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What's New in Tucson?

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

'World Festival & Event City'

TUCSON AMONG 9 RECOGNIZED CITIES WORLDWIDE - Tucson was named a “World Festival & Event City” by the International Festivals & Events Association (IFEA) in September 2017.  The recognition acknowledges Tucson'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." The city and its audiences support more than 40 annual fiestas in addition to many dozens of non-annual events occurring 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

ALLEGIANT AIRLINES BEGINS NEW SERVICE FROM TUCSON - 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 on these new routes. 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. Watch for details on flight schedule 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 on May 4, 2018 (during National Small Business Week). 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 is 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 late October 2018 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. 


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 construction beginning September 2018 and 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. Accommodating up to 300 guests, the expansive new facility will feature barn doors that open up to a beautiful, expansive lawn with desert landscaping peering over the surrounding Saguaro cacti and Rincon Mountains in the distance. Celebrating its 150th year, this exciting enhancement to the iconic property poises the ranch for another successful century, and beyond.

REBRANDED HOTEL MCCOY OPENS AFTER $2.5 MILLION FACELIFT – The newly named Hotel McCoy opened August 31, 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. The motel is located less than five miles from downtown Tucson and the University of Arizona in the colorful and rising Barrio Ochoa. 

HILTON TUCSON EAST ENJOYS 30TH ANNIVERSARY MAKEOVER - Hilton Tucson East celebrated its 30th anniversary with an $8 million makeover that was unveiled in April 2018. The property-wide renovation included improvements to all 232 guest rooms and meeting rooms and ballrooms; an upgraded swimming pool area; new restaurant and bar; and modernization of building HVAC and water systems. The hotel is on East Broadway Boulevard in midtown Tucson, minutes from Tucson Convention Center, University of Arizona, and Tucson International Airport.

RENOVATIONS GOING ON AT DOUBLETREE BY HILTON TUCSON-REID PARK - Tucson-owned Nor Hotel Properties has acquired DoubleTree by Hilton Tucson – Reid Park, with plans to begin a large-scale renovation of the 287 guest room hotel, including 25,000 square feet of meeting space, the hotel lobby, the bar, and two restaurants. Renovations to the hotel lobby, bar, and two restaurants are underway. The guest rooms are scheduled to be completed by fall of 2018; the ballroom, meeting rooms and courtyards will be remodeled in summer 2019.

TUBAC GOLF RESORT & SPA JOINS AAA FOUR-DIAMOND HOTEL LIST - Tubac Golf Resort & Spa, located south of downtown Tucson at the base of the scenic Santa Rita Mountains, has been awarded the 2018 AAA Four-Diamond hotel rating for excellence in service and amenities. This Spanish Revival-style property, a member of Historic Hotels of America, recently completed upgrades to its swimming pool, guest rooms, and patio at its iconic Stables Ranch Grille. This is the hotel's first time attaining this ranking.

WHITE STALLION RANCH RANKS IN TRIPADVISOR TOP 25 LIST - White Stallion Ranch ranked #19 on TripAdvisor’s 2018 list of Top 25 Hotels for Customer Service in the U.S., a ranking based on traveler reviews. 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.


El GUERO CANELO'S SONORAN DOG WINS JAMES BEARD AWARD - El Guero Canelo, a popular vendor of Tucson’s famous Sonoran-style hot dogs, has won one of five 2018 America's Classics James Beard Awards, presented at the James Beard Awards Gala in Chicago on May 7, 2018. Sonoran hot dogs are a cross-border creation, especially for El Guero Canelo, which opened in 1993 as a food cart (the original cart can be seen at their Oracle Road location). The buns, thick, fluffy bolillo rolls, are baked for El Guero in Magdalena, Mexico and brought north, ready to hold the parade of ingredients - bacon-wrapped dog, pinto beans, raw and grilled onions, tomatoes, jalapeño sauce, mayonnaise, and mustard. See it here.

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, at the former site of an artisan olive store. 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. 

THREE WELLS DISTILLERS OFFERS ARIZONA IN A BOTTLE - The only tasting room in Arizona to offer spirits exclusively from distillers in the Grand Canyon State opened in downtown Tucson on May 18, 2018. Series 19 is the latest project of Three Wells Distilling Company, a Tucson-area producer of quality small batch, craft distilled products. Three Wells focuses on "putting Arizona in a bottle" by using fruit of the prickly pear cactus and other native fruits and botanicals from Arizona distilleries in its craft cocktails, flights, and bottles-to-go.

TUCSON CHEF EARNS THAI CULINARY HONOR - The owner and chef of Senai Thai Bistro, in downtown Tucson, was recognized with one of Thailand’s highest culinary honors in 2017. A Bangkok native, Dee Buizer received a Thai Select certificate, established by the government of Thailand to promote authentic and creative Thai food worldwide. In May 2018, Buizer was invited to attend the THAIFEX 2018 International Trade Exhibition in Bangkok, making her one of only seven chefs from the more than 5,000 Thai restaurants in the United States and the 32 chefs worldwide chosen to participate.

