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20397
Arizona

The Best of Tucson: Cuisine, Cactus & Culture in the High Desert

Dive deep into Tucson’s colorful history as you learn about Native communities, Spanish colonization, pioneer settlements and rich traditions of art, education and cuisine.
Rating (5)
Program No. 20397RJ
Length
7 days
Starts at
1,849
Arizona

The Best of Tucson: Cuisine, Cactus & Culture in the High Desert

Dive deep into Tucson’s colorful history as you learn about Native communities, Spanish colonization, pioneer settlements and rich traditions of art, education and cuisine.
Length
7 days
Starts at
1,849
Program No. 20397 RJ
climate
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At a Glance

In a high-desert valley surrounded by four mountain ranges, Tucson has emerged from a landscape inhabited by Native Americans 12,000 years ago to become a cosmopolitan city of a half-million — alternately shaped by Spanish invasion, Mexican jurisdiction, Old West settlers and the founding of a major university in 1885. Discover this fascinating evolution during a remarkable city adventure that delves into the area’s archaeology, desert landscapes, arts and music, museums, sumptuous local cuisine and more.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Visit several of Tucson's best museums, including the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: a world-class zoo, natural history museum and botanic garden.
  • Enjoy a farm to table experience & cooking demonstration that will show you why Tucson has been designated UNESCO's first city of gastronomy in the US.
  • Explore the Tohono O'Odham Nation Cultural Center & Museum and visit Kitt Peak National Observatory.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Book of Answers
by David Wentworth Lazaroff
True Tales and Amazing Legends of the Old West: From True West Magazine
by Editors of True West
Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire
by Margaret Regan
Indian Arts of the Southwest
by Page, Susanne & Jake
Sharing the Desert: The Tohono O'odham in History
by Winston P. Erickson
Early Tucson (Images of America)
by Anne I. Woosley and Arizona Historical Society
Tucson: The Life and Times of an American City
by C. L. Sonneckson
Native Americans of the Southwest: A Journey of Discovery
by Tito Naranjo
A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert
by Steven J. Phillips and Patricia Wentworth Comus
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7 days
6 nights
15 meals
6 B 4 L 5 D
DAY
1
Program Registration, Orientation, Dinner
Tucson, AZ
D
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tucson - Reid Park

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration, 3:00-5:00 p.m.: After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff, to get your welcome packet containing your up-to-date schedule and other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet at the front desk when you check in. Remember to bring your name-tag (sent previously). Orientation: At 5:00 p.m. the Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the program theme, the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss safety guidelines, emergency procedures, roles and responsibilities, and answer any questions you may have. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Please be aware that program activities, schedules, and personnel may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At 6:30 p.m. in the hotel meeting room, we’ll have a buffet dinner with a variety of foods and a beverage choice of coffee, tea, water.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow participants, relax, and get a good night’s sleep for the full day ahead.

DAY
2
Tucson History, Arizona State Museum, UA's Mirror Laboratory
Tucson, AZ
B,L,D
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tucson - Reid Park

Activity note: The activity level for this program is "Keep the Pace." Participants should be able to walk up to three miles and stand for several hours daily. Today's field trips involve getting on/off motorcoach; traveling 30 miles for 1 hour over the course of the day; standing for up to 2 hours at the museum and walking up to 1/2 mile to lunch. The visit to the Mirror Lab requires navigating some stairs; participants must wear flat, close toed shoes for this visit.

Breakfast: In the hotel dining room, we’ll have a breakfast buffet with choices such as eggs, breakfast meats, breads, cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit and a beverage choice of coffee, tea, water, juice.

Morning: In the hotel meeting room, a local historian and author will lecture on the history of the Tucson area; we’ll learn about indigenous populations, Tucson as a U.S. territory, and Arizona’s path to statehood in 1912. We'll then board our motorcoach and depart on a field trip to the Arizona State Museum on the University of Arizona campus. The Museum is the oldest and largest anthropology museum in the Southwest, holding a comprehensive collection of Native American basketry and the world's largest whole-vessel collection of Southwestern Native American pottery. We’ll go on a docent-led exploration of the museum and learn about the culture and history of the Native Americans of the southwest.

