Gem show visitors (and locals too!), you’ve heard about the San Xavier Mission, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and other jewels that Tucson has to offer. But there are plenty more.
When you take a break from cruising through the shows at the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase, consider these hidden gems.
And if you're hungry, here's a list of new restaurants to visit.
And, of course, when you're ready to continue your gem and fossil shopping, click here for a list of shows.
El Güero Canelo has won a James Beard America’s Classics Award, so it's not really hidden anymore. Still, it’s worth a mention.
This is no high-end dining experience. You walk up to the counter and order your Sonoran Dog, a hot dog wrapped in bacon and tucked into a pillowy bolillo, slathered with mayonnaise and mustard and topped with tender beans, grilled onions, fresh tomatoes and a tear-inducing jalapeño sauce. All that for $3.50 a dog.
And if you're looking to try more Sonoran hot dogs, don't worry. There are lots of other hot dog options in Tucson.
As you wander around the Tucson area, going from show to show, check out the abundance of art.
You’ll find it at every streetcar stop downtown, such as the ones just outside the Tucson Convention Center.
And near North Church Avenue and East Broadway, you'll find artist Joe Tyler's centennial plant, which was completed in 2013.
Find a map and information on public art around Tucson here.
Side note: Tucson also has lots of beautiful murals scattered around the city.
A touch of history
Step into the past at the History of Pharmacy Museum at the University of Arizona’s College of Pharmacy, 1295 N. Martin Ave. It’s got wood counters, gleaming brass store fixtures, more than 60,000 bottles, original drug containers and a wide variety of pharmaceutical accoutrements.
The museum’s curator, Stephen Hall, says there’s plenty to see, but among the most unusual items is a jar of John Dillinger’s chewed gum, scraped off from under the Tucson pharmacy lunch counter where he stuck it once his food arrived. It’s Black Jack gum, in case you are curious.
There’s also the entire collection from the Upjohn Disneyland pharmacy; when Disneyland decided to close the drug store museum, it came to the UA’s Pharmacy Museum.
Guided tours are offered from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The trail less traveled
Sure, you could stretch your legs with a walk through Sabino Canyon or Saguaro National Park, and you’d be happy.
But you might be even happier with a breathtaking, manageable hike that has fewer people and just-as-spectacular country. That’s what you’ll get when you hike Pontatoc Ridge Trail.
During the 2.6-mile trail you’ll pass through a bounty of saguaros and other rich desert plants. And at stops along the way you’ll get in-your-face views of the Catalina Mountains and above-it-all views of the city. Follow East Skyline Drive to North Alvernon Way.
Turn north on Alvernon and follow it to a parking lot for hikers at its northern dead end. Just after you start you’ll come to a fork in the trail — you want to take the one on the right.
Explore the neighborhood
Barrio Viejo, just south of the Convention Center, is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
It’s packed with historic adobe buildings, many with brightly painted doors that practically beg you to stop and take a photograph.
A favorite spot there is El Tiradito, a shrine littered with candles and prayer offerings, and protected by a crumbling adobe wall — some stick notes begging for help with a broken heart in the wall. The story goes that the man buried in the unconsecrated ground there died fighting for the love of a woman.
It’s at 420 S. Main Ave. Barrio Viejo is bordered by Interstate 10 on the west, West Cushing Street on the north, South Sixth Avenue on the East, and West 18th Street on the South.
How sweet it is
We know, a water treatment facility isn’t high on most people’s must-go lists. But Sweetwater Wetlands should be.
The 18-acre wetlands site is easy to get to — it’s at Interstate 10 and West Prince Road — and though you are in the city, you’d never know it. The wetlands site is packed with vegetation and wildlife, including bobcats, and is a primo bird watching site.
Take the Prince Road exit from Interstate 10 and go west to Business Center Drive. Turn right on Business Center Drive and follow it and connecting streets through a business park to Sweetwater Drive. Go west on Sweetwater Drive to the wetlands.
For a glimpse of retro Tucson
The Ignite Sign Art Museum is home to hundreds of signs, clocks and other advertising pieces that once promoted businesses in Tucson and around the nation.
Folks can find remnants of the beloved De Anza Drive-In theater and Molina's Midway. Miniature mock-ups of Tucson classics, such as Magic Carpet Golf, also sit in the museum.
Tucson practically vibrates with all the jazz in town. Many of the world-class musicians living here gather for weekly jams.
Among the spots for jazz music are Cafe Torrino and Hacienda Del Sol on Saturdays, Epic Cafe on Tuesdays and The Dusty Monk on Fridays.
But check the Tucson Jazz Society’s website for a complete list of jams and times.