bugsy running on lone rock beach with the airstream and f-150 in the background

Trip planning: Tucson for Christmas

This will be our fourth time taking the Airstream to Tucson. Read about our first trip here, second here, and third here! And I finally wrote a Tucson Favorites post!

Christmas cacti

[Update, like a year later: here’s the retrospective post for this trip!]

Luuuucky us! We get to spend Christmas in Tucson with family! We’ll be in the Airstream in our usual campground, and the fam will be in an Airbnb close to downtown, and we’ll hike and eat and drink and be merry. On the list of ways to entertain the family in Tucson, basically pulled from our favorites that we do each visit:

  • Hike in Catalina State Park (we’ll park the Airstream there for a couple nights after Tucson), and on the non-Catalina days, hike in the in-town parks
  • Drink beers at Puebla Vida
  • Hang out at MSA Annex
  • Take J’s mom somewhere neat for her birthday dinner… where should we go?

And if we’re driving all the way to Tucson we might as well do some other fun stuff while out West. Here’s roughly what we’re thinking… any suggestions?

  • Power through the drive to AZ, with quick stops in Asheville, Memphis, Little Rock, Tulsa, Amarillo, and Albuquerque
  • After Tucson and Catalina, we get creative: head north towards Death Valley, by way of Prescott and Valley of Fire State Park
  • From Death Valley, hop down to Joshua Tree
  • Bounce our way back across AZ and NM to TX, landing in Austin. We’d love to spend time in Guadalupe Mountains NP, but it’ll surely be too cold in January, and we’d REALLY love to return to Big Bend, but that would add at least a week to our trip. Maybe!
  • Stop in Lafayette, LA on the way to New Orleans
  • Zip up to Atlanta to see our cousins on the way back home to VA
christmas cacti

We love Tucson and are happy we get to return so soon after Big Trip #4. We haven’t been back to Austin since the snowpocalypse, so it’ll be nice to visit during (hopefully) normal winter weather. And we’re SUPER excited to go to Death Valley for the first time!


30 responses to “Trip planning: Tucson for Christmas”

  1. Uncle Jim Avatar
    Uncle Jim

    For you and friends/family who might enjoy some vegetarian Mexican fare (no, not an oxymoron) I suggest you visit Tumerico on E. 4th and also 6th Ave. I have eaten at the one on 4th and I have to tell you it is amazing, especially for vegetarian food. Let me know what you think if you are able to fit it in.

    1. bugsy Avatar

      Uncle Jim eats vegetarian food??? 😀 I’ll definitely check it out, thank you!

  2. Stephen Avatar

    Ooh, this sounds like an awesome trip! For J’s mom’s birthday dinner, one nice place would be The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain. Shae and I were staying elsewhere, but met up with Greg (from Frequent Miler) there for dinner as he was staying there. We ate out on their patio which has beautiful views of Dove Mountain at sunset, plus we had a family of javelina randomly running across the patio during dinner.

    We stayed in Prescott Valley a couple of years ago. If you’ve not been before, definitely go to Sedona for hiking. We love the Devils Rock and Cathedral Rock hikes. Both are dog-friendly and provide incredible views and photo ops. Cathedral Rock might be a little tricky for Bugsy; there’s an incredibly narrow section that Truffles couldn’t do as her feet didn’t reach the floor and so we had to put her in her backpack at that point. We have seen larger dogs do the hike though, so Bugsy might be fine.

    Montezuma Castle is near there and is pet-friendly as you can’t go up to the dwellings, as are Montezuma Well and Tuzigoot National Monument.

    We liked Jerome which is near Prescott. The Gold King Mine & Ghost Town is pet-friendly and the town has the remnants of a jail that slid 225 down the hill there.

    Prescott itself has Whiskey Row which used to be home to lots of saloon bars. We ate and drank at The Palace which Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday used to drink at. It’s pet-friendly out back.

    In Jerome there’s Haunted Hamburger. This is perched up on a hill and gives nice views of the area. They have great burgers and is pet-friendly on their covered patio. They also offer boozy milkshakes.

    The town of Cottonwood is cute and has a bunch of winery tasting rooms. Arizona Stronghold has a pet-friendly courtyard and serves tapas and wine. Winery 101 is pet-friendly inside as they only serve wine. Burning Cedar Cellars is pet-friendly out front on their patio.

    Asheville – we really enjoyed Hi-Wire Brewing when we were there recently. We drank at their Biltmore Village location, but they have a second taproom in Asheville. The Biltmore Village brewery is pet-friendly inside and out and had some great drinks, including Grandma’s Cherry Pie Parfait which has cherries, graham cracker, lactose and yogurt powder.

    We’d considered going for a drink at Wicked Weed Brewing, but our friends who live there shared that the owners supported Madison Cawthorn financially and they also own some other cocktail bar there, so that’s something to bear in mind in case it’d influence your decision making.

    Memphis – Not sure if it’s the kind of thing you’re into buy the Peabody hotel has the ducks that take the elevator down to the lobby and hang out in the fountain which you can watch. The National Civil Rights Museum there is excellent and the Lorraine Hotel where Dr King was shot is also worth visiting.

    Food-wise, there are lots of BBQ joints. We liked Central BBQ which has BBQ nachos and the Bar-B-Q Shop which has BBQ spaghetti (better than it sounds!)

    Little Rock – we’re actually in Little Rock right now, but got in last night and haven’t done anything today due to tornado warnings. Lost Forty Brewing is a couple of blocks away, so we’ll be checking that out, so I can’t vouch for it yet, but it is pet-friendly.