Lunch: At a restaurant near the museum, we’ll have a plated meal from a select menu with a beverage choice of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After lunch we'll travel to the University of Arizona's Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory for a behind the scenes visit. We will learn about new technologies and cutting edge engineering being developed by the University's College of Science that allow for a deeper look into outer space. We will see how they produce the world's largest and most advanced telescope mirrors and how their work contributes to advancement in science and astronomy. Then we will return to the hotel for a little down time before dinner.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: This evening, we'll be treated to a performance by a local Western musician.

DAY
3
Contemporary Tucson, Sabino Canyon, Ted DeGrazia Gallery
Tucson, AZ
B,L,D
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tucson - Reid Park

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; traveling 30 miles for 1 hour over the course of the day; walking up to two miles over the course of the day over varied terrain and standing for up to one hour during gallery visit; getting on/off tram; extent and duration of hike down Sabino Canyon according to personal choice.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: In the hotel meeting room, a distinguished local author and journalist will give us a presentation on contemporary life in Tucson, including insights into the complex immigration issues on our southern border. We'll then depart via motorcoach to the gallery of the late artist Ted DeGrazia, the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun. The museum features six permanent collections of paintings as well as rotating collections along with jewelry, a sculpture garden and the original home DeGrazia built on the property. We will begin with a short docent-led presentation followed by time for self-directed explorations of the studio and sculpture garden. After, we’ll board our motorcoach and head for Sabino Canyon.

Lunch: En route, we’ll stop at a popular local restaurant. We’ll have a plated meal from a select menu and a beverage choice of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After lunch, we’ll travel a short distance to the popular Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, which is located at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains along Sabino Creek at the edge of Tucson. We'll board a shuttle for a scenic ride through Sabino Canyon with audio provided by the shuttle. The shuttle will ascend to 3,300 feet in elevation and crisscross Sabino Creek, with nine different stops along the way. When we reach the top, the shuttle will turn around and you may elect to ride the shuttle back to the Visitor Center or hike down on your own. We will then have time for self-directed explorations of the many trails and the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center. There is a self-led Desert Nature Trail at the Visitor Center that provides an excellent way to learn about the Sonoran Desert and the fascinating variety of plants and animals that make it their home.

Dinner: We’ll ride to a local restaurant. There, we’ll have a plated meal from a select menu plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We will return to the hotel after dinner. The rest of the evening will be at leisure.

DAY
4
Presidio San Agustín, Museum of Art, Free Afternoon/ Evening
Tucson, AZ
B
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tucson - Reid Park

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; walking up to several miles over varied terrain over the course of the day; standing up to 2 hours at museums.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll ride via motorcoach to Tucson’s historical downtown where, with our Group Leader, we’ll set off to explore on a walking field trip. As we walk, our Group Leader will point out highlights and teach us about the history of the area. We will then walk a short distance to the Presidio San Agustín del Tucson, a re-creation of the Spanish presidio (military fort) built in 1775. In preparation for our field trip, we will divide into 2 groups. One group will set out on a docent-led field trip to the presidio’s barracks while the other group will attend a docent-led interactive presentation on the traditional practice of making dye with Cochineal. Then the groups will switch places. We will wrap up our visit to the Presidio with some time for self-directed explorations of the exhibits. Next we will walk to the nearby Tucson Museum of Art. We’ll go on a self-directed field trip of the exhibits. The museum's permanent collection includes art of the American west and Latin America, as well as modern and contemporary art and rare books and manuscripts.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like. Dine at the museum’s Café a la C'Art or walk to one of the many restaurants in the area. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Afternoon: Free time. This period of time has been set aside for your personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Nearby sites of interest include the Tucson Museum of Art’s block of historic properties, located on the northwest corner of the old presidio. The Museum’s historic block represents five houses built between the mid-1850s to 1907 surrounding the museum building. The coach will be available to shuttle you back to the hotel at a designated time mid-afternoon, or you can return on your own at any time.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. There are a number of restaurants near the hotel and the hotel's Cactus Rose Restaurant will be open for those who prefer to dine in. For those who wish to dine in other parts of Tucson, the hotel has a shuttle available for transportation within a 4-mile radius most nights; please confirm availability with the front desk.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Cooking Class, Tohono O'Odham, Kitt Peak Observatory
Tucson, AZ
B,L,D
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tucson - Reid Park

