Arizona's second-largest populated city, behind Phoenix, Tucson lies amidst the lush Sonoran desert scenery, rugged mountains, and rolling hills of the border region. Skies are clear and blue with over 350 days of sunshine per year. Also called "the Old Pueblo," the city's name refers to the volcanic mountain nearby, Cuk Ṣon in the Native American O'odham language.
Jesuits had founded the Mission San Xavier del Bac in 1700 a few miles upstream, but it was Hugo Oconór, in 1775, who established the military fort in New Spain that was to become Tucson. Aristocratic descendants of the king of Ireland, the O'Conor family had moved to Spain when Hugo was 18, to avoid British rule. Following the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, the city became part of the USA, and from 1867 to 1877, it was the capital of the Arizona Territory. By 1912, when Arizona became a state, four flags had flown over Tucson: Spanish, Mexican, American, and Confederate.
During the first decade of this century the downtown Tucson Rio Nuevo project added retail stores and a community center. Historic buildings have been restored, including the Hotel Congress designed in 1919, the Art Deco Fox Theater of 1929, the Rialto Theatre open from 1920, and St. Augustine Cathedral, completed in 1896.
The Broadway Village shopping center at Broadway Boulevard and Country Club Road; the Fourth Avenue Shopping District between Downtown and the University and the Lost Barrio East of Downtown, are popular shopping areas.
The University of Arizona campus, and the Tucson Botanical Gardens are also located in Central Tucson. Reid Park, Tucson's largest park, encompasses the Reid Park Zoo and the Hi Corbett Field baseball stadium.
Trail Dust Town is an old Western movie set in Tanque Verde, now converted into a shopping mall, that includes the Museum of the Horse Soldier, with chronicles of the Western cavalry. Other museums/galleries in town include the University of Arizona Museum of Art, the Tucson Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson.
Tucson International Airport is the local public airport, located ten miles to the south, with nonstop flights to 17 US destinations. Rental cars, shared ride vans, taxis, hotel shuttles and the Suntran city bus (number 11) are the getting downtown options. All departures are from the road besdie the lower level of the terminal building.
Amtrak provides service to Tucson three times weekly on the Sunset Limited line between Orlando and Los Angeles, and the Texas Eagle line between Chicago and Los Angeles. The Tucson station is at 400 North Toole Avenue.
The Arizona Shuttle has shuttle bus service between Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and Tucson. Greyhound Lines, with a station at 471 West Congress Street, connects with points all over North America. TUFESA buses connect Tucson with various points throughout Mexico.
Suntran buses cover the region. Cash fares one way are $1.50, and free transfers allow you to change from one route to another, wherever routes intersect - two transfers allowed within two hours. Tickets can be bought on the bus - exact change is required.
The Sunlink Tucson Modern Streetcar project connects city centers such as the University of Arizona, University Main Gate business district, the 4th Avenue business district, Congress Avenue Shopping and Entertainment district, and the Mercado District. You can board the streetcars and stand with your bike.
Central Tucson is quite bicycle-friendly, but the Tucson Bike Share program is still at the "exploring the feasibility" stage. Check the Greater Arizona Bicycling Association and Tucson Cycling for information and resources.
Gay Tuscon has up-to-date LGBT bars and clubs listings, plus restaurant and hotel suggestions, and events and group activities around town. Gay Tucson News and Around Gay Tucson are two more online sources for local LGBT information.
Tuscon Pride events Pride Parade and Pride in the Desert, take place in October. SAAF is the community-based organization of Southern Arizona providing case management and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS and their families.
The guys at BOTOP, Bears of the Old Pueblo, always have something on, but their big date is La Fiesta de Los Osos weekend, the middle of each January - check their calendar for monthly socials and special annual events.
For map locations and website links to local businesses, see our gay Tucson listings pages.
Brodie's Sports Tavern & Back Pocket Patio (2449 N Stone Ave), three-bar LGBT complex, entertainment/ shows, karaoke, generous pours, patio, WiFi, darts, pool tables, WiFi; Sunday beer busts, underwear nights, drag shows, special event strippers; October Latin Carnival.
