Our Staff's Top Picks

We've got the inside track on all there is to see and do in Tucson. Check out our favorite events and experiences here, hand-picked by locals who know the area well.

  • 2017 Poster from Tucson Cine Mexico Film Festival

    Viva Tucson Cine Mexico

    What do Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, and Alejandro González Iñárritu all have in common? The answer is that they were all once fledgling Mexican filmmakers. This month, you can view cutting edge Mexican films, and interact with some of the film industry’s finest artists of contemporary Mexican cinema at this year’s Tucson Cine Mexico, the longest-running festival of contemporary Mexican film in the country. Established here in Tucson by the UA Hanson Film Institute in 2004, this year’s festival will be held March 21-25, and will feature documentaries, films, and post-screening question and answer sessions, along with filmmaker panels.

    The festival is always free of charge and attracts diverse viewers. Since its inception, the festival has attracted more than 20,000 movie-goers and has hosted more than 40 filmmakers and industry professionals, including such notables as María José Cuevas, Celso García, Carlos González García, Beto Goméz, and Jesús Ochoa. Many of the films screened at the festival have gone on to become award-winners, such as “Güeros,”  “Heli,” “Club Sandwich,” and “El General.” For details and tickets, click here.

  • Young Girls Carrying the Tucson Rodeo Parade Banner

    The 92nd Annual La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros

    It’s February, and that means it’s time for Tucson’s famous rodeo, and its renowned parade! This annual tribute to the cowboy is one of the state’s oldest celebrations, and one of the top 25 rodeos on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) calendar. Top-notch cowboys and cowgirls will bring their best game to six rodeo performances, and around 200,000 visitors will descend on the city to watch the “longest non-motorized (horse-drawn) parade in the world.” The Tucson Rodeo Parade Committee has named the Tucson Conquistadores as the Grand Marshal of this year’s parade, which will feature Mexican folk dancers, stagecoaches, marching musical groups, western-theme floats, Conestoga wagons, and much more.

    Official opening day is February 17, and the rodeo will continue through February 25, with the parade on February 22. Some of the events include RAM Mutton Bustin’, Justin Junior Rodeo, ProRodeo Competitions, the Chicks n’ Chaps Women’s Rodeo Clinic, Timed Events, the REACh program for school children, the Coors Barn Dance, and the rodeo finals. For tickets and details, call (520) 741-2233, (800) 964-5662, or click here.

  • JazzBand

    A World-Class Jazz Fest

    Hot jazz and cool licks are on the lineup for the Tucson Jazz Festival. The only January jazz festival in the country, this year’s fest will be held from January 11 - January 21. Thousands of visitors will descent on downtown Tucson for the 10-day-long festival, which promises to be a true sensation. The highlight of the fest will take place on Martin Luther King, Jr. day, when the free day-long Downtown Jazz Fiesta will take place on two outdoor stages and additional downtown venues. Jazz genres from classic to contemporary will be performed by both legends and emerging artists.

    The spectacular lineup of performers includes Spyro Gyra, Sheila E., The Diane Schuur Quartet featuring Ernie Watts, the Hot Sardines, Hypnotic Brass, Arturo Sandoval and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Warren Wolf and the UA Studio Jazz Ensemble, The Mingus Dynasty, “Tijuana Moods” and the TJI Ellington Band, Wycliffe Gordon and bassist/vocalist Jay Leonhardt. For the complete performer lineup, performance dates/venues, and tickets, click here.

  • Nutcracker with Holiday Lights

    Nutcracker with a Southwestern Twist and Holiday Nights at Tohono Chul

    This December features two exciting seasonal events in Tucson. First, an imaginative take on a timeless classic, “A Southwest Nutcracker” will be performed on Saturday, December 9th and Sunday December 10th at the Tucson Convention Center Music Hall. The full-length ballet substitutes 1880s Tucson for 1890s Russia. Accompanied by the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, this version of the story highlights the magnificent dance of colorful and lively Old West characters, including rattlesnakes, coyotes, and the cavalry. Don’t miss this one! For tickets, performance times, and additional information, call (520) 791-4101 or click here.

    “Holiday Nights” will take place on December 16th and 17th from 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at Tohono Chul. Stroll the beautifully-illuminated gardens, dazzling with a million twinkling lights, as you sip on the beverage of your choice or enjoy a snack. Cookies and hot cocoa are complimentary and there will be live entertainers throughout, including performers from the Tucson Jazz Institute, Cirque Roots, the Domingo DeGrazia Spanish Guitar Band, harpist Rachel Kay Knight, and the Magic Mr. B. For tickets and details, call (520) 742-6455 or click here.

  • Bicycle Racer

    It’s El Tour de Tucson Time

    On November 18, thousands of cyclists and spectators will converge on Tucson for what has been named The Best in Cycling in November” by Bicycling Magazine. Always held the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the 35th Annual El Tour de Tucson is the largest perimeter bicycling event in the country, and includes rides from 40 up to 104 miles, and fun rides from one quarter mile to 12 miles. All ages and fitness levels are invited to compete in categories of novice, intermediate, advanced, and professional.

