Family members not attending sessions will find many recreational opportunities in the Tucson area, including museums, parks, shopping, and hiking.
- Tucson weather for April:
- average high 82°F (28° C)
- average low 54° F (12° C)
- average precipitation 0.33 inch (0.8 centimeter)
April is late spring or early summer in the Arizona desert. Mass wildfower displays are possible, but usually happen in February or March and don’t occur every year. The cacti will bloom over a period of months, the smaller ones first in late winter, with the giant saguaros coming out last in May or June. The elevational range in the Tucson area (2400-9100 feet, 743-2791 meters) just about guarantees that something will be blooming, somewhere.
The downtown area of Tucson offers restaurants, handicrafts, art galleries, museums and historic neighborhoods.
The University of Arizona campus is adjacent to downtown and includes museums in a pleasant park-like setting.
Mission San Xavier del Bac, a Spanish mission known as the White Dove of the Desert, is on the south side of the city.
The Pima Air and Space Museum is a short drive from the hotel and offers both self-guided and escorted tours, as well as a bus tour of the "boneyard".
Colossal Cave Mountain Park is 20 miles east and offers a variety of underground tours (www.colossalcave.com).
Sabino Canyon is a lush riparian area at the base of the Catalina Mountains, with a tram shuttle, picnic areas, and hiking trails. In April there are sure to be flowers.
Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains is reached by a scenic 45 mile drive from desert to mountaintops at over 9,000 feet (2800 meters). Viewpoints, hiking trails, and even a ski resort!
Saguaro National Park has two units, one on either side of the city (www.nps.gov/sagu). The Rincon Mountain Unit, east of Tucson, is just a fifteen-minute drive from the hotel. The Tucson Mountain Unit, west of the city, is further away but has a greater variety of scenery and is adjacent to Tucson Mountain Park.
Tucson Mountain Park protects some superlative desert scenery, and includes both Old Tucson Studios theme park and movie set (www.oldtucson.com), and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (www.desertmuseum.org).
Tucson is surrounded by interesting travel opportunities, so you might want to arrive a few days early, or stay on after the conference, to travel around southern Arizona.
A day trip to the north can include Picacho Peak (hiking), Casa Grande National Monument, and the sprawling city of Phoenix.
A two day loop can be made south and east from Tucson to Tumacacori National Historic Park, the Patagonia-Sonoita area, wild west Tombstone, the old copper mining towns of Bisbee and Douglas, Chiricahua National Monument, Fort Bowie National Historic Site, and Colossal Cave .
Superb desert country, wild and empty, extends west and south from Tucson. An overnight trip can be made via the Kitt Peak Observatories and the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation (known as “the desert people”) to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where the finest cactus forests are found, and Ajo, a superb old company town.
The Mexican border is just an hour and a half drive south of Tucson on Interstate 19 (the only federal highway marked in kilometers, rather than miles). Driving into Mexico is not recommended, but many people walk across to visit the tourist area just past the border. It is usually safe in the daytime, or with a group, but check with the conference organizers for current conditions.
If you venture as far as Organ Pipe National Monument you may consider taking a day trip across the border to Mexico's Pinacate National Park. From there you can continue west on Highway 2 (Ruta Dos) to Yuma, a useful shortcut through very wild desert. This trip is not without some danger - ask Don Bain for more information.
If you book an “open jaws” air ticket, arriving at Tucson but departing from Flagstaff, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, or San Diego, a huge selection of scenic destinations becomes available. Driving times can be considerable, so don’t schedule too much or you won’t have enough time to stop and take pictures.
A trip from Tucson to Flagstaff might include the city of Phoenix, red rock Sedona, Jerome, a number of Anasazi ruins including Tuzigoot, Walnut Canyon, and Wupatki National Monuments, Sunset Crater, and the Grand Canyon.
Continuing on from Flagstaff to Las Vegas would add Hoover Dam, Valley of Fire, and Red Rock Canyon.
On the way from Tucson to San Diego you could see the observatories at Kitt Peak, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the Yuma Territorial Prison, the Algodones Dunes, the Salton Sea, and Anza-Borergo Desert State Park.
On the way to Los Angeles you could see Joshua Tree National Park, Palm Springs, and the wind farm at Whitewater.