Affordable accommodations and activities in Southern Arizona.

By Travel & Leisure
August 31, 2012
Tucson on a Budget
Credit: Courtesy of Hotel Congress

Surrounded by mountains, Tucson is the second largest city in Arizona, behind Phoenix. It manages to maintain much of its rustic charm although development—in the form of several museums, shops, and restaurants—has ramped up over the years. The good news: Some of the city’s best-known attractions are also surprisingly affordable.

Hotel Congress

This refurbished 1919 hotel built for passengers of the Southern Pacific Line has basic rooms but an unbeatable downtown location. It even played a role in the 1934 capture of John Dillinger.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The property features a zoo, natural history museum, and botanical garden all in one venue.

Center for Creative Photography

The University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography houses a blue-chip collection of more than 2,225 photographers, including Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, and W. Eugene Smith; it’s also got a great museum store.

Taqueria Pico de Gallo

The kitchen churns out authentic Mexican dishes like carne asada tacos, tangy ceviche, and creamy fresh horchata (an addictively sweet rice drink).

Cup Café

Whether it’s sausage and biscuits or “eggs & gunpowder,” breakfast at the Hotel Congress is funky and fun.

Saguaro National Park

Hike the sprawling preserve of mature saguaro stands (found only in the Sonoran Desert). Go to the west side to see petroglyphs left by the Hohokam Indians. Take in the landscape of green paloverde trees, purple cacti, and fuzzy teddy-bear cholla, not to mention cartoonish road-runners and piglike javelinas.