Hipsters and Arizona.
Two words you commonly don’t see in the same sentence.
For those of you who have been, Tucson, located roughly two hours southeast of Phoenix, has been a vibrant college town for decades. The city has the feel of Austin 40 years ago, but that vibe is slowly changing. The word is out, and Tucson is becoming a popular place to live and visit.
Before we embarked on our road trip to Tucson, Geoff, who has several musician friends in Tucson, told me that though cool, this southwest town with over 500,000 citizens is kind of sleepy. Imagine our surprise when we pulled up to the our hotel, the iconic Hotel Congress, and could barely make our way to the front desk. Hotel Congress, an old-timey lodge, popular music venue for local and touring acts and home to a gourmet diner (Cup Cafe), 20s themed hair salon (The Hive) and event hall (Copper Hall), has always been the epicenter of activity, but its popularity is only growing. The front patio, lobby, bar and stage were filled to the brim with hipsters, club kids, business folks and enthusiastic travelers (think Ace Hotel in Portland). We only found reprieve from the excitement after we landed in our room, but even then, our window was located over the bubbling patio. Tired from the trip, we opted to join the festivities the next night (there is something going on every night at Hotel Congress), and we blissfully fell asleep listening to the conversation and music down below.
Hotel Congress was built in 1919 and is famous for being John Dillinger’s holdout before he was captured. Forty rooms line the two-story brick building, and each room features vintage beds, a dresser, chair and Ed Hopper-esque paintings of the hotel itself. Hotel Congress is not for those looking to veg-out in a gigantic room with cable TV; the rooms are small, but they pack a lot of character. And yes, you have to sit sideways to go #2 because the bathroom is so small, but that is part of the charm.
Hotel Congress is nestled in the triangle of Toole, Congress and 5th avenues, with a view of the railroad track (I took the train back to Austin and literally stumbled across the street to get on the train; lowest stress travel EVER). Within the train depot is Maynard’s, a locally-sourced market and kitchen featuring one of Tucson’s best wine selections. Our jam was Sparkroot, a vegetarian coffee shop located across from the hotel on 5th Avenue. I worked out of this cafe after Geoff left me in Tucson to continue his road trip to LA and destroyed a homemade blueberry lemonade and grilled cheese sandwich made with Spanish cheese, pickled onions and pesto.
Within walking distance of the hotel is Tucson’s famous 4th Avenue, similar to, but not as large as Austin’s 6th Street. It is here I discovered Pop-Cycle, a boutique filled with Tucson made goods. Geoff and I fell in love with a series of patchwork stuffed animal busts, in particular a narwhal, as seen in this Rumpus article called “Vegetarian Taxidermy” (the store had a sign asking we do not take photos). On 4th, we also ate at a 100% solar-powered pizza shop, Brooklyn Pizza Company, located next door to a 100% solar-powered bar. These aren’t the only solar-powered businesses in Tucson and I was surprised to discover that the city has a strong solar power initiative!
Due to its small size, Tucson is a very walkable city. Our second night there, we walked eight miles, strolling between the city’s historic Presidio and Barrio neighborhoods. It is here you will spot some of the area’s beautiful adobe architecture. As stated from the Barrio Wikipedia page, mission and craftsman styles are represented. These neighborhoods will make your wanderlust levels shoot up to 11 (p.s. real estate is still inexpensive in these downtown ‘hoods AND several famous people quietly live here).
Here is a collection of household doors I took in the Barrio:
And, of course, Tucson is known for it’s incredible nature, best appreciated outside the summer months. Though it was 105 degrees during our visit, that didn’t stop Geoff from driving us to the Saguaro National Park, one of the largest refuges of saguaros in the nation (these “cartoon” cacti are only found in Arizona, California and Northern Mexico). Located in the foothills of the city, you have the feeling of being transported to the middle of nowhere; the desert can have that effect on you. We saw wild javelinas, roadrunners and the park has had its fair share of snakes, mountain lions, coyotes and bobcats. This fact, and the fact that there was NO ONE else hiking, caused me to have a panic attack five minutes into our hike and we turned back 30 minutes later (full disclosure: I walked for 30 minutes pounding my chest and whispering “f this, f this, f this” and it was still a great hike).
P.S. We’ll be back to Tucson in September to show our film Loves Her Gun at the Arizona Underground Film Festival!
Saguaro National Park
Where to Stay:
Hotel Congress (between $50-$100/night)
Where to Eat:
Cup Cafe (gourmet diner)
El Charro Cafe (Sonoran)
Umi Star (Asian-Mexican fusion)
Where to Visit:
Saguaro National Park ($10 per car)
The Barrio (free)
The Military Plane Graveyard a.k.a. “The Boneyard“ ($7)4th Avenue (free)
MORE HIPSTER TRAVEL GUIDES PLEASE!!! 😀
Be forewarned! Looks cool in a highly selective article like this, but in reality Tucson is quite the dump. 99% of the restaurants are mediocre (plus most of the restaurants here are corporate chains — or have menus as if they were all part of a sorry chain — run by unqualified aspirants mostly), 90% of the architecture is corporate tract home (no matter the price); so-alled ‘farmers markets’ have barely any organic or even local food, let alone any farmers involved); most bookstores have gone out of business; etc etc. And it’s pretty unliveable most of the year — the last 40 days straight it was over 100 degrees (up to a toasty 114 last week) and then when the heralded monsoon is underway, it’s so humid as to be a bad joke. Myself, i can’t wait to get away from this hellish place for good. I think folks post this sort of article so they can make themselves feel better about being here, but it seems a criminal shame to entice anyone here with this kind of misrepresentation…
Let me know if you need help packing…
I’ll trade you places. I live in Clovis, Ca.
