Spring, when the Sonoran desert blooms, is a great time to visit Tucson and Phoenix. In the morning play golf on world-class courses or explore the desert. In the afternoon when temperatures rise, go indoors to visit museums, browse art galleries, and get pampered at the region’s noted spas. Spring also comes with another bonus: resort rates lower than those for winter’s high season. In Tucson and the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, 15-foot tall saguaro cacti with their upended arms seem to wave you into the rich landscape of boulders, cacti, sagebrush, and feathery palo verde trees. At 2,400 feet above sea level, Tucson’s average temperature is 10 degrees cooler than temperatures in Phoenix.
Here are some of Tucson’s top attractions, well-known and less-visited, as well as great choices for dining and lodging.
Discover the Desert: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Part zoo, part botanical garden, and part aquarium, the mostly outdoor facility sprawls on 97 acres, of which 47 acres are interpreted. Walk through the grasslands to see prairie dogs, burrowing owls, and rattlesnakes. In Cat Canyon look for ocelots, bobcats, grey fox, and porcupines. Find out how the desert blooms by watching butterflies land on milkweed and see hummingbirds pollinate plants. The highlight: the Raptor Free Flight, offered daily October through April. A raven, great horned owl, prairie falcon, and hawk swoop low over your head before landing on perches to grab food. You can almost feel the birds’ feathers in your hair.
Launch a Nuclear Warhead: Titan Missile Museum
Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa
Nestled at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa offers a well-equipped desert oasis. Play through 27 holes of golf, swim in five pools and savor a soothing massage at the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa. Azul’s farm-to-fork Southwestern-inspired cuisine makes the restaurant a popular Tucson choice. The Westin Kids Club operates daily for ages 6 months through 12 years. The property, prettily landscaped with saguaro cacti, mesquite trees, and desert wild flowers, conveys a sense of place.