Where to Howl, Wildcats: 50 things to do before you graduate

1. See a concert! In the Before Times, Tucson had a rich music scene of both talented locals and touring bands both big and small. You'll see the bigger acts at downtown Rialto and Fox Theaters or at the local casinos, while you can catch up-and-comers and old veterans playing at smaller venues such as Club Congress (which now has an outdoor plaza that features live music many nights of the week) and 191 Toole, a warehouse turned concert hall.

2. Cool off with an eegee. What the heck is an eegee? For those from out of town, Tucson's very own fast food chain serves up specialty slushies with bits of fruit inside, making for a perfect way to cool off from the summer heat. And their rotating flavor of the month means there's always something new to try. Multiple locations.

3. Attend the Loft Film Fest. The Loft Cinema's annual film fest brings big-name filmmakers to town as well as some of the best flicks on the festival circuit in a celebration of the movies you won't find anywhere else. And if you can't attend the festival, there's always something interesting happening at the Loft with art house cinema, cult movies and all manner of special screenings. 3233 E. Speedway Blvd.

4. Spend the night at Hotel Congress. Built in 1919, its rooms are styled with vintage iron bed frames, rotary dial phones, and radios. Just below your room is Club Congress and Cup Cafe. Discover new musical artists from every genre at Club Congress and cure your morning hangover with the Cup Cafe's cast iron eggs. 311 E. Congress Street.

5. Go Dutch. The Dutch Eatery & Refuge offers both Dutch options such as kroket and duck, and non-Dutch options such as elote avocado toast. Come for brunch, comfort food or an elegant dinner. Located right in Main Gate Square, you won't have to go far to enjoy their unique food. 943 E. University Blvd.

6. Get lost at Bookmans. If you're not from Arizona, you don't know the wonders of Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, which sells new and used books, movies, video games, instruments, antiques and more. Just one store is enough to spend a whole day in, but Tucson has three! 3330 E. Speedway Blvd., 6230 E. Speedway Blvd., and 3733 W. Ina Road.

7. Join the Beer Club at Frog & Firkin. Frog's patio makes it one of the best places to people-watch on University Boulevard. If you're here with a crowd, share one of their not-technically-deep-dish-but-still-really-thick pizzas. Join their beer club to win special memorabilia as you make your way through nearly 200 beers. 874 E. University Blvd.

8. Go for pho at Miss Saigon. Perhaps Tucson's most popular Vietnamese restaurant, Miss Saigon has filled countless bellies one bowl of pho at a time. But don't forget about their spring rolls, noodle dishes and other Vietnamese specialties. 1072 N. Campbell Ave., plus other locations around town.

9. Take a hike! (up Tumamoc Hill). If there's one hike that makes you a Tucsonan, it's Tumamoc Hill. At three miles roundtrip on a paved trail, it's not too difficult, but the elevation gain is definitely enough to make you break a sweat. The commanding view of the entire Tucson valley from the top makes it clear why this is one of the most popular hikes around town. Tumamoc Hill Road.

10. Get a cup of tea at Scented Leaf Tea House & Lounge. Scented Tea offers a laid back environment to enjoy fine loose-leaf tea in delicious combinations such as Banana Chocolate Cake Rooibos and Ginseng Oolong. 943 E. University Blvd.

11. Eat a late-night burrito at Taco Shop Co. Taco Shop is one of Tucson's few 24-hour joints, so it might be busier at 3 a.m. than it is at lunch. Whenever you go, you can expect exceptional breakfast burritos and more. 1350 E. Broadway.

12. Rent a movie from Casa Video. Yes, Tucson has a video store! And it's actually awesome. They show movie screenings, pour local craft beer, host food trucks, and have such a wide variety of movies this might be the only place you can catch some obscure flicks during your artsy college phase. 2905 E. Speedway Blvd.

