Picacho Peak State Park. Civil War battles were fought as far West as Picacho, about 45 miles north of Tucson. Each year, the battles of Picacho, Valverde and Glorieta Pass (the latter two in New Mexico) are re-enacted (March 10-11 this year, the 150th anniversary). If you didn't appreciate the hardships of the soldiers, you need only stand under an Arizona sun and then think about how you'd feel if you were wearing wool, as many soldiers did. $10 vehicle entrance fee for up to four people, (520) 466-3183, http://www.azstateparks.com/Parks/PIPE/index.html.
Biosphere 2. Only in Oracle, can you begin your day in a desert, wander through a rain forest and end up in a savanna, all in a giant greenhouse replica of Earth. Since the University of Arizona took over operations in 2007, the 3.15-acre site has honed in on outreach and research, opening its doors to about 100,000 visitors a year and, in 2011, breaking ground on a $7-million Landscape Evolution Observatory. 32540 S. Biosphere Road, Oracle; (520) 838-6200, http://www.b2science.org. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily; guided tours every 20 minutes, $20.
Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley. Snow at Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley is so great because it's so fleeting. The lifts operate year-round, but it's for only a few precious weeks each year that a $37 lift ticket buys you a ride in the southern-most ski valley in North America. In summer, 110 degrees in Tucson can turn into a breezy 70 in the shade at Mt. Lemmon. Many hiking trails begin near the ski valley, including the popular Marshall Gulch trail. 10300 Ski Run Road, Mt. Lemmon; (520) 576-1321, http://www.skithelemmon.com. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursdays-Mondays; call to confirm.
Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter. Stringent light pollution laws keep city streets dim in Arizona, so wherever you are look up: Chances are you'll see a spectacular night sky. If that's not enough, head to the Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter to peer through the 32-inch Schulman Telescope. Adam Block, a NASA-recognized astrophotographer, leads nightly tours year-round (weather permitting) at the largest dedicated public telescope in the Southwest. $60, group discounts available. For reservations, call¿(520) 626-8122 or go to skycenter.arizona.edu.
Miraval, a luxurious adventure spa in the boulder- and saguaro-strewn foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, 25 miles north of Tucson, offers the usual massages, facials and Zumba dance classes, but you can also book a shamanic healing, experience a Shuniya sound ceremony or have a horse enhance your self-esteem. 5000 E. Via Estancia, Tucson (the spa is actually in Catalina, but the mailing address is Tucson); (800) 232-3969, http://www.miravalresorts.com. Doubles from $525 a night, including lodging, meals and $130-a-day allowance for a spa service or special activity. The three-hour Equine Experience is offered three times a week.
The Congress, built in 1919 and restored in circa 1930s fashion, is a multipurpose destination in and of itself, equally popular with tourists and Tucsonans. The lobby is perhaps the Congress' most striking feature, with soaring walls colorfully adorned with Native American-inspired Southwest Deco glyphs. 311 E. Congress St.,Tucson; (800) 722-8848, http://www.hotelcongress.com. Moderately priced guest rooms, all on the second floor (no TVs). Doubles from $79.
Club Congress has been called one of the top rock music venues in the country by Playboy and Entertainment magazines. It is inconspicuously behind the Congress lobby but visible and audible to passersby on the street, and it is the city's busiest live music spot.
Maynards Market & Kitchen. Lunch, dinner and drinks in the renovated Tucson train depot. 400 N. Toole Ave., Tucson; (520) 545-0577, http://www.maynardsmarkettucson.com. Entrees from $12 (pizzas). Other entrees $21-$26.
Cafe Poca Cosa. The Old Pueblo has the best Mexican food of any ciudad up north, and this one is near the top. 110 E. Pennington St., Tucson; (520) 622-6400, http://www.cafepocacosa tucson.com.
1702 has an array of microbrews, and the place is thick with University of Arizona Wildcats, so be nice and don't brag about USC's Rose Bowl victories. 1702 E. Speedway Blvd., Tucson; (520) 325-1702, http://www.1702az.com.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Paved and graded paths loop through the diverse biotic communities of the lively Sonoran Desert. Neat stuff on Earth history and geology as well.
Saguaro National Park and Tucson Mountain Park are adjacent; bring a bike, hiking shoes or both.
2021 N. Kinney Road, Tucson; (520) 883-2702, http://www.desertmuseum.org KV
Sonoran Hot Dogs at El Güero Canelo. A hot dog becomes Sonoran after it is bacon-wrapped, smothered in pinto beans and stuffed into a Mexican bolillo; toppings include tomatoes, onions, jalapeño sauce, mustard and mayo. Grab a dog for $2.49 and watch the people of Tucson roll in and out. 2480 N. Oracle Road, Tucson; (520) 882-8977. Open 10 a.m.-11 p.m. daily, Fridays and Saturdays until midnight.
Bookmans Entertainment Exchange. Bookmans is a bazaar of used literature, media, collectibles and entertainment. Nestled behind a Walgreen's, the flagship store in Tucson (there are six locations in Arizona) looks deceptively cookie-cutter. But with a constantly rotating inventory — bring in old entertainment to receive credit for new-to-you books, magazines and music — and no computerized catalog search, no two visits to Bookmans are alike. 1930 E. Grant Road, Tucson; (520) 325-5767, bookmans.com. Open daily 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
El Tiradito Wishing Shrine. El Tiradito ("The Outcast") earns its spot on the National Register of Historic Places with the distinction of being the nation's only shrine dedicated to a sinner — a man who died fighting for his married lover. Maybe that's why El Tiradito draws so many wistful souls to light a candle in front of its crumbling walls or to slip a scrap of paper into its adobe crevasses with a prayer or a manda (promise).
Take advantage of a visit to El Tiradito to walk around the colorful Barrio Viejo to see what old Tucson looked like before a downtown "revitalization" wiped out much of this historic Latino neighborhood, or pop next door to the landmark El Minuto Café, which has served Mexican fare since 1939. 420 S. Main Ave., Tucson; (520)791-4873.
DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun. In 1951, when Arizona artist Ted DeGrazia began building his studio in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains, he imagined it as an escape from the expanding city of Tucson. Today, Tucson has all but engulfed the 10-acre National Historic District, which makes the intricately adorned, squat adobe galleries of DeGrazia's imagination all the more transformative. Six permanent collections and rotating exhibitions display some of the 15,000 pieces of artwork DeGrazia left to the gallery. 6300 N. Swan Road, Tucson; (520) 299-9191, degrazia.org. Free; open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
Mission San Xavier del Bac. The Tohono O'odham — the sovereign nation of 24,000 people formally known as the Papago — live on four reservations in southern Arizona, but the San Xavier Mission, nine miles south of Tucson, is one of the few places on tribal lands open to tourists. Completed in 1797, the Mission is considered one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in the Southwest. 1950 W. San Xavier Road, Tucson; (520) 294-2624. Open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Free admission and tours every 45 minutes.
Wine Tours. Arizona's 40 wineries are spread throughout the state, but most growers are found on the high southern plateau, where hot days and cold nights make for the perfect wine-growing climate. The grapes are good — and the industry is new, which means the tastings are cheap, usually $5 for five wines (if you bring your own glass, it's only $3). If you're here in August, stop in the Elgin's Four Monkey Winery for its annual grape-stomping competition. arizonavinesandwines.com.
Catharine Hamm, Christopher Reynolds, Chris Erskine, Jason La, Hugo Martin, Megan Kimble, Rosemary McClure, Jay Jones, Karl Zimmermann, John Muncie, Don Shirley, Christopher Smith, Ken Van Vechten and Charlie Vascellaro contributed to this report.