We get questions! Here are answers to some of the frequently asked questions about visiting Tucson.
What's Tucson's landscape like?
The city of Tucson is 2,389 feet above sea level and covers nearly 500 square miles. The landscape is varied and includes flowering desert, rolling hills, winding dry riverbeds, rugged canyons and pine-topped peaks, all beneath a clear, blue sky. Scenery on the 90-minute drive from downtown Tucson to the top of the highest mountain peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains, Mt. Lemmon, is like what you'd see on a trip from Mexico to Canada.
Sentinel Peak (also called "A" Mountain) is on the western fringe of the downtown historic district. The base of this peak is the site of a major archaeological dig for remnants of Tucson's earliest settlement, about 4,000 years ago.
How many mountain ranges does Tucson have?
Tucson's spectacular skyline features our five mountain ranges, all of which contain fantastic hiking and mountain biking for all experience levels. Tucson is also a Gateway Community to the 800-mile Arizona Trail.
• The sun rises over the Rincon Mountains on the east side
• Our legendary sunsets silhouette the Tucson Mountains on the west
• Flanking the north and northeast are the prominent Santa Catalina Mountains
• Rising to the south and southeast are the Santa Rita Mountains
• The Tortolita Mountains shelter the northwest
Arizona is in the Southwest area of the United States between California and New Mexico. Tucson is an hour's drive from the Mexico border and less than two hours from Phoenix.
How big is Tucson?
Tuscon is the 33rd largest city in the United States and the 52nd largest metropolitan area with an estimated population of 545,975.
What does Tucson have to offer for bike enthusiasts?
Cyclists, mountain bikers, and anyone who loves to ride their bike will experience bliss here. In addition to five surrounding mountain ranges with countless trails, and an ascent from Tucson to Mt. Lemmon that draws Olympic-caliber cyclists, especially in winter, Tucson also has The Loop. The Loop is more than 130 miles of paved, car-free multi-use path encircling the city and ... along with Tugo Bike Share … makes for endless exploration of our stunning natural surroundings! For more on how to Ride Tucson.
Climate & Dress
How should I pack for a visit to Tucson?
No Code: We love casual cool, but you might want to pack a fancier outfit or two for upscale dining adventures or excursions at museums and galleries. Most of the time, you’ll be quite comfortable in the non-summer months in light pants and a shirt of some kind. A hat is a very good idea year-round.
Fall/Winter/Spring: Layers are advisable, as there can be a wide gulf between daytime highs and overnight lows. (You might feel all four seasons in a single February day here.) Winter may require something a bit heavier after dark. And if you want to strut your Western wear, that’s okay, too!
Summer: The daytime highs consistently rise over 100 degrees F (32C). We suggest breathable long-sleeved clothing, along with hats, sunglasses, and sunblock. In general, limit outdoor activities that time of year to very early (before 7 a.m.), or after sundown (around 8 p.m.).
Always Carry Water: This is the Sonoran Desert, with Tucson sitting at an altitude of 2,643 feet (806m) above sea level. It may require a bit of an adjustment depending on where you’re coming from.
Is it always sunny in Tucson?
Tucson, with more than 340 days of sunshine a year, is primarily a dry climate, thanks to our location in the middle of the desert. Our monsoon rainy season stretches from mid-July through mid-September, producing epic thunderstorms and microbursts. Most of the year we’ve got plenty of sunshine and opportunities to explore the desert or hang out by the pool.
Average Tucson high and low temperatures by month, plus rainfall and more.
I read that Tucson is a ‘City of Gastronomy’. What does this mean?
It’s true! In December of 2015, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) named Tucson as the first city to be named a City of Gastronomy in the United States. Much more than a nod to our spectacular Mexican cuisine, it’s a comprehensive award that encompasses "our region's rich agricultural heritage, thriving food traditions, and culinary distinctiveness.”
What about the famous Mexican food here?
It’s a serious pursuit, with award-winning chefs that draw other chefs and foodies from around the world to study our borderlands food scene. You’ve probably got a favorite Mexican spot wherever you’re coming from, but after you taste some of the terrific locally-owned eateries along The Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food, with our unique flavors and region-specific dishes … you’ll want more.
I’m dropping in for the Gem Show… can you tell me about it?
The Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Showcase has been a draw for treasure hunters from every corner of the globe for more than 65 years! It’s hands down the biggest event on our calendar and we know once you experience the dazzling variety of wares for sale and the welcoming community around it, you’ll be back.