NEW FOODIE TOUR OF PRESIDIO DISTRICT - A new culinary walking tour, The Presidio District Experience:  A Progressive Food Heritage and History Tour, started in downtown Tucson's Presidio District in March 2018. The tour celebrates Tucson’s 2015 Creative Cities-UNESCO "City of Gastronomy" designation with food tastings and discussions, led by a local ethnobotanist. Both New World foods grown by southern Arizona's Tohono O’Odham people and Old World foods introduced here by Spanish explorers can be found at restaurants on this tour.

8 LOCAL DINING OPTIONS AT 1 FOOD COURT American Eat Co. & Market opened in April 2018 on downtown Tucson’s south side in an 8,000-square-foot refurbished warehouse, formerly a 62-year-old family-owned carnicería (butcher shop). This new indoor food court has a community dining room offering six different local, independent restaurants serving Tucson twists on pizza, burgers, ribs, tacos, seafood, poke, and ice cream as well as an outdoor patio and beer-and-wine bar, a coffee shop, and a market.

MONSOON CHOCOLATE CONCOCTS SONORAN CONFECTIONS - Handcrafted confections, such as chocolate bars using ethically sourced cacao infused with herbs, seeds or fruits of native Sonoran Desert plants, are featured to-go items at Monsoon Chocolate factory and café, which opened in a renovated former Mexican food restaurant on Tucson’s south side near downtown in April 2018. A full-service café serves breakfast and lunch as well as desserts and chocolate beverages, coffees, and teas. 

ANELLO PIZZERIA OPENS IN WAREHOUSE ARTS DISTRICT - Anello Pizzeria opened in October 2017 in a red-brick space on East 6th Street in downtown Tucson's Warehouse Arts District. Anello Pizzeria serves wood-fired, hand-tossed pizza made with fermented natural sourdough and fresh toppings. The menu is designed to “not break your wallet” and most items are priced $6-$11. The owner and pizza maker Scott Girod previously trained with legendary Phoenix pizza maker Chris Bianco.


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. TMA completed an extensive renovation in October 2017 and, in April 2018, received an unprecedented $2.5 million donation. Now, the largest individual donor gift the museum has ever received will fund the first expansion in its history: A new wing, slated for groundbreaking in spring 2019, will exhibit pre-Columbian and Latin American art. In addition to its main building, the TMA complex includes a block of 19th and 20th C. adobe and Mission Revival-style buildings adapted for reuse as the museum restaurant, pottery school, and galleries.

PACKRAT EXHIBIT REVEALS ANCIENT SECRETS - Scientists rate packrat nests (or "middens") as among the best records of environmental change over the last 50,000 years in the Southwestern United States. These trash piles near the houses of packrats are the focus of the newest indoor exhibit at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Packrat Playhouse: Hidden in the Midden opened in April 2018 and features lifelike cactus pads that kids can scramble on while adults learn about regional wildlife adaptations. 

CYCLISTS CAN LOOP THE LOOP IN TUCSON - On March 17, 2018 Tucson celebrated the completion of The Loop, a 131-mile system of paved, shared-use paths and short segments of buffered multi-use bike lanes that spans the metro area, allowing cyclists, pedestrians, joggers and equestrians an opportunity to enjoy the scenic Sonoran Desert on vehicle-free pathways. The Loop connects parks, trailheads, bus and bike routes, workplaces, restaurants, hotels and motels, and shopping and entertainment areas.

BIG YELLOW BIKES READY FOR QUICK TRIPS - For quick trips in the midtown Tucson area, which includes University of Arizona, bike riders can now borrow a bike via Tucson’s TuGo Bike Share, opened in October 2017 with rentals at 36 self-serve docking stations. TuGo uses an app called CycleFinder that sells daily, monthly, annual passes for unlimited trips under 30 minutes. TuGo is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 

E-BIKES FOR RENT NEAR THE LOOP - A Pedego® Electric Bikes store, opened in St. Philip’s Plaza adjacent to The Loop perimeter bike path in Tucson on January 30, 2018. The new store offers electric bicycle (or “e-bike”) sales, rentals, and service; guided tours are in the works. Renters can choose from four models with two-hour, half-day, and full-day options, ranging from $30 to $125. Rental includes a lock, bag, helmet, and bottled water.

TOPGOLF SWINGS INTO TUCSON - Global sports entertainment company Topgolf® opened its third Arizona location in Tucson, in December 2017. The 53,000-square-foot venue features 1,500 square feet of private event space, 72 climate-controlled hitting bays that can host up to six players at one time, and a restaurant and bar. Year-round programming will include events for kids and families, social leagues, golf tournaments, and golf instruction.

Signature Events

TUCSON JAZZ FESTIVAL – The only major jazz festival in January in the USA 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 11-21, 2019

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 15 - February 5, 2019

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 2-17, 2019

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 16-24, 2019. 

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 15-17, 2019 

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 2-3, 2019

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 25-March 3, 2019

AGAVE HERITAGE FESTIVAL - Agave Heritage Festival 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. May 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 3-4, 2018

EL TOUR DE TUCSON - Every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Tucson hosts an epic installment of El Tour de Tucson presented by Casino Del Sol Resort. 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 17, 2018

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


#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.

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.


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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