What's New

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

 

DOWNTOWN DISTRICTS

Once joked about as being a place you went only to pay for parking tickets, Tucson’s downtown has been a focal point of revitalization during the past few years. It’s anchored by the 8-year-old light rail, which connects the University of Arizona to downtown and new mixed-used businesses and residential developments west of the freeway. It’s turned downtown from a complex of blasé civic buildings to a thriving epicenter of activity that honors the area’s cultural heritage and innovative spirit. Now, as COVID draws to a close, a new wave of restaurants, hotels, and attractions are opening in the downtown neighborhoods surrounding the light rail. Here’s a rundown of some of the most noteworthy updates.

PIMA COUNTY HISTORIC COURTHOUSE REOPENS AS ATTRACTION - Steeped in history, the 100-yearold Pima County Courthouse reopened as a visitors’ attraction in November 2021, after undergoing a $32 million renovation. The renovation included the addition of the University of Arizona’s Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum, which reinforces the city’s identity as a premier gem destination; the January 8th Memorial, honoring the victims of the mass shooting that occurred at a Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ event; and the Southern Arizona Heritage and Visitor Center. The renovation kept one courtroom intact and open to the public – where public enemy No. 1 John Dillinger was sentenced in the 1930s after being caught in Tucson. The Arizona chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA) named the courthouse the 2022 Public Works Project of the Year in the category of historical restoration and preservation projects ranging from $25 to $75 million.

BARRIO VIEJO NOMINATED FOR NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK DESIGNATION - One of Tucson’s downtown neighborhoods, Barrio Viejo, is slated to receive National Historic Landmark designation (info here) by the end of the year. Barrio Viejo is the largest barrio in the U.S. and exemplifies Tucson’s connectivity to Mexico. Built in the mid-1800s largely by Mexicans, it was considered a poor neighborhood, was undervalued, and fell into disrepair for many decades in the 20th century. Then, in 1969, half of the neighborhood was bulldozed to make way for the Tucson Convention Center (which many people bemoan to this day). What saved the large, still-existing portion of the neighborhood was a small Catholic shrine called El Tiradito, dedicated to an adulterer who was, according to legend, murdered by his father-in-law. The neighborhood pushed for National Historic Landmark status for the shrine and succeeded, keeping the remainder of the neighborhood intact. Within the past few decades, there has been a renewed focus on Barrio Viejo and its historic buildings, including the restoration of Carmen Teatro, a 300-seat theatre, and the adjoining building, the one-time home of the Black Elks Club. The facades of these buildings will be restored by the end of 2022, with the renewed interiors slated for 2025.

LEO KENT CONSTRUCTION IS UNDERWAY – Tucson’s tallest downtown skyscraper will be converted from shuttered office space to a 150-room boutique hotel called the Leo Kent, scheduled to debut in January 2023. The Marriott Tribute portfolio property will span nine of the tower’s 23 floors and draw upon the hotel’s unique location in Tucson in its design, culinary and group offerings. Nestle into a guestroom that boasts local influences. Discover elevated Southwestern cuisine at the hotel’s restaurant, St. Cruz. Or meet in the hotel’s flexible event spaces. Whether you're traveling for business, visiting the University of Arizona, exploring the town’s bustling culinary scene, or seeking adventure in the Sonoran Desert, The Leo Kent offers an ideal location in the heart of downtown and just steps from the light rail.

WINE-CENTRIC BOUTIQUE HOTEL OPENS IN DOWNTOWN TUCSON - Local hotelier Moniqua Lane opened the first-of-its-kind boutique wine-centric hotel in January 2022. The Citizen Hotel resides in a historic building in downtown Tucson, once home to the city’s oldest newspaper, and features 10 guest rooms along with a 5,000 square foot tasting room in the basement. Daily complimentary Arizona wine tastings occur at 4 p.m. for guests.

PENCA FOUNDER TO DEBUT THREE NEW CONCEPTS – The brainchild behind the celebrated Penca, Patricia Schwabe has announced she will be opening three neighboring businesses downtown in the fall of 2022. The first, Shirtshop, is a combination bakery, restaurant and bar in-one, in a cafeteria style format. Inspired by her family’s preference for vegan food, the menu will be very vegetable forward, though you can opt to add meat. Next door, you’ll find Shirtshop Mercantile, a retail concept offering books, ceramics and plates, plus a small bar where you can grab a cocktail while your kids peruse the literature. The last in the trifecta is Bluefront, a classic American grill featuring a menu of so-called “Fine American Food.” There you’ll find classics such as meatloaf, homemade potato chips, shakes and pies, and traditional drinks, served in a casual setting.

