Explore Tucson

Jewel in the Desert: Visit Tucson-area Tubac

Once a historic frontier village, Tubac is a thriving art community and popular day-trip destination

One of the best-kept secrets in the Sonoran desert is the historic frontier village of Tubac, a thriving arts community just 45 minutes south of Tucson. It’s a perfect day trip for the entire family. Tubac was established in 1752 as a Spanish Presidio (fort) and over the decades evolved into a jewel of a town found in the middle of the desert, featuring fine art galleries, quirky gifts, specialty mesquite furniture with turquoise inlay designs, clothing, Southwestern jewelry stores and restaurants.

Artists have been flocking to Tubac since the 1930s. Much like Impressionist artists from the 1860s, they too were attracted to the unique quality of the bright sun, clear skies and arid atmosphere that filters the dust particles, creating a screen of warm color. The inherent beauty of the desert and its intense monsoon season inspired artists to paint dramatic and inspirational landscapes.

"The Long Trail", 30" x 40", oil, by William Martin (Courtesy Big Horn Galleries)

Art enthusiasts will enjoy spending time in the Tubac Center of the Arts before exploring the various fine art galleries containing world-class art.

For shopaholic types, there are more than 100 little boutiques scattered throughout the area. Meander through the streets, each shop quirkier and more unusual than the next. Storefronts are decked out in dazzling colors overflowing with kitsch art and handmade artisan metal flowers. Sculptures and sparkling windcatchers will entice you to shop for those one-of-a-kind items you will never find anywhere else. If jewelry is your passion, the turquoise collections are among the best in the country.

Tumacácori Mission National Historic Park (Courtesy National Park Service)

Love history? Begin with a tour of Tumacácori Mission National Historical Park and then make your way over to Tubac Presidio State Historic Park.

Love the outdoors, wildlife and birding? Hiking the Juan Batista de Anza Recreational Trail provides stunning desert views as you traverse the dirt path for an easy to moderate stroll. For the history enthusiast, learn the story of Juan Bautista de Anza in the sites that have been preserved.

After nourishing your soul with art and the beauty of the desert, it’s time to replenish your energy with delicious fare from any of Tubac’s fine restaurants. Among the many restaurants is Elvira’s, one of the top 50 restaurants in Arizona. The dimly lit interior is bedazzled by an explosion of vibrant color cascading down from the ceiling, creating a decadent ambience and experience that is as unforgettable as the Mexican cuisine.

Those seeking much needed leisure time will enjoy one of Tubac’s gems, the AAA Four-Diamond-rated Tubac Golf Resort and Spa, situated in an exclusive area a few miles from the center of town. The Stables Ranch Grille & Patio features intimate seating at tables or on saddles at the bar for the wanna-be cowboy. The enormous arched windows in the dining room provide views of the rolling green golf course and lake where the famous scene from "Tin Cup" was filmed.

With all of these exciting things to do and more, Tubac is a gem waiting to be explored, and whether you’re an art-lover, historian, shopaholic, nature-lover, foodie or all of the above, this is a day trip you simply can’t pass up.