    All bicycle routes will provide water/snack stations about every 7-12 miles apart and police support at intersections, while the Fun Rides  offer less-grueling biking along the Santa Cruz River. Afterward, everyone celebrates at the El Tour Fiesta – featuring the Grand Cycling Awards Ceremony, music, a Beer Garden, kid’s activities, food vendors, merchandise, and more. El Tour also helps raise funds for many charitable agencies, and last year raised more than $12 million dollars for over 40 non-profit organizations. To register as a participant, or for more information, call (520) 745-2033.

  • Margarita Cocktail

    ‘Ritas and Raffle Raise Restaurant Awareness

    Since 2008, the Margarita has become the most commonly ordered cocktail in America. Whether you’re one of the purists who prefers their drink made top shelf tequila, Cointreau, and freshly-squeezed lime juice, or one of those folks who enjoys the drink in all its exotic permutations, you’ll want to join us starting at 6:00 p.m. on October 6 for the World Margarita Championship.

    Hosted by the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort, this margarita-making competition is sponsored by Tucson Originals and the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance, and will feature a variety of ‘Ritas served up with authentic southwestern cuisine. A panel of judges will decide the winner, and guests can vote for their favorites to determine the “People’s Choice Award.” Tucson Originals chefs and restaurants will be competing for top honors, while food and drink tastings will be provided by Southern Arizona Tucson Originals Restaurants and Purveyors. Raffle Tickets for over $2,000 in local gift cards and gift baskets are available. The event’s purpose is to raise awareness of Tucson’s diverse culinary community, and all proceeds will support the SAACA arts education and arts therapy programs, as well as the Tucson Originals restaurants. For tickets, click here.

  • Double Headed Turquoise Serpent

    Tucson Gem and Jewelry Show: September Style

    September in Tucson means it’s time for the annual fall Tucson Gem and Jewelry Show. From September 7th – 10th, thousands of visitors, shoppers, gem dealers, miners, manufacturers, and designers from all over the globe will converge on the Tucson Expo Center for one of the leading jewelry events in North America. Minerals, rough materials, cut stones, and new discoveries from Russia, Brazil,  USA, Thailand, India, Madagascar, Africa, Colombia, Australia, Canada, and China will be featured during this year’s show.

    The international and domestic pavilions will include an Amber Pavilion, offering carvings, cameos, and designer Baltic amber jewelry, and a Southwest Pavilion featuring handmade Native American jewelry. Exhibits from international fashion shows, famous museums, and rare private collections will be available to the public, along with newly-discovered stones and jewelry trends. Also, more than 200 seminars and jewelry-making classes will be offered. Free parking, complimentary shuttles, and an international food court will be provided, along with shipping services. There will be a fee for guest registrations, but wholesale buyers and store owners will be admitted free of charge. For more information, click here.

  • Hummingbird

    This August, Bird's the Word

    Seasoned birders know that Southeastern Arizona is home to more than 400 species of birds; making this area of the country one of the most popular places for bird-watching. The region is either the permanent home or a migration stopover to species that cannot be found anywhere else in the country, including a particularly rare type of hummingbird. This year, the area will play host to not one, but two birding festivals in honor of our feathered friends and those who study them. The Southwest Wings Birding Festival will take place on August 2nd through August 5th, and the Tucson Audubon Society will present the Southeast Arizona Birding Festival from August 10th through August 13th.  

    August is an especially rewarding month for birding here, as northern birds join subtropical species in Arizona’s mountain canyons. This month offers the best opportunity for watching and studying the above-mentioned hummingbirds and grassland sparrows, along with the possibility of visits from Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental and maybe even some early fall migrating species. For more information, visit

  • american flag with sparklers

    Celebrate July 4th Tucson Style

    This Independence Day, the air will be filled with the smell of hot dogs and hamburgers sizzling on grills, blaring horns and crashing cymbals will accompany bands marching to the sounds of Sousa, and a dazzling array of fireworks will illuminate night skies nationwide as we come together to celebrate our most American holiday. Guests of the Hilton El Conquistador can select from many family-friendly and festive event and activities, two of which are listed below.

    On Saturday, July 1st, the Firecracker 100 will be held at the Tucson Speedway from 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., with a fireworks show following the race. And return to the Old West at Old Tucson, with shows, living history presentations, train rides, and a daily patriotic flag ceremony. The little ones will love the petting zoo and their vintage carousel, and there will be contests for kids of all ages. Open from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Old Tucson adds to the July 4th fun with a parade, a pie-eating contest, and chuck wagon-style food.

  • whiskey

    Treat Dad to a Distillery Experience

    This year, forget the ties, the after-shave, and the campy boxers, and give Dad something he'll really appreciate – a Tucson staycation and a visit to Hamilton Distillers. Whether he’s a whiskey aficionado or not, the knowledgeable staff at the city’s only distillery will make sure Dad’s tour and tasting is fun, interesting, and memorable. Family owned and operated, Hamilton Distillers offers genuine artisan whiskey. Everything is done in house, from the malting of their own barley, to the mashing, fermenting, distilling, barreling and bottling; it’s all done under one roof.