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; traveling for approximately 175 miles for 4 hours over the course of the day; standing and walking for up to 2 hours over the course of the day. PLEASE NOTE: Kitt Peak is at nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, and temperatures are 15-25 degrees cooler than in Tucson, particularly after sunset. Winter and early spring months often bring cold, windy conditions; hats and gloves with heavy coats are highly recommended at Kitt Peak Observatory.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll ride via motorcoach to Mission Garden, often referred to as the birthplace of Tucson agriculture. A docent will lead our exploration through the garden. After viewing the five timeline gardens and learning about their connection to Tucson history, our group will depart via motorcoach to The Carriage House for a cooking demonstration led by Chef Janos. In 2000, Chef Janos was awarded the “Best Chef in the Southwest” designation by The James Beard Foundation; he also played a role in getting Tucson designated as a UNESCO city of gastronomy in 2015. After the cooking demonstration, there will be time to ask questions.

Lunch: At the cooking school, we’ll have a 2-course plated meal featuring the flavors and ingredients that have earned Tucson the designation of UNESCO's first city of gastronomy in the U.S. Water will be included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We'll travel outside the city of Tucson to the Tohono O'odham Nation Reservation. The Tohono O'odham Reservation sits on about 2.7 million acres in southern Arizona's Sonoran Desert, making it the second-largest tribe in the United States by land holdings. On arrival at Himdag Ki, the Tohono O'odham Nation Cultural Center & Museum, we will gather in the museum’s meeting room for a special cultural presentation by a member of the Tohono O'odham Nation. After the presentation, we will have a little time for self-directed exploration of the exhibits at the museum. We will then travel via motorcoach to the Kitt Peak National Observatory, which sits on land leased from the Tohono O'odham. Kitt Peak Observatory is home to one of the largest arrays of optical and radio telescopes in the world.

Dinner: At the Kitt Peak Observatory, we’ll have a boxed lunch with a sandwich, snacks and water as we watch the sun set.

Evening: We will participate in the Nightly Observing Program, which will include a presentation on telescope viewing and an introduction to star-gazing by Observatory staff. This program is designed for beginners. The Nightly Observing Program will take place regardless of weather conditions; in the event of cloudy weather, we will experience alternate presentations and activities at the Observatory. Star charts will be available to help us identify the constellations. We’ll return to the hotel in Tucson in the late evening.

DAY
6
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Mission San Xavier, Farewell
Tucson, AZ
B,L,D
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tucson - Reid Park

Activity note: Getting on/off coach; traveling 50 miles for 1 1/2 hours over the course of the day; walking up to three miles over the course of the day over varied terrain.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll ride via motorcoach to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum where a docent will give us an overview of the exhibits. Along with exhibits on natural history, it also has a zoo and a wonderful botanical garden that houses more than 300 local animal species and 1,200 species of native plants. We will then have time for independent explorations of the museum.

Lunch: At the Ironwood Terraces Restaurant in the museum, we’ll have our pre-ordered sandwich or salad with a beverage choice of coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: We'll have time for more explorations at the Museum before departing via motorcoach to the outskirts of Tucson for a docent-led exploration of Mission San Xavier del Bac. Inside the Mission, we will view original statues and mural paintings as the Group Leader provides expert commentary on the architecture and history of the area and church. Although founded in 1692 by Father Eusebio Kino, the construction of the church did not start until 1783. The church was completed in 1797 and was later declared a National Historic Landmark. Not only is this Church the oldest intact European structure in Arizona, but its Baroque architectural style and masonry vaulted roof is quite unique compared to other Spanish Colonial buildings in the United States.

Dinner: Hotel plated meal.

Evening: We’ll gather with our Group Leader for a program wrap-up session. We’ll share some of our favorite experiences from the program with our new Road Scholar friends. The remainder of the evening is set aside for you to do what you like. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
7
Program Concludes
Tucson, AZ
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 12:00 Noon.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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