Central Tucson—which has most of the shops, restaurants, and businesses—is roughly bounded by Craycroft Road to the east, Oracle Road to the west, River Road to the north, and 22nd Street to the south. The older Downtown section, east of Interstate 10 off the Broadway-Congress exit, is smaller and easy to navigate on foot. Downtown streets don't run on any sort of grid, however, and many are one way, so it's best to get a good, detailed map. The city's Westside area is the vast region west of Interstates 10 and 19, which includes the western section of Saguaro National Park and the San Xavier Indian Reservation.
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Downtown Historic Districts
Downtown Historic Districts
North of the Convention Center and the government buildings that dominate Downtown, El Presidio Historic District is an architectural thumbnail of the city's former self. The north–south streets Court, Meyer, and Main are sprinkled with traditional Mexican adobe houses sitting cheek by jowl with territorial-style houses with wide attics and porches. Paseo Redondo, once called Snob Hollow, is the wide road along which wealthy merchants built their homes.
The area most closely resembling 19th-century Tucson is the Barrio Historico, also known as Barrio Viejo. The narrow streets of this neighborhood, including Convent Avenue, have a good sampling of thick-walled adobe houses. The colorfully painted houses are close to the street, hiding the yards and gardens within.
To the east of the Barrio Historico, across Stone Avenue, is the Armory Park neighborhood, mostly constructed by and for the railroad workers who settled here after the 1880s. The brick or wood territorial-style homes here were the Victorian era's adaptation to the desert climate.
In the town of Oracle, about 30 minutes northwest of Tucson, this unique, self-contained cluster of ecosystems opened in 1991 as a facility to test nature technology and human interaction with it. Now managed by the University of Arizona, the biomes include tropical rain forest, savanna, desert, thorn scrub, marsh, and ocean areas. The newest biome, the Landscape Evolutionary Observatory, tracks rainfall in simulated desert environments to study the effects of climate change on water sources and plant life in this region.
Guided walking tours, which last about an hour, take you inside the biomes, and a brief film gives an overview of Biosphere projects, from the original "human missions"—where scientists literally ate, slept, and breathed their work in a closed system—to current research. A snack bar overlooks the Santa Catalina Mountains.
With approximately 200 miles of scenic trails, the recreation area of Madera Canyon—which includes Mount Wrightson, the highest peak in southern Arizona, at 9,453 feet—is a haven for hikers and birders. Trails vary from a steep trek up Mount Baldy to a paved, wheelchair-accessible path. Birders flock here year-round; about 400 avian species have been spotted in the area.
There are picnic tables and ramadas near the parking area, and camping is available for $10 per night on a first-come first-served basis (the 13 campsites have drinking water and restrooms, but no showers or electric hook-ups). The Santa Rita Lodge, with charming cabins and a gift shop, is also here.
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