Granted, the prismatic desert blooms at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the majestic cacti at Saguaro National Park and the adventurous views of Sabino Canyon all make Tucson a nature-lover’s Shangri-La. But with average daily highs of 95 degrees F in September, Tucson is an indoor city, as well. Check out these A.C.-cooled play spaces on your next trip.
3 THINGS TO DO
Ignite Sign Art Museum
Veteran sign-maker and restorer Jude Cook and his wife, Monica, founded Ignite as the culmination of a lifelong vision quest, a place to share their 40-plus-year collection of 3D, hand-painted, neon and gold-leaf signs. Interactive exhibits and activities such as a sign scavenger hunt add to the fun. Check out the shop for rare and handmade souvenirs. Side note: Big community advocates, the Cooks are behind the upkeep of the famous 30-foot neon Gateway Cactus (1525 N. Oracle Rd.).
331 S. Olsen Ave., Tucson
Mission San Xavier del Bac
Forged in a melting pot of cultures – its story includes a Franciscan missionary, a loan from a Sonoran rancher, a Mexican architect and a workforce made up of O’odham peoples – Mission San Xavier del Bac’s construction began in 1783. The Baroque-style building features symbolic architectural elements, such as shell motifs and clothing-embellished sculptures, and is open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except during mass.
1950 W. San Xavier Rd., Tucson
The younger, more modern sibling of the Spanish-Colonial Mercado San Agustín, this minimalist mixed-use catacomb of 13 local shops and eateries is nestled together in a walkable configuration of breezy, modified shipping containers. Make your shopping rounds, check out a fiery circus spectacle at Flam Chen and then enjoy a bite. Ramen heads: Check for the red lantern hanging out front at Kukai. (It means they are serving ramen that day.)
267 S. Avenida del Convento, Tucson
3 PLACES TO EAT
Formerly known for a “farm-to-street” food truck that he operated in Tucson, chef David Solorzano puts an upscale spin on Mexico City-inspired staples. Solorzano recommends the Chilhuacle mole. Pair with a clever agave-based cocktail.
50 E. Broadway Blvd., Tucson
Exo Roast Co.
Known for its chill atmosphere and distinctively Tucson tasties, Exo is a great place to kickstart your adventure. Order a spicy chiltepin-infused cold brew and a savory daily starter like the Farmer’s Plate: eggs, hash, Tasso ham and local Barrio Bread with barrel cactus marmalade.
403 N. Sixth Ave., Tucson
Find unassuming charm in an intimate, low-key brick-and-mortar building, a quick tromp from the historic shopping district on Fourth Avenue. Chef Scott Girod, a protégé of Chris Bianco, opened Anello and invested in an authentic Neapolitan oven to perfectly execute his carefully fermented sourdough crust pizzas, listed on a simple three-item menu.
222 E. Sixth St., Tucson
Wind down your excursion on a scenic road that brings you to Gates Pass inside Tucson Mountain Park, just west of Tucson. A shot of the sunset here is coveted, so pick up a worthy frame while you’re shopping the MSA Annex.
Tucson Mountain Park
8451 W. McCain Loop, Tucson