Known as an artist colony Tubac, Arizona’s more than 125 galleries, shops and artist studios welcome visitors with warm Western hospitality; no snobbishness or pretensions. Located 45 miles south of Tucson on I-19 Tubac is a popular day-trip or weekend getaway. Visitors discover a broad range of merchandise – original art and sculpture, colorful Mexican pottery, collectibles and souvenirs.
I found an especially appealing group of shops at 19 Tubac Road, including Lily’s, Sweet Poppy, Artseeds and Geren Gallery.
The Tubac Center for the Arts is always worth a stop. The center’s new Master Artists Gallery showcases those who