About Tucson

About Tucson

Situated about sixty miles north of the Mexican border, Tucson is the second largest and second-most-populated city in Arizona, second only to Phoenix. The Tucson metropolitan area is home to roughly one million people. It’s a 7-hour drive from Los Angeles, California (west), a little under 2 hours from Phoenix (north), and 4½ hours from El Paso, TX (east). Indigenous people have called this area home for more than 4,000 years, which makes Tucson one of the oldest continually inhabited areas in North America. The name of the city of Tucson derives from that given to Sentinel Peak by the Tohono O’odham, "Ts-iuk-shan," which refers to the fact that the base of the mountain is darker than its summit. Southern Arizona and the Tucson area forms the ancestral homeland of the Tohono O'odham and Pascua Yaqui nations.

The city of Tucson is 2,389 feet above sea level and covers nearly 500 square miles. The landscape is varied and includes flowering desert, rolling hills, winding dry riverbeds, rugged canyons, and pine-topped peaks, all beneath a clear blue sky. In 2015, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized Tucson's world-class culinary scene as one of eighteen “Capitals of Gastronomy” worldwide – and the only in the United States. Home to the University of Arizona, whose campus neighbors Main Gate Square, Tucson has long been home to students and artists alike, among them many literary greats such as  Edward Abbey, Erskine Caldwell, Barbara Kingsolver, and David Foster Wallace. You can view the official Tucson visitor’s guide online here, or request one in the mail. You can also read a Tucson's local's recent recommendations in the Boston Globe.

Local Time and Weather

Tucson is in the Mountain Standard Time zone (MST). Except for the Navajo Nation, Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time. This means that during the in-person conference, Tucson will be on the same time as Mountain Time (MT). November weather is usually chilly – in Tucson terms! – so you can expect fall, spring, or even summer temperatures, usually in the 60s and 70s (during the day). There can be a wide variety of daytime and nighttime temperatures, and it gets dark quickly. Therefore, it is best to dress in layers. Precipitation is unlikely, but not impossible.

Dining in Tucson

Tucson boasts an impressive variety of cuisines and dining styles, with many dining options clustered along University Boulevard (just one block from the Marriott conference hotel), Fourth Avenue, Congress Street, and Broadway Boulevard (all of them easily accessible via streetcar). Tucson is said to have the "Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food." Find a restaurant guide produced by Visit Tucson here, in addition to a wealth of restaurant ideas on Tucson Foodie, and consider some of these nearby favorites, just a few steps from the conference hotel. Information about Tucson's fully accessible Sun Link Streetcar is available on our Hotel & Travel webpageNote: Transit fares in the Tucson area (Sun Tran, Sun Link, Sun Van, Sun on Demand and Sun Shuttle services) remain free as of spring 2023. Read more here. 

Note: This list was compiled in spring 2023. Before you go, please be sure to check each location’s most up-to-date hours and public health safety protocols. 

5-minute walk or less

Walking from the hotel to University Blvd, you'll pass the popular Gentle Ben's, which features food, locally-brewed beer, and an inviting patio. Sinbad's on University Blvd has great Middle Eastern cuisine and an outdoor courtyard. At the corner of University and Park Ave is the new Agave House. And Snakes and Lattes is a fun spot for a drink and a board game! Head north on Park Ave and you will find Caffe Luce serving up a variety of coffee and tea drinks. Behind it is Saigon Phở. University Blvd hosts a variety of restaurants and coffee shops, you're sure to find something to enjoy!

10- to 15-minute walk

If you have a little bit more time to do so, consider making your way to Historic 4th Ave, an easy walk west on University Blvd. At 3rd Ave, you will pass local favorite Time Market, which in addition to hosting a small market, also serves sandwiches, salads, and delicious pizza fresh from their wood-fired oven.

Going one block further west, you'll hit 4th Ave. Heading south you will find a variety of options for both food and drink, as well as shopping! Some favorites are Tumerico, serving up a changing menu of vegetarian/vegan-friendly lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch; Brooklyn Pizza Company, named Best Pizzeria by Tucson Weekly and a good late-night option, serves pizza by the slice or by the whole pie. Pro tip: order your pizza and ask for it to be delivered right next door at Sky Bar, where you can grab a drink and take a look at the stars through their telescopes while you wait. 

20-minute walk or more

If you are up for a little bit more of a walk (or a ride on the streetcar!), Downtown Tucson offers several more options. Cup Café, located in historic Hotel Congress, serves food and drinks all day in a cozy atmosphere. El Charro, which has been serving Tucson since 1922, is a staple for visitors and locals alike. Purportedly the place where the chimichanga was invented, they are also known for their carne seca. After your meal, consider walking to Borderlands Brewing Co. for what at least one ALTA staff member says is the best beer in Tucson!

Desert Museum tour

Are you staying in Tucson on the Sunday after the conference, and hoping to see some cacti? ALTA has booked a tour bus to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum from 9am-1pm on November 12. Sign up and pay individually by calling Carmen at 520-622-8811, or send her an email at info@graylinearizona.com to book a reservation. The cost is $62/person, which includes transportation, a tour director, and admission to the museum. The deadline to book is November 1. We need a minimum of 30 people for the tour to go forward, so invite your friends!


