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.



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. 



TUCSON'S FIRST HIMALAYAN SALT WALL DINING EXPERIENCE - A new fine restaurant experience has opened up near downtown Tucson's 5 Points area. Casa Madre opened in June 2024, west of The Baffert at 5 Points, featuring Tucson's first Himalayan rock salt wall dining experience. Casa Madre features a limited dinner menu and a variety of cocktails for an elevated, intimate dining experience. 

POPULAR SOUTH TUCSON RESTAURANT OPENS IN MERCADO DISTRICT - Rollies Mexican Patio opened its second location in the popular modified shipping container shopping center, MSA Annex in July 2024. Rollies joins five other drink and dining options in The Annex, bringing a beloved local favorite to Tucson's west side. Chef Mateo Otero, who first opened Rollies in South Tucson in 2017, brings restaurant favorites like their Nana's and Cheesy Birria tacos and new dishes like Loaded Chilaquiles and Papa Flats to the Mercado District. 

LOS MILICS WINERY LUXURY CASITAS – Just over an hour outside of Tucson in the Sonoita-Elgin wine region, Los Milics winery opened nine luxury casitas on their property in July 2024. The new casitas 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. 

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 OPENS FOURTH LOCATION DOWNTOWN - A local staple bringing fresh tortillas, Mexican sweet bread, and other baked goods to Tucson for almost 40 years opened its fourth location in downtown Tucson in May 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 is an 800-square foot storefront on Stone Avenue, on the ground level of the building housing the Hampton Inn and Home 2 Suites.

NEW YORK STYLE PIZZA OPENS IN MERCADO DISTRICT - In May 2024WHOLE SLVCE PIZZA opened at the Monier Building in the Mercado District, between the Mercado San Agustin and MSA Annex. WHOLE SLVCE focuses on New York style, deck-oven pizza slices, and large pies and is the newest adventure of Ari Shapiro Travis Evans of Falora. Evans has an extensive background, formerly working for 10 years as the head baker of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City, then moving on to work under James Beard Award-winning Thomas Keller at Bouchon Bakery and James Beard Award and Michelin Star Chef Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison Park. The menu at WHOLE SLVCE offers classic pizza options with an extensive Vegan menu, including a vegan cannoli made by vegan Tucson bakery Houlden's Rise Above

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 Fall 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.  

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.




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.   




WORLD MARGARITA CHAMPIONSHIP -- Hosted by Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance, this annual event features some of The Southwest's premier chefs and restaurants as they duke it out for the best Margarita. Attendees can enjoy food samplings and margarita tastings from Tucson Original Restaurants and other Sonoran samples. This lively cocktail competition is one of the most anticipated culinary events in the region, featuring music performers, interactive art experiences, and meet-and-grees with Tucson chefs and personalities. June 14, 2024. 

SOUTHWEST WINGS SUMMER BIRDING AND NATURE FESTIVAL - This annual family-friendly event based in Sierra Vista includes a pre-festival jamboree, live animals, guided field trips, and free programs. The festival celebrates its 33rd year in 2024. July 31-August 3, 2024. 

SOUTHEAST ARIZONA BIRDING FESTIVAL - Gather in the Sonoran Desert during the summer monsoons to see unique species of birds not found anywhere else in the country. Experience bird photography and art workshops, free talks and panels, a vendor expo, and guided field trips all around Southern Arizona led by expert birding guides. August 7-11. 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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