13. Shop at Time Market. An easy walk off campus, Time Market offers cheap large slices of pizza, an array of specialty grocery options, pastries, solid cups of coffee and tea, a diverse happy hour—the list goes on and on. Last but not least, they bake some of the best loaves of artisanal bread in Tucson. 444 E. University Blvd.

14. Watch a game at Trident Grill. Trident Grill offers consistently solid bar food and seafood in a sports bar just east of campus. It's a fun place to meet up with friends for wings or oysters while you catch the Wildcats. 2033 E. Speedway.

15. Take a wok on the wild side at Wok Fire & Grill. Perfectly located for Eller students, Wok Fire & Grill offers a wide range of customizable Chinese and Vietnamese dishes. Service can slow down when it's packed, so consider ordering online. 1135 N. Park Ave.

16. Have a sandwich at Fourth Ave. Deli. This tiny slice of heaven stands out with its affordable sandwiches and hot dogs. And the fact they're right on famous Fourth Ave. makes them a great place to grab a bite (we especially enjoy their variety of BLTs) and continue exploring. 425 N. Fourth Ave.

17. Take a drive up Mount Lemmon. Would you ever guess an alpine forest is only a few miles outside of town? Your first drive up to Mount Lemmon is a magical experience as you rise from the desert floor, through grasslands, oak forests and finally conifers. Mount Lemmon makes for a rejuvenating escape from the Tucson heat and you can listen to a app that explains the ecology of the mountain via the UA College of Science. Thanks sky islands! Mount Lemmon Highway.

18. Check out Tucson's most famous painter at DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun. Even if you don't know the name Ted DeGrazia, you've surely seen his impressionistic depictions of life in the desert Southwest. While this is called a gallery, it's much more of a living art space, as DeGrazia spent his life constructing it and adding art to every nook and cranny. 6300 N. Swan Road.

19. Eat an exotic taco at Boca Tacos y Tequila. Taco queen Maria Mazon relocated BOCA to the space that formerly housed Delectables. The larger kitchen expands BOCA's repertoire with more weekly specials and the constantly changing Guacamole Duo. Chef Maria Mazon has even appeared on Food Network to discuss her specialty Southwestern style. 533 N. Fourth Ave.

20. Have a slice at Brooklyn Pizza Company. A perennial Best of Tucson® winner, Brooklyn Pizza Company offers handmade pizza by the slice or pie alongside sandwiches, pasta and wings, gelato and Italian ice. Guests can pick up, dine in, or have pizza (or beer and wine) delivered. 534 N. Fourth Ave.

21. Learn about our landscape at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. With our sky islands and monsoon rainfall, the Sonoran Desert is one of the most biodiverse deserts in the world. Get an overview of all the critters and plants here with a stop at the Desert Museum, which also has an aviary, aquarium, gallery, zoo and more. 2021 N. Kinney Road.

22. Noodle around at China Pasta House. Many of China Pasta House's meals hover around $7.99, but some don't even break a dollar. You can even order a variety of appetizers à la carte without reaching $8. It's dumpling and noodle heaven for a broke college student. 430 N. Park Ave.

23. Spend the night at Hotel McCoy. With all the time trapped at home, we're all dying to get out. But why go to a regular hotel when you can go to Tucson's very own "art hotel"? McCoy features rooms specially designed by local artists, as well as craft beer, food, music — and did we mention art? 720 W. Silverlake Road.

24. Find a groovy accessory at Tucson Thrift Shop. Tucson Thrift Shop offers a myriad of vintage clothing to spice up your wardrobe. We recommend sifting through the Shop's offerings during the fall to find a unique Halloween costume. 319 N. 4th Ave.

25. Get bookish at Antigone Books. This unique bookstore is known for its indie book collection. Antigone curates their bookshelves with literature on female empowerment, Southwestern culture and the LGBTQ experience. 411 N. 4th Ave.

