Touring Tuscon, Arizona during the winter

Touring Tuscon, Arizona during the winter

TUSCON, ARIZ. (KRON) – This scenic desert town is full of surprises. Less than a two hour drive from Phoenix, Tucson is home to a bit more than half a million people. But there’s also plenty of moments where you’d never know it.

Tucson’s neighborhoods, especially the historic ones, are best explored by bike. You just get a better feel when you can roll through at a slower pace. Tucson Bikes Tours actually offers three guided tours through town, the longest stretching 10 miles.. with tacos and beer to keep riders well fueled.

But for a fun cruise through Tucson’s colorful past and present, the historic city bike tour that’s typically run by owner Jimmy Bultman, is a great introduction — including everything from adobe houses that date back to the 1800s to the oldest bar in Tucson. Do it the first morning in town. It will help you get the lay of the land, and maybe even sway of the choices you make while in town. ($50 Tours have a maximum of eight riders. The tour lasts a little more than two hours and is great for riders of all fitness levels.)

It was this tour that put murals on my must-see list for Tucson.

I expected Tucson to be colorful, but its vibrant art scene really caught me by surprise. I decided to do some exploring on a quick morning walk, and was left wishing I had more time to simply wander, especially in the downtown area.

Murals inspired by history, culture, wildlife, and more pop up at seemingly every turn. Some are small, others are huge. All are lively and energetic, and know how to get your attention.

Arizona has slowly been making a name for itself in the wine industry.

If you hop in the car and head south-east, about an hour from Tucson, you’ll reach Sonoita, (Sah-noita) home to rolling, grass covered hills and somewhere around two dozen wineries and tasting rooms. This is Rune. If you’re used to Sonoma and Napa, you might be confused. But that’s okay. This is the high desert’s take on wine country. And it’s pretty striking.

Rune prides itself as an off the grid winery. All solar powered, tastings take place under shade canopies with panoramic views. Winemaker and owner James Callahan spent a couple years at Kosta Browne in Sebastopol before starting his own label. Grapes from across Arizona are used to make Rhone varietals, like Syrah, Viognier, and Grenache. Tastings typically include five to six wines and cost $13. $18 if you’d like a souvenir glass. Should I say that again? Tastings cost $13.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a hardcore hiker, there are unforgettable views to be found along the trails. And Tucson has hundreds of miles of trails. This is Starr Pass Trailhead. I was close by and had a little time, so I figured why not?  Along with hikers, there were a few bikers, a runner or two and plenty of great views. Don’t forget to slather on sunscreen and carry plenty of water.

For more about Dana’s adventures and writing, follow her on Instagram @danarebmann and Twitter @drebmann. You can also visit her website.

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