What's New

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



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 9-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 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. 

TUCSON MUSEUM OF ART TURNS 100 - Originally founded in 1924 as the Tucson Fine Arts Association, the Tucson Museum of Art will celebrate its centennial in 2024. The museum plans to display retro exhibits from their archive to showcase their humble beginnings and the growth and development these past 100 years.  

DOWNTOWN GALLERY CELEBRATING BLACK ARTISTS - A new non-profit gallery space has opened to the public in the heart of Downtown Tucson. The grand opening of Blue Lotus Artists' Collective (BLAC) aligned with their block party in November 2023. BLAC aims to fill the representational void of Black artists in gallery spaces. President and founder of BLAC first opened the gallery with a band of local artists and art advocates by appointment-only in March 2023 on Pennington Street.  

ELITE PRIVATE DINING EXPERIENCE IN DOWNTOWN TUCSON  - Tucson's first James Beard Award winner opened a new private dining experience in Downtown Tucson in September 2023. Studio Janos is the chef's latest culinary adventure, where he plans to create delectable dishes, share his extensive culinary knowledge, and create exceptional experiences for guests. In his new space, up to 12 can dine at a private dinner made by Chef Janos himself, view cooking demonstrations, participate in hands-on classes, or receive consulting for their culinary endeavors.  

RESTAURANT REFRESH TO TUCSON FAVORITES - Tucson Food & Beverage classics, LaCo, and the connected bar TallBoys in downtown Tucson near the Historic Art Block unveiled their refresh in September 2023. LaCo's matriarch and founder is passing the restaurant down to her children, who have renamed the establishment Jojo's in her honor. Jojo's has completely redone their menu to offer fresh, simple food while Monsoon Room moves in to the bar area, bringing modern and classic cocktails to their vintage backdrop. 

BARRIO VIEJO NOMINATED FOR NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK DESIGNATION - One of Tucson’s downtown neighborhoods, Barrio Viejo, will receive National Historic Landmark designation (info here) by 2024. 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 Teatro Carmen, a 300-seat theatre, and the adjoining building, the one-time home of the Black Elks Club. The facades of these buildings was restored at the end of 2023, with the renewed interiors slated for 2025. 

LEO KENT OPENS IN ONE SOUTH CHURCH – Tucson's tallest and most iconic downtown building has been converted from a shuttered office space to a 145-room boutique hotel called the Leo Kent. Opened May 2023, the Marriott Tribute portfolio property spans nine of the tower’s 23 floors and draws 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.



A HAUNTING GOOD STAY AT HOTEL CONGRESS - Historic Hotel Congress is embracing its dark side. In September 2023, Hotel Congress opened booking for rooms that come with a roommate -- one who never leaves. Choose between four guest rooms on the second floor that have been said to show the most paranormal activity. 




AGAVE CENTERED BAR AND RESTAURANT OPENS IN DOWNTOWN TUCSON - Borderlands Brewing Co. owner Es Teran opened his newest business venture in March 2024. Sonoran Moonshine Co. focuses on agave-centered drinks like Bacanora and includes a speakeasy-style bar in the basement. Their drink menu incorporates unique ingredients reminiscent of Tucson and the Sonoran Southwest like their Hola Mushasho, a sotol concoction with beet juice and a cricket shrub on a pineapple leather or their Sweet Elote Espresso, a creamy sweet corn espresso martini. The new eatery will also serve Borderlands Brewing beers on tap and feature a menu that perfectly highlights the best Mexican flavors Tucson has to offer. 

ICONIC BAKERY OPENING FOURTH LOCATION DOWNTOWN - A local staple bringing fresh tortillas, Mexican sweet bread, and other baked goods to Tucson for almost 40 years is opening its fourth location in downtown Tucson in April 2024. The Franco family first opened the original La Estrella Bakery on 12th Avenue in 1985, quickly becoming a cornerstone of Tucson. They opened their second location in the Mercado District 26 years later and their third in 2021. La Estrella Bakery's newest location will be an 800-square foot storefront right across the street from the St. Augustine Cathedral near the Hampton Inn and Home 2 Suites on Stone Avenue.