I have family in Fresno and Clovis and visit from L.A regularly. You have my sympathy.
(I also have dear friends in Tucson. I’ll take Tucson over Fresno any day.)
Heck, I’m free tomorrow, “truthteller.” We could have you hittin the bricks in no time!
Ciao! It is funny you call yourself “truthteller” when you are a pathetic liar.
Every single word he Truthteller said about Tucson is true. I live in Tucson and it’s a pile of crap.
I will help,as well…why would someone stay somewhere they truly don’t like? Um…they don’t have the balls or probably a job to move…
Oh BTW…the blog is an opinion just like yours and though yours was short useless and spiteful, hers was a least thorough and positive…
Her article was a laugh.
Troll harder truthteller… your game is weak.
PS- monsoon freakin’ rules
Some people wouldn’t know heaven if the were able to read the sign at the entrance. We have some of the best chefs and food in the country. Two of our chefs were among the Top 100 this year alone. None in Phoenix. The heat is bearable here. Not like 90 degrees and 90% humidity in L.A. or Chicago or anywhere. Even on Hot days, Mt Lemmon is a great respite. Anyone who calls himself a “truthteller,” is actually a curmudgeon. His girlfriend must have walked out on him.
Don’t pay attention to trutheteller. Some people wouldn’t know heaven if the were able to read the sign at the entrance. We have some of the best chefs and food in the country. Two of our chefs were among the Top 100 this year alone. None in Phoenix. The heat is bearable here. Not like 90 degrees and 90% humidity in L.A. or Chicago or anywhere. Even on Hot days, Mt Lemmon is a great respite. Anyone who calls himself a “truthteller,” is actually a curmudgeon. His girlfriend must have walked out on him.
Wow, so it was 100 – 114 degrees in the desert? Really? REALLY?! Get out!
Arizona, in general, is an amazing place to live. I’ll take 3 months of heat for 9 months of beauitiful weather any day.
This guys is wrong, Tucson has many great places to eat.
Check out my How Hipster is your City?
We lived in Sierra Vista, AZ, about an hour SE of Tucson, last year when my hubby was in school. We loved going into Tucson to visit & eat. My orthopedic doc (I had just broken my foot) was right across the street from Trader Joes, so of course I had to check that place out, as well as the neighborhoods around the UofA. It’s such a great town. Did you get a chance to try a Sonoran Dog? It’s a distinctly Tucson hot dog delicacy & I got hooked on them there. 🙂 If I recall there’s a Food Truck or cart in Austin run by two guys that makes them called “Snorin’ Dogs”. Definitely check them out. 🙂
Tara, I’ve never heard of that Austin food truck! I will check it out! Thanks!
Hi Tara and Lauren (Great blog Lauren!)
I’m going to Sierra Vista in early June, and Tuscon to write a story for our magazine American Trails magazine, check us out at americantrailsmag.com and https://issuu.com/paperheartpublishing
Would you have any good ideas on what to see, write about? Any help would be appreciated. If you like you can reach me at: [email protected]
Here’s their FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Snorin-Dogs/504490326252852
Loving the photos!
Just curious, did you go to Saguaro Park East or West? I love Tucson, proud resident 🙂
Oh, shoot! I’m not sure! I remember that we turned off of Golf Links Rd?
You live in an awesome city!
IF it was $10 a car it was EAST. WEST is FREE. and more scenic.
Ah, but you can park for free at the Saguaro East entrance at the end of Speedway, where there are beautiful hiking trails winding into the Rincons. (You only need to pay an entrance fee if you’re doing the car loop off Freeman Road.) Saguaro East is just as beautiful as Saguaro West, in its own way. I personally prefer the eastern Rincon Mountains to the western Tucson Mountains, but I lived near Saguaro East for many years so I admit that I’m biased.
Thanks so much for this article. Although I now live in the green, green hills of south-west England, I still miss Tucson and the desert.
Terry, do you ever get back to Tucson?!
Great review! I second Benny’s comment that you should do more travel posts.
Maybe change to short sleeves next time you hike in the desert?
Gotta keep the sun off!
Awesome!!! You guys mentioned my top places in Tucson .. I run everyday in downtown, I like to go for a craft beer in the downtown’s bars, my favorite at the Hotel Congress, my wedding was in the Saguaro National Park, and I love shopping at 4th Avenue .. I <3 Tucson!
Awesome! I can just picture a wedding at the Saguaro National Park… beautiful!
A fresh addition to downtown is Proper. Its a great little restaurant that buys from local ranches and growers and allows for any dining experience you prefer. (We had three rounds of their small dishes shared amongst the table). I’d highly recommend them if you visit. It’s just across (slightly west) from Hotel Congress. (and they’re usually open late)
Oh, yes! I saw that place! Thanks for the recommendation! We’ll check it out next time!
