Episode Guide – Tucson

Fringe Benefits: Tucson takes Katie out west to the desert  – and beyond! This beautiful region of the Unites States offers sweeping colorful scenery and a cast of characters!

Tucson offers a unique and complex history to explore. Native people inhabited Tucson and the surrounding Sonoran Desert valley for thousands of years before the Spanish arrived in the late 1700s. The adobe walls of that Spanish Presidio – or fort – give the the city it’s nickname, “the old pueblo.”

Katie heads south of Tucson to visit Tubac, and artist’s colony and great destination for a day trip or overnight getaway. The quirky small town proudly holds up to it’s nickname – “where art and history meet.”

Tubac holds an annual festival of the arts every February, but any day is a good time to stroll the art galleries and shops. Katie takes an afternoon to meet local artists and gallery owners, and learn about the art of rug making from local shop owner Lincoln Wilson.


2013-03-02 Tubac AZ040
Sunset over the mountains near Tubac, AZ

We also take a quick peek inside a resort once partially owned by Bing Crosby! One of the original Spanish land grants of 500 acres for cattle farming is now a small resort and golf course. A small herd of cattle still roam the land – including the course!  Visitors to Tubac don’t want to miss the glorious sunsets. The mountains light up with orange and red changing hues.

Not far from Tubac, also south of the city of Tucson, we make a visit to the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory.

The joint venture between the University of Arizona and the Smithsonian opened on Mount Hopkins in 1968. We travel up to the peak, and meet scientist G. Grant Williams for a tour of the observatory – including one of the largest telescopes in the world!

To learn more about the flora and fauna of the region, Katie enjoys time at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, including a walking tour where we learn all about the iconic saguaro cactus and other native plants. Thousands of animals – including some endangered species, call this museum home. All are native to the Sonoran Desert – an area of land stretching through southern Arizona, California and Mexico.

Saguaro Cactus
Saguaro Cactus

Next it’s off to Tombstone, the site of the infamous OK Corral gunfight involving the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. At its heyday, Tombstone became known as one of the most dangerous places in the country! Disputes between cowboys and ranchers were common, as were arguments over mining and land claims.

Although the small town can be a bit touristy and crowded, it’s worth the hour drive from Tucson to experience cowboy life and lore for an afternoon touring Allen Street. We experience a “wild west” show, and a reenactment of the events leading up to the OK Corral incident. We also make a stop into the Birdcage Theater – another infamous piece of wild west folklore.

San Xavier del Bac Mission
San Xavier del Bac Mission

To experience a beautiful piece of Tucson history and architecture, Katie visits the San Xavier del Bac Mission. Known as “The White Dove of the Desert,” the mission is undergoing an extensive rehabilitation to bring it back to its original adobe-walled grandeur. Here we learn about the native Tohono O’odham people and the history of missions in the American West.

For more information on Tucson area lodging, dining and attractions, visit the Destination Guide.

For more photos form Tucson, visit the Gallery And to learn about other cities featured on Fringe Benefits, visit the Episode Guide.