Family Travel: Our Trip to Tucson, Arizona

This year for spring break, we decided to continue with our exploration of Arizona. We previously visited Phoenix and Sedona (January 2023) and then we did a fabulous smorgasbord of Arizona, Nevada and Utah (March 2023) (part 1 and part 2), so this time we decided to explore Tucson!

Our plan was to fly into to Tucson late in the evening on Wednesday (after a full day of work and school) and then wake up on Thursday ready to spend 5 full days exploring the area.

Wednesday/Thursday: All the flights, a nap and Snakes & Lattes

Unfortunately, our first flight was delayed so many times that we missed our connecting flight. So, it took us 21 hours of travel, 3 airplanes, 1 night spent trying to sleep on a bench in the Houston Airport playground, and 1 Uber… but we finally arrived at our Tucson house.

Also, my 12-year-old kid is a traveling champion:

Once we made our way to our VRBO house, we napped for a few hours and then ventured out to have an early dinner at a super cool place called Snakes & Lattes – a Board Game bar!

Friday: Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway

Travis was fighting off a nasty cold, so we decided to keep it relatively low key on Friday and drive the Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway. The Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway is considered one of the most scenic drives in southeast Arizona and climbs from the Lower Sonoran vegetative life zone up to the high forests of the Canadian zone. Basically, you start with loads of cactuses and end up with snowy pine trees!

The drive is absolutely beautiful and ascends 9,000+ feet with lots of scenic turnouts for you to hop out of the car and enjoy the views. At the top of the mountain, we had lunch at the Sawmill Run Restaurant, did a little shopping at the Sky Island Trading Company store, bought some fudge at the Mt. Lemmon General Store, and also had a gigantic cookie at the Mt. Lemmon Cookie Cabin.

Saturday: Saguaro National Park – West

On Saturday, we fulfilled Jack’s request to visit a super cool rock shop with a visit to Tuscan Mineral & Gem World. The owner of the shop was very nice and Jack was in absolute heaven checking out all the amazing gemstones, rocks and fossils. Highly recommend if you enjoy rock shops!

From there, we continued on to the West side of the Saguaro National Park. We had purchased the annual ‘America the Beautiful’ park pass last March, so we were able to use that again for our national park visits on this trip for no additional cost. After checking out the Saguaro National Park (West Side) visitor center and grabbing a map, we drove to various overlook points and also did a few short hikes.

The weather could not have been nicer and the views were absolutely gorgeous.

We wanted something very Tuscan for dinner, so we tried out El Guero Canelo because they are famous for their Sonoran hot dogs. A Sonoran hot dog is popular in Tucson and elsewhere in southern Arizona and it is a hot dog wrapped in bacon and grilled, served on a bolillo-style hot dog bun and topped with pinto beans, onions, tomatoes, mayonnaise, mustard and jalapeno salsa.

Absolutely delicious! And of course we had to have some churros for dessert.

Sunday (Easter): Saguaro National Park – East

Our original plan for Sunday was to go to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert museum, however it was rainy and the desert museum is all outside. Instead, we decided to switch our plans around and visit the East side of the Saguaro National Park. Once again, we used our ‘America the Beautiful’ annual pass, so the park didn’t cost us any additional money. The East side is more of a large driving loop with lots of scenic overlook spots, so it was perfect for a rainy day.

For lunch, we visited the Saguaro Corners Restaurant & Bar which was close by, open on Easter, and had some really delicious burgers and fries. On our way back, we decided to check out the local thrifting and stopped by a Savers thrift store. I love thrifting on vacation in a new place. You get awesome souvenirs that remind you of your trip, it’s inexpensive, and you find some super cool items!

Here is a sneak peek of a few items I found:

Monday: Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum

Monday was our last full day in Tucson, since we would be flying out super early on Tuesday morning. So, we started the day having breakfast at Snooze, a restaurant we previously loved in Austin, Texas. After a hearty breakfast, we made our way to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. Tickets costs $29.95 for adults and $19.95 for kids aged 3-12.

As I previously mentioned, the museum is almost fully outside and includes a zoo, botanical garden and aquarium. We still had a little bit of rain on and off, but we were able to enjoy the aquarium, the desert cactus gardens, and many of the exhibits. We saw a random packrat run by, stayed a safe distance away from a couple coyotes, saw some lizards and also a rogue hummingbird that had escaped the aviary.

For dinner, we had the absolute best pizza I have ever had in my entire existence at a place called Charred Pie. Their wood fired bread appetizer was delicious, but I will be dreaming about their Mexican Street Corn pizza – garlic crema, charred corn, queso Oaxaca, queso cotija, fresh mozzarella, cilantro, and citrus crema. OH. MY. It was amazing!

Thankfully our return flights to Maryland were on time with no surprises — I don’t know if we could have handled another marathon traveling session within the same week. However, we loved our trip to Tucson, Arizona… so now we need to decide where to visit next.

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