The Sonoran Desert is the thread that binds Tucson, in all of its enchantment, together. Pops of color from cactus blooms, ingredients plucked from the desert, and clarity of vision from the crisp desert air: they’re all part of the city’s deeply felt sense of place.
You can taste the land’s richness in the cuisine—it’s the only U.S. city that’s a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy—and you can soak up its calm in spa treatments that pull from desert botanicals. It’s a vacation paradise where you can feed your body and soul.
The shining star of Tucson’s up-and-coming food scene is its Mexican fare, which runs from taco trucks to tamale stops to chic downtown hangouts. Of course, whether they focus on Mexican or another cuisine, most Tucson restaurants pull from multiple inspiration points: Southwestern, Native American, French, and beyond.
You might start your tour at the Welcome Diner, housed in a picture-perfect retro building. Like any good diner, it has a lengthy menu with biscuits and gravy, a BLT, and burgers, but there are also deviations in the pozole rojo, fried green tomato sandwich, and smoked trout toast.
For lunch, fill up at El Charro (the oldest continually run Mexican restaurant in the U.S. operated by one family) on dishes that typify the Sonoran style, in particular the air-dried carne seca. Alternatively, grab a bacon-wrapped Sonoran hot dog from long-time purveyors BK Tacos or El Guero Canelo, or try an upscale version at Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails, headed by Janos Wilder, an OG in the city’s food scene and James Beard Award winner.
Dinner options are plentiful, too. Try something different nightly, whether pizza at Italy-trained piazzolla Scott Volepe’s Fiamme Pizza, New American plates at Agustin Kitchen, or fancy steak cuts with Sonoran accents at ranch-to-table Charro Steak (from the family behind El Charro).
Once you’ve indulged your gastronomic side, awaken the rest of your senses with a wellness stay at a luxury-minded Tucson resort and spa. The signature Wellness Garden Ritual at Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa starts with indigenous plants and herbs selected from the spa’s garden (your choice!), which are then incorporated into your relaxing treatments.
Get inspired at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort’s Hashani Spa, named after an indigenous word for the Saguaro cactus, a plant known for its healing properties. The Arizona Copper Peptide Facial utilizes ingredients central to Arizona, including aloe, jojoba, copper-rich Sedona mud, and prickly pear. When you want to dive deep into wellness, Canyon Ranch is the place. Its all-inclusive programs are designed to inspire big life changes and include time at the spa where services range from classic massage to Ayurvedic body treatments.
Wellness is a way of life at the Miraval Resort, too. For the ultimate wellness-landscape connection, book the Bountiful Earth treatment in a temperature-controlled outdoor tent. The globe-hopping treatment starts with a Moroccan rose body wash and ends on a rustic Southwest note with a cedar wood and juniper body butter massage.
From its desert beauty and culinary delights to an authentic sense of relaxation, Tucson is the place you want to be.