'THE MONICA’ FEATURES A COLLECTION OF RECIPES FROM ‘SI CHARRO’ CHEFS - Flores Concepts, the culinary group that started it all with the 100-year-old El Charro Café, has brought a brand-new restaurant, The Monica, to downtown Tucson. Chef Carlotta Flores describes this new concept as a “collection of family recipes from around our table and the tables in our community curated and codeveloped by our amazing team of chefs and food-loving professionals.” The Monica is a tribute to Monica Flin, the founder of Tucson’s oldest restaurant family, and opened in March 2022 to coincide with El Charro Café’s centennial anniversary.

JAZZ CLUB & LOUNGE OPENING INSIDE HISTORIC HOTEL CONGRESS – The Century Room, Tucson’s only dedicated jazz club, opened its doors in February 2022 with a vibrant lineup of live entertainment. Century Room Music Programmer and jazz drummer Arthur Vint is booking an array of regional and national jazz artists throughout the year, with most Friday evening performances being ticketed concerts. The acoustically perfect venue is a jazz musician's ideal setting – intimate, relaxed, with comfortable surroundings and great offerings.

BATA OPENS IN WAREHOUSE ARTS DISTRICT - The culinary minds behind Reilly Craft Pizza and Drink opened their newest project, BATA, in March 2022 in Tucson's Warehouse Arts District. The small plate-format menu showcases flavors and cooking techniques from across the globe that "explore the taste and textures of cooking with fire."

'THE PARISH' TEAM OPENS 'THE DELTA' – Owners Steve Dunn and Bryce Zeagler, along with Chef Travis Peters of award-winning Parish Restaurant Concepts, opened The Delta in downtown Tucson in January 2022. Delta’s menu features southern-style dishes inspired by Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana.

SONAS TORTILLAS DE MAIZ – Maria Mazon, James Beard Award semi-finalist and a top five contestant on Top Chef’s season 18, opened SONA Tortillas in February 2022. The tortilleria is part of SONA Tortillas De Maiz y Bodega, which opened its market portion in December 2021. The bodega features several local businesses including Yellow Brick Coffee, CERES pasta, and Maya tea.

HOTELS

BOUTIQUE HILTON HOTEL COMING TO TUCSON'S FOOTHILLS - Construction on The Eddy Hotel, a 106- room boutique hotel conveniently located just minutes from midtown, is in its final phases. This new hotel is expected to open by Q4 of 2022 and will have a buffet service in the lounge and a bar that is open to the public, along with 3,000 square feet of meeting or event space. The Eddy Hotel is a Tapestry brand, a franchise of Hilton Hotels, so guests can use their Hilton rewards and Hilton’s online site for reservations.

OMNI TUCSON NATIONAL RESORT UNDERGOING MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR TRANSFORMATION - Resting at the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, the newly redesigned spaces at Omni Tucson National Resort are expected to open in Q1 2023. Host of the annual PGA Tour Champions Cologuard Classic, the newly imagined resort will feature updates to the lobby, restaurants and lounge, meeting space, spa, fitness center, casitas, and haciendas. The relaxed, yet inspired, ambiance of this southwestern destination will create an ideal backdrop for leisure guests as well as corporate or group stays. Two new meeting rooms will support additional breakout requirements, providing over 25,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space.

HACIENDA DEL SOL GUEST RANCH RESORT COMPLETES EXPANSION – In July 2022, Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, a Forbes Four-Star Resort, finished a multi-year renovation on the property, that included the addition of 40 new guestrooms spanning seven new buildings with views of both the Santa Catalina Mountains and Rincon Mountains (completed May 2021); a brand-new pool area with a fortyfoot lap pool, an infinity edge wading pool, and a large sun deck (completed March 2022); and the debut of a new Sonoran Desert-focused spa (completed July 2022). Hacienda del Sol has a rich history as an early 20th century boarding school for girls of some of the country’s most prominent families, and more recently has made headlines for its extensive art collection of sculptures, paintings, pottery, photography, and tilework that perfectly accent the resort’s scenic surroundings.

RESTAURANTS

TUCSON BAKER DON GUERRA WINS JAMES BEARD AWARD – In June, Tucson’s very own Don Guerra of Barrio Bread was announced as the winner of the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Baker Award 2022. Guerra’s legacy as a baker is tied to his use of heritage grains that date back to the 17th century when Spanish missionaries first brought them to the Tucson area. While more commonplace in bakeries now, the so-called “grain train” idea was revolutionary when Guerra began honing his skills from his Tucson garage in 2009. His business has and continues to flourish because of Guerra’s steadfast commitment to using superlative ingredients and his magnanimous spirit of feeding his neighbors. In fact, his bakery’s name stems from Guerra’s keen sense of community – barrio means neighborhood in Spanish.

