As tempting as it may be to use your passport, sometimes staying in the motherland is the best way to go.

The question is, “where?”.

Well, America has it all, doesn’t she? Historic small towns, incredible beaches from California to Florida, stunning parks, and some of the most iconic cities in the world.

Yet, one type of landscape is often dismissed as barren, boring, and too scorching hot to visit, but that’s not always the case.

You see, U.S. deserts aren’t all like Death Valley. Just look at Vegas, a city built in the middle of nowhere and now instantly recognizable across the globe.

Heck, even El Paso and Phoenix are breaking all-time tourism records, so why is Tucson so overlooked?

Here are 5 reasons why you should visit this underrated city in the Southwest U.S.:

Explore The Outdoors Without The Crowds

Saguaro National Park sign

Arizona is very popular to visit as Phoenix has soared to new heights and The Grand Canyon remains a road trip staple.

For some reason, however, southern Arizona gets lost in the mix while crowds fight for selfies at the Grand Canyon overhangs and invade Phoenix and Scottsdale as one of America’s trendiest cities.

Less than 2 hours southeast of Phoenix lies the underrated city of Tucson, which makes for a great alternative to all of the above, but especially for exploring Arizona’s wild side.

Perfect for hiking and taking in beautiful sights, especially during spring, the city of Tucson splits beautiful Saguaro National Park in two, but both sides are well worth visiting.

Like most desert cities, it gets super hot and it’s no different in Tucson in summer, while spring doesn’t tend to top the 90s.

Even if it is too hot, there are driving tours to guide you through the stunning scenery.

Tourists absolutely love visiting Saguaro National Park with far fewer crowds than other notable parks in the state and holds an impressive 4.8 star rating on Google with over 7,000 reviews.

No Need To Stress Over Your Travel Budget

Luxurious resort in Tucson

When cities become too trendy, prices can shoot through the roof. Since Tucson is flying under the radar, visiting this desert gem won’t break the bank as long as you don’t lose your shirt at one of the many casinos.

Airbnb’s are very reasonable as are name-brand hotels ranging from mid-tier to upper class. For example, the JW Marriott in Scottsdale soars well past $600 per night, while the same hotel in Tucson is in the $400s.

Not to say every traveler will splurge on a 5-star hotel, but this trend continues on for Hiltons, Ramadas, and cool retro hotels like The Downtown Clifton.

Plus, is there anyone more on a budget than college students? Tucson is a vibrant college town home to the University of Arizona and offers free transportation for locals and visitors.

Expect The Unexpected

Biosphere in Tucson

Tucson and the surrounding area seem unassuming, but tourists will be surprised by what they find.

For instance, the out-of-this-world Biosphere 2 is designed to gain a better understanding of climate change.

Best of all, it’s open to the public for just $27 to enter. Labeled as “The World’s Largest Earth Science Experiment”, visitors can experience the elements of rainforests and deserts indoors on a 75-minute tour.

And no, it’s not led by Pauly Shore or Stephen Baldwin.

Another unsuspecting place to visit is the small town of Bisbee tucked away in the Mule Mountains near the Mexico-Arizona border.

Classic car driving through Bisbee, Arizona

This historic town 90 minutes from Tucson is a draw for free spirits to enjoy a thriving arts scene, beautiful hikes, and an underrated wine destination.

The Old West Is Alive And Well

When visiting Tucson, you have to stop by Old Tucson. Better yet, if you’re up for a road trip then Tombstone is the place.

Both this side of Tucson and the town of Tombstone are time capsules of the Old West and while the make-believe gun fights are about as cheesy as a Will Smith western movie, they’re fun to visit nonetheless.

Cowboys in Tombstone, Arizona

Discover where iconic films were shot in Tucson and walk on the same streets as infamous outlaws like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday once ruled in Tombstone.

Old Tucson is more of a day trip while Tombstone is set up for longer stays with old-timey lodges, but yet still modern enough for new breweries and delightful local shops.

Famous For Food

Tucson is full of surprises and perhaps no more than its thriving food scene.

The city has left an indelible mark in culinary history to the point of being recognized by UNESCO as the “City of Gastronomy”.

Food trucks in Tucson

Travelers should definitely arrive hungry in Tucson to partake in all of the food festivities from wineries, distilleries, food festivals, farmers markets, and so much more.

Given how close Tucson is to the Mexican border, you know you can’t go wrong!

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