Need a fall getaway? Don’t have time to head to the east coast to see the fall colors? Why not consider Tuscon, Arizona for a little weekend fun instead? From adventure to art to food and attractions the whole family can enjoy, here are some of our favorite options for things to see and do in Tucson this fall:
Beautiful Autumn Color. Visitors can see displays of autumn leaves in Southern Arizona between mid-September and late-October, if they know where to look. One of the best places to look is Madera Canyon, in the Santa Rita Mountains, 40 miles south of Tucson; this world-famous sky island also is rated the third-best birding destination in the United States. The Sky Island Parkway National Scenic Byway, from the Tucson basin to the 9,157-foot top of Mount Lemmon, passes through several terrains offering spectacular autumn color.
At the top, the Mount Lemmon Ski Valley chair lift offers a birds-eye view year-round; while, just down the road, the Village of Summerhaven is a haven for bright autumn color and hiking. In Patagonia, just south of Tucson, the cottonwoods along the San Pedro River turn orange and yellow once autumn arrives.
Tucson’s Living History. The new “Symbols of our Mexican Past” exhibit at the Tucson Presidio shows artifacts from Southern Arizona’s Mexican-American history. This little-known but important past comes to life every second Saturday, October- April (excluding December), as Living History Day volunteers demonstrate baking and cooking in an adobe oven, spinning and weaving, woodworking and leather making, storytelling, and military drills with cannon fire as practiced by 18th century Spanish colonial soldiers.
The Tucson Presidio–the re-created adobe-walled fort that stood in what is now downtown Tucson–is also a starting point for the free Presidio Trail self-guided walking tour. (520-837-8119, tucsonpresidiotrust.org)
Earth Harmony Festival. The father of the local and sustainable food movement will be the keynote speaker at the Earth Harmony Festival, October 6-7, at Avalon Organic Garden and EcoVillage, in Tumacacori, 50 miles south of Tucson. Gary Paul Nabhan-writer, lecturer, and renowned conservation scientist-co-founded Tucson-based Native Seeds/SEARCH, and was among the first to call attention to the decline of bees and other pollinators.
In addition to Nabhan’s presentation, there will be tours of EcoVillage solar panels, rainwater harvesters, organic gardens, and green buildings as well as live music by Global Change Music, displays by Master Gardeners, booths and vendors, and a children’s area. View a video for this event on http://kck.st/OacQ7A. (520-398-2542, earthharmonyfestival.org)
All Souls Weekend. A Tucson event inspired by Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos, the All Souls Procession, will take place in downtown Tucson for the 23rd year on November 4. On this evening, as many as 35,000 people will walk together through downtown Tucson until they reach a huge urn, filled with notes and prayers written by participants, which are burned as part of a grand finale.
Participants dress in garments belonging to deceased loved ones and carry photos of them; many wear white skeleton makeup or giant masks, some carry lanterns and marigolds; other beat drums and sing or chant. The grand finale includes music and a pyrotechnics show by Tucson’s circus and fire theater, Flam Chen. This year’s Dance of the Dead after-party at the Rialto Theatre will feature music by Ozomatli. Photos from past processions can be seen on allsoulsprocession.org.
Global Movie Madness. Forty world-class films celebrating storytelling from around the world will be screened at the Loft Film Fest, November 8-15, at The Loft Cinema. Fest-goers will get a chance to see the Tucson premiers of A Royal Affair, winner of the best actor and best script prize at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival, SXSW Audience Award-winner Fat Kid Rules the World, Leos Carax’s Cannes’ sensational Holy Motors, Jane Fonda speaking French in the comedy All Together, and Oscar-nominated documentarian Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s appearance with his new doc, Fame High.
The Loft Cinema is Tucson’s non-profit community supported art film house and a member of the Sundance Institute’s Art House Project. Passes are on sale, now. (520-795-7777, loftfilmfest.com)
A Nutty Run and Country Fair. A 5K run through the pecan orchard as the leaves are changing color and an old-fashioned country fair are planned for the fourth annual Sahuarita Pecan Festival, November 10, on the grounds of the Green Valley Pecan Company orchard-one of the world’s largest growers of pecans and the biggest exporter of pecans to Europe-located 20 miles south of Tucson.