26. Grab a bowl at Raijin Ramen. There are plenty of great noodle shops around Tucson, but few are beloved as Raijin Ramen, known for their huge Japanese-style bowl with pork, roasted garlic, curry noodles and veggies. And they have plenty of sake and beer to go with it. 2955 E. Speedway Blvd.

27. Smoke a hookah and see some art at Espresso Art Cafe. Espresso Art is a cozy place to study with a cup of coffee, but if you're feeling sinful, you'll find hookahs and a little speakeasy in the back for cocktails. 942 E. University Blvd.

28. Wander around the Botanical Gardens. It might sound counterintuitive for a desert city to have beloved gardens, but the Tucson Botanical Gardens are truly an oasis. Part gallery, part gardens, part event space, TBG is a beautiful spot of green in the middle of town. 2150 N. Alvernon Way.

29. Get Sichuan food at Panda House. When it comes to Sichuan cuisine, Panda House is the best option around the university. If you're not adventurous enough for the Sichuan menu, even their lo mein stands out with house-made noodles. Bonus: They've opened up a coffee and tea house next door. 1118 E. Sixth St.

30. Mash some buttons at Cobra Arcade Bar. College is definitely a transitional period. So why not head to downtown's destination that is part arcade, part bar? Cobra has all the classic arcade cabinets, as well as pinball, music, and plenty of drinks themed after your favorite video game characters. 63 E. Congress St.

31. Develop a habit at TEAholic. TEAholic features tea (with boba options) in a plush environment with Prince levels of purple. They also offer a small selection of rice bowls: Mongolian beef, house-fried rice (shrimp, chicken and beef) and braised beef. 1031 N. Park Ave.

32. Eat some wings at ATL Wings. The Chandler-based traditional wings spot offers some of the crunchiest in town. Out of the flavors we've tried so far, Spicy ATL dry rub is by far the favorite. 802 N. Fourth Ave.

33. Relax on the Cafe Passe patio. There are plenty of great restaurants and cafes on Fourth Ave., but none have a back patio quite like Cafe Passe. Shaded, full of plants, and with plenty of room to meet with friends, Cafe Passe is a hip, quiet nook to enjoy some food and drinks — and maybe even get some work done. 415 N. 4th Ave.

34. Get a cup of coffee at Bentley's House of Coffee and Tea. Bentley's has been serving coffee since before coffee was cool. This campus institution is a popular study spot that also serves up sandwiches and a daily quiche. And you might even spot former NASA astronaut and current U.S. Senator Mark Kelly there. 1730 E. Speedway.

35. Buy sandwiches at Bison Witches. There's no question that Bison Witches Bar & Deli is a favorite for sandwich lovers. The restaurant features enormous sandwiches, five different soups in bread bowls, salads, and a bar with wine and beer on tap. 326 N. Fourth Ave.

36. Eat El Charro's famous Carne Seca. It may sound strange to say this is one of only a few restaurants in the world where you can enjoy a certain dish, but it's true. El Charro's unique carne seca (strips of sun-dried shredded beef) makes for wonderful taco and enchilada filler. There's a reason El Charro is a southwest destination. 311 N. Court Ave.

37. Tour the Japanese Gardens. Part museum, part garden, part art gallery, the Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson are a little piece of zen right in the middle of town. Whether you're looking to stroll around or stop in on some cultural classes like tea tasting and flower arranging, this place is a relaxing destination. The Japanese Gardens reopen from their annual summer closure on October 1. 2130 N. Alvernon Way.

38. Cool off at Tanque Verde Falls. Believe it or not, there are water falls just outside of Tucson (depending on the season). Tanque Verde Falls are a wonderful hike through the cool desert canyons that culminate in a swimming hole and waterfall perfect for a break from the heat. But due to the desert's potential for flash flooding, please use caution before your hike out!

39. Drink a beer at 1702. With 30 rotating drafts, 1702 has one of the largest tap selections of craft beer in town—and there's more in the fridge. Plus, great pizza to have alongside your frosty cold refreshment. 1702 E. Speedway.