Leave Tucson alone ya damn hipsters!!
We are Canadians who went to Tucson last May specifically to catch Lambchop at the Congress. We found the 24hr. “Shot In The Dark” Cafe, a cool and healthy place to eat about a block away from the Hotel.
Oh, neat! Where is “Shot in the Dark”? I must have missed it!
LOVE Shot in the Dark! Lower – key than Sparkroot, a little less puffed up in the menu. Corner of 6th & Broadway, Broadway side
LOVE Shot in the Dark! Lower – key than Sparkroot, a little less puffed up in the menu.
Thank you for the nice words. But you missed so much! And most of it downtown…..
Next time you come email me and I will give you a tour. Downtown is just popping! And I am not sure which Barrio you visited – Barrio Veijo? Barrio Hollywood? Barrio Anita? No matter….
Doesn’t matter, next time we’ll hit more stuff from eating to shopping to a little bit of history.
The Well-Fed Foodie on Facebook.
We went to many more places, but I highlighted the more “touristy”(?) stuff for blogging purposes. Thanks for your advice! We’ll be back in Oct!
I left Tucson in 99 only to return two years ago to a town on the verge of being what I’d always wanted it to be. Friendly and relaxed but with more aptitude and a higher standard of practice in food and culture.
Next time you’re here check out Scott and Co for a drink, Penca for Mexico City style food, Pasco Kitchen and Lounge by the University, and the newly opened Proper restaurant.
Hopefully my business will be open by then as part of what’s happening.
What is your business going to be?
Tucson is not a hipster town, it has a hipster problem. We’e sprayed, and it seems to be going away.
Your post, however, is like leaving food on the counter. As soon as they see it, they’re back, and start having babies and we’re infested again. So cut it out.
Oh, and by the way, almost all of the places that you’ve mentioned are tourist traps.
Didja mention the one hundred plus degree temps coupled with the monsoon humidity? Yeah, Hipsters, stay in Portland (either one) and try Austin. Austin really IS like Austin!
There is a hipster problem everywhere!
NO! Austin doesn’t want them!
Then why did they cut down all that scrub oak and pecan to cover the hills with crackerbox condos?
If y’all want to live in a great cool place, get of yer damned couches and go downtown in your own city. Spend money there. Open businesses and buy property. Rent apartments.
Don’t shit where you eat, and then move on to the next place (Austin and Tucson) when you discover that retreating to the ‘burbs and shopping at the big box has killed your city.
We like our downtown, we like our individually owned businesses, and quite frankly, we want to be able to get a table.
Boy Chuck, time to take a pill. Life and cities are what you make of them, try to roll with the punches.
You speak a lot of truth about both Tucson and Austin, but with such a negative slant. Tucson thrives on tourism, as well as transient city dwellers (UA). And Big Box stores have nothing to do with it, even less so since ‘hipsters’ seem to love that kitsch.
*sigh* Cities are what you make them, and if you don’t defend the bits you like, some idiot will trample it on their way through. Do I need to point to the ‘lakes’ up in the PHX Metro area?
And yeas, the big box store do have an incredible impact on the city I live in. I know five business owners that have close their doors after decades of serving neighborhoods just after big box stored entered the neighborhood.
Try sticking to subjects that you have a bit of expertise in, friend.
Tourism is one thing, encouraging changing to attract a narrow demographic will not increase tourism. Encouraging them to move her will do even less.
Lindsey and Sara at the Hive are absolute color magicians! Such a great hair salon. Maynard’s is great, but if you want actual food the Co-op on 4th is a better place to grab groceries. And Yoga Oasis on Congress is not only the best yoga studio I’ve ever been to, it’s also ridiculously affordable at 5 bucks a class!
I went to the Co-op on Fourth and loved it! It’s very similar to our Co-op in Austin (Wheatsville).
I am a proud resident of the Tucson area and appreciate and enjoyed your review. Tucson is so much more than just the downtown/UA area. The Tucson Metro area has over 1 million residents. There is so much to see from going up Mt. Lemmon or enjoying the upscale areas in the Catalina Foothills such as the La Encantada Mall. Plus the suburbs of Oro Valley/Marana/Sahuarita offer more attractions.
Thanks, Jason! And you’re right. I kept this article short because I’m a lazy writer. We went to plenty of more places than where I mentioned (my bf used to live in Phoenix and is an avid Tucson visitor). I will be back in Tucson in Oct., so maybe I’ll write a part II!
Speaking as one of the few, the proud, the Tucson natives, I can honestly say: No it isn’t. Downtown, the U of A, Summerhaven, Mt Lemmon, and the Desert Museum are *it*… nothing else is worthwhile.
I am also a Tucson native and I haven’t heard one mention of anyone needing, craving, or otherwise crying out for an Eegees? I have lived in the beautiful Rockies of Colorado for 5 years now and when I come home, Eegees is my second visit after I see my mom! Lemon, Strawberry, piña colada!! It’s a Tucson staple!
We stop at eegees before visiting our family when we get into town and the day we leave
Clinical studies have shown that hiking in skinny jeans can bring on panic attacks. Please warn your friends!
