After a long week, sometimes a short getaway is in order. But deciding which destination to travel to can be daunting when you only have a weekend to spend.
To help you choose the right trip for you, U.S. News considered factors like accessibility, affordability and entertainment offerings, as well as reader votes, to determine which cities offer the best weekend getaways. So whether it's just a short drive from home or a flight away, you're sure to enjoy your weekend at these locales. Don't forget to go online and vote for your favorite cities to help guide us in determining next year's ranking.
Why Go to Tucson
One number: 350. That's the average number of sunny days Tucson sees each year. And with daytime temperatures rarely dipping below the mid-60s, Arizona's second-largest city makes a great place to escape cold weather. But Tucson is much more than an incubator for snowbirds. Deeply rooted in Hispanic heritage, "The Old Pueblo" is a hotbed of historic and cultural attractions, not to mention a mecca for those in search of some spicy Mexican cuisine north of the border.
Despite its ever-expanding size, Tucson exudes a small-town atmosphere. Neighborhoods like the El Presidio Historic District and the Barrio Histórico (Viejo) – complete with colorful adobe buildings and quaint shops – make you feel like you're in an old Mexican village.
Meanwhile, the high-end restaurants and resorts of the Catalina Foothills district add a contemporary flair that may soon rival that of Phoenix's ritzy 'burbs like Scottsdale. And the trendy shops and rowdy bars surrounding the palm tree-laden University of Arizona campus infuse this city with a youthful spirit. Unlike the sprawling state capital, Tucson has yet to overpower its surroundings; nearby mountains and wilderness areas like Saguaro National Park offer a true taste of the Sonoran Desert.
What You'll Need to Know
Beat the heat. Prepare for scorching temperatures if you're visiting between May and September. Make sure to drink plenty of water and apply sunscreen regularly.
Because of Tucson's large Mexican-American population, it's not uncommon to hear Spanish spoken in certain neighborhoods.
This is a college town
The University of Arizona dominates a large portion of Tucson, and school spirit is strong. Expect heavier traffic and a rowdier atmosphere on football or basketball game days.
What to Eat
It should come as no surprise that Mexican cuisine is Tucson's specialty. You'll encounter smoky, sweet and spicy flavors throughout your visit, so prepare your taste buds. El Charro Café is an institution that's been around since 1922 and serves classic dishes like tamales, tacos and enchiladas. For even more tamales, head to the Tucson Tamale Company, which is a staple for locals. If you're looking for a more upscale setting, try Cafe Poca Cosa, which offers a menu (in Spanish) that changes twice daily.
Mexican flavors may be the backbone of the city's culinary scene, but that's not all Tucson has to offer discerning foodies. Visitors and locals rave about the breakfast served at Cup Cafe, which sits inside a downtown hotel and serves a menu of inventive American favorites. For an even more eclectic menu, consider making reservations at Feast, which is praised for its inventive flavor pairings and extensive wine list. Wildflower is another new American favorite that often surprises diners because of its location within a strip mall. To learn more about Tucson's restaurants, check out the Visit Tucson website.
When you're not getting to know Tucson through its distinctive eats, consider sampling the region's wine. Arizona wine country sits about an hour away from the city in the southern Arizona villages of Sonoita and Elgin, and the eastern town of Wilcox, making for an easy daytrip if you're in the mood to sample some local vino.
Getting Around Tucson
The best way to get around Tucson is by car. Although there are several public transportation options, you'll need your own wheels to reach top sites like Saguaro National Park and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Rental rates are reasonable, and there are rental stations in town and at the Tucson International Airport (TUS), which is located about 10 miles south of downtown.
The U.S. News & World Report travel rankings are based on analysis of expert and user opinions. Read more about how we rank vacation destinations.