BORDERLANDS BREWING TEAMS UP WITH MARIA MAZON ON SECOND LOCATION - Borderlands Brewing Company is teaming up with James Beard Award Semifinalist Chef Maria Mazon, best known for her many appearances on Top Chef, to open a second location this fall near the University of Arizona. While the menu has yet to be revealed, Mazon has hinted it will not feature tacos, but will have “authentic Sonoran cuisine.” Borderlands’ apropos partnerships and progressive thinking have put the brewery in the national spotlight in recent years. It’s pushed to employ female brewers in a largely male dominated industry, was the first brewery to develop a bi-national beer (brewed in both Mexico and the U.S.), and has collaborated on beers with Tucson’s brightest culinary stars, including the 2022 James Beard Award recipient for Best Baker Don Guerra.

LOS MILICS TO DEBUT BREATHTAKING SONOITA-ELGIN TASTING ROOM – Just over an hour outside of Tucson you'll find unassuming Sonoita-Elgin, Arizona's first federally recognized American Viticulture Area and the home of some of the state’s best wineries. Likened by some to the Napa of the ‘70s, there are non-commercialized wineries a-plenty, where tastings are paired with petting zoo experiences or sitting in makeshift outdoor living rooms under tents. One of the newer tenants to the oldest wine making regions is Los Milics, which will debut its brand-new tasting room in October. Los Milics is the brainchild of Pavle Milic, one of the two partners of the lauded Scottsdale restaurant FnB, featuring an Arizona exclusive wine list that’s been twice nominated for Outstanding Beverage Program by the James Beard Foundation. Milic began producing wines under the Los Milics label in 2014 with the help of his friends and now neighbors Todd and Kelly Bostock of Dos Cabezas WineWorks. But it wasn’t until 2019 that he owned a winery in the region, and even then, it took several years for construction on the tasting room to begin. It will be worth the wait, however, because the renowned architects at Chen + Suchart Studio will create a space that invites the outside in, with a series of reflective mirrors and steel pillars to enhance the tasting room’s breathtaking locale in the Mustang Mountains. Next up: nine luxury casitas that pay homage to the winery’s Southern Arizona roots, slated to open in 2023.

ATTRACTIONS

OLD TUCSON RETURNS - In October 2022, Old Tucson is slated to re-open its doors to the public. The Western town’s legacy is rooted in its 1890-themed buildings, which serve as the backdrop for popular movies such as the Three Amigos, El Dorado, and Tombstone. And while Old Tucson will continue to woo filmmakers, visitors will also get a chance to experience it firsthand. The ever-popular Halloween themed Nightfall will be the public’s first opportunity to visit, and see the attraction transform from a western town into a haunted one; then in November, Old Tucson will get visitors in the holiday spirit with Christmas-themed programming. Beginning in January 2023, Old Tucson will debut its Western Experience on select days through April. Visitors can take a trip back to the late 1800s for a firsthand look at the Wild West with a host of characters trained in immersive theater.

AVIAN ADVENTURES AT THE ARIZONA-SONORA DESERT MUSEUM - Get up close and personal with special birds at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's new Avian Adventures Program. This exclusive opportunity allows you to meet special birds that are not currently flying in their popular Raptor Free Flight program. The best part? You will have a bird fly to your glove for a special photo opportunity! You will also be given VIP access to interact and ask questions with our Raptor Free Flight trainers in an intimate setting. Ages 8 and older, reservations required.

TUCSON BOTANICAL GARDENS “LIGHTS UP!” - A spectacular new holiday light show with more than a million sparkling lights will premiere at Tucson Botanical Gardens on November 25, 2022 and run for 43 nights through January 15, 2023. Designed by nationally known public garden landscape architect Tres Fromme, a carefully curated and artfully sequenced series of illuminated experiences will transform the Gardens into a compelling, all new holiday show.

UPCOMING EVENTS

ALL SOULS PROCESSION – Attracting more than 150,000 participants annually, All Souls Procession blends rituals of All Souls Day and Dia de los Muertos. This people-powered parade along Tucson’s Santa Cruz riverbank celebrates the lives of those who have passed. Traditional Mexican altars and local performers, installation art, and creatives of all kinds collaborate for almost half the year to prepare their costumes and the program for this uniquely Tucson event. November 5-6, 2022

EL TOUR DE TUCSON - On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Tucson hosts another epic installment of El Tour de Tucson, the largest perimeter bicycling event in the United States. “El Tour” attracts up to 7,000 professional and novice cyclists of all ages and abilities from the United States and worldwide. November 19, 2022

TAMAL & HERITAGE FEST - Celebrate the tastes, smells and variations of homemade tamales at tastings, and discover the Mexican tradition of making tamales for Christmas at the Tucson Tamal & Heritage Fest at AVA Amphitheater at Casino Del Sol Resort. Performances by mariachi bands and Mexican folk dancers amp up this festive borderland celebration. December 2022

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For More Information Contact:

Mary Rittmann
Vice President of Communications & Tourism
1 (520) 770-2127

Megan Evans
Director of Communications
1 (520) 770-2133

Cindy Aguilar
PR & Communications Manager
1 (520) 770-2145

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