Exploring Downtown Tucson
There is something special about Downtown Tucson.
Although the area has evolved quite a bit over the last 25 years, Downtown Tucson still maintains that quaint, Old Pueblo feel. If you are new to Tucson, or if you are considering moving here and want to learn more about all that Downtown Tucson has to offer, this post will serve as a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about this incredible area!
Getting Around Downtown Tucson
Since 2014, Tucson residents and visitors have been able to explore downtown Tucson on Sun LInk, Tucson’s only single-route streetcar. The route extends from the northeast corner of University of Arizona campus to the Mercado San Augustin, one of downtown Tucson’s most popular mixed-use markets.
Sun Link makes it easy for visitors to explore all the fun and excitement of 4th Avenue, Congress Street, and the variety of shows at Tucson Convention Center. Downtown Tucson also features the Rondstadt Transit Center, and access to rideshare services like Lyft and Uber is always available.
Notable Landmarks in Downtown Tucson
Tourists love to explore the rich history of Tucson, and the downtown area is home to some of the city’s most culturally significant landmarks. In this section, we will provide more detail about some of the notable landmarks you can explore by yourself, with your spouse, or with the whole family.
Tucson Children’s Museum
The Tucson Children’s Museum was once the home of the Carnegie Library, which opened in 1901. Today, the Museum provides a fun, interactive learning experience to children of all ages. If you have kids aged 10 and younger, this museum is an absolute must-visit!
Charles O. Brown House
This historic building dates back to the mid-19th Century, and is a strong example of the type of architecture you will find in Downtown Tucson’s historic neighborhoods. Located in between Stone and Church Avenues on Broadway, the Charles O. Brown House is home to popular local businesses, including Riveted and Ben’s Bells.
Opened in the midst of the Great Depression, Fox Theatre was considered the Crowned Jewel of Tucson for over 40 years. In recent times, The Fox has undergone a massive renovation, and continues to host a variety of movies, concerts, and other live entertainment.
St. Augustine Cathedral
Located near the southwest corner of Ochoa St and Stone Avenue, St. Augustine Cathedral is an architectural masterpiece in the heart of Downtown. After its first 100 years of existence, the cathedral received an extensive renovation, which included the implementation of the Pamplona Crucifix, which dates back to the Mid-16th Century.
Great Places to Stay in Downtown Tucson
Part of the fun of exploring a new city is enjoying the experience as if you were a tourist. Not only are the hotels and B&Bs in Downtown Tucson perfect for staycations, they are also ideal for hosting friends and family when they visit from out of town. Here are a few of our favorite Downtown Tucson hotel options.
Built in 1918, Hotel Congress was added to the National Historic Register in 2003, and continues to be one of the city’s most recognizable hotels. Featuring just 40 rooms, the hotel is one of the few hotels in America that do not offer TVs; hotel management insists that they stay true to their old-fashioned roots, and no TVs serves as a reminder to get out of the room and explore the city!
Other amenities at Hotel Congress include the popular nightclub Club Congress and the Cup Cafe at Hotel Congress.
Downtown Clifton Hotel
Located near the intersection of 16th Street and Stone Avenue, The Downtown Clifton Hotel dates back to 1947, and continues to amaze guests with their comfy rooms, complimentary bottled water, and concierge service. Guests of the Downtown Clifton are just a short walk away from the Arizona Theater Company, the Owl’s Club cocktail bar, and the Tucson Convention Center.
Royal Elizabeth Bed and Breakfast
Featuring a true 19th Century Victorian-style Adobe mansion, the historic masterpiece of the Royal Elizabeth B&B offers a lodging experience like no other. Featuring a variety of suites, guests are treated to a delectable breakfast a 5 Points Restaurant, complimentary snacks, and a sparkling pool or spa. Add in a small conference room and business center, and this bed and breakfast is ideal for a business trip as well.
A Day of Amazing Food in Downtown Tucson
Compared to other major cities, Downtown Tucson is relatively small. However, the number of high-quality restaurants within a two-mile radius will amaze you! Instead of listing every single incredible dining option in the area, we decided to provide some of our favorite restaurants for each meal.
Breakfast: The Cup Cafe at Hotel Congress
You don’t have to be a guest of the hotel in order to enjoy an amazing breakfast at this quaint downtown cafe. Start your morning with a fresh cup of coffee, and try some of the cafe’s most popular dishes, including the Silverside Hash and the Trout Benedict.
Lunch: Lindy’s on 4th
After a morning of shopping and exploring through the Historic 4th Avenue neighborhood, savor one of Lindy’s famous burgers. Featuring a variety of unique toppings, and incredible side dishes, Lindy’s on 4th will dazzle your taste buds!
Dinner: Cafe Poca Cosa
Located near the intersection of Pennington and Scott Avenue, Cafe Poca Cosa is arguably the most nationally-recognized restaurant in Tucson. Suzana Davila, Chef/Owner of Cafe Poca Cosa, has created a fine dining experience like no other. The menu changes two times a day, and there is only one menu, written on a chalkboard for the entire dining room to share.
No matter if you’re a visitor or a lifelong resident, Cafe Poca Cosa should be on everyone’s culinary bucket list.
Dessert: Chocolate Iguana on 4th
A sweet tooth can strike any time of day, and when people are exploring Downtown Tucson, Chocolate Iguana is the unequivocal favorite for incredible chocolate, desserts, espresso drinks, and tasty pastries. Located just north of 6th Street, in the 4th Avenue Shopping District, there is always something new to sample at Chocolate Iguana.
Experiencing Downtown Tucson Nightlife
When the sun finally sets, a new energy begins to ruminate through the streets of Downtown Tucson. From a unique dive bar to vibrant nightclubs, and everything in between, there is a nightlife experience for every taste. Here are some of our favorites, divided by category.
Best Dive Bar: The Buffet Bar
Opening at 6am, six days a week, The Buffet Bar stands alone as the oldest and most popular bar in Tucson. A popular stop for the medical staff at nearby University Medical Center, The Buffet is one of the few Tucson bars that is 1) Cash Only and 2) provides one of the most unique “happy hours” ever known.
If you want to experience “Happy Minute” for yourself, have your favorite beverage in front of you, along with $1, at 6pm and 11pm any day of the week!
Best Microbrewery: Thunder Canyon Brewery
Although TCB has been around for decades, the Downtown location is relatively new. Now, after the flagship location closed up shop, Thunder Canyon Brewery is still as popular as ever among Downtown Tucson visitors. Featuring a nice mix of staple brews along with a few limited edition offerings, people also love the great food available at TCB.
Additionally, with ample space compared to other Downtown Tucson bars, this is a great place to watch sports and play pool with friends.
Best Lounge: Scott & Co.
If you are searching for a laid-back lounge in Downtown Tucson with incredible handcrafted cocktails in a speakeasy-like atmosphere, 47 Scott/Scott & Co. has everything you’re looking for. Whether its an after-work cocktail with clients or colleagues, or an opening round of beverages with your friends, Scott & Co combines an amazing atmosphere with top-notch mixology.
Best Nightclub: Playground
You can feel the vibrant energy of the club just by walking outside the club on a Saturday night. Featuring an outdoor dance floors on the upper deck and no cover, the Playground provides the ultimate nightclub experience, and will keep you dancing until they yell last call!
This blog post is just a small sampling of what you can enjoy and explore during your first (or next) trip to Downtown Tucson. Tell us what you think about Downtown Tucson, and some of the restaurants or shops that belong on the next blog post, in the comments below!