 50 BEST LARGE U.S. CITIES – Tucson was ranked #37 out of the 50 best large cities in the United States, per Resonance Consultancy’s 2019 America’s Best Cities report, issued in June 2019: “Arizona’s second city is ascending fast, with bold city leadership, placemaking, and food scene dating back millennia.”
VISIT TUCSON NAMED 'TOURISM LEADER OF THE YEAR' - The Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association (AzLTA) named Visit Tucson the Tourism Leader of the Year for 2019.
TUCSON INCLUDED ON SEVERAL LISTS FOR TOP TRAVEL DESTINATION S IN 2019 - On Oct. 7, 2018, Tucson was featured in TripAdvisor’s list of “7 Rising U.S. Cities That Should Be On Your 2019 Travel Bucket List". On November 26, 2018, Tucson was included on “Fodor’s Go List 2019” and on December 13, 2019, Tucson was featured on Orbitz’s list of “19 best places to travel in 2019.”
NINE BEST COLLEGE TOWNS FOR FOOD – AFAR Magazine included Tucson on its list of nine best college towns for food in an article entitled “Ditch the Dining Hall: U.S. College Towns with A+ Restaurants”, August 31, 2018.
SIX U.S. BUDGET VACATION DESTINATIONS – the Washington Post included Tucson on a list of “Six U.S. budget vacation destinations,” August 1, 2018.
#1 OF 10, MOST DOG-FRIENDLY CITIES IN AMERICA IN 2018 – SmartAsset.com, July 24, 2018. Data based on six different factors: median home value, dog parks, walk score, dog-friendly restaurants, dog-friendly shops and the average amount of precipitation per year.
TUCSON NAMED #8 OF 100 Best Cities for Recreation in the United States, WalletHub, July 3, 2018. 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 a study by SmartAsset, June 2018.
THE MOST AFFORDABLE TRAVEL DESTINATIONS IN THE U.S. – Tucson ranked 10th-most affordable for individuals and 11th-most affordable for families, in a study by SmartAsset, June 2018.
TUCSON IS ONE OF AMERICA'S BEST PLACES FOR BIKES – The City of Tucson is one of America’s best places for bikes as rated by a May 2, 2018 report from America's Best Places for Bikes.
TUCSON NAMED "THE MOST UNDERRATED VACATION SPOTS IN ARIZONA,” The Daily Meal, All Things Food & Drink, May 8, 2018.
CONGRESS STREET WINS NATIONAL HONOR - Congress Street in downtown Tucson was named by the American Planning Association (APA) as one of five Great Streets on the APA's Great Places in America list, October 2017.
THE WORLD'S BEST 100 BEST CITIES 2018 - #89 of 100 "World's Best Cities 2018," A Ranking of Global Place Equity, Resonance Consultancy, October 2017
ARIZONA'S BEST SMALL CITY - Oro Valley Named “Arizona's Best Small City," WalletHub, October 30, 2017
AMERICA’S MOST UNDERRATED CITIES - #16 of 20, Tucson, "America's Most Underrated Cities," Travel + Leisure, October 20, 2017
CITIES THAT GIVE YOU WORST CASE OF ‘FOMO’ - Tucson Among "14 Cities That Give You the Worst Case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)," Expedia, Viewfinder Travel Blog, October 24, 2017
MOST UP-AND-COMING CITIES IN AMERICA -#21 of 50 Overall, Tucson, Most Up-And-Coming Cities in America, Yelp Local Economic Outlook, October 2017
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Events in and around Tucson
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