IBT'S (616 N 4th Ave), nightly gay dance club and patio, drag shows, karaoke nights, go-go boys, special events and theme parties. Wednesday-Sunday wings, burgers and sandwiches.
Sky Bar (536 N 4th Ave), 9am-2am daytime cafe/bar; evening club games events, open-mic nights, rooftop telescopes, October Pride block party.
Venture-N (1239 N 6th Ave), men's daytime neighborhood bar, night cruise club; bears and friends, all-welcome, pool games, patio.
Hotels & Guesthouses
Arizona Riverpark Inn (350 South Freeway; 520 239-2300), gay-friendly hotel, 174 guestrooms and suites, full American breakfast, TV, microwave, fridge, WiFi; Terrace Café & Lobby Bar.
Casa Amapola (West Camino de la Amapola, El Cerrito; 520-792-4541), three-bedroom/ full kitchen vacation rental house in the foothills of the Tucson Mountains; wood fireplace, garage, washing machine, pool/patio, mountain view --about 8 miles NW of Tucson.
La Casita del Sol (407 North Meyer Ave; 520-885-2784), gay/mixed restored 1880s 2-room and bathroom adobe row house B&B in El Presidio.
Catalina Park Inn (309 E First St, West University District; 520 792-4541), five en-suite guestrooms, dwalled courtyard, desert garden, big breakfasts, DVD/WiFi.
Clarion Hotel & Conference Center - Tucson Airport (4550 S Palo Verde Rd; 520 746-1161), rooms and suites, 24-hr fitness, pool, cable TV, WiFi; restaurant breakfast/ lunch, and cocktail lounge.
Herbert House (231 S Herbert Ave, Armory Park; 520 882-4537), small two-room guesthouse, living/kitchen/laundry, garden spa, cable TV, WiFi.
Hotel Congress (311 E Congress St; 520 622-8848), downtown 1919-era classic landmark building, 40 guestrooms, Cup Café restaurant breakfast through dinner, drinks, and plaza seatings; Opti Club nightclub shows, live music events.
Hotel Tucson City Center (475 N Granada Ave, Downtown; 520-622-3000), central locale, suites, hot buffet breakfast, swimming pool, sand volleyball court, WiFi; PJ's Cafe & Sports Grill.
Inn at Civano (10448 E Seven Generations Way; 520-296-5428), gay-friendly, five-guestrooms/kichens B&B, with access to two swimming pools, tennis court, exercise equipment, garden/ patio.
Lodge on the Desert (306 N Alvernon Way; 520 320-2000), 103 rooms/suites, fireplaces, private patios, in-room massage; restaurant and bar New American upscale and contemporary cuisine.
Radisson Suites Tucson (6555 E Speedway Blvd, Midtown; 520 721-7100), 299 suites, swimming pool, hydro-spa, fitness, lush, tropical grounds; Breeze Patio Bar & Grill restaurant breakfast, all-day dining, sandwiches and snacks.
Royal Elizabeth B&B/ Inn (204 S Scott Ave; 520 670-9022), five deluxe guest rooms, Victorian elegance, all amenities, creative gourmet breakfast and dinner.
Sam Hughes Inn B&B (2020 East 7th St; 520 861-2191), small, quiet, home-like accommodations just east of the University of Arizona; 6-8 guests, shady, walled sunken garden, spacious patio and fountain, walk to shops and restaurants.
In Rio Rico, down I-19 close to the border towards Nogales, Mexico, the Esplendor Resort Hotel (1069 Camino Caralampi; 520 281-1901), offers Old Mexico luxury, 179 guestrooms and suites, swimming pool and patio, golf course. Restaurants include the San Cayetano Restaurant, the Santa Rita Grill and Old West ambience at the San Cayetano Saloon & Bar.
In Bisbee, also near the Mexican border, near Agua Prieta, the gay-owned and gay-friendly guesthouses include: Doublejack Guesthouse (1-B Temby Ave; 520-559-6708), restored one-bedroom 1895 miner's cottage perched hillside overlooking Old Bisbee, with fully equipped kitchen, private deck and garden, high-speed WiFi, and rainbow flag flying.