    It’s a shame that Bentonville, AR would be such a diversion because that seemed like a cool city (we stayed just outside of it) with lots of breweries. Bentonville Brewing Company is pet-friendly inside and out, while Bike Rack Brewing had some good, but not spectacular, beers. Hot Springs, AR (an hour past Little Rock) is also a diversion, but it was also a cool city. There’s a nice hike up the mountain to their Mountain Tower, there are several taps around to try the hot spring water (not sulfur-y) and it’s a pet-friendly place in general.

    Tulsa – I don’t think you went there on your recent visit, but we liked Welltown Brewing which is dog-friendly inside. If you like donuts, Hurts Donuts has a store there and we love them. Andolini’s Pizzeria has delicious pizza (and I say this as someone who’s not a big fan of pizza) and they have some pet-friendly tables out front. I know you went to The Gathering Place which we loved too; the Mr Nice Guys food truck was there when we visited and their food was tasty. The Boxyard was an interesting place with boutique stores, a coffee shop, etc. constructed in stores built using shipping containers. I’ve never seen you mention dog parks before so I don’t know if you (or Bugsy) aren’t into them, but if you are OK with them the Joe Station Dog Park was very nice and a good size.

    Amarillo – I don’t have anything to suggest as we only did the Palo Duro Canyon which you’ve already visited.

    Albuquerque – We like the D.H. Lescombes Winery & Bistro which has a pet-friendly courtyard, great food and lovely wine. The Sandia Peak Tramway is worth taking up the mountain, but Bugsy will have to stay behind. There’s a bar at the top where you can have a drink and/or food and it’s open late so you can be up there for sunset.

    Hiking-wise, the Domingo Baca Trail is fascinating because at the end of it you reach the remaining wreckage of the TWA 260 plane crash in 1955. The trail towards the end isn’t marked incredibly well, but it’s a unique experience.

    The La Luz Trail is one of the most beautiful – but also most strenuous – hikes I’ve ever done. It’s 7.5 miles up the mountain and the already-high elevation followed by the additional elevation gain makes it hard, but worthwhile. At the top, you can ride the Sandia Peak Tramway down (or do it in reverse – ride the tramway up and hike down). The trail is pet-friendly, but the tramway isn’t and so you’d have to do the 15 miles round-trip with Bugsy.

    Petroglyph National Monument is worth a visit; there are a few sites, but none are pet-friendly. The Boca Negra Canyon was my favorite; you don’t see as many as at the other locations, but you’re right next to them rather than viewing from a distance.

    The Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum is a surprisingly excellent museum about the history of hot air balloons.

    Depending on how long you’re staying in the Albuquerque area, I’d recommend a trip up to Los Alamos. Bandelier National Monument is nearby and has cliff dwellings from the Ancestral Puebloan people that you can go inside. It’s a beautiful location, but sadly not pup-friendly. Tsankawi Prehistoric Sites is an outlier site of Bandelier and is also worth checking out, but that too isn’t pup-friendly.

    The Los Alamos History Museum is there, as is another museum relating to the Manhattan Project (Los Alamos is where it’s based). We were there during COVID and so that latter museum wasn’t open at the time, but I think it is now.

    Valles Caldera National Preserve is up near there and is beautiful. We drove through when it had been snowing, but I imagine it’s nice in better weather too. There are hiking trails, plus you might get to see wildlife if driving through early in the morning or late evening as the animals go down to the water.

    Ruby K’s Bagel Cafe in Los Alamos has delicious bagels.

    If you go to Santa Fe, we love getting stuffed sopaipillas from the Sopaipilla Factory. They have a pet-friendly seating area outside.

    Guadalupe Mountains NP might be OK in January. We’d stopped in Austin in January a couple of years ago and I’d hoped to get there as the weather was nice at the time, but didn’t make it in the end. A couple of days later is when the Cancun-inducing ice storm hit Texas, so there is that danger!

    Austin – I’m sure you have a long list of places to eat or drink there, but here’s some more recommendations. Arlo’s food truck was around the corner from our hotel and served delicious vegan food. If I hadn’t known it was vegan, I’d have thought it was meat.

    Round Rock Donuts in Round Rock (just north of Austin) has possibly the best donuts we’ve ever tasted. They’re incredible, plus they have a Texas-sized donut which has to be seen to be believed.

    Crepe Crazy serves both savory and sweet crepes. It’s a deaf-owned restaurant and all their servers are hearing impaired, so you point to the items on the menu, unless you know ASL.

    Wanderlust Wine Co was fun. You get a payment card and then you can pour servings of wine yourself. They’re pet-friendly in their courtyard out back and I think they might’ve been pet-friendly inside too.

    Big Bend – I don’t know if you went to Big Bend Ranch State Park in addition to the National Park, but Big Bend Ranch State Park is a little more pet-friendly as dogs are allowed on a couple of trails there unlike the National Park. Check out what’s going on in Terlingua during your stay as they held a Dark Sky Party while we were there. Rangers from the State Park and National Park were there to share information about the area being a Dark Sky area, with telescopes to look at planets, lasers to point out constellations, etc.

    1. Stephen Avatar

      Update: Lost Forty Brewing wasn’t all that great, but I prefer darker beers and theirs weren’t particularly good. They had a bunch of IPAs and fruity/sour options, so you guys might like it there.

    2. bugsy Avatar

      HOLY MOLY this is awesome!!! Thank you so much, Stephen and Shae! I have a ton of stuff to add to our map now!

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