NEW FIELD GUIDE HIGHLIGHTS AMERICA'S BEST MEXICAN FOOD - Visit Tucson launched their newest Field Guide in March 2024, spotlighting a trail of local Mexican restaurants around the city that will give locals and visitors a taste of Tucson, home of America's Best Mexican Food. Locals and visitors can access the America's Best Mexican Food Field Guide via mobile app to try new restaurants and accumulate points that can be used to redeem prizes.

BORDERLANDS BREWCADE COMING SOON - Borderlands Brewing Co is opening their third location in Tucson's north side in Spring 2024. Borderlands Brewing North will be located at River Road and Craycroft Road near the Catalina Foothills and will sport an arcade bar theme and colorful murals by artist Sangre del Desierto.

TWO TUCSON CHEFS NAMED JAMES BEARD AWARD SEMIFINALISTS - In January 2024, two Tucson chefs were unveiled as semifinalists for the James Beard Award's Best Chef in the Southwest category. Chef Wendy Garcia of Tumerico and La Chaiteria, and Flavia Briones of Barista Del Barrio were named. Garcia, known for her flavorful vegan and vegetarian Mexican food, was the sole Tucson nominee in 2023. This year Briones, known for her delectable breakfast burritos, joins Garcia as a semifinalist. Winners will be announced in June 2024 at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony in Chicago. 

ROOFTOP DINING OPENS IN DOWNTOWN TUCSON - A Downtown Tucson favorite, Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink, opened their rooftop dining area and bar in September 2023. Executive Chef Tyler Fenton, who is also the brains behind nearby restaurant, BATA, has provided access to Reilly's full food and beverage menu from the rooftop. Much like the adjoined basement bar, Tough Luck Club, guests can access the new spot via a set of stairs found in their beer garden.  

NEW YORK STYLE PIZZA COMING TO MERCADO DISTRICT - West of downtown at the Monier Building in the Mercado District, between the Mercado San Agustin and MSA Annex, WHOLE SLVCE PIZZA plans to open in Fall 2024. WHOLE SLVCE will focus on New York style, deck-oven pizza slices, and large pies. The new venture is the brainchild of Chef Ari Shapiro, owner of successful Tucson restaurants Falora and Beaut Burger. 

A GLAMOROUS AGAVE BAR ON UNIVERSITY BLVD - The newest addition to University Avenue's Main Gate Square, Agave House, opened in June 2023, boasting a menu of savory and spicy Mexican cuisine, themed flights, and over 100 agave-based spirits. Located right on the corner of University Blvd. and Park Ave., University Avenue's latest happy hour spot comes from the same owners as Main Gate staple, Gentle Ben's.  

BURGERS, BEER, AND PICKLEBALL - The decade-long vacant historic Corbett Building was revitalized as the new home to a burger joint, beer garden, and five pickleball courts. Originally built in 1930 as Corbett Lumber and Hardware Co. on 7th Street and 6th Avenue near Tucson's downtown and historic 4th Avenue districts, CORBETT'S, which opened August 2023, features a total of five pickleball courts (three outside and two inside) a dog-friendly beer garden, plus on-site parking.

SCREWBEAN COFFEE – A new local brew-house opened in Tucson in May 2023. Located at 103 N. Park Ave., Screwbean Brewing Company serves house-brewed beers, hard seltzers, and coffee alongside wine and local bites. Screwbean embodies all things Tucson, taking its name from the Screwbean Mesquite native to the Sonoran desert. The taproom is building its home in the 1,000-square-foot building on Park Avenue that was once a Chinese market founded by one of Tucson's pioneer Chinese merchants nearly 100 years ago. 


FLOWER CHILD & DOUGHBIRD -- Tucson native and mastermind behind Fox Restaurant Concepts, Sam Fox, has opened two new restaurants to Tucson. Flower Child and Doughbird opened April 2023 with Doughbird opened May 2023. Flower Child, opening in April, brings "Healthy Food for a Happy World" to Campbell Plaza in the midtown area where Fox Restaurant Concepts began. Their food focuses on convenient, nutritious food using fresh ingredients with vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. Doughbird, a pizza and rotisserie eatery, is scheduled to open mid-May and will join Flower Child in Campbell Plaza in the weeks following. Patrons can expect the unexpected, like a Brussels Sprout Pizza with melted sweet potato and glazed bacon. 

