About 45 miles south of Tucson and 23 miles north of the Mexican border sits Tubac, AZ. The tagline on the Tubac Chamber of Commerce’s website is “Where art and history meet.”
It’s more than an advertising slogan – it’s a fact. Tubac played a significant part in Arizona’s beginnings. In 1691, Father Francisco Eusebio Kino established a mission at Tumacácori and Tubac became a mission ranch and farm. Tubac also boasts several firsts in Arizona’s history. In 1752, when the Presidio of San Ignacio de Tubac was established, it became the first European settlement in Arizona; in 1789 Don Toribio de Otero received the first Spanish land grant, receiving hundreds of acres of land and becoming the state’s first individual landowner; and in 1859, Arizona’s first newspaper, the Weekly Arizonian, was published on the state’s first printing press.
Today the village of Tubac more closely resembles its history from the 1930s to 1960s, when it was an art colony. It is home to an eclectic mix of artists and artists’ studios with more than 100 shops, restaurants and businesses.
An easy day trip from Phoenix or Tucson, Tubac averages summer temperatures ranging 10 to 15 degrees cooler than Phoenix and 5 to 8 degrees cooler than Tucson. With an average high of 96 degrees in July, that’s reason enough to take a road trip!
Tubac is nestled in a valley along the Santa Cruz River. The river flows north from Mexico and can vary from being a dry riverbed to a rushing river after a good rainstorm. “I think people are startled at how green and lush and pretty it is – especially during monsoon season,” says Jen Prill, owner of Tubac Art and Gifts.
Jen has lived in Tubac for the past five years, relocating there from Las Cruces, NM. She enjoys life in the small town and says, “The community of Tubac is diverse, interesting, warm and welcoming.”
See for yourself what Tubac has to offer by taking a leisurely road trip down there this summer.
We have compiled some “not to miss” places when you visit. Tubac’s “season” runs from October through April, so most of the shops and galleries are only open on the weekends during the summer months.
Tubac Golf Resort & Spa
If you are looking to stay overnight, look no further than Tubac Golf Resort & Spa at 1 Ave de Otero Road. The resort offers two special packages this summer: Summer Swing Away Golf and Summer Melt Away Spa. Both packages offer special amenities included with your stay. You can even upgrade to a suite for an additional fee of only $20. The resort is also hosting its annual 4th of July Celebration that includes activities for the whole family, food, entertainment and fireworks. For more information, visit tubacgolfresort.com.
Tubac Art & Gifts
Tubac Arts and Gifts is a gallery and gift shop offering one-of-a-kind handmade crafts and gifts from both local and national artists. Their offerings include jewelry, pottery, glass art, functional wood art, apparel, clocks, mirrors and home décor. Located at 31 Tubac Road, they are open weekends during the summer and on the 4th of July from 11 am to 5 pm. Visit tubacartandgifts.com for more information and to see art available for purchase.
Tubac Presidio State Historic Park
This park is home to the oldest Spanish presidio, or military complex, in the state and is Arizona’s first state park. The Tubac Presidio features a remarkable museum, an underground display of the centuries-old Presidio ruins, an extensive gift shop, family picnic areas and access to the Juan Bautista de Anza Trailhead. In the museum, an exhibit on display through the summer features a glimpse into the life of an early 1900s cowgirl with authentic clothing, historical photos and original artwork. Tubac Presidio State Historic Park is open every day of the year (except Christmas Day) from 9 am to 5 pm. For more information, visit tubacpp.com.
Across the street and a little north of the Presidio State Historic Park sits El Presidito (little presidio). Built in the 1950s, it once served as a post office and restaurant before becoming a haven for artists. Today, you can visit the studio-galleries of several top Tubac artists along with the Tubac School of Fine Art. For more information, visit tubacelpresidito.com.
Tumacácori National Historical Park
This historic park contains the ruins of three Spanish colonial missions in various stages of preservation. San Jos de Tumacácori and Los Santos Angeles de Guevavi were established in 1691, and are the two oldest missions in Arizona; San Cayetano de Calabazas was established in 1756. The park usually hosts several events during the summer. One of the most popular, Día de San Juan: Splash Fest, is held every June. This event celebrates the birth of Saint John the Baptist, and also the day people all over Mexico welcome the summer season and celebrate the arrival of summer monsoon rains. For more information on events happening at the park, visit nps.gov/tuma/index.
Tubac’s location along the Santa Cruz River makes it exceptional for birders. This riparian area mixes desert vegetation with cottonwood trees, creating the perfect refuge for many of Southern Arizona’s lesser observed birds. Ideal for bird viewing, the Anza Trail winds through the cottonwoods from Tubac Presidio State Historic Park to Tumacácori National Historical Park. Tucsonaudubon.org lists bids in the region and event information.
Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory
Located in Amado about 30 minutes northeast of Tubac, the observatory features exhibits and displays on astronomy and astrophysics, natural science and cultural history. In addition to the interior exhibits, the Visitors Center complex includes an outdoor patio with a Native American petroglyph discovered on site during construction, interpretative signage describing desert flora, and stunning views of the surrounding Santa Rita Mountains. Tours available by reservation only, contact 520-879-4407.
Flying Leap Vineyards
Flying Leap has a tasting room and art gallery in Tubac at 10 Camino Otero. Their estate vineyard and winery are located in Elgin, about an hour’s drive from Tubac. On July 21, they will be celebrating the wine, food and music of Spain with their 2nd annual Spanish Summer Night at Flying Leap Vineyards. This event features wine tasting, a paella dinner and live entertainment. For more information, visit flyingleapvineyards.com.