By Josephine Matyas

The thing about Tucson is that it seems to do everything well. Ranches and resorts run the gamut from working cattle farms to luxury retreats. It’s an otherworldly landscape of desert, rolling grasslands and rugged mountains, creating the perfect playground for those with an outdoorsy bent. History is preserved and comes alive in world-renowned museums. And cowboy culture leaves its brand on the cuisine, music, art and laidback way of life.

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What Makes Tucson Unique

• Vibrant Native American and Mexican cultures.
• Desert parkland and museums like the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum where you can mingle with giant saguaro cacti and elusive desert wildlife.
• Starry, starry desert nighttimes can be enjoyed “up close” from world-renowned astronomy observatories like Kitt Peak and Mount Hopkins.
• The rich, Spanish colonial architecture of downtown’s historic El Presidio District.
• The landscapes east and south of Tucson are ranked as some of the country’s top birding spots. Hundreds of species migrating between Canada and Mexico make rest stops in the area.
• Sunshine! Tucson is sunny an average 350 days a year.

Ranch & Resort Getaways

With the sun shining most days of the year, combined with the dry desert air, Tucson has long been known as a health and recuperation resort. For more than a century, the stunning beauty and clean, still air of the Sonoran Desert have drawn visitors to guest ranches for relaxation, horseback riding and outdoors exploration. More recently, deluxe resorts with all the bells and whistles offer an escape from the pressures and fast pace of modern day life.
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Why consider a desert ranch or resort getaway?
• To experience a real taste of the American Old West.
• Ranches provide horseback riding for all experience levels.
• To get close to nature – hiking, biking, stargazing, birdwatching – in a spectacular setting of rugged mountainsides and cacti forests.
• To indulge in a romantic retreat, a girlfriends’ spa getaway or a mancation for golfing buddies.

Some tried ’n’ true Tucson properties:
• Tanque Verde Guest Ranch was founded as a working cattle ranch, transformed to a dude ranch, and is now known for its horseback riding (100 horses, trails on 24,240 hectares of desert landscape), upscale spa, recreation and fitness amenities. The ranch’s setting is perfect for outdoor weddings and an onsite wedding planner can assist with details for up to 200 guests.
• The family-owned White Stallion Ranch is a working Longhorn cattle operation also known for its excellent horseback riding program and a touch of the Old West at cowboy cookouts, hayrides and weekly rodeos.
• Rancho De La Osa (100 kilometres southwest of Tucson) is steeped in the Spanish-influenced history of the Southwest. Guests can stay in restored hacienda-style buildings and indulge in horseback riding, nature hikes, mountain biking and birding. Special wedding and elopement packages include special touches like candlelit dinners outside under star-splashed skies.
• The luxury Arizona Inn is an historic, boutique, desert retreat secreted into the heart of mid-town Tucson. The award-winning inn is known for its casita-style rooms and suites, lush landscaping, resort amenities and personal service. Wedding coordinators are well versed in planning the big day, from intimate gatherings to larger affairs.
• The Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort is a Tucson landmark that once drew some of the Silver Screen’s most notable stars, among them John Wayne, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Every one of the 30 Spanish Colonial style guestrooms has been restored and uniquely decorated with Mexican art and furnishings. Romance, privacy and ambiance are top-of-mind for the resort’s professional wedding planners.
• At the AAA four-diamond Westward Look Resort, a private outdoor freshwater hot tub in the romantic Stargazer Spa Suite is perfect for honeymooning couples. Indoor and outdoor settings, award-winning cuisine and Southwest charm touched by contemporary luxury create the perfect venues for an Arizona wedding.

Astronomy Capital Of The World

With some of the clearest skies in North America and very little light pollution, Tucson and southern Arizona are an astronomer’s delight. Some of the world’s most prestigious observatories are located in this part of the country, and they open their doors – and the starry skies – to the public.

• Kitt Peak National Observatory boasts the largest on-site collection of optical telescopes in the world. Visitors can take guided tours, stargaze at the Nightly Observing program or spend the night at a telescope watching some of the finest night skies in the world.
• It’s about a 90-minute drive from Tucson to the Mt Lemmon Sky Center where guests can watch the heavens through the largest public viewing telescope in the Southwest. The year-round SkyNights observing program includes star charts, binoculars and the superb 32-inch Schulman telescope.
• The 16-inch telescope at the University of Arizona’s Grace H Flandrau Planetarium hosts free viewing year round, guided by an expert astronomer or telescope operator. On weekends there are planetarium shows.

ATR9682Metropolitan Tucson CVB/Rick Machle

Romance Under Desert Skies

It’s the one-of-a-kind setting and atmosphere that imbibe southern Arizona with the air of romance. The stillness and beauty of the desert captivate the imagination – making Tucson and the beautiful lands surrounding it the perfect spot for a unique wedding, an indulgent honeymoon or a romantic escape. Just as “romance” speaks to everyone in a different way, Tucson offers tender settings to fit every style. Look, and you will find romance expressed in every corner of the region.

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• In Tombstone’s Old West setting, the world’s largest Lady Banks rose tree creates a sweet-scented canopy of ivory tea roses under which couples exchange their vows.
• Nestled among giant willow trees, the 18th-century Mission-style chapel at the Tuba Golf Resort & Spa is a fairy-tale setting for weddings. Nuptials are announced by the ringing of the historic chapel bells.
• The renowned Canyon Ranch health resort offers a full menu of spa treatments (including the Watsu Duet Aquatic Massage for two) as well as lifestyle and health programs targeting topics like communication, life transitions, intimacy and passion.
• Miraval consistently receives accolades as one of the country’s top destination spas and retreats. Besides life-changing workshops in fitness, healing tools and intuitive living, couples can just chillax with treatments like the Outdoor Duet Hot Stone Massage…pure relaxation for two.
• Any bride that dreams of a wedding filled with authentic Southwest charm needs to look at the historic San Pedro Chapel. The mud-adobe building has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and can be rented for weddings and receptions.
• For a very distinctive twist, the Pima Air & Space Museum is a magical venue where couples can exchange vows, surrounded by historic aircraft.
• Other unique wedding and reception venues include the Tucson Botanical Gardens (, the historic home and lush gardens of the Tohono Chul Park ( and the terraces, garden and plaza at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, one of the world’s most outstanding facilities dedicated to the ecology and wildlife of the desert (

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