Hee hee… (p.s. I wore a giant hat, t-shirt, LOTS of sunscreen and loose-fitted pants; my bf used to live in Phoenix, so I got the desert clothing drill).
Yeh, Eegee’s is a compulsory stop. We can’t survive summers without it.
Thanks for the great review of Tucson! I live just 2.5 blocks from 4th and generally have breakfast at The Cup every weekend. You hit so many of the things I love about Tucson on point! And, downtown is growing in character all the time.
Thank you for reading, Sharon!
LOL @ “The word is out, and Tucson is becoming a popular place to live and visit.” They won’t last 3 summers!!!
dude, i couldn’t do it! however, i will say this: in austin, it’s over 100 degrees for several months WITH extremely heavy humidity. i appreciated the dry heat in tucson!
HA! That’s nothing! The reality is “a dry heat” will just kill you faster. Try 110+ for more than 100 days. AND no rain (this is one reason why I now live in California)! In Az we have a t-shirt with skeletons sunbathing, saying “Yeah but it’s a dry heat!”…. that’s about right…
next time you should check out beyond the few miles of downtown…there’s a lot more to Tucson than this 🙂
Also the population is a bit bigger then the sleepy town you described
hi, simone! i know it’s not sleepy! as i wrote, we previously THOUGHT it was sleepy.
AND we did go outside of downtown- i focused on downtown for travel blogging purposes!
tucson is such a great city! you’re lucky to live there!
agree thanks for giving us some props 🙂
Next time check out Tania’s
it used to be sleepy until about 15 years ago… 🙂
Hey what about Eegees??? You didn’t mention Eegees!!! This is the ONLY real reason we Tucsonans go back!!!
Note: you can tell imposters because they say “TucsonIans” and “ArizonIans”… losers, pay attention: It’s “Tucsonans” and “Arizonans”.
Yes! I can’t decide if “Tucsonian” or “T-loc” is the more obnoxious term from the out of state brats at U of A.
sorry, Caitlyn, you haven’t been around long enough to know that many of us were 4th and 5th generation Tucsonians before people like you came along and dropped the “i”
Please, all of you moving or thinking of moving to Austin, go to Tucson instead!
Interesting article. P.S. There’s a typo in the second sentence.
Hey JenJen! Thanks for the tip! My brain is fried. Wish I had an editor…
You are spot on that http://tanias33.com/ is some of the very best Mexican we offer.
Hotel Congress & Maynards, eh not so much
Denis, good to know! Thanks for the recommendation!
As a native, there are wayyy cooler places to visit in Arizona than Tucson (Bisbee, Jerome, Flagstaff if you want that “college town” feel without heat) to visit, at least temperature-wise.
-If you were off of Golf Links, you were at Saguaro East.
-The pics she took of the doors were obviously in Barrio Viejo. There’s nothing interesting to do in Barrio Anita except live in an adobe house and pay less than Viejo and Barrio Hollywood is only for the Mexican food; you can find places to eat in that vein along south 4th Ave.
-Brooklyn Pizza may be attractive because it’s on 4th, but their pizza crust is salty and the sauce lacks dimension (aka flavor) AND THEY DON’T HAVE RANCH DRESSING. Go to Empire Pizza on Congress (a little further west than HoCo) next time.
-Le Cave’s bakery (on south 6th ave) has vegan doughnuts (or donuts if you’re lazy) and it’s been there since the 1930s.
I wanted to go to Bisbee badly! Planning on going the next trip!
Thank you, Hipstercrite for writing an awesome article about my hometown, Tucson, Arizona.
Thank you for reading, Barbara!
Glad you survived a summer mid-day hike (WHO does such a thing???) to write this wonderful piece about our town. Tucson’s the least pretentious place we’ve lived, the one with the most potential. Tattooed hipsters dine next to balding retirees and everyone smiles. There’s nothing like Maynard’s french fries on a balmy evening on the patio, watching the trains roll by. It’s a country song come to life.
Right?! I looked at Geoff like he was crazy! He used to give desert tours in Phoenix as a kid, so he knows what to do, but still!
I enjoyed your write-up…I moved to Tucson from obnoxiously hip Greenpoint, Brooklyn 6 years ago and although I have my moments when I bitch about the lack of nightlife options…the truth is, most people I’ve met living in Tucson feel it’s a best kept secret.
There is a laid-back, 60’s-era ethos in Tucson that keeps it feeling like a small desert town even though it’s over 1 million residents now… There is a major trend toward green development, a huge cycling and hiking community and Tucsonians are big into supporting local businesses. The strong Latino roots means there are fantastic Sonoran Mexican restaurants, taco stands and Sonoran hot dog food trucks, etc…etc…and beautiful architecture…
Next time you’re in town, you have to check out Scott & Co for a cocktail, Cushing Street for the architecture and food, Penca for Mexico City style food, La Cocina for cocktails and dancing in a barrio-style courtyard, and the many dive bars, including, Che’s on fourth ave, The Buffet (pickled eggs at the bar…need I say more…), The District (on Congress), among others…pick up a Zocalo magazine that covers all the current art and music events next time you come..
