Tucson with TotsJanuary 1, 2016 No Comments
Even in summer, there’s more than one reason to visit Tucson. Yes, it’s hot, but some like it hot, and my family does. We’ve stayed in Death Valley in July, and as long as there’s shade, a pool, and some air conditioning to escape to, we can still enjoy the scenery, early morning hikes and evening strolls. With that in mind, we didn’t view Tucson as much of a challenge in summer, and we were right – the secret’s out – it might even be more fun in summer.
We stayed at the beautiful Arizona Inn, a history-packed classic with pink walls and red-tiled roofs. It’s truly an elegant place, with a beautiful fountain, carefully tended flowers, and rooms and suites that are large, comfortable, and filled with amenities from free Wi-Fi to private porches and original art work that depicts the region. Created in 1930 by Isabella Greenway, the Inn is still family owned, the staff is friendly and accommodating.
What families may love best however is not the high-thread-count linens or polished service. It’s the pool. A beautiful rectangular oasis, there are free water toys and floats for the kids, meal and bar service at tables directly adjoining the pool, and from 5 to 7 every night in the summer months, there’s a free ice cream sundae bar. And it’s nothing casual: laid out in an adjoining lounge area are more toppings that you’ll see at your local Coldstone’s, plus choices of chocolate or vanilla ice cream, or raspberry sorbet. Oh my. Kids of all ages, and maybe even the adults, will be back for seconds in no time flat.
Other family friendly activities abound: crouquet and horsehoes, table tennis, tennis courts, and an exercise room. After a full day by the pool, free DVD rentals are provided – of all classic films. Kids have never seen Casablanca? Well, now’s the time.
Dining can be in the formal dining room with cathedral ceilings or al fresco at the Audobon bar where small birds peck for fallen crumbs and a canopy keeps things cool. Breakfast favorites like blue corn pancakes are gourmet enough for adults looking for flavor and totally fun for the little ones.
Talking to some of the other guests, it’s clear that many families – including Tucson area residents – make it a tradition to spend some of their summer at The Arizona Inn. With great rates, luxury, and kid-friendly activities, what’s not to like?
SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK
If you can tear yourself away from the pool, the Saguaro National Park is less than twenty minutes away. Divided into two halves by the city of Tucson itself, there are several loop roads in both halves of the park that bring you up close and personal with the Saguaro cactuses without even exiting your air-conditioned car. In the Rincon Mountain District to the east, you can take a scenic drive on Cactus Forest Loop Drive and get stunning views of the Rincon Mountains. In the Tucson Mountain District, to the west, a loop drive that departs from the visitor’s center offer great looks at stands of Saguaro, the nation’s largest cactus. It’s here that you can easily access the Signal Hill Picnic Area, where a short hike of less than half a mile leads you to a close-up view of dozens of Hohokam petroglyphs. With a walk that takes ten minutes maximum each way, you can do this easy hike up a short set of stone steps any time of day. Even shorter is the hundred yard cactus garden trail in front of the Red Hills Visitors Center.
At twilight, you’ll want to watch the sunset, which is a cause for celebration and observation in Tucson. Gates Pass inside Tucson Mountain Park is a great spot to see the sun sink into the horizon with all the cactus creating iconic silhouettes. You won’t be alone: when we were there local families brought picnics and fast food to tailgate.
Tucson has a number of air-conditioned-cool indoor activities that will charm all year long, too.
The Tucson Museum of Miniatures offers a unique collection of miniatures; The Center for Creative Photography, located on the University of Arizona campus, shows world-class touring collections. Also on campus is a gem and mineral museum. In the heart of downtown Tucson is the Tucson Museum of Art, with a superb collection of contemporary art as well as Latin American and American Western art collections. On the way to or from the Tucson Mountain area of Saguaro National Park, you’ll find the International Wildlife Museum. Located in a building that resembles a castle, with a gigantic bronze lion in front, this museum contains 400 species of insects, birds, and mammals from collections donated and housed in natural-setting dioramas. Movies about animals and interactive video displays present information on habitats and conservation.
Fun and funky, a good dinner bet is Mariscos Chihuahua, with incredibly fresh seafood rumored to be driven up from the Mexican Gulf daily, inexpensive prices, bright murals, and a pretty patio. Off the beaten track and more locals than tourist oriented, fish tacos should appeal to even the pickiest small diner, friendly service and tasty Margaritas will make mom and dad smile.
So forget about the heat, and check out Tucson in the summer – from a great swim plus sundaes at the Arizona Inn to sunset views that appear to be projected in Technicolor, Tucson’s the place.