Editor's note: This story was originally published in 2020 and updated on Nov. 23, 2022.
There are plenty of Tucson things to disagree on, like who has the best Sonoran hot dog, which Eegee's flavor tops them all and how to pronounce Ina Road.
But we asked our Instagram followers to tell us their favorite Tucson places to take out-of-town visitors. And from the more than 600 answers we received, it was pretty clear that these are the seven places you all really love.
This is the time of year you might typically host your out-of-town family and friends or maybe you want to play tourist in your own town — rediscovering a favorite place or exploring a new one.
Here's the list of favorite places and what to know when you visit, listed in reverse order of popularity — so scroll to the bottom to see the No. 1 reader fave.
7. Fourth Avenue
There aren’t too many parts of town where you can thrift shop, get a tattoo, have your palm read, enjoy some of Tucson’s best tacos and have a tropical tiki drink all on the same street. Just to name a few reasons that make Tucson’s funkiest avenue a favorite place to spend a good part of the day exploring.
This historic district is home to many beloved restaurants and bars, popular local shops and several colorful murals all within walking distance. Fourth Avenue is also the site of many popular annual events like the street fair. The winter street fair is happening Dec. 9-11 this year.
Check this list of Fourth Avenue merchants for current hours of operation.
6. Saguaro National Park
Explore Saguaro National Park to wander among Tucson’s gentle giants.
The park is divided into an east and west district, with the city of Tucson in between. The east district is called the Rincon Mountain District and the west is called the Tucson Mountain District.
There are plenty of options for hikers of all skill levels — just make sure you bring ample water. Bicyclists can also bike around the east district’s Cactus Forest Loop Drive, an 8-mile paved loop.
The entrance fee for the park is $25 for one vehicle, and that lasts for a week and is good for both districts. You can purchase your passes to the park online here.
5. Downtown Tucson
Downtown Tucson, the city's entertainment, dining and history hub has a little something for everyone to enjoy. There are historic theaters, restaurants and some popular attractions including Tucson Museum of Art and the Children's Museum Tucson.
Downtown is currently getting into the holiday spirit with more than 140 trees decorated with twinkle lights and 60 illuminated buildings. There's also a temporary ice rink set up downtown for the holidays, among other festivities like the Downtown Parade of Lights on Dec. 17.
To learn about some of the area's history, you can go on a self-guided walking tour with nearly two dozen stops at historic places along a 2.5-mile route or admire the unique murals all around Congress Street and in the nearby Barrio Viejo neighborhood.
4. Mount Lemmon
You can’t go wrong with a trip to Tucson’s favorite (sky) island getaway. The highest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains, Mount Lemmon is a favorite retreat for desert dwellers.
On the drive up the mountain, you’ll get sweeping views of the city and see the landscape change from cactus-studded desert to a forest of towering pines. Near the top, you’ll find Summerhaven, a tiny mountain village with a handful of gift shops and restaurants.
When the mountain gets enough snow, you can also go skiing in Ski Valley. When there’s no snow, a ride on the chair lift is still worth doing. Hikers will also find much to love about the mountain.
3. Sabino Canyon
The mountain views, running water and the chance to see some of Tucson’s wildlife roaming free are among the reasons Sabino Canyon is so beloved by hikers, runners, bikers, photographers, families and anyone looking to spend a few hours away from the city and surrounded by nature.
Located at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, you can explore the many surrounding trails, hop on the Sabino Canyon Crawler for a tour of the canyon, or pack a picnic to enjoy with family.
2. Tucson's Restaurants
Our readers were especially enthusiastic about Tucson's vibrant food scene, which has garnered worldwide recognition as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. The Old Pueblo has a stunningly diverse selection of taquerias, trendy cocktail bars, farm-to-table restaurants and the best Mexican food in the United States (in our opinion).
The responses included more than two dozen names, and many with fabulous patios like LaCo in the historic Presidio neighborhood of downtown Tucson. The biggest recommendation by far was El Charro Café, a Tucson staple that's considered the oldest Mexican restaurant by the same family in the entire country. Also in the Presidio, the stately downtown location dates back to 1922 and has a large patio area where you can sip some prickly pear margaritas. And of course, don't forget to order the carne seca, the iconic shredded meat of Sonora that's dried in the traditional way in cages on top of the restaurant.
The very popular sandwich and slush joint Eegee's also came up many times.
1. Arizona Sonora-Desert Museum
It’s no surprise the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum tops this list of Tucson favorites.
With desert views for days, this living museum is part zoo, part botanical garden and is also home to an aquarium, natural history museum and an art gallery. All things desert. It’s the perfect place to soak up some Tucson sunshine and immerse yourself in the desert flora (with more than 1,200 plant varieties) and get up close with the fauna (more than 240 desert species are on display).