40. Enjoy the Christmas lights in Winterhaven. If you're stuck in town away from your family for winter break, there's really no better way for a college student to regain that holiday glee than taking a trip through the Winterhaven Festival of Lights. This neighborhood is famous for its extravagant Christmas light displays, and with food carts and events around, there's more to do than just look at lights. Christmas Ave.

41. Watch the Sunset at Gates Pass. Gates Pass Road is a scenic ride towards Old Tucson, the Saguaro National Forest, and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Take your sweetie to Gates Pass Scenic Outlook to watch our iconic pink, orange and purple sunsets. Alternatively, set up your telescope at Gates Pass trailhead to view Venus at dusk until December 31.

42. Have a cup of joe at Caffe Luce. Caffe Luce is one of the best coffee roasters to visit in the campus area, with a shaded patio that's perfect for studying and light people-watching. 943 E. University Blvd.

43. Bike the Chuck Huckelberry Loop. There's many reasons Tucson is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the nation, a major one being the beloved "Loop," which is more than 100 miles of shared-use paths circling around Tucson. Enjoy the paved paths following the Rillito River Wash as you meet up with all the fitness-minded Tucsonans.

44. Enjoy a classic Italian dinner at Caruso's. One of the oldest family-owned restaurants in Tucson, Caruso's on Fourth Ave. has all the pizza, pasta, and seafood classics you'd expect from an Italian standby. But what sets them apart is the atmosphere, family focus and quality. A great date spot for those in the mood for cheese and carbs! 434 N. 4th Ave.

45. Grab lunch at The Hub and an ice cream after. It would be enough if The Hub was a great downtown restaurant or ice cream shop, but they manage to do both without spreading themselves thin. Enjoy some of their enchiladas, house-made pastrami sandwiches, pot pies or burgers, and then dive into any of their artisanal ice cream flavors like chocolate whiskey, olive-oil pistachio, almond brittle, or honey lavender. Multiple locations.

46. Scarf down the brisket at Kiss of Smoke. A perennial placer on our Best of Tucson, and for good reason! Kiss of Smoke serves up award-winning barbecue like brisket, pulled pork and sausage, as well as other southern classics like fried okra, slaw and beans. And if you want it to-go, they also cater by the pound. 663 S. Plumer Ave.

47. Look at the stars at Sky Bar. Sky Bar is exactly what you want from a Fourth Ave. bar: plenty of custom cocktails, food options, a variety of events, and generally just a nice place to hang out. But what sets them apart is their astronomy theme, with telescopes available on their patio every night. Sky Bar asks the important question: where else in the galaxy can you get solar powered drinks and take pictures of the Orion Nebula? 536 N. 4th Ave.

48. Pick your own six-pack at Tap & Bottle. While Tap & Bottle doesn't brew their own beers, they serve as beloved curators for the local drinking scene. They have drinks from plenty of local craft breweries, as well as meads, wine, ciders, hard kombucha, sake and more. This is the perfect place to find out just how much specialty alcohol is made throughout Arizona. Multiple locations.

49. Check out the UA Museum of Art and Center for Creative Photography. There's plenty to do all throughout Tucson, but don't forget the galleries on your own campus. The UA Museum of Art (reopening October 24 after a facelift) and Center for Creative Photography showcase a variety of art from Tucson and around the world, and host speaker series from acclaimed professionals. 1031 N. Olive Road

50. Get a crash course on craft beer at Barrio Brewing. Arizona's oldest and first employee-owned brewery, Barrio Brewing is one of Tucson's most famous for good reason. Their ales and IPAs are especially brewed for desert drinking, and enjoyed nationwide. Brews like the Barrio Blonde and Barrio Rojo are some of the finest craft beers one can find in the Tucson scene. 800 E. 16th St.

Comments (2)

Add a comment

Add a Comment