'Tis the season for Googling "what to get my sister for Christmas" and reading through list upon list upon list of gift ideas.
I wanted to get in on the action, and create a list of very Tucson gifts to give this holiday season (and beyond). Saguaro-shaped earrings, candles that smell like Mount Lemmon, stickers that remind you of home.
All of the listed items are made right here in Tucson, by some of our favorite artists. At the end, we'll list some additional resources — upcoming markets and brick and mortars — to spark your gift-giving inspiration even more, in case nothing on this list catches your eye.
(Also: shameless plug for #ThisIsTucson's new merch! We have Tucson-themed ornaments, shirts, mugs, hoodies and more. Shop here!)
Super detailed hand-painted hats
Robin Tenelshof, aka Little Leoni Paints, paints all of our favorite Tucson icons on hats, denim jackets and shoes. You might find the neon sign at Pat's Chili Dogs hand-painted on a Panama hat, or maybe "A" Mountain on the top of some Vans shoes. She does custom hats, too!
Price: The pictured hat is $100
A disco ball that's actually shaped like a saguaro
Dubbed discoguaros by maker Karen Tully of Diosa's Discosaics, these double-sided hanging saguaros are clad in mirror tiles. Tully started making them in 2020, and she now makes discoguaro earrings, too.
Price: Depends, but available sizes are $75 and up
Earrings, earrings, earrings
If you're a frequent visitor to Tucson's artisan markets, you know earrings are a common find. Many artists draw inspiration from the Sonoran Desert, creating earrings shaped like saguaros. Here are some of them:
- Luna & Saya's stacked saguaro earrings
- Coy Creative's cute saguaros in a lightbulb
- Juju & Moxie's glossy saguaros
- Tierra Mia's saguaro hoops
- Desert and Stone's sun-catcher saguaros
A candle that smells like Mount Lemmon
Ārya Tārā is home to hand-poured candles boasting scents like Mount Lemmon, monsoon, saguaro blossoms and prickly pear, among several other scents we love.
Price: $44 for an 8-ounce jar, $15 for a 3-ounce jar
Where to get it: Ārya Tārā's website here
A diffuser scent made with creosote bush
Sonoran Rosie has a whole line of desert-inspired products, including a diffuser scent that's said to smell like monsoon, an herbal perfume made with creosote, and a prickly pear lip balm.
Price: The 2-ounce diffuser scent is $30
An ABC book that takes you through Tucson's south side
This is an alphabet book, sure, but it's also a photographic tour through Tucson's south side. Artist Alex! Jimenez photographed spots like Oasis Fruit Cones and Arizona Palms Tinting for her book "Abecedario del Sur," asking kid readers to find letters of the alphabet in the photos.
Bonus books: If you're looking for more Tucson-themed children's books, also check out Susan Lowell's "The Three Little Javelinas," and "The Twelve Days of Christmas in Arizona" by Jennifer J. Stewart. Julie Originals has desert dweller flashcards, too!
A lizard is riding a skateboard on these hats and shirts
Maker Jos Par has some of the raddest designs, including this lil reptile friend skateboarding (on the shirts, the lizard is skating atop a prickly pear cactus). It's available on both hats and shirts, and there are a few other very Tucson illustrations to choose from, too.
Price: Hats are $20, shirts are $28
Stained glass in the shape of a cactus
If your gift recipient can't keep plants alive, maybe try stained glass in the shape of a plant instead — specifically, the shape of a cactus. The Glass Desert's Alexandra Berger Clamons sells potted cacti made of glass. There are saguaros, barrel cacti and blooming prickly pear.
Price: Starting at $40
All kinds of desert-inspired paper goods
When you look through Annotated Audrey's website, there's a good chance you'll want one of everything. Audrey De La Cruz makes cards for every occasion, plus prints, stickers and ornaments. There are plenty of prints and cards flaunting our beautiful desert scenery, cards with an illustration of a saguaro wearing a Santa hat, and even "AZ Connections" prints, connecting your Arizona self to your loved ones across the country.
Price: Cards start at $3.99. Prints start at $11.99.
Handcrafted soap made with desert plants
Beatriz Bracamonte of Flowing Waters Soap Co. makes bars of soap with traditional plant knowledge that has been passed down through generations of Yoeme matriarchs. Bracamonte uses plants like creosote bush, aloe vera and nopales to make the soap.
A bolo tie with a desert critter
Spring Winders is the designer and metalsmith behind the masterpieces at Heliotrope Metal. You'll be able to find bolo ties, cufflinks and jewelry (bracelets, necklaces, rings and earrings), sporting desert critters like javelinas, bats, snakes and tortoises. There are also bolo ties for the University of Arizona, and rings that simply have "Tucson" sprawled across.
Price: Bolo ties start at $60
Basically anything from Cactus Clouds Art
Serena Rios McRae makes tees, totes, stickers, keychains, prints and pins — many of which center Tucson. There's this hilarious "dry heat" sticker, plus beautiful watercolor prints that remind us to stand tall. She also makes a deck of 52 cards that feature "affirmations moms actually need." And recently, she's been intertwining Pokémon with Tucson, like Blastoise on the Tapatío logo.
Price: Stickers start at $3, prints start at $14
Retro-style prints of Tucson icons
What started as luggage tags has since blossomed into prints, postcards, magnets, journals and dish towels. You'll find RetroTrek Gifts' imagery of the Tucson Inn, El Corral, El Con Mall and Lucky Wishbone.
