Like many Western cities, Tucson's sprawling vistas make it a landscape best explored by car. Here's an easy one-day drive that takes you through some of this Arizona city's most scenic spots.
But for breakfast, there's still nothing quite like the Cup Cafe, located at the historic Hotel Congress. The eclectic breakfast menu has everything from omelettes to berry crepes. But one of the most popular offerings is the cast-iron baked eggs. Two eggs are baked with ham, leeks and Gruyere cheese; topped with French herbs; and then served with a side of the hotel potatoes and toast. You'll want to come back the next morning for more.
Gates Pass at Tucson Mountain Park is one of the most scenic drives - and sunset viewing points - in Tucson — Photo courtesy of Tucson Mountain Park
After breakfast, head south of downtown to Speedway Boulevard, one of the main thoroughfares in Tucson. Drive west on Speedway. Once you've cross Interstate 10, you have entered west Tucson, home to some of the oldest neighborhoods in the city.
Continue on Speedway for a scenic drive through saguaro-covered hillsides and valleys. The Sonoran Desert is the only part of the world where these iconic, sub-tropical cacti grow.
As you continue driving west on Speedway, signs of city life will start to recede, and then disappear entirely when you cross into Tucson Mountain Park, one of the most scenic spots in the city. You know you've entered the park when the street name changes to West Gates Pass Road. The park preserves 20,000 acres of rolling desert, and it's criss-crossed with hiking and biking trails.
Gates Pass winds through desert hills and canyons, and there is one memorable hair-pin turn that offers a stunning view of the desert floor below. Keep in mind that Gates Pass is a narrow, winding road, and it's not open to commercial or large vehicles more than 40 feet long.
Actors put on a gunfight show for visitors at Old Tucson Studios — Photo courtesy of Old Tucson Studios
Once you've made it through the mountain pass, there is plenty to explore on this part of town. Follow the signs to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a "living" museum that is part wildlife zoo and part botanical garden. The 21-acre museum is one of the city's top attractions, preserving and celebrating the native flora and fauna of the southwest in a visitor-friendly setting.
If time permits, make a stop at Old Tucson Studios, which is also on this side of town and a short drive from the museum. This family-friendly attraction is a must for film and TV buffs who want to see the filming location for classic TV westerns like High Chaparral and movies like Tombstone and The Three Amigos.
On your way back into town, be sure to stop at Gates Pass to watch the sun drop over the desert valley. This is one of the most dramatic sunset viewing points in the city. It's a popular spot with locals and visitors, and there are several pull-out points for motorists who want to snap a postcard-worthy picture.