Desert wine country. Ancient architecture. Temperate winter weather.
These are just a few perks Tucson, Arizona — located along the banks of the Santa Cruz River — uniquely offers visitors. Tucson is easily accessible, as most major airlines fly into Tucson International Airport (TUS), located about 13 kilometers from downtown. Once in the city, if you don't want to rent a car, the Sun Link Tucson Streetcar connects most Tucson neighborhoods, including downtown, the University of Arizona and the Mercado District. Once you make it to this sun-filled city, here's where to eat, play and stay for the ideal weekend in Tucson.
Afternoon: Check into Hotel Congress. Built in 1919 and once a hideout of U.S. bank robber John Dillinger, this is the place to stay if you want to be in heart of the action. Located on the hip-meets-history Congress Street, the historic hotel's rooms have iron bed frames and rotary phones.
Evening: If you're in Tucson in late February, be sure to check out the Tucson Rodeo. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, you'll be able to catch junior and pro-level competition — and cap it all off with a lively barn dance.
Happy Hour: If you're feeling thirsty, head to Tough Luck Club, a speakeasy-style denizen that serves everything from classics like a Manhattan to originals like My Girl Senora, which consists of rum, mezcal, creme de banana and Mexican chocolate milk.
Mid Morning: Tucson was the USA's first city to receive the coveted title of UNESCO Capital of Gastronomy, a nod to the city's deep and multicultural food history. Tucson joined the ranks of the UNESCO's Creative Cities Network, which seeks to strengthen creative partnerships between different cities and encourage sustainable urban development worldwide.
And Tucson's Mission Garden Project is where you can delve into the culinary classification. Take a tour of the grounds and immerse yourself in the more than 4,000 years of local agricultural history. It includes a desert fruit orchard, native medicinal plants and pollinator gardens (tours are only available Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon).
Early Afternoon: Billed as the "world's largest treasure hunt," the Tuscon Gem Mineral & Fossil Showcase (held in late January) features more than 40 shows and exhibits — from museum-quality displays of fossils and meteorites to raw gems, minerals, beads and jewelry.
Afternoon: What do you get when you mix 365 days of sunshine with cool nights and soil similar to wine regions of Napa and Bordeaux? Find out by exploring Sonoita — Arizona's first American Viticultural Area. Visit family-owned vineyards like Callaghan and Dos Cabezas for a taste of high desert wine.
Dinner: One of the city's first fine-dining spots going strong for nearly 20 years, Wildflower delivers beautifully presented entrees in an elegant setting. Standouts from the internationally-inspired menu include: short rib ravioli, lemongrass scallops and bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin.
Late night: Tucson has the darkest night sky of any city of its size (1 million in population) in the nation. Revel in the incredible stargazing opportunities at either Kitt Peak or Flandrau Science Center observatories.
Morning: If cultural (and quirky) celebrations are what you enjoy, the Day of the Dead-inspired All Souls Procession is where to head. In early November, join the more than 35,000 people to walk or ride in a two-mile procession in downtown Tucson. In a dramatic, moving fashion, the procession ends with a blaze of fire in the sky.
Early Afternoon: Explore a unique slice of Tucson history in the El Presidio District. Built on the site of a prehistoric Hohokam Indian village, the neighborhood features a number of original 18th- and 19th-century homes. Be sure to check out El Presidio San Agustin del Tucson, a restoration of a 1775 Spanish fort.
Late Afternoon: Take some time to check out the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. It's home to more than 200 native animals (including prairie dogs and mountain lions) and almost entirely outdoors.
Evening: No visit to Tucson is complete without sampling the signature Sonoran hotdog. On your way out of town, stop by El Güero Canelo (Spanish for "the cinnamon-colored blonde guy") and scarf down the bacon-wrapped dog slathered in salsa and mayo.
Want to discover more attractions around Tucson and throughout the state of Arizona? Keep reading at Visit The USA.