    Tours and tastings are offered most Saturdays at 3:00 p.m., but for a truly unique experience, encourage Dad to sign up for a bottling shift. One of the most popular events at the distillery, a shift offers the experience of working with the team; helping to fill, cork, seal, label, and box up bottles. The distillery provides lunch, and after Dad’s shift, he can take home a complimentary bottle of whiskey that was bottled on his shift. Ready to book your Tucson getaway? For information on reservations and special packages, visit:, or call (520) 544-5000.

  • banjo

    A Tucson Tradition: The 32nd Annual Tucson Folk Festival

    May 2017

    The 32nd Annual Tucson Folk Festival starts off with a bang on Friday, May 5th with a festival kick-off party from 6 to 10 pm. After setting up, there will be a gathering at La Cocina, featuring the Greg Morton Band and some additional performers. A $10 donation is suggested. Afterward, on the weekend of May 6-7, over 10,000 folk music fans will converge on El Presidio Park in downtown Tucson for the one of the oldest folk music festivals in the country. This family-friendly event will feature over 200 local, regional, and national musicians performing on five stages. Food vendors and additional entertainment will add to the festivities, and the festival is free to the public.

    This year’s National Headliner for the children’s show is 25-year veteran performer, composer, educator, singer-songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Billy Jonas. Jonas’ use of voice, guitar, and industrial repercussion has entertained audiences worldwide. The National Headliners are The Black Lillies, whose latest album, “Hard to Please,” hit #1 on the Roots Music Report and #4 on the Americana radio charts. Festival times are Saturday, May 6th from 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sunday, May 7th from 11:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m.

  • fridakahlo-58e5121b547b0.jpg

    Frida Kahlo's "Art, Garden, Life"

    April 2017

    The Tucson Botanical Gardens has been selected as the sole institution to host the New York Botanical Gardens exhibit of “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life” through May 31. Years of work and preparation have gone into this exhibit, which scrutinizes the artist’s work via the plants and natural life in her paintings and personal gardens. This is the first show to focus on Kahlo’s appreciation of and insight into the world of nature, particularly the plant life of her native Mexico. The exhibit’s focal point is a re-creation of Kahlo’s gardens at La Casa Azul, her home in Mexico City. Also featured is a replica of Diego Rivera’s pyramid built in Casa Azul’s courtyard. This Meso-American inspiration is the backdrop for an assemblage of succulents native to the deserts of Mexico and the Southwestern U.S. A poetry walk complements the exhibit with a series of placards strategically placed throughout containing selections of poetry written by Kahlo’s fellow countryman Octavio Paz. Tucson Botanical Gardens will also present tours, lectures and other events throughout the duration of the exhibit. For more details, call (520) 326-9686.

  • CatalinaCourse

    Playing with the Pros: the Tucson Conquistadores Classic

    March 2017

    Golfing enthusiasts can look forward to two fabulous events this month: golfing at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort, and the PGA TOUR Champions Tour - Tucson Conquistadores Classic.

    First, check out the pros at the PGA TOUR Champions Tour-Tucson Conquistadores Classic. Watch your favorite golf legends compete during three exciting days on the Catalina Course at Omni Tucson National Resort. Featuring a no-cut format and a two-day pro-am, this event will take place from March 15-19.

    Then, bring your best game to the largest and most popular golf resort in Tucson, and one of the best in Arizona. We offer three superior courses with 45 holes of championship golf. Challenge yourself on our nine-hole Pusch Ridge Course. For a more traditional game, both the 18-hole Conquistador and Cañada Courses are ideal.

    A putting green and chipping green are available for practice and warm up, and collared shirts and closed-toe shoes are required on all courses and their affiliated facilities. Tee times and driving range reservations should be made at least two weeks ahead. Call (520) 229-5353 or (520) 229-5354.

  • butterfly-589a206b23aab-58c2cc0c463a7.jpg

    Mission Garden Project: A Taste of History

    February 2017

    The historical floodplain that would become the Mission Garden Project was brought to light by an archaeological excavation just west of downtown Tucson. Located on its original site, and representing over 4,000 years of agriculture, the project was re-created as the walled garden that was part of the San Agustin Mission established in 1692.

    Thanks to the non-profit group, Friends of Tucson, this urban garden project features vegetable gardens and Sonoran Desert-adapted fruit orchards. A Native Plant section is one of the highlights of the project, along with the Michael Moore Medicinal Garden, which features heirloom medicinal and edible plants. Also, pollinator gardens were added as a habitat for bats, birds, and helpful insects.

    The garden is a significant educational and tourism destination – a living agricultural museum that is also a primary factor in the city’s economic development. Additionally, the project was chosen as the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the United States, and featured on the front page of the New York Times.

    Mission Garden winter hours are Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. For tours, email:, or call (520) 591-0478. Or, visit, and Facebook at