Thanks in part to its welcoming attitude and the University of Arizona, Tucson hosts an array of world-class performing arts and cultural spaces, many of them within walking distance from the Marriott conference hotel (distances given are starting from the conference hotel). Note: This list was compiled in spring 2023. Before you go, please be sure to check each site’s most up-to-date hours, ticket prices/admission, and public health safety protocols. 

  • Centennial Hall is home to UA Presents, which hosts a variety of events, concerts, and Broadway in Tucson (0.2 miles)
  • Fred Fox School of Music is ranked among the country's foremost institutions of higher education in music, and offers frequent events (0.3 miles)
  • University of Arizona Museum of Art's holdings span many cultures and eras, with the core collection including the art of Europe and the United States (0.3 miles)
  • Center for Creative Photography is the premier research collection of American photographic fine art and archives, and offers free admission to its photographic exhibitions (0.4 miles)
  • University of Arizona Poetry Center hosts one of the finest and largest print/digital collection of contemporary poetry in America (0.8 miles)
  • Tucson Museum of Art features original and traveling exhibitions focusing on Art of Latin America, Art of the American West, Modern and Contemporary Art, and Asian Art (1.6 miles)
  • Arizona Theatre Company produces a variety of plays and special events in a refurbished 1927 theater (1.7 miles)
  • Museum of Contemporary Art is Tucson's only museum devoted exclusively to contemporary art from Tucson and around the globe (1.7 miles)

There's lots to do in Tucson, from admiring the cacti and other desert flora to hiking to exploring the area's rich history. And if you’re a stargazer, Tucson is one of the best spots in the U.S. for astronomy. In 1972, Pima County enacted a “dark sky” code to regulate the brightness and number of outdoor bulbs in an effort to help local observatories like one at Kitt Peak. Now Tucson suffers from far less light pollution than most cities do, allowing stars and planets to shine through the darkness. Many of the following activities are located within walking distance or a short ride share from the Marriott conference hotel, while others would may more sense for those who have extra time to spend in Tucson (distances given are starting from the conference hotel). Note: This list was compiled in summer 2021. Before you go, please be sure to check each site’s most up-to-date hours, ticket prices/admission, and public health safety protocols. 

  • Arizona History Museum houses the stories and artifacts of Arizona personalities such as Geronimo and Wyatt Earp, as well as Emperor and Empress Maximilian and Carlota of Mexico (331 ft)
  • Arizona State Museum is the oldest and largest anthropological research museum in the Southwest, and focuses on the region's 13,000- year human history (0.3 miles)
  • Flandreau Science Center & Planetarium explores our universe from earth to space and everything in-between, bringing science alive for young and life-long learners alike (0.7 miles)
  • Children's Museum Tucson has 17,000 square feet and 13 exhibit areas filled with components that encourage kids to build, create, imagine, explore and discover (1.5 miles)
  • Tucson Loop Shared Use Bike Path is a 120+ mile system of paved, shared-use paths connecting the Rillito, Santa Cruz, and Pantano River Parks with the Julian Wash and Harrison Road Greenways (2 miles to closest entrance)

Driving distance

Note: This list was compiled in spring 2023. Before you go, please be sure to check each site’s most up-to-date hours, ticket prices/admission, and public health safety protocols. Please also note that while some of the following are accessible by ride share, it can be difficult to find a return ride share. 

  • Tumamoc Hill is a popular 1.5 mile paved hiking trail that offers stunning views of the city, as well as an abundance of plants, animals, and birdlife (3.5 miles)
  • Tucson Botanical Gardens houses mature trees and expertly cultivated foliage, specialty gardens such as the Cactus & Succulent Garden, Barrio Garden, and Herb Garden, which highlight the diversity of native plants (4 miles)
  • The Valley of the Moon began construction in 1923 as a whimsical fairyland of rock, concrete, and waterfalls. It is now a non-profit which hosts public events advocating for tolerance and brotherly love (4.5 miles)
  • Tohono Chul Gardens sits on 49 acres of lush Sonoran desert, and offers walking paths, botanical gardens, and exhibit galleries (9 miles)
  • Tucson Mountain Park covers approximately 20,000 acres that host hiking and mountain biking trails, historic sites, and a campground (10 miles)
  • Pima Air & Space Museum is one of the largest non-government funded aviation and space museums in the world. It features over 350 historical and modern aircrafts, from a Wright Flyer to a 787 Dreamliner (11 miles)
  • Mission San Xavier del Bac was founded in 1692, with the current church dating to the 18th century. The mission is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona (12 miles)
  • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a world-renowned zoo, aquarium, natural history museum, botanical garden, and art gallery that offers an excellent and enjoyable introduction to the Sonoran Desert (14 miles)
  • Saguaro National Park is divided into two sides, East and West, which bookend the city of Tucson. Each side has different sights and experiences to offer, such as hiking trails, picnic areas, and the eponymous saguaro (East: 20 miles, West: 23 miles)
  • Biosphere 2 is a 3.14 acre research facility built under sealed glass to recreate various biomes for controlled scientific studies (32 miles)
  • Mt. Lemmon is the area's highest mountain at 9,157 feet. During the winter, it becomes home to the southernmost ski area in the United States, while during the summer it and its resident town, Summerhaven, offer temperatures 30+ degrees cooler than downtown Tucson (40 miles)