Give. Do. Local. 

Our guide to a Tucson season of joy and oy

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Tucson's saguaros, gravel lots and blue skies aren't a traditional backdrop to a winter wonderland, but it's our winter wonderland and despite our lack of snow and cold, we've gone about celebrating the holidays with as much enthusiasm as parts of the country with real seasons. Every year, the Tucson Weekly brings readers a guide to last minute gift-giving with a focus on the local. We've done that this year, but we also want to remind you about the other good that exists in the Old Pueblo—our top 10 organizations worthy of your support throughout the year and a quick glance at what to do. Basically, everything that brings the joy and oy each holiday season.


1. KXCI kxci.org

Our local community radio station is worth every dollar you send its way. If every town worth its weight has a center square that brings us all together, then KXCI is it—bringing us together through the air waves with good music played by volunteers every hour of the day. It's proven itself the past three decades to be the soundtrack to our best days, and at times even our saddest. Best gift you could gift yourself this year—become a sustaining member.

2. The Loft Cinema


Tucson's nonprofit movie house has come a long way since its early days near the UA. Now with three screens and expanded programming that seems to suit all our interests like the best of the worse on Mondo Mondays, or Friday cult classics and one of the best film festivals in the city. Consider becoming a member. There are many different levels for almost everyone, with that delicious free popcorn given to all members at each screening.

3. Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona communityfoodbank.org

Why wouldn't you want to support our region's food bank every chance you get throughout the year and not just the holidays? This past decade, across the country, food banks have seen an increase in need. But besides providing food to those in need, it also addresses food security by growing food, as well as teaching people how to grow their own. See the Food Bank table at your neighborhood farmers market? Thank them, give a donation and buy their produce.

4. Humane Society of Southern Arizona


Pima County Animal Care Center


Every day your best friend is waiting for you at our local Humane Society and the county animal care center. Both do great jobs caring for unwanted animals in our community, albeit they go about that work at times a little differently. Nonetheless, they are good reminders that we are a caring community.

5. HOPE, Inc.


After the tragic shooting of Jan. 8, 2011, the importance of mental health services were brought front and center for a bit of time. Well, if you're aware of local mental health services or know someone facing those challenges, then you may know that there are some unique things happening at HOPE—peer-led, wrap-around services that treat people with respect.

6. Beyond Tucson


It started as a way to commemorate the first anniversary of Jan. 8, and it's now turned into an outdoor festival held the first Saturday after New Year's. Activities are scheduled that day throughout the Tucson area, bringing people together to hike, walk and more. While it hasn't necessarily moved us beyond what occurred that horrible day, it's reminded us that healing can happen outside and with each other.

7. Rialto Theatre


Becoming a member of the Rialto is one way to make sure the nonprofit music venue continues to be one of the best venues in the country. For some of us, the old theater is like church, bringing us all together under its roof for whatever music preacher has rolled into town that night. Not that long ago, as downtown Tucson was going through its changes, those who found themselves at the Rialto understood that downtown was alive and viable. Keep supporting.

8. Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation


TiHAN Tucson Interfaith AIDS/HIV Network tihan.org

While both organization serve those with AIDS/HIV, they go about their important work in different ways. SAAF works with clients in all facets of life, such as housing and medicine. TiHAN works with many of those same clients but in faith settings across the area, with churches providing needed resources, meals and support to those with AIDS/HIV.



There's no doubt something magical is happening at the YWCA. The arrival of its current executive director has had a lot to do with it, as well as the amazing staff and team on hand that is all about building community. There's Your Sister's Closet, providing professional clothing to women reentering the working world, but there's also career and personal counseling, and programs for those starting new businesses. The gallery space and programming have also turned the space into a worthy community center.

10. San Xavier del Bac Mission


The work to restore and preserve our mission is ongoing with an organized effort, which started in 1978, raising more than $11 million thus far. The work continues because there remain different facets of the mission to work on and its preservation is important to our region. It's our history surrounded by a living church and community on the Tohono O'odham reservation. It's our White Dove, and more than a place to take visitors, it's our reminder that the past is relevant today.


1. Thursday, Dec. 10, The Very Merry Holiday Sing-Along Spectacular, The Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd.loftcinema.com

We still long for Festivus, but this will do just fine: subtitled music moments from TV, movies and music videos. Yes, you are encouraged to wear your ugliest sweater.

2. Friday, Dec. 11, Fourth Avenue Street Fair


Sure, it brings us all together to walk the Avenue on what we hope will be a sunny winter weekend, but it could be your best and last chance for some great holiday gifts, and there's usually fry bread, so there.

3. Saturday, Dec. 12, The Mission Creeps and Vooduo, Che's Lounge, 350 N. Fourth Ave., 10 p.m.

Yes, you need to make time for the creepy beautiful sound of Tucson's Mission Creeps to get the season going. At Che's even, so never a reason to forget to keep Tucson shitty (put that T-shirt on your shopping list).

4. Sunday, Dec. 13, The Greatest Hanukkah on Earth XVII, Temple Emanu-El of Tucson, 255 N. Country Club Road


4:30 p.m. the lighting of the outdoor Hanukkah menorah, followed by songs, stories and dance. There is a dinner, but there is a charge and a reservation is required (328-4501).

5. Sunday, Dec. 13, Jingle Balls, Musical-Mayhem Caberat, Unscrewed Theater, 3244 E. Speedway, 7 p.m.


Leave Frosty the Snowman on for the kids, and bring your naughty self for classic and contemporary holiday songs and more. Tickets are $7.

