Over 525,000 people live in the great city of Tucson. Truly a desert locale, only 0.4 of its 195.1 square miles is water. Cactus forests, plains, rolling hills and five surrounding mountain ranges mark much of its terrain. Originally inhabited by Paleo-Indians, the city was first settled by the Spanish in 1775, later becoming part of Mexico when the nation gained independence. Following the Gadsen Purchase in 1853, the city became part of the United States, though it did not join the Arizona Territory until 10 years later.
Tucson's varied past settlements and current location about 60 miles north of the Mexican border has created a one-of-a-kind cultural blend in the city. Explore the city's past at the Presidio San Agustín del Tucson, a fortress originally built in 1775. Now restored, the 11-acre presidio features a tour-ready munitions room, 20-foot-tall adobe tower, commissary and living spaces. Or, stop by the Arizona State Museum to experience the cultures of Arizona, the Southwest and Northern Mexico in exhibits such as the largest collection of Southwest Indian pottery.
Other intriguing Tucson museums include the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block, which specializes in American, American West and modern and contemporary art. Made up of five historic houses dating from the mid-1850s to 1907 and one new modern building, the complex's exterior is just as breathtaking as the art that awaits inside. At the International Wildlife Museum, visitors can see taxidermy displays of more than 400 species of birds, insects and mammals in a naturalistic setting.
Guests can also experience Tucson's flora and fauna in the flesh by taking part in one of the city's many recreational adventures. With a mild climate and rustic terrain, the city is an outdoor lover's paradise. Take a hike on the Pima Canyon Trail, bike through the Saguaro National Park or rock climb on one of Mount Lemmon's 1,200 rocky routes. Guests can also explore Tucson's majestic setting underground at one of many area caverns and caves. See the stalactites, stalagmites and flowstone of the popular Colossal Cave.
After an exciting day in the sun, guests will have no trouble finding a place to sit back and relax in Tucson. Sip your favorite red or white at Elle, Tucson's first and only wine country restaurant where over 200 wine selections complement inventive fare. For beer lovers, the two-story Gentle Ben's Brewing Company has been crafting award-winning suds in the city since 1970. No matter where guests choose to enjoy a meal, they'll end their trip knowing that Tucson offered up a taste of real, natural Arizona.