Last summer my brother, who lives outside of Chicago, inquired if we would be in town for Christmas. He was thinking of bringing his family for a visit. His sons are 11 and 9. He let me know it wouldn’t be a long stay, because the boys don’t like to be away from home and are easily bored. He thought four days would be enough. About a month before their arrival, they sat together as a family and came up with a list of things they would like to see and do. Among them was to go up on a mountain, visit the Desert Museum and go to Tombstone. The Grand Canyon was also on their list, but due to distance to the canyon and the short duration of their visit, it didn’t make the final cut. This turned out to be a good thing, since the Northern part of Arizona was hit with some massive snowstorms during their stay.
My task was to come up with a plan to keep two young boys, their parents and my husband happy. Their flight was arriving close to midnight on Christmas Eve. The next morning the fun began.
Here they are, my brother Joe, his wife Chompoo, Baimai on the right and Medkao in the center. Coming from cold country, they thought it was a nice day. Despite the sun, it was bone chilling cold for us desert rats.
The Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum is open 365 days a year. This was a great option for Christmas Day. We were there almost five hours. For kids who are easily bored, it didn’t happen here. Due to the cooler weather, most of the animals were out.
We spent quite a bit of time watching to see how this guy was planning on rejoining his friends. He thought about it at least 15 minutes and then took a huge leap to the bottom. Then he proceeded to walk off with the attitude of how could you have ever doubted me. Yup, Big Horn Sheep think that way.
After the Desert Museum, we went to San Xavier Mission. Unfortunately we got there just as they were closing their doors. It was beautiful to see this historic church as the sun was getting ready to settle in for the evening. The day had been cold and it was getting colder. The kids wanted to eat at a buffet, the adults wanted Chinese food, two guesses which team won! We headed to the buffet at Desert Diamond and there was happiness all around. The kids rated the day a ten! One down three to go, could I equal my first day success.
Day two we started out at Boothill in Tombstone. The boys were wondering why we would want to go to see a cemetery. They soon found out and lots of pictures were taken. While we were in the gift shop, the boys and Dad had to purchase some fudge, we were told the Shoot Out at the OK Corral would be at 3:30. It was barely noon. We had a slight change of plans and headed to Bisbee.
The first stop was the Lavender Pit. When we first arrived in Tucson, May of 1971, this was an operating open pit mine. We would bring visitors to Bisbee and you could watch the giant trucks, looking like Match Box toys, as they wound their way to the bottom of the pit and back up again. Today Mother Nature is doing her thing.
We had lunch at our favorite Bisbee eating destination, Santiago’s. Oh my I look like the Michelin Man! So many layers. It was in the 40’s that day. I was wondering if I would ever be warm again. The food was hot, the salsa delicious and everyone left happy and full. It was then a race back to Tombstone. We had a 3:30 deadline. We arrived back in town just minutes before the show. We stopped the car, told them to run and then we went in search of a place to park. They got there in time to get their tickets and a seat. Afterwards they said we couldn’t have timed it better. The wind was blowing, the bleachers were freezing and they didn’t have to wait for the show to begin. The ticket price of the shoot out includes a movie afterwards, Tombstone Historama and a copy of the Tombstone Epitaph newspaper. We joined them for the movie and I would highly recommend it. It was getting late and time to head back to Tucson.
We had to stop at Boothill to get this picture of an old car in the golden glow of sunset.
As we drove towards Benson we got to enjoy this beautiful sunset along the way. I thought it was falling rain, but it could have been snow. The meteorologist call it Virga, the Tohono O’odham dancing rain. Which name do you prefer?
As day two came to an end, we had another winner. When you have worn the kids out, you can claim success. The kids agreed. Two more days to go! How will we do?
The boys had never been on a mountain. Where is the place to go in Tucson? Mt. Lemmon of course. We try to avoid this place on the weekends, this time there was no choice. Here they are at Windy Point on our way to the top. Baimai has a fascination with mustaches and each day he carefully chose what to wear. I think he looks rather dashing! The mountain was filled with people due to it being Sunday, a holiday weekend and the snow. Us desert people enjoy a change of seasons every once in a while. We stopped in Summerhaven and then on to Ski Valley. We never made it that far. Traffic was backed up, we knew parking was limited and the crew was getting hungry. We did a u-turn and headed back to the valley and lunch at El Charro Cafe. The boys, Dad and Jim were chomping at the bit to get home and watch football. Our next stop was Sabino Canyon, we could save that one for the next day.
Day Three was at an end. Everyone was still happy campers and we were hearing no complaints. There was a special request. The kids wanted to go to the zoo. This was a surprise to me. We have a really cool zoo, but it wasn’t on my list or their original request.
Hey, at Tortuga Pueblo we are flexible. The Zoo was our first destination on Day Four. The boys enjoyed feeding the giraffes. We spent hours seeing every inch of the zoo. Then it was time to eat, again! Everyone wanted Mexican food, at least the adults. So we headed downtown. We had almost an hour wait to get a table so I improvised and we headed down the street.
How lucky could I be!! The Presidio is normally closed on Mondays and it was opened today for two special tour groups. They let us come in and the boys and adults were fascinated with the stories shared by the docent. If you live in Tucson or are a visitor I would highly recommend a visit.
Here are samples of the adobe bricks used for the recreation of the original Presidio built by the Spanish. These bricks were made by the many volunteers who dedicate their time to this unique Tucson destination. Just as we were finishing up I received a text message to let me know our table was ready.
It was another stop at a different El Charro location. The original located in the owner’s historic family home. We were treated to a table inside the newly completed family history museum. It was another delicious meal. It was also a very late lunch. We left there and were on our way across town to our next destination.
I was lucky to get six tickets to the Gaslight Theatre’s Christmas show. When I had told my brother we were going to a theater, you could tell by the hesitation in his response this was not a good idea. I told him trust me you are going to love it. We got there early and the kids had a blast going to the different cutouts to have their pictures taken. Needless to say everyone thoroughly enjoyed the show. Day Four and another five star day in the books.
The next day was their flight home shortly after noon. By this time the country was a mess due to storms, flights were being canceled and delayed. Monday night American Airlines showed their flight canceled. By the next morning it was on back to flying and on time. So we headed to the airport. First we did a quick drive through Saguaro National Park East. We live across the street, so we had time. We arrived at the airport to discover the flight had been delayed, with no guarantees. It was scheduled to leave at 4:30pm, maybe. So Joe suggested we get something to eat and we headed downtown again. This is when we got our first black mark of the trip. Medkao emphatically declared no more Mexican food!
I thought it would be fun to eat at the Cup Cafe in Hotel Congress. There was over an hour wait. So guess what we went did? We went across the street to the Historic Train Depot and ate dessert first at Maynard’s. Yes, we know how to roll with adversity. We had the best cookies! Need to go back there and try this one again. As we finished dessert, we were headed to the train museum when I got the text our table was ready. Back to the Cup Cafe to end this Tucson mini vacation with a delicious lunch. Everyone enjoyed their lunch, the service was excellent, but there was no time to eat dessert again! It was on the road to the airport, just in case the flight was on time. When we arrived we were informed their flight was in the air, would arrive on time and it even took off on time too.
The family arrived back home at O”Hare. We were told it was a great trip. The kids, the parents and the aunt and uncle had a good time too. To have pleased six different people with food and destinations over four and a half days was an accomplishment. Either the kids are becoming more mature or I did an amazing job, ha ha ha!
What are your favorite Tucson destinations for visitors? Please share them in the comments below.