What’s the best way to get around in Tucson?
Tucson has many options for getting around, from shuttles, taxis, and rental cars to public buses and the Sun Link Streetcar (within our urban core), plus rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft. There are relatively long distances between the different areas of the city, so having an independent mode of travel is vital. For a comprehensive list of these options with relevant links, visit our local transportation page here.
How far away are Phoenix and the border with Mexico?
Phoenix is 110 miles north of Tucson, a drive that takes about an hour and 40 minutes heading west on I-10. The international border between Nogales, Arizona, and neighboring Nogales, Sonora is 60 miles away, which is roughly a one-hour drive south via I-10/I-19. Drivers looking to travel deeper into Mexico beyond Nogales will need to carry a Mexico-specific auto insurance policy.
What airlines fly into Tucson International Airport?
Airlines that serve Tucson directly include Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American, Delta Air Lines, Frontier, Southwest, Sun Country, United, and Via Air. There are nonstop flights to and from major cities across the United States, and for the most current information, visit flytucson.com.
How many hotels does Tucson have?
The number of hotel properties in metro Tucson is 151 with a rooms inventory of 15,319. (Smith Travel Research)
What are gratuities like in Tucson?
A gratuity is not usually added to your restaurant bill, though some may have an automatic gratuity that is charged depending on the size of your party. Waitstaff and taxi drivers receive 15-20 percent, or more if service is exceptional. Doorpersons and bellhops should receive $1 per bag, with an extra premium applied ($5-10) if there is a large amount of luggage. Valet drivers should receive a $3-5 tip.
Supposedly Tucson has quite a history… what’s the story?
The name Tucson itself comes from the Hohokam words “chuk shon,” roughly translating to ‘at the foot of the black mountain’, referring to dwellings by Native Americans that have called this area home for more than 4,000 years. That makes this one of the oldest continually inhabited areas in North America! The modern era of Tucson’s history began on August 20, 1775, with the founding of Presidio San Agustin del Tucson by Spanish settlers who first arrived in the late 1600s, having built Mission San Xavier del Bac.
Where can you exchange currency in Tucson?
International travelers are encouraged to obtain US currency prior to arrival in Tucson, though ATMs from major US banks with locations in the area (Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo) may also be an option depending on your home banking arrangement.
What about U.S. Customs?
International visitors go through U.S. Customs at their original port of entry, before arriving at Tucson International Airport.
Liquor & Marijuana Laws
What’s the drinking age in Tucson?
Arizona law prohibits anyone younger than age 21 to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages. The purchase, service, or consumption of liquor in public is prohibited from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. Monday-Sunday.
I’m on a road trip from Denver to LA, do you mind if I …
Recreational use of marijuana in Arizona remains prohibited, consistent with federal laws.
Taxes & Time Zones
Tax added to overnight accommodation rate: Tucson: 12.05% plus $4 per room per night, Marana: 14.55%, Oro Valley: 14.55%, Pima County 12.05%.
Is it true Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time?
Arizona is in the Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST). We’re one of only two U.S. states that do not make an adjustment for Daylight Savings Time, and between March and November, Arizona time mirrors Pacific Daylight Time.
Where can I get information once on the ground in Tucson?
Before you start your adventure, be sure to visit our Southern Arizona Heritage and Visitor Center. You can’t miss us – we’re located in downtown Tucson, inside the Historic Pima County Courthouse at 115 N. Church Ave., Tucson, AZ 85701. Call toll-free: (800) 638-8350 or go to visitsouthernarizona.com/. Hours: Daily 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Closed on these holidays: New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Day, Presidents' Day, Easter Sunday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day. The visitor center includes various exhibits, a theater, gallery and other neat features designed to introduce you to new places and provide inspiration to guide your journey.
The University of Arizona Visitor Center is located at 811 N. Euclid Ave. Hours are 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., Monday - Friday, Closed weekends and on government holidays. Here, you can pick up travel guides, browse souvenirs, or get some insider tips from terrific volunteers. For more information: visitorcenter.arizona.edu/.
Where can I access a current Tucson calendar of events?
Where can I get more information?
The University of Arizona also offers information for parents and visitors looking to explore their extensive cultural offerings. Call (520) 621-5130 or go to visitorcenter.arizona.edu. Contact Visit Arizona by calling (866) 275-5816 or go to www.visitarizona.com
Cruising The Loop
Tucson Mural in Downtown
Congress Street backlit by one of Tucson's legendary sunsets