It’s exciting to see Tucson growing but I notice a lot of resistance from locals…like some of the surly reviews above…they live in Tucson because they hate places like LA and Phoenix where the traffic sux and it’s plastic fantastic everywhere but I don’t ever see that happening to Tucson.
Come back to Tucson and check out all the great places you missed….oh and there’s NO humidity, so f the remarks about summer heat…it’s totally bearable!
That is so WRONG. I am a Tucson native. 22 years I have lived here and I can not wait to GTFO. It is way too hot here and IT DOES GET HUMID.
You have been in Tucson for 22 years and you are still complaining. Pretty sad/pathetic dude. Please move ASAP.
Dustin, since you are 22, we get it. I couldn’t wait to escape my hometown just the same way. Take off for 10 or 20 years, then come back. You may feel differently then!
So super hyped. Planning in very near future to relocate from Queens, NY to Tucson. Close friends of mine moved there about a year ago and I just cant wait. Hope the house I have my eye on is still available !!! Thanks for your review loved it.
Awesome! Good luck on your move, Valerie!
Next time your here venture out further and hit Diablo Burger across the street from Congress. Want real fun come to the dia de Los Muertos celebration first Sunday in november. Nothing like it on earth. Also the Rialto has some amazing shows.
I’ve heard that Diablo Burger is great! It’s on our list for next time!
Lived there for 15 years, nice place to visit but do not let the vortex suck you in! Do not move there!!!
You make a convincing argument. Wait, no you don’t. Let me guess, you live in Portland.
thank you for the shout out in “where to eat”! look forward to your return…
we really enjoyed our meal there! such a fresh and fun take on two of my fave cuisines!
Nice piece Hipstercrite. I recently left the Old Pueblo after six wonderful years and my soul is already yearning for it. Here is a link to my Tucson short story book:
Glad to have discovered you! Cheers.
Hi, Harvey! Thanks for the link! Will check it out!
Please stay out of Tucson. Do not come back. Do not live there. Do not visit.
And congratulations on finding places to eat that have only been open for less than two years. Hipster-morons.
The grumpiest. Great comment though, intelligently constructed and full of insight. Wait, no, you sound like a moron.
Wow. As a native, married to a native, with six grown “native” children, all still here in the Old Pueblo, you don’t speak for us! I assume you live in a shack 30 miles out of town and eat nopales and hair, but it’s good you have internet out there so you can grump at everyone without actual contact!
And this Native says welcome, everyone! Please help us to keep this town vibrant by supporting our local businesses!
Next time, get yourself some Eegee’s! 🙂
It sounds like Eegee’s is where it’s at! We will check it out! Thanks, B!
Yeah, have to agree w/ B. Eegee’s are a must. Like coffee is to Seattle, Eegee’s is to Tucson.
You didn’t even mention the outstanding Sonoran Desert Museum or Tohono Chul Gardens or the magnificent 18th century Spanish mission San Xavier! And many artist galleries and other shops and restaurants all over the area. Thanks for writing Tucson up.
Ken, there is so much I’d like to write about with Tucson, and I have so many more things to see and do! Thanks for the suggestions!
Do your research….John Dillinger was not captured at Hotel Congress. A fire there lead to his arrest at a residence down the road…
I’m a native who has been here 30 years and Im tired of bloggers coming here because it’s suddenly “cool” or “hip”. Tucson has always been rad and Im tired of it being exploited by jackasses…
true, though, that Dillinger wasn’t arrested at the Congress. as another poster noted, some of his gang were staying at the Hotel Congress when a fire broke out, and that helped tip off the local cops. the capture was, however, very stunning for a very sleepy little town in the ’30s.
yes! thank you! that’s why i changed the sentence to saying it was his holdout before he was captured. i know they apprehended him nearby! #themoreyouknow
Such salty comments on here! You should celebrate people enjoying your city and I would hardly call Tucson exploited… the only real tourism we get is from the gem show every year…stop being such a grumpy desert rat or move…
Trump you. We are natives of 50+ years, and we welcome the visitors!
And what to read before you get there, and on arrival: http://www.3storymagazine.com, an online mag that celebrates all that is ‘desert cool, urban hot’.
Thanks for finding Tucson hip… ssshhh, don’t tell everyone 🙂
Awesome! Thanks for the link, Gillian!
Thanks so much for staying at Hotel Congress when you visited Tucson, and for writing about us in your blog! We’re proud to be such a large part of the downtown community for over 25 years and excited for its growth! Please introduce yourself next time you’re in town!
I fell in love with your hotel! My bf, Geoff, has stayed there numerous times over the years working with the Giant Sand folks! He couldn’t say enough great things! I’m so happy I finally got to experience it and hope to stay there when we’re back in Sept. for our film premiere at the Arizona Underground Film Festival.
I love Tucson and am born and raised here. I feel like you have barely scraped the surface of the “scene” here. We are vibrant and diverse and weird and shitty (yeah, don’t “keep Tucson weird” “keep Tucson shitty”). Because those who truly love and appreciate it tolerate 105 degrees, rarely frequent our local corporation Hotel Congress, and are willing to put up with the hipster labels. We live our desert lives in the moment and seek out fun (and water) with every chance we get. The real Tucson can’t be found on Congress street but at our neighbors house, the young punk rock show paired with art, or a local vinyl DJ night (yes, “hipster” in itself). We have fierce Tucson pride and will protect and defend it to the end.
