Tucson really goes “green” for St. Paddy’s
St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and you might not think that it would get much notice in Tucson, right? After all, this is a town that lets its schools out for the annual rodeo! But the Irish influence is steeped in Tucson’s history. The man who is called the “Father of Tucson,” Hugo O’Conor, was an Irishman raised in Spain who became a military governor in Mexico. As governor, he established Presidio San Agustín in what is downtown Tucson as part of a trade route for the Spanish.
Ireland’s link to Mexico was solidified when a band of Catholic immigrants – many of them Irish and led by Irishman John Reilly – formed the famed St. Patrick’s Battalion to fight for Mexico against the U.S. in the Mexican-American War in 1847. The Mexicans called the soldiers “Los Colorados” (The Reds) because many were redheads whose fair skins burned in the desert sun. The 1999 movie “One Man’s Hero,” starring tom Berenger, chronicled the exploits of the St. Patrick’s Battalion.
Tucson has a thriving St. Patrick’s Day celebration each year, including a beloved parade. This year’s theme is paired with the Emerald Isle’s own “The Gathering” event meant to unite the Irish around the world. For more information, go to www.tucsonstpatricksday.com.
The Lookout Bar & Grille has all-day food and drink specials March 16-17 to mark St. Patrick’s Day at the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort & Spa. Enjoy corned beef and cabbage with roasted red potatoes and soda bread for $16. Toast St. Patrick and “Don Hugo” with $4 Guinness Stout and Irish shots (Jameson or Bushmills whiskey or Bailey’s) and $4.50 premium draft beer.
The Chain of Fools Blues Band will entertain Saturday, March 16, from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. There is no cover charge.
Wherever you are on St. Patrick’s Day, may the road rise up to meet you!
5 things to know about driving in Tucson
Chances are, when you visit Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort & Spa, you’ll be renting a car or obtaining other transportation to make your way around Tucson. Like most cities, Tucson has its own traffic quirks. Unless you live here or visit regularly, you might not know these things, so we thought we’d clue you in on five things that will help you navigate our streets:
Tucson airport transport: Tucson International Airport has undergone an expansion in recent years, including the location of the rental car agencies. There are eight rental car agencies at TIA (Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National and Thrifty). They’re all located in the building next to the airport. Westward Look is about a half-hour’s drive from the airport. Westward Look is also proud to partner with Catalina Transportation, Integrity and AZ Stagecoach to provide our guests convenient and comfortable scheduled transportation. For extra special occasions, our staff is happy to arrange town car and limousine service from our preferred vendors. More information is available on our Airport Transportation page.
Where to park in Tucson: Westward Look has plenty of parking spaces with complimentary valet service. Most places in Tucson have lots of parking. Three city-owned parking garages have been built in downtown Tucson in the last few years with more than 3,000 covered spaces and nearly 1,000 on surface lots – in addition to many private lots. There are also more than 1,000 metered spaces on the streets for 50 cents an hour (nights and weekends free!).
The many sides of Tucson: You’ll hear people say that something is “midtown,” “east side,” “northwest,” etc., which might be confusing to the casual visitor. There aren’t any official boundaries, but in general, the most common local boundaries are:
- Midtown: 22nd Street north to Grant Road, from Campbell Avenue east to Kolb Road.
- North side: Grant Road north to River, from Oracle Road east to Swan.
- Northwest side: Everything north of River and west of Oracle, including Marana and Oro Valley.
- East side: Everything east of Kolb Road.
- Far east side: Everything east of Houghton Road.
- South side: Everything south of 22nd Street, from Mission Road to Alvernon Way.
- West side: Everything west of Interstate 10.
Tucson under construction: There are two major roadway construction projects, to be aware of as you’re driving around in the next few months.