MONSOON CHOCOLATE DEBUTS FACTORY TOURS + CAFE – Seventeen-time award-winner Monsoon Chocolate opened their new flagship store and cafe in midtown Tucson at Copenhagen Plaza in June 2023. The new Monsoon Chocolate Cafe + Market is a cafe and retail experience with an expanded menu and a new tasting room for classes, workshops, and private events. With the cafe's opening, their original store on 22nd Street has been converted into a full-fledged factory and gift shop, opening for tours in April 2023. Groups of up to 12 can learn about Monsoon Chocolate’s bean-to-bar process in a 45-minute tour available Thursday through Sunday by reservation only. 

LOS MILICS WINERY LUXURY CASITAS – Just over an hour outside of Tucson in the Sonoita-Elgin wine region, Los Milics winery prepares to open nine luxury casitas on their property in Spring 2024. The new casitas wil pay homage to their Southern Arizona roots and complement the winery’s tasting room, which opened January 2023. 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. 



NASA ASTEROID SAMPLE ARRIVES IN TUCSON - A sample of the Bennu asteroid brought via the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx mission is being unveiled at the Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum March 2024. A portion of the rare and valuable asteroid sample will be permanently housed at the Gem and Mineral Museum making it one of only three locations that have received a sample available for public viewing. 

NEW MUSEUM FOR MILITARY VEHICLES - As one of the world's largest and most diverse aerospace museums, the Pima Air & Space Museum is now broadening its audience to historic military vehicle enthusiasts. The Tucson Military Vehicle Museum will open next to the Pima Air and Space Museum as a new, separate experience in November 2024, showcasing rare and interesting vehicles from all nations and eras. Visitors can expect dynamic activities and exhibits, demonstrations, riding and driving experiences, and STEM experiences for K-12 students.

SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK NAMED URBAN NIGHT SKY PLACE - In November 2023, Saguaro National Park was named the newest Urban Night Sky Place, joining only eight other Urban Night Sky locations in the world with only one other National Park sharing this designation. This certification recognizes sites that are near or surrounded by large urban areas, and whose planning and design actively promote an authentic nighttime experience amid significant artificial light at night.  

KITT PEAK REOPENS TO THE PUBLIC -  After nearly three years being closed to the public, Kitt Peak National Observatory reopened in November 2023. Originally shut due to the pandemic, Kitt Peak remained closed following a lightning strike-induced fire on the Baboquivari Mountain range in June 2022. The observatory is now open to the public Friday through Sunday in the daytime and evenings.   




TUCSON FOLK FESTIVAL - Since 1986, more than 300 musicians gather every spring in Downtown Tucson to perform, swap songs, and teach at the Tucson Folk Festival. A grassroots and volunteer-driven endeavor at heart, the event is Arizona’s largest free to the public music festival. The annual celebration features more than 150 performances by local, regional and national acts on six stages, a young artist showcase, and a songwriting competition. April 5-7, 2024.

PUEBLOS DEL MAIZ - Celebrate the culinary and cultural impacts of maiz; a food crop cultivated for at least nine thousand years. Each April, Tucson hosts the first portion of the four-part Pueblos del Maiz held across four different UNESCO Cities of Gastronomy. Festivities include regional food vendors, chef demonstrations, live music and entertainment, educational panels, art installations and more. April 11-14, 2024.

AGAVE HERITAGE FESTIVAL - Rooted in the historical and cultural significance of the agave plant, the Agave Heritage Festival offers seminars, trade shows, field trips, culinary events, and tastings of fine spirits unavailable in the United States. The festival begins at the historic Hotel Congress in the heart of downtown and stretches throughout the city's downtown districts and beyond with "Mezcrawls," agave planting and roasting at Mission Garden, lectures at Saguaro National Park, dinners downtown, and more. April 18-21, 2024. 

TUCSON INTERNATIONAL MARIACHI CONFERENCE - Hear the most iconic sounds in Latin music at the Tucson International Mariachi Conference. Experience mariachi the way it was meant to be experienced -- live. Founded in 1982, Tucson's mariachi conference includes a music festival with three public concerts that cap a week of rigorous student workshops led by masters of mariachi music and folkloric dance. May 1-5, 2024. 

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For More Information, Contact:

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

Cindy Aguilar
Director of Communications
1 (520) 770-2145




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