Day and Night in Tucson, Arizona

When I first made plans with my friend Cameron to visit our friend Katie and her husband (also named Cameron) in Tucson, Arizona, I wasn’t sure I would be thrilled to visit the desert. I was looking forward to being somewhere with milder climates in December, but I wasn’t sure what Tucson would look like. Would it be dry and empty with a few cacti here and there like they depict in cartoons? My road trip along Route 66 last year gave me the impression that it would be like Utah, but much drier and more vacant. However, to my surprise, Tucson was not what I expected. There is no doubt in my mind that Tucson is very hot in the summertime, but it is also something else: green, artistic, and full of culture. Whether we were exploring Tucson in the day or wandering around at night, I found plenty that made me think I had found a small treasure in the dry, rugged desert.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Origami and plant life at the Tucson Botanical Gardens.

A garden in the desert? Is it possible? In Tucson, it is. Walking with the Camerons through the greenery and display of Origami in the Garden that featured metal sculptures designed by Kevin and Jennifer Box, I was continually intrigued by the amount of plant life at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. To my surprise, I was also eager to chase some rabbits who hopped their way along the garden. With every step along the garden pathway, it felt as though each leg of the journey was telling a different story of the plants in Tucson and the world.

Tucson Museum of Art

When the Tucson Museum of Art was first suggested I thought it sounded like a good idea to see art in a museum outside of my current workplace. It was an even better idea when we stumbled upon Dress Matters: Clothing as a Metaphor. You can imagine my delight as we walked through clothing in many different forms including dresses, paintings, and glass art. The collection of regional artwork along with art from Africa, South and Central America, and Asia proved to be a cherry on top of the whipped cream. Whether the focus is local art and history or work from around the world, the Tucson Museum of Art had me continually looking for more to uncover.

Mercado San Agustin and Downtown Tucson

Mercado San Agustin

Cookies from the Mercado San Agustin.

Downtown Tucson

Mural in downtown Tucson, Arizona.

I took my efforts to shop locally this holiday season very seriously, which is why I was grateful to find the support of many local shops and artwork in Tucson. After grabbing cookies at Mercado San Agustin for breakfast, we decided to take a look around at the booths for local vendors in the hopes of finding Christmas presents (for others and ourselves). The smell of tamales eventually made our ultimate decision to shop with our stomachs before we headed downtown. Tucson’s downtown area did not disappoint. My shopping list was checked off when I found ornaments of mini cooking utensils and a retro coloring book. This entire holiday season, Tucson was not a place I thought I’d find so many unique and locally made products.

Winterhaven Festival of Lights

Winterhaven Festival of Lights

A house lit up for the holidays at the Winterhaven Festival of Lights.

When it comes to the holidays, sightseeing usually revolves around lights, and Tucson did not let me down. After seeing Katie’s interest in Winterhaven Festival of Lights on Facebook, I asked if we could add it to our holiday activities. Luckily, everyone agreed to make it a part of our itinerary, and we found ourselves amongst many festive scenes of light. From displays of Snoopy to our favorite movie, Star Wars, we enjoyed the many ways people celebrate and express themselves during the holidays.

At the end of my visit, I felt something for Tucson that I didn’t anticipate: a little spark of admiration. It may be a city in the desert, but Tucson has more than cacti and the occasional desert plant. Tucson understands the importance of supporting local artists and maintaining the natural beauty of the area. If you need somewhere warm to escape the cold, Tucson may be the answer you’re looking for.

Hours and Locations

Tucson Botanical Gardens: 2150 North Alvernon Way, Open 8:30 am-4:30 pm daily and 4:30 pm-8:00 pm Thursday and Friday, Admission: between $8-$15.

Tucson Museum of Art: 140 North Main Avenue, Open Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-5 pm, Admission: between $7-$12.

Mercado San Agustin: 100 South Avenida del Convento, Open daily.



  1. California Globetrotter

    That Keep Tuscan Pretty is practically the same at the one I found in Louisville, KY!: Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

    • brooklyntvlasich

      That’s crazy how similar they are! Thanks for sharing your post with me. Now I want to visit Louisville!

  2. Ruth

    I love Tucson and think it is a city that should be visited by outdoors and food lovers. Yes, it is in the desert but the surroundings are quite diverse (in terms of flora and fauna). This is a place I would like to go back. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • brooklyntvlasich

      I agree. Tucson is perfect for both those who love the outdoors and food. The food we had was great everywhere we went! Definitely loved Seis!

  3. Anda

    My sister lives in Scottsdale, AZ, but although I visited her in numerous occasions we never made it to Tucson. It seems like a very interesting place to visit, especially the botanical gardens. I’m sure I would enjoy it. Well, maybe next time I am in Arizona. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • brooklyntvlasich

      I hope you get the chance to visit the next time you are in Arizona. Tucson has lots to offer all types of visitors!

  4. RobRob @TravelLatte(.net)

    Hi Brooke – Thanks for linking up with us on #TheWeeklyPostcard. Oddly enough, Tucson is my hometown! Glad to see Winterhaven is still going – I remember going to see the lights as far back as the 1970s! Tucson and Southern Arizona, in general, has always had a vibrant art scene. Something about desert communities seems to attract artists of many types. So I’m glad you found your way to the Tucson Museum of Art! It’s always great seeing my hometown through the eyes of others. Thanks again for sharing!

    • brooklyntvlasich

      I’m excited to hear you loved this post and that it brought back fond memories of your hometown. I’m glad I made the time to see this city, it was a fantastic adventure!

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