- Modern streetcar project – From the University of Arizona through the downtown area into the west side, the city is constructing a 3.9-mile sleek, modern streetcar route. It’s expected to be finished in late 2013. Sometimes, the traffic annoyance is merely one lane that is shut down. Other times, whole streets are blocked off to install the tracks. To check on updates and whether your route is affected, go to www.tucsonstreetcar.info.
- Grant Road widening – Since Tucson doesn’t have a crosstown freeway, Grant Road is the major east-west thoroughfare on the north side. The city is widening Grant from Oracle to Swan roads. The Grant/Oracle area is scheduled to be finished this spring, with construction creeping eastward. Sometimes, there’s no avoiding this project, so you might want to add some extra drive-time, especially if you’re traveling on Grant this year.
Fun stuff to do in Tucson: OK, now for some fun! Here are some areas that you might not know about, but if you’ve got time to spare and want to go where the locals go, try:
- Antique Alley – If you want to go antiquing – including architectural artifacts, pawn shops and consignments – head down to Fort Lowell Road, starting around Country Club and going eastward to Dodge.
- Great shopping – Between the University of Arizona and downtown is Tucson’s beloved Fourth Avenue. Twice a year, the merchants association blocks off traffic for a street fair (March 22-24 and December 7-9 this year). Every other day, you’ll find an array of eclectic shops, bars, restaurants and live music as well as terrific people-watching!
- Nightlife – If you’re looking for an area where you can sample Tucson’s nightlife, you’ll want to head downtown. Whether you just want to chill with a mug of microbrewed beer, dine on gourmet food, see a play or kick up your heels, there’s probably a venue to your liking. Keep this website in mind: www.downtowntucson.org/visit/nightlife.
Of course, the friendly staff at Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort & Spa will be glad to give you directions (and traffic updates) to help you get around. Just call (800) 722-2500.
Tips to keep fit while traveling
Just because you’re hitting the road doesn’t mean you have to let your fitness routine go flying out the window! These days, everybody knows how important it is to stay healthy and what a big role fitness plays. Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort & Spa has top-notch fitness and recreation facilities, but keeping fit on the road starts at home. The Mayo Clinic has some great tips for staying fit while traveling, including these suitcase essentials:
- Athletic shoes (consider wearing them while you travel if they’re bulky and take up too much suitcase space)
- Exercise clothing. Believe it or not, you can work out in Tucson almost year round. Also, most resorts and hotels now have their own gyms, including us. So even if the weather isn’t right outdoors, you can still get in a quick workout.
- Swimsuit. Much like working out, Tucson’s weather is great for swimming most of the year. Be sure to pack up your swim trunks for any vacation, as you never know when the mood will strike.
- Other essentials include workout gloves, music and headphones and maybe even a workout DVD to keep you on track.
And here are some suggestions to get in some exercise while traveling:
- If you’re driving, take frequent breaks, get out and stretch or take a short walk around a rest area to boost your mood and energy level.
- If you’re stuck in a convention hall all day, walk up and down the halls during breaks or climb a set of stairs.
- Get a set or two of jumping jacks or march in place in your room before you start your day to get your energy up.
- If you’ve gotten jet lag, don’t skip your exercise routine, but take it easier than usual. You’d be surprised how much exercise can get you energized and over jet lag!
- If you’re traveling by train, walk through the cars occasionally and take a stroll during stops.
Whether you are traveling to Tucson or elsewhere for vacation or business, keeping fit is essential to getting the most out of your trip (and, let’s face it, life!). Check out the place you’re visiting and don’t be shy about taking advantage of what that city offers. Tucson, for instance, is one of the top cities best-suited for fitness and walking, according to Prevention magazine and the American Podiatric Medical Association. Tucson also is a top cycling destination. Hope to see you on the trails soon!
Tucson weddings, 5 things brides need to know about planning
For decades, Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa has been a popular destination for Tucson weddings and receptions. Here are five things that Alyssa Sheppard, our Director of Romance, says brides need to know about planning a Tucson wedding:
- Allow time for your guests to see the sights. Tucson has quite a history (as does the resort!), so definitely help your guests find activities to do around Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa as well as around Tucson. Check out all of our recreational activities here. For events and attractions around Tucson, the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau has a great site here.
