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Long weekend in Tucson area - science and nature

Long weekend in Tucson area - science and nature

Mar 14th, 2019, 07:11 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,732
Long weekend in Tucson area - science and nature

My husband had a couple of "use them or lose them" vacation days so we agreed to a long weekend trip to the Tucson area. He lived in SE Arizona for a short while 30 years ago and I had never visited there. We agreed upon some destinations that interested us both, but couldn't squeeze them all in to 3 days of sightseeing. The sights were scattered and mostly .5-1.5 hours from the city.

We drove to Kitt Peak on Saturday for the 2 tours (3 tours on weekdays). Interesting telescopes; nice views. The docents don't always know what type of research the observatory is being used for, which I think would make the experience even more interesting. They have a grant to build a new visitor center, so are soliciting input about what types of displays and education visitors want.

Drove back down and over to the Titan Missile Museum for the tour. This turned into a highlight of the trip. Surface + down to the control room and viewing platform for the missile itself. One can really get a feel for the scale. Interesting stories from the docent who served at a similar installation.

We had reserved our places on the Pima Air & Space Museum Boneyards tour several weeks in advance as required by the Air Force base. I found the instructions rather confusing that all information had to be submitted a minimum of 10 working days in advance, that a staff member would telephone to obtain social security numbers, only telephone if it is 10 days out and you don't have a confirmation. It means that you submit all the information requested (except ss number) online, then wait for the phone call that will not come until 10 days or fewer before your tour date. The staff member says she is so busy she cannot take or return phone calls and can only get to the number collection no more than 10 days in advance. The warnings on the site are to prevent people from trying to telephone to get on a tour with fewer than 10 days notice. We visited the museum before/after the bus tour to the MD boneyards. I thought the air museum was OK (we have visited a lot of air museums) with some nice human story displays. The boneyard tour gives a feel of the scale/number of planes in storage (what I thought interesting), but focused its time on a line of display planes. We also learned/saw the process from a plane arriving through being prepared for storage. I also found it interesting how the equipment is on display for the Russians to see for SALT compliance.

One nature stop was a highlight. We drove the loop in the East section of Saguaro National Park early in the day where we saw lots of birds, rabbits, and cactus. Late in the afternoon we drove to a trailhead off Speedway and took a short walk among the cactus where we once again saw huge rabbits. More interesting for me than for my husband who did a lot of hiking when he lived in the area. At other places we spotted a coyote, javelinas, and two roadrunners.

We drove a loop down to Sierra Vista, Bisbee, McNeal, and Tombstone. We hiked up through Ramsey Canyon, but it was not proper season to see hummingbirds and it was very windy, so not very interesting. I am still trying to decide what I think about the large open pit mine at Bisbee being labeled as a scenic viewpoint. Certainly worth seeing. We enjoyed the mining museum. The town seems to have become very "artsy" since when my husband visited. It was quite busy on a Sunday. We detoured to the Whitewater Draw wildlife area to see if many sandhill cranes were still in residence although I knew it was well past peak. We saw lots of ducks, but the cranes were arriving only in small groups and landing in neighboring fields. We see more and closer at home during their migration. We only drove through Tombstone. My husband thought we would stop and walk the old town, but I was tired from the strong winds on our walks and was ready to head back to Tucson and dinner.

Other thoughts--we aren't used to the Customs and Border Patrol stops on highways miles away from the border. One was open; two were closed on our routes. We encountered numerous dangerous drivers in Tucson. Even people trying to speed through the Saguaro park loop. Twice we had to scramble to find alternate routes after surface roads were closed due to fatal accidents. Not sure if just chance or if there is a high accident rate. TUS is a small airport with several motels within 1-5 blocks of the airport--most with shuttles, so one could, depending on flight times, wait to pick up rental car or drop off rental car early and use shuttle if close to paying for an additional day. Only downside was lack of restaurants in the area.
Kay2 is offline  
Mar 14th, 2019, 07:17 AM
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Nice report. We plan to go back to TUS area this year to visit family & this is an excellent to-do list.
J62 is offline  
Mar 14th, 2019, 07:34 AM
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Any suggestions for a good local restaurant for dinner? Not fancy, not too expensive. We like all kinds of food, but really great Mexican would be appreciated (we lived in San Francisco for 45 years, good Mexican restaurants were/are sorely lacking).
sf7307 is online now  
Mar 14th, 2019, 01:12 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
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The original and historic El Charro downtown on Court St is good for Sonoran Mexican and has a nice outdoor patio in a courtyard. It was just nominated for a James Beard award. There are several branches of a Mexico City style restaurant called La Parilla Suiza.
And for a terrific but more upscale, Cafe Poca Cosa, downtown..
The best authentic Mexican are south on S.4th and S.6th Streets, in South Tucson. Mi Nidito is well known there for it’s food. Bill Clinton ate there while President.
Avoid all of the Guadalajara Grills at any cost.

Last edited by HappyTrvlr; Mar 14th, 2019 at 01:16 PM.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Mar 14th, 2019, 01:19 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
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Yes, Border Patrol pop up stations are a way of life here on the backroads.. We are always waved through. Sadly, our Hispanic friends and children all feel the need to carry passport cards to avoid problems when they are stopped. Most were born in the USA. All are US Citizens.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Mar 15th, 2019, 12:04 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
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Nice report! We just spent 8 wonderful days in Tucson and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Loved Kitt Peak. Unfortunately, you could not do much as we were there right after a big snow -- icy! Would love to do a night tour one of these days.

sf -- by far our favorite restaurant was Downtown The Restaurant ? Downtown Kitchen. We had a couple good Mexican meals at joints that we just happened upon. Cafe Poca Cosa was highly recommended but we were not impressed. Maybe its what we ordered? We did a food tour and the duck tacos at The Dutch in the Univ district https://www.thedutchtucson.com/ were good enough we went back for them.
yestravel is offline  
Mar 15th, 2019, 04:00 PM
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Just remembered one place that had delicious Mexican food, The Quesillda. https://queso520.com/
yestravel is offline  
Mar 16th, 2019, 05:45 PM
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We’ll, it turned out our friends had made a dinner reservation near the house they were renting - it’s called North Italia serving Northern Italian and we thought it was very good - we shared meatballs and arancini with drinks (my black Apple Manhattan was excellent, as was the “house” margarita and the sangria), I had a delicious squid ink pasta, two people had pasta Bolognese they loved, and one had a mushroom pizza that was great.
sf7307 is online now  
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