And, yes, you may call me a grump if you must buy at least I’m a grump who loves my home town
You’re not a grump at all! A grump writes mean, thoughtless and inarticulate comments just to be a jerk. You left a thoughtful comment with your articulate opinion, which I appreciate! And you’re right- I barely touched the surface. I did that for travel blogging purposes and should maybe expand on Tucson in the future! Thanks for your comment!
i am an artist living in downtown tucson for 30 years. it has always been a great place to make art, but because of the transient population, not a great place to sell art. in the early 80’s we could rent a vacant building downtown for studio space for almost free. the “arts district” sprung from several of us doing that. i have to say, that after all these years here, something is happening here. something i had always hoped. not sure yet what it is, but something. and seriously, you have to live in the heat, not just visit it. and one of the best things about tucson is… it’s not phoenix.
interesting observation, michael. i offered a homeless man food on fourth ave. and he looked at me like he was offended. he said, “i just want a soda.” ha. we encountered some nice kids on fourth; they were super polite when asking for money.
I am appalled at the stupidity and ignorance of those writing that they dislike it here and as one put GTFO. PLEASE DO. I moved here from Canada and I LOVE the desert and Tucson. People here are real and open and the downtown is just coming alive and it is so exciting to be a part of. I cannot wait for the trolley to start running and the variety of incredible restaurants (read NOT CHAIN restaurants) is truly unique. The person who wrote the restaurants are mediocre is probably a Taco Bell fan. All I can say is I have lived in huge cities and small towns and I think Tucson is the real deal. The weather is hot in summer, so what. Get over it. It is not the humidity and thick air of the east or midwest and we have an amazing fall, winter & spring. Frankly for those whiners that hate it here – they probably would hate it anywhere because they are just miserable sods….get over it. Tucson is amazing place and I am glad I live here.
Glad you enjoyed Tucson 🙂 I’ve been here 8 years, getting married this year to a wonderful Tucson woman and we plan on raising our family here! Hotel Congress is awesome, and so is Saguaro National Park. The summer monsoon thunderstorms are my favorite time of the year, beautiful!
Good luck at the film festival!
Justin, thank you for your comment! I believe we’ll be back right at the end of the Monsoon season! I hope I get to experience it!
I really enjoyed your review! I’ve lived in Tucson all my life, and while it isn’t as noisy as a big city, we have our own appeal. Something is always going on in town, whether it’s downtown or on the east side. Sure, it’s hot in the summer, but that’s just how it is. Try to stay hydrated and in the shade, and if you’re looking for a scenic change, head up to Mt. Lemmon. It’s at least 20 degrees cooler than in town, and the woods are gorgeous! Summerhaven is wonderful! 🙂
If you plan on stopping by 4th Ave. again in the future, a few other restaurants to visit are Lindy’s (http://www.lo4th.com/) and Bison Witches Bar & Deli (http://www.bisonwitches.com/). Both places are great!
I spent Sunday night alone in Tucson (Geoff continued on his drive to LA) and he said, “Oh, Sunday will probably be a lot quieter than Fri./Sat.” Well, it wasn’t. I walked from Hotel Congress to the Barrio and saw floods of people! People milling about downtown, people going to the Cyndi Lauper show at the Fox Theater, families leaving what I think was a circus at the Convention Center? It was such an exciting experience to be in this somewhat small, but really bumping city!
Thank you for the lovely post. We are happy that you enjoyed your time in our beloved Tucson (collective apologies for the “grumps”…sigh…). Congratulations on your film-we are looking forward to seeing it upon your return!
Thank you so much, Anne-Marie! I can’t wait to come back!
[…] of slapping my forehead while rocking in a ball on the bed, so that is why, when Geoff asked me to travel to Tucson with him recently, I said yes, but only if I could take the mother-f’ing […]
People have been talking mostly about the attractions of Tucson. What about the people? I have found that your friendships really mean a lot in Tucson. I was lucky to meet a good group of friends when I was down there. They get together all the time and I don’t get that in Phoenix. Yes, Tucson isn’t the most exciting place when compared to some larger cities, but having 5-star restaurants isn’t everything. Friendships and personal relationships are the most important things in your life.
Arnold, I feel the same away about Austin. Having lived in NY and LA, Austin is sort of (arguably) sleepy compared to others. When tourists come here they don’t see a grand skyline and other attractions right off the bat. Austin is really about the people. The people are what make this town so special. I got that sense when I was in Tucson too. People were very friendly.
Glad you enjoyed your stay. There are really two sides to Tucson. The one you experienced was the good side. The other side is the ugly side. The ugly side consists of one of the highest property and violent crime rates in the country. Tucson is also an extremely low wage city and the local government is anti business with outrageous permit fees, zoning laws, and high taxation. So, it’s a great place to live if you aren’t real concerned about money but are into the simple things in life. Call me grumpy, I’ve been here 50 years and it’s really stayed about the same.
JC, thanks for your comment! Yeah, I’m not unaware of the negative aspects you listed, but my post was for fun traveling adventures! We have friends that live in Tucson, so we get the stories. Hopefully things will get better (like the trolley!), but from what you’re saying, it doesn’t sound like it?