Price: Postcards start at $1.75, prints start at $12, luggage tags start at $3.95
Spicy versions of your loved one's favorite candy
Tanna's Botannas is known for their candies coated in a 20-spice blend, plus adorable keychain rim dips. Candies range from Skittles and Gushers to Peach Rings and gummy bears. I know of at least one person who would approve of this gift: our very own reporter Elvia Verdugo, who ❤️s spicy candy.
Price: Starts at $5
Bonus candy: Dirty T Tamarindo also sells spicy candies at several locations around town.
Put together a bundle of seeds to plant
Local nonprofit Native Seeds/SEARCH sells all kinds of seeds, perfect for your garden-loving friend. There's a monsoon collection that includes poppies, arugula and lemon basil, plus seeds for the Three Sisters (corn, beans and squash). The mission of Native Seeds/SEARCH is to "conserve and promote the arid-adapted crop diversity of the Southwest in support of sustainable farming and food security."
Price: Starts at $3.95
Where to get it: The Native Seeds website here.
Possibly the most desert snow globe you'll ever see
Why I Love Where I Live is a complete hub for all things Tucson. There are shirts, stickers, books, candles and truly an endless amount of gift ideas. One of our favorite items in their shop this holiday season, though, are the snow globes that center our favorite saguaro giants.
Hang wildlife ornaments on the tree this year
'Tis the season for gifting ornaments. Aall Forms of Life is headed by scientific illustrator and wildlife biologist Nathalie Aall. That means her drawings are accurate — and still super cute. In her Etsy shop, you'll find ornaments, notecards, prints and even a puzzle.
Price: Ornaments are $10, prints are $12
For the person who loves pan dulce
Yes, those ARE little clay conchas. Taco Bout Crafting sells these ones, plus another set that are CONCHAS SHAPED AS HEARTS. She also has earrings shaped as cochitos, both as dangles and studs.
Price: Studs are $10, dangles start at $12
A very holographic saguaro paper weight
After experimenting with resin crafts in 2018, Q.street Collective was born. There's a whole "desert vibes" collection that features a beautiful iridescent saguaro-shaped paper weight, plus pill trays and phone grips.
Price: The iridescent paper weight is $48
Where to get it: Q.street Collective's website.
Save your place with these desert-inspired bookmarks
Lil' Desert Doodles is just that — lil desert doodles. Find them printed on bookmarks, greeting cards and tiny pins. The maker behind the shop, Hailey Dukart, calls herself an honorary desert rat and is inspired by the Sonoran Desert.
Price: Bookmarks are $5. A four-pack of cards is $15.
Very Tucson tea towels
You may have seen Juju & Moxie at local markets. If you have, you've probably also seen the hordes of people crowding around maker Rachel Rausch's holographic stickers and explicit tea towels. When the towels aren't quoting pop culture or saying something sassy, they're an ode to Tucson. A sunrise scene, sketches of saguaros, and the outlines of our neon signs. Juju & Moxie also has prints and postcards (on the back, you can fill out a thermometer to tell your recipient how dang hot it is here).
Price: Tea towels are $14
A pocket tee where the pocket is actually shaped like Arizona
Pocket tees are fine and dandy, but what if the pocket was shaped like the Grand Canyon state? That's what maker Qmulative does, sewing Arizona-shaped pockets onto T-shirts. The pockets themselves are uniquely Arizona, too, with fabrics showing zoomed-up saguaros or one with baby saguaros tucked into some canyons.
Price: Starting at $30
Gift cards to your favorite places
When in doubt, get a gift card or membership to a local spot. Here are some very Tucson places to consider:
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum membership, $71.10 for individuals.
- Sabino Canyon annual pass, $40 per car.
- Gift cards to Tucson Originals Restaurants.
- Gift cards to downtown Tucson spots.
- Gift card to Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort.
- Restaurants like The Delta and El Charro offer gift cards.
Below are upcoming markets happening throughout Tucson, in which some of the above makers may be in attendance.
- Fourth Avenue Street Fair — Friday-Sunday, Dec. 9-11, 10 a.m. to dusk. Hundreds of local and national artists at this popular biannual event along North Fourth Avenue.
- Feliz (Navidad) Mercadito — 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at Galeria Mitotera, 1802 S. Fourth Ave. Featuring eight makers.
- The Mercado District Holiday Bazaar — Friday-Sunday, Dec. 16-18 in the Mercado District, 100 S. Avenida del Convento, with more than 60 makers. The market is 5-9 p.m. Friday (which also includes karaoke, cookie decorating and more holiday festivities), 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Brick and mortars for Tucson-themed gifts
Looking for more Tucson-themed items? Here are some in-person shops.
- Arizona Poppy, 150 S. Fourth Ave.
- Chingona Arizona, 412 E. Seventh St.
- Creative Kind, 2905 E. Skyline Dr.
- Galeria Mitotera, 1802 S. Fourth Ave.
- Pop Cycle, 422 N. Fourth Ave.
- Sabino Canyon's Visitor Center, 5700 N. Sabino Canyon Road.
- Tiny Town Gallery, 408 N. Fourth Ave.
- Why I Love Where I Live, MSA Annex, 267 S. Avenida del Convento.