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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

48 Hours of Fun on a Budget in Tucson

In this blog series I show you how easy it is to budget travel anywhere and I also give you a quick overview of a new city each time in a brief 48-hour itinerary.

Before I moved to Portland, I lived my whole school age years in Tucson, Arizona. It’s been a while since I’ve been back and I’m contemplating a trip in the next few years to visit friends and “family”. I’m totally happy I moved, but there are people and things I miss, plus Eric has never been, so he won’t be all “again?” when I want to eat somewhere I’ve been a million times. Tucson is actually an amazing budget travel destination where you will find unique things to do, plus the weather is lovely almost year-round, especially if you love the desert heat. Here’s what I would do on a two-day trip.

Photos of Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson
This photo of Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Day 1
We’ll assume you got in last night, which means you have time to get up bright and early and grab breakfast at one of my favorite restaurants. Brawley’s is one of those places where folks line up outside to get a table and will wait around until one is available, because the food is plentiful and delicious, service is amazing and your bill will be much less than expected. Two can eat for less than $20, including a tip, and you may even meet some awesome locals. Brawley's has closed and my life may never be the same. I have it on good authority that a good substitute is Bobo's Restaurant. It's a little hidden gem that offers great food and great service at an equally great price. You can spend a comparable amount her as you would at Brawley's. $20 for 2.

Photos of Old Tucson Studios, Tucson
This photo of Old Tucson Studios is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Get in the car and drive 15 minutes outside the city to Old Tucson. This is where all the old westerns were filmed and even some new ones. Wander through the Wild West and witness stunt shows, gunfights and musical revues, and take a tour of the city while learning about movies that were shot there and also the old ways of the Native Americans. It’s a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Admission is only $16.95.

Grab lunch at Big Jake’s Bar-B-Q before heading back out to see more of the park. While you’re there, try your hand with a rifle at the shooting gallery and ride the train through the desert landscape, where you might get a bit of a surprise. And don’t forget to get your photo done as a gunslinger or saloon girl. It’s a fun souvenir.

Photos of Magpies Gourmet Pizza, Tucson
This photo of Magpies Gourmet Pizza is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Head back to town and make your way to Fourth Avenue downtown, where you can find some very cool boutique shops and the best pizza you may have had in a long time. Magpies has been voted best pizza in Tucson for the past two decades. You can’t argue with those kinds of stats! Kick back with a huge pie loaded with delicious toppings and you will love that you ended your night so simply.

Day 2
It’s breakfast time again! Head back to downtown and make a bee line to the B Line Restaurant. It’s a fantastic Mexican restaurant that is casual – you order and pay at the counter and grab a table where you will be served – and has amazing reviews, most for their yumtastic desserts, but also for their super-affordable entrees that are made with locally-sourced, and some fair-trade, ingredients. Everything on the menu is $10 or less.

Photos of Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson
This photo of Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Is it time for animals? I think it is! I love a good zoo, which Tucson has, but they also have one of my favorite places to go: The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Slather on your sunscreen and strap on your walking shoes, because you’re going to be checking out all the wild and wacky, furry and scaly animals you’ll find in the Southwest. Say hello to gila monsters, javelinas, owls and more animals that thrive in the desert atmosphere. Very cool. Admission rates are just $14.50, unless you go during the hottest part of the year, when it is only $12.

After all that walking, you’re probably famished. You have to stop into one of the many Eegee’s locations around the city. If you like a Slurpee, you’re going to love Eegee’s! I have withdrawals still. They were a staple at every party we ever had. Choose from strawberry, piña colada, lemon or the flavor of the month! After making that tough decision, order a sub sandwich or salad and dig in. My favorite is the turkey sub, because it goes with any Eegee flavor.

Photos of Golf N' Stuff Family Fun Center, Tucson
This photo of Golf N' Stuff Family Fun Center is courtesy of TripAdvisor

It’s time for some fun! Head over to one of the funnest mini golf courses. Golf n’ Stuff is housed in a giant castle and you can chose from two different 18-hole themed courses, cool off inside playing arcade games or laser tag, test your luck at the batting cages or attack all your travel companions in a bumper boat. Get an all-park pass for just $22. I spent many, many hours over the summers here.

Photos of Little Anthony's Diner, Tucson
This photo of Little Anthony's Diner is courtesy of TripAdvisor

End your day with a huge meal of all your favorite diner classics at Little Anthony’s Diner. A hoppin’ 50’s diner where you can get a huge cheeseburger, chili cheese fries, meatloaf sandwiches and ever flavor malted you’ve ever dreamed of! As much as I love a good dessert, after a meal here, it’s almost crazy to think about ordering one, but you can do it! Tell your waitress you want the World’s Smallest Sundae. At less than a dollar and only a few bites, it’s the perfect ending to your short trip!

Obviously, there’s a ton of other stuff to do in Tucson, including a day trip to Tombstone, hiking and ghost tours. You may need a longer trip or plan to come back to see and do everything you want…and eat all the yummy food there. If you do everything I've listed, including meals, you'll have spent less than $300 for two people. Have you been to Tucson? What was your favorite thing to do? 

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