Can’t wait to meet you at Arizona Underground FF and show off The Screening Room. Eegees is a must (as you are finding out) your activity & restaurant list will be long by the time for AZUFF. Hope you are planning to stay for a while. Tucson is a terrific town. Free Yourself. VisitTucson.org
Hi, Mia! Yes, please say hi during AUFF!
El Charro?! Please, these people do not need anymore business! Their food is wayyy lousy! Dang…someone shouldve taken you to the southside for a meal.
Is Geoff’s last name Brennan (sp?) by any chance? If so, say hi from me.
Haha, no, but I’m curious who this Geoff Brennan is!
I happened to stumble on your article and enjoyed reading about your experience in Tucson. I couldn’t help but feel anxious to see what your thoughts were about MY home. I grew up here and have grown to LOVE certain things unique to Tucson. Some people complain about Tucson- really that happens everywhere. I’ve chosen to try to enjoy where I live- no matter if there is some other place “better.” I try and focus my affections on all things I love in that particular place. (I lived in Phoenix for a while- let me tell you, I enjoyed it! Some people HATE Phoenix, it really is like LA without the beach. Plus, its on average about 5-10 degrees hotter than Tucson! Despite hating things about it, I found tons of awesome people, things and places while living there.) I’m always excited to travel and explore other cities. Chances are, I will move out of Tucson. BUT, Tucson will always be home and I’ll always feel drawn back home to the desert and the quirky awesome-ness of Tucson.
Your brief visit was certainly filled with some special experiences, but I’d love to throw out some other suggestions for your next visit. These are some of my favorites here- you can do further research and see what peaks your interest. (Not sure if some of these were mentioned in other comments, I only read a few. Even if other people bash my suggestions, check them out anyways. There’s always gonna be downers)
Good Restaurants: 47 Scott/Scott & Co, Penca, Cafe Desta, Zona 78, B-Line, Diablo Burger, Proper, Umi-Star, Cafe Poca Cosa, Maynards, The Abbey, Falora, Noble Hops, Amelia Grey’s, Hub, Zin Burger, Pita Jungle, Rumrunner
Best coffee: Cartel Coffee Lab, eXo, Sparkroot, Savaya, Cafe Luce
Beer: Tap & Bottle
Best Local Beer: Dragoon, Borderlands
Best Tucson Venues: Congress, Plush, Rialto, Solar Culture, TOPAZ
Boutique Shops: MAST, Bon, Pop-Cycle, tel-e-gram(r.i.p.)
Shopping: Bookmans, Thrift stores (some good ones around)
Antiques: Copper Country, 22nd Antique Mall, Presidio Antiques
Other Activites: Hiking (great trails surrounding the city), Rock climbing (Rock & Ropes gym for indoors), University-4th ave-downtown-barrio walk (kind of already did the barrio walk)
Other: Zocalo (local magazine), Casa Video, The Loft, Time Market, Rincon Market, Seven Cups Teahouse, Anthony’s Smoke Shop, Maker House (coming soon..), Mercado San Augustine, Xoom Juice, Eegees, Nico’s, Taco Shop, Boca Tacos, Food Trucks: Twisted Tandori, Foodie Fleet, Animal Farm(r.i.p.)(research for round-ups), Sonoran Dog stands (all over the city)
Really, I could go on..that’s just what came to mind. I tried to be comprehensive but hopefully that wasn’t TOO much. Tucson is really a great city and I’m so glad I grew up here. The “culture” is really growing and locals are taking serious pride in their home and in-turn, opening restaurants and businesses in droves. It’s been great to see!
Hope you enjoy your next visit even more than the first! Please feel free to email me if you need anything!
Nice sum up! All my fav places too!
I am moving to Tucson in two weeks. I have lived many places on the east coast, Boulder, and most recently Santa Fe. I am moving to have that combo Boulder feel, with the southwest. No place is perfect, that said I live in a town (too small) which the tourists outnumbering the locals by 2/3’s in the summer…and the restaurants where there are sooooo many, can get away with charging more than your last paycheck for an okay dinner, and the town closes down at 9pm every night. Thank you for sharing the article. Tucson definitely had that Austin music vibe downtown. I look forward to moving to Tucson!!!
[…] The Belmont Hotel is famous for its California-esque Art Moderne design, tiled pool and beautiful views of downtown Dallas. Built in 1946 and boasting 64 guest rooms, The Belmont is where to go to feel like a 40s movie star without paying a pretty penny for the luxury. Rooms start at $109/night and the hotel offers the aforementioned pool, hot tub, gym, Bar Belmont and BBQ restaurant Smoke. The Belmont is on par with one of my other favorite inexpensive boutique hotels, Hotel Congress in Tucson, Arizona. […]
[…] Hipstercrite’s recent article favorably comparing Tucson to an early Austin, TX. […]
So glad you enjoyed your visit to Tucson! For your next trip you need to push back your date to early November so you can be here for the All Souls Procession.
(copied from http://www.allsoulsprocession.org)
The All Souls Procession is perhaps one of the most important, inclusive and authentic public ceremonies in North America today. The Procession had its beginnings in 1990 with a ritualistic performance piece created by local artist, who was grieving the passing of her father. Inspired by Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos holiday, she felt she should honor her father in celebration and creativity. The performance was very well received and many artists were inspired to continue growing the Procession into its modern incarnation.