- Fall and spring are the prime wedding seasons. If your wedding falls during these times, be sure to book your venue, photographer, DJ, etc. well in advance, as dates will fill up quickly. For summer brides, if you book your wedding at Westward Look before February 28, you can save up to 20 percent on your reception dinner. See details here.
- Tell your out-of-town guests who aren’t familiar with Southern Arizona that Tucson has great weather year round. They will be grateful when they get here with their swimsuits, golf clubs, tennis rackets and hiking boots because you’ve let them know they can take advantage of the Sonoran Desert climate!
- Few things are more romantic than our amazing Arizona sunsets. Make sure when you plan your agenda to work in and capture the moment, whether it’s during the rehearsal, ceremony, dinner, in between, or in your official photos (not to mention the honeymoon!).
- On January 13, the Tucson Bridal Expo will offer brides (and grooms, too!) the chance to see and learn everything about weddings. Westward Look will be there and we’d love to show you how we can make your special day unique. Check out the Tucson Bridal Expo website.
If there’s anything we can do to help plan your Tucson wedding, or if you have more questions, contact Alyssa at (520) 917-2471 or email@example.com.
Tucson Winters Explained – Even the Locals will Learn Something New
In other places, April showers bring May flowers, but this is Tucson, where winter rains bring glorious spring wildflowers. Our winter days are mostly sunny with mild temperatures and clear skies. Many of our Sonoran Desert critters have gone south or are hibernating, though we do get the real kind of snowbirds escaping icy northern climes. As Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort & Spa is in the Santa Catalina Mountain foothills, we do get frost on the plants. Occasionally, it has been known to snow in Tucson! (Blink and you’ll miss it.)
Climate change is altering the Sonoran Desert landscape, according to University of Arizona researchers. Winter rains are coming later, sometimes under colder temperatures. Annuals such as the popcorn flower and red filaree or storksbill that used to depend on early December winter rains are adapting to growing under colder conditions and flourishing. Other plant species that haven’t adapted, such as the wooly sunflower, are becoming less common.
According to the National Park Service, the Sonoran Desert gets winter rains when a low-pressure system forms over the western United States and pushes prevailing Pacific storms inland. Daytime temperatures are generally mild and because of the dry atmosphere (beware of static cling!) and relatively low vegetation cover, daytime heat reradiates the overnight air, making for chilly – but not too cold – evenings.
Even locals are apt to think that there are only two seasons: Rainy/hot and dry/cold. According to our friends at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, there are five seasons:
- Summer monsoon or rainy season (early July to mid-September):
A tropical air mass adds humidity and moderates June’s extreme temperatures, frequent thunderstorms, main growing season for many of the larger shrubs and trees.
- Autumn (late September-November): Warm temperatures, low humidity, little rain, few species in flower, beginning of growing season for winter annuals in rare years with enough rain. Autumn and late summer occasionally receive heavy rains from the remains of Pacific hurricanes (tropical storms).
- Winter (December-February): Mostly sunny, mild days, with intermittent storms with wind, rain, and cool to cold temperatures. February is often warm and dry, like spring.
- Spring (early to late February through April): Mild temperatures; little rain; often windy; main flowering season for annuals, shrubs and trees. Winter annuals may bloom in February in warm, wet years.
- Foresummer drought (May-June): High temperatures, very low humidity, no rain in most years. May is very warm and often windy. June is hot and usually calm. There is little biological activity except for the flowering and fruiting of saguaro, foothill palo verdes and desert ironwood trees. Nearly every living thing is in basic survival mode until the rains arrive.
Rain or shine, we’re ready to show you the wonders of the Sonoran Desert and hope to see you soon at Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort & Spa!
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