Journey into Tucson: Travel planner

Where Anglo, Mexican, and native cultures intertwine, you'll find the soul of a true Southwest city

Journey into Tucson

Tucson is not the most compact of cities, although a lot of the urban attractions are no more than a 15- to 20-minute drive from one another.

In September, searing summer begins to give way to moderate fall. Winter weather can be ideal, with clear skies and temperatures in the 60s and low 70s.

For city information, call the Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 638-8350 or stop by 130 S. Scott Ave. A good guidebook to the area is Discovering Tucson: A Guide to the Old Pueblo ... and Beyond, by Carolyn Grossman and Suzanne Myal (Fiesta Publishing, Tucson, 1996; $14.95).

ATTRACTIONS
(Area code is 520 unless noted.)

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. More zoo than museum, this outstanding facility west of town offers a thorough look at Sonoran Desert ecology. $8.95-$9.95, $1.75 ages 6?12. 2021 N. Kinney Rd.; 883-2702.

Mission San Xavier del Bac. Perhaps the finest Spanish colonial structure in the United States, the mission remains a living, breathing place of worship. It's about 10 miles south of town. 8?5:30 daily. 1950 W. San Xavier Rd.; 294-2624. Click here for more from the Sunset archive.

Old Tucson Studios. Arizona has a long film history (McLintock! and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral were filmed here), and this working studio/theme park not far from the Desert Museum in the Tucson Mountains has reopened after a 1995 fire. $14.95, $9.45 ages 4?11; 201 S. Kinney; 883-0100.

Pima Air & Space Museum. More than 200 historic aircraft are on display. Also worth going past is the huge aircraft graveyard at adjacent Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, visible for more than a mile along Kolb Road. $9.75, $8.75 ages 62 and over, $6 ages 10?17. 6000 E. Valencia Rd.; 574-0462.

LODGING
(Area code is 520 unless noted. Rates may increase in mid-September.)

Arizona Inn. A true Tucson classic. Gracious and lovely, with an excellent restaurant. From $135. 2200 E. Elm St.; (800) 933-1093.

La Posada del Valle. This intimate B & B was designed by noted Tucson architect Josias T. Joesler. From $95. 1640 N. Campbell Ave.; 795-3840.

Lodge on the desert. Vintage inn dates back to 1936. From $79. 306 N. Alvernon Way; 325-3366 or (800) 456-5634.

Loews Ventana Resort. Self-contained modern resort on the edge of canyon wilderness is a great choice, especially if you're more interested in recreation than sightseeing. From $89. 7000 N. Resort Dr.; (800) 234-5117.

Tanque Verde Guest Ranch. Old West Tucson with a New West emphasis on the desert environment. From $260 (plus gratuity and tax), including meals and ranch activities. 14301 E. Speedway Blvd.; (800) 234-3833.

Westward Look Resort. Former dude ranch has retained vintage elements. From $89. 245 E. Ina Rd.; 297-1151 or (800) 722-2500.

DINING
(Area code is 520 unless noted.)

Cafe Poca Cosa. Innovative, complex Sonoran cuisine that will challenge your assumptions about Mexican cooking. Two downtown locations: 88 E. Broadway and 20 S. Scott Ave.; 622-6400.

Cushing Street Bar & Restaurant. Modern Southwestern in an 1860s Barrio Viejo adobe notable for its courtyard and beautiful bar. 343 S. Meyer Ave.; 622-7984.

El Minuto. Traditional Mexican in Barrio Histórico. 354 S. Main Ave.; 882-4145.

Grill. Classic Edward Hopper?style joint with a bohemian sensibility. 100 E. Congress St.; 623-7621.

Janos. Perhaps Tucson's most acclaimed restaurant. Janos Wilder brings French and Southwest together at this distinctive hybrid. 3770 E. Sunrise Dr.; 615-6100.

Kingfisher Bar & Grill. Martini chic, with fish and oyster specialties. Big old wraparound booths will have you humming a Rat Pack tune. 2654 E. Grant Rd.; 323-7739.