The Best Insider Knowledge on Tucson, AZ

National Car Rental asked me to host a contest this week to collect insider tips on places to eat and have fun during a visit to Tucson. It’s part of their attempt to shine a spotlight on underrated cities by sharing this advice in its local Foursquare app when people pick up their rentals. Read more about the contest details.


I was asked to select five of the best suggestions from the comments and Twitter. It was by no means easy as most of the suggestions were very good. But I can only pick five. Those individuals will win a $10 Starbucks gift card from me and also a National Prize Pack that includes the following:

  • $50 American Express gift card
  • National Extreme Sport Duffel
  • National Ultimate Privacy Luggage Tag
  • National 14 oz Striped Coffee Tumbler

So, are you ready? Here are the winners!

MarcMon — Go to Bison Witches! It has some great healthy food (a nice change of pace for the business traveler) and also a nice bar/back patio to sit back and relax.

Bill Twombly — I suggest the Titan Missile Museum about 20 miles south of Tucson. Where else can you enter an underground missile silow with a decommissioned Titaon missile with a 9 megaton warhead, and sit in the command launch capsule with your hand on the launch key!

Jason — You have to go to the original El Charro cafe downtown. Hands down some of the best Mexican food you will ever have. It’s located in a really cool, old home in downtown Tucson. Lots of charm and they even claim to have invented the Chimichanga.

@davisesq212 — Tucson has 2 parks continaing spectacular underground caves, Kartchner Caverns & Colossal Cave Mountain Parks.

Kim — Probably one of the most interesting things is the Biosphere 2 at the University of Arizona. The Biosphere has a trail system that highlights various ecosystems like tropical rainforest, savanna, coastal fog desert, and a million-gallon ocean.

In 1991 eight people were sealed off inside Biosphere 2, a 3+ acre glass enclosure. They were conducting a study to determine if whether a small group of humans could survive in a self-sustaining environment, making it plausible for life on some distant planet in outer space.

I’ll try to contact each of you individually today. If you recognize your winning entry and have not received a message by Saturday, please contact me by email so I can put you in touch with the folks at National.

Finally, here are some of the runners up:

Mark R. — Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, where we saw a father try to explain to his two young children what the kit foxes were doing (procreating – it was hilarious watching the father handle this one!).

Jeff — Loft Cinema! If you need to beat the heat in an old look Tucson setting of the 50’s theater with good food/drinks, and a great mix of movies. Run as a not-for-profit and with many volunteers assisting in the production.

Mark W, JFK — The Pima Air & Space Museum is truly unique and a must for all travel/airplane enthusiasts! The entire museum is dedicated to the history of flight and houses one of the largest aircraft collections in the world, including World War II combat gliders, experimental aircraft, a B-17 “Flying Fortress” and many other military and commercial aircraft. There are a significant amount of aircraft outside representing a lot of different eras of aviation.

(Yes, I know Pima Air & Space sounds like an automatic winner with this crowd, but I was trying to find something I hadn’t heard of before. Thanks anyway for such a great reminder  of why we should go visit it!)

This contest is sponsored by National Car Rental, which provided compensation for my help organizing the contest.

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  • Hugo

    Skip El Charro and go to Cafe Poca Cosa located downtown, that is good Mexican food. El Charro is terrible, it survives because of its name, not its food.

  • Tracy T.

    Thanks for the tips, everyone! I’m going to be in Tucson next weekend and am really looking forward to it now!