The fair will showcase local foods, products, and crafts from the Santa Cruz River Valley. Entertainment will include live music, dancing, children’s games, and demonstrations of pecan harvesting as well as shopping at the world-famous Pecan Store. Videos about the festival are posted online. (520-820-3299, sahuaritapecanfestival.com)
Open Art Studios. More than 200 Tucson and Pima County artists will open their doors to the public during the Fall Open Studio Tour, November 10-11. On this free, self-guided tour, aficionados can explore the studios of such artists as Brenda Semanick, Daniel Martin Diaz, and Glory Tacheenie-Campoy; see work in every kind of media and genre; and talk to the artists about their ideas and techniques.
An illustrated map/guide is available on the Tucson Pima Arts Council website; a print version will be available at select tour locations. A Preview Exhibit of the art to be displayed during the tour takes place at the Tucson Jewish Community Center Fine Art Gallery, October 24-November 8. (520-624-0595 x14, tucsonpimaartscouncil.org)
El Tour de Tucson. Tucson, called “the best road-biking city in the country” by Outside magazine, will host more than 9,000 cyclists of all ages and abilities for the 30th annual El Tour de Tucson, Saturday, Nov. 17. This homegrown perimeter cycling event has become the largest of its kind in the United States, bringing in more than 18,000 visitors. The main routes show off Tucson’s scenic mountain ranges and stands of saguaro cacti – icon of the Southwest’s Sonoran Desert.
The 111-mile start line (and finish line for all events) will be located at Armory Park, downtown, at the site of the El Tour Fiesta, a gathering with live music, food vendors, information and merchandise booths, and El Tour memorabilia. Online registration closes November 12. All registration closes November 15. (520-745-2033, perimeterbicycling.com)
Arizona Theatre Company 2012-2013 Season. The Arizona Theatre Company’s 46th season includes six plays, staged in Tucson at Temple of Music and Art, September 15 through April 27. Productions include some of the hottest recent plays in their Southwest regional premieres, beginning with the Arizona premier of the 2010 Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Next to Normal and the new musical Jane Austen’s Emma.
The season also includes the story of a legendary NFL coach in Lombardi, and the off-Broadway hit Freud’s Last Session, the Neil Simon comedy classic The Sunshine Boys, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Clybourne Park. For more information, call the Tucson box office at 520-622-2823. (arizonatheatre.org)
Here Comes the Sun. Take a daytime tour of the Earth’s nearest star, the sun, with Arizona Star Tours‘ new portable solar observatory. Using two state-of-the-art solar telescopes, this guided tour can be set up almost anywhere the sun is visible. Advanced technology allows for safe viewing of solar prominences, sunspots, granulation, and other fascinating features of the dynamic sun.
Tour guests can capture images through the solar telescope using astrophotography adapters for iPhone. A video of the solar tour can be viewed online. For information or to book a tour, call 520-668-1871 or visit arizonastartours.com.
A Southwestern Adventure. Explore Tucson on a guided hike through the Sabino Canyon riparian wilderness area; tour the former bandit hideout and National Register of Historic Places site Colossal Cave Mountain Park; and take an Old West trail ride over a former stagecoach road; before dining at a cowboy-style cookout as part of the southwestern adventure package offered by Hike in Tucson. This package includes an Enterprise Rent-a-car and lodging through Comfort Suites at Sabino Canyon. For details, call 520-477-6867 or visit hikeintucson.com.
Lindsay Taub is an LA-based writer/editor who covers travel, lifestyle, culture, music/arts, food, wellness, and more. She calls Los Angeles home when she's there, but prefers to leave the city for the mountains and open spaces as often as possible. She loves cooking, gardening, live music, hiking with her three rescue dogs, and rustic luxury. Follow her on instagram/twitter @lindsaytaub and follow the Pacific Punch @ThePacificPunch or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more at www.lindsaytaub.com and www.voyagevixens.com .***