Today we find ourselves organizing over 35,000 participants on the streets of downtown Tucson for a two-mile long human-powered procession that ends in the finalizing action of burning a large urn filled with the hopes, offerings and wishes of the public for those who have passed. Inside the event are myriads of installation art, altars, performers, and creatives of all kinds collaborating for almost half the year to prepare their offerings to this amazing event. The All Souls Procession, and now the entire All Souls Weekend, is a celebration and mourning of the lives of our loved ones who have passed.
Many Mouths One Stomach (manymouths.org), a non-profit arts collective based in Tucson, AZ, is the organizing body for the Procession, and serves as a vehicle for working artists to collaborate, create, and inspire the public through Festal Culture.
Like most places, Tucson has its ups and downs. Having lived here about 35 years, I have to say we’re currently experiencing a renaissance downtown and it’s pretty exciting.
One of the reasons for that is because the streetcar is finally becoming a reality in the next year. It will travel from the UA, through 4th Ave and on through downtown. All of the places you walked to will be served by the streetcar, and that’s why that area is popping with new businesses.
We’ve always had a great local restaurant scene. El Charro, however, is a faint remnant of its former self. The latest generation of the family took on a business partner who Americanized the menu, gussied up the place, and expanded into several locations. No longer recommended. Try El Minuto downtown or go to El Torero in South Tucson. (IMO, South Tucson is still home to the best Mexican food.)
While the downtown area may seem fairly small, the metro area is now over a million people and spreads out in all directions. Building new subdivisions was our primary industry until the housing bubble burst. There are a lot of wonderful things here, but I liked it better when it was a little more rural, and had a lot fewer people.
Despite the massive development and bulldozing of the desert, the natural beauty surrounding town is still one of the finest things about it. I’m glad you had a chance to see it and that you enjoyed your visit.
I enjoyed reading an outsider’s view of Tucson, it’s a changing for the better. When I moved here 12 years ago, there were few good restaurants…now it’s hard to decide where to go eat. Decisions like that I can live with.
Tucson has many great places to eat and this is true..
[…] wasn’t just for food, either. With numerous mentions in Food & Wine Magazine, Eater.com, Hipstercrite.com, Culture Map Austin, NPR, Roadfood.com, Cooking Light, Forbes, The Boston Globe, and Esquire, […]
I must say I love me some Tucson, I live in PHX and make it down there every month or so I like it so much. The town is smaller, friendlier, and I feel that the overall vibe is very artist friendly. We don’t even have a leather/goth shop in Phx like Hydra, or any of the other countless other shops on 4th ave that sell alternative/goth wear. In fact, that’s the reason I started coming here. We came to shop at Hydra and blew a couple of hundred dollars on clothes that we couldn’t find anywhere else, and then started looking around and saw more and more things we loved.
I can’t get enough of Eegee’s, The Loft Cinema, 4th Ave., Valley of The Moon, Tucson Thrift Shop, the countless good restaurants and food trucks, and Tucson gets more rain/clouds/hail than Phx which I love. I’m not saying Tucson is perfect, just that it gets a lot of unwarranted crap a lot of the time. I sometimes find myself thinking if the people who complain about it so much have ANY hobbies or interests whatsoever, do you like shopping/eating out/museums/antiquing/hiking/crafting/arts/cinema/exploring weird places?? If so Tucson has a unique place(s) for each of these things. Every year we go to Tucson for vacation on Halloween. When we were shopping for costumes last year, people were literally coming in droves to the thrift stores looking for costumes. People in Tucson don’t play around when it comes to Halloween which I love!! The popular events they put on are actually really good and steeped in culture, does All Souls Procession/Tucson Meet Yourself ring a bell?
Use Yelp and TravelAdvisor to your advantage! and stop picking on the author, she wrote a good article. Tucson is truly what you make of it.
[…] http://www.hipstercrite.com/2013/07/09/hipster-city-travel-tucson-arizona/ […]
Cool post! I’m heading down there with some friends in a little under two weeks and your blog is one of the only useful, non-sponsored, pieces of writing about it I’ve found so far. Looking forward to trying some of those restaurants and coffee shops. Thanks!
Super delayed reply, but I loved reading your post! I’m a Tucson native who stayed for college (I’m in my third year) because I love this town! I don’t know if you plan on visiting again soon, but I’m an avid tea drinker and The Scented Leaf is the best! Teas on tap, plus countless flavors to be brewed at your request! There’s one right next to the U of A if you’re looking for the college feel, but one right across from Hotel Congress on Congress for a cool, young professional vibe.
Thank you for your kind words about my home!
Plus, there’s the UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation, which is rad. All the comments about good food – I second them!
I moved to Tucson 10 years ago from Michigan, and I have found “home”. To the people complaining about the heat in the summer… that’s what A/C is for! You can’t survive in northern states without furnaces either. Personally, I’m glad I don’t have to put on four layers of clothes just to get the mail anymore.
Bonus fact : cooling a house is much more eco friendly than heating a house.
Thanks for the review.