6. Sunday, Dec. 13, Sounds of Winter, Tucson Girls Chorus, Tucson Fox Theatre, 17 W. Congress St., 3:30 p.m. www.tucsongirlschorus.org

This is the chorus' 30th anniversary holiday performance. Just to play fair, the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus play the same day at UA Crowder Hall, 3 and 7:30 p.m. www.boyschorus.org

7. Friday, Dec. 18, Mercado San Agustin Holiday Bazaar, 100 S. Avenida del Convento, 10 a.m.

This is proving year after year to be one of the best place to find hand-made, local quality one-of-a-kind items that, you know, make the best gifts.

8. Saturday, Dec. 19, 2nd Annual Krampus Rumpus, Microgallery Mandibula, 35 E. Toole Ave.

The Krampus art party is back with Krampus-inspired ornaments and art made by local, national and international artists for purchase. The demon is expected to make an appearance and 15 percent of proceeds will go to the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project's The Good Little Children program.

9. Saturday, Dec. 19, Tucson Downtown Parade of Lights, 6:30 p.m. downtowntucson.org

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild's Tree Lighting Ceremony is at 5:45 p.m. Grab some dinner and some hot chocolate, sit back and take in the lights. Parade route is online.

10. Friday, Dec. 25 KXCI and The Current present A Special Steve Romo Christmas, 5 p.m., tune-in

Everyone has their Christmas traditions. Here are a few that everyone should adopt: a good movie and Chinese food. Now it's time to put comedian Steve Romo on this list. The Current's Rusty Boulet-Stephenson's will host Romo on his show and give one of Tucson's favorites a chance to play his fave holiday songs and tell a special Christmas story.


1. Tap and Bottle

403 N. Sixth Ave. #135


Tucson is lucky to have places like Tap and Bottle as part of our community. It's a great place to take in some adult beverages and even music. A food truck is often parked out front to make sure you get some food in you, but keep this spot in mind for some thoughtful Tucson gifts, from unique beers to the Put Beer In Me T-shirt.

2. Tucson Originals


Tucson Originals is an association and alliance of locally owned Old Pueblo restaurants. Every holidays season, the organization sells discounted gift cards to use at any of its more than 30 restaurants. Many Tucson Weekly staff favorites share the list, such as Mother Hubbard's Café, Magpie's Pizza and Ghini's French Café.

3. Stella Coffee

Mercado San Agustin

100 S. Avenida del Convento


There are many tasty coffee roasters in town nowadays, but this is one of our favorites—good coffee and a good place to hangout. However, it's the coffee that kings here, not just the friendly baristas. The store's sister company is Presta Coffee Roasters. Your coffee lover is begging for a pound of these beans, and if they love the hangout, a Stella Java T-shirt is perfect, too.

4. Drawing Studio

2760 N. Tucson Blvd.


The Drawing Studio's move from downtown into central Tucson hasn't changed a thing. Actually, it's made it a more accessible location for all art lovers in Tucson. So that art lover of yours—youth, adult or senior—there are classes here for everyone. Art makes a great gift, but helping someone improve their skills is even better.

5. Deco

2612 E. Broadway Blvd.


When the loved store Bohemia closed in 2012, many Tucsonans who loved the store filled with locally made jewelry and more, wondered where they'd go for those one-of-a-kind gifts. Many of those folks discovered Deco, open since 2009, selling work produced by its owners and other artists, as well as collectable and house wares. There are classes, too.

6. Casa Video

2905 E. Speedway Blvd.


Before you make some comment to your movie lover that it's time for Netflix or lament about the death of the video store, shut your mouth and head over to Casa Video. Are you a movie-watching family during the holiday? Go. Like to drink some good craft brew what you're watching a movie? Go. It's a Tucson institution made for movie lovers and one of the best places to stroll, with popcorn in hand, picking that special movie.

7. Summit Hut


This is a local retail store success story—two locations now and a strong online business. It's the perfect place to find that gift for your outdoor person (from pricey to less expensive) from outdoor gear and equipment to fine 100 percent cotton shirts and more for all occasions. It's a place that's also perfect for mid-afternoon daydreaming about that next big trip.

8. Jellywink

418 E. Seventh St.

(888) 874-6588

Every week, we hope you take advantage of Jellywink owner Ally Booker's knowledge in her Tucson Weekly column Pleasure Activist. We also hope you visit her store. Some people may shy away from visiting a sex toy shop, thinking creepy old guys looking through porn. Not only is it a comfortable place to shop for sex toys, but Booker has created an inviting space and she doesn't hesitate to share her knowledge and answer any question—any question.

9. Music

Everyone in Tucson needs more music in their life, which is why we are recommending that you look ahead, plan and purchase tickets for those people on your list. Get downtown to the Rialto (www.rialtotheatre.com), Club Congress (hotelcongress.com) and the Fox Theatre (foxtucson.com). Get to Fourth Avenue and visit Flycatcher (theflycatchertucson.com). Elvis Costello is coming to the Rialto in April. Orkesta Mendoza is playing at Club Congress on Dec. 28. The Brian Setzer Orchestra is playing Monday, Dec. 14 at the Fox Theater. No excuses.

10. Rustic Candles

324 N. Fourth Avenue


Fourth Avenue is filled with wonderfully locally owned stores that are on our list of favorite places. This one in particular is great for those on a journalism budget or less. The handcrafted candles are priced just right and make great gifts for the journalist in your life or anyone else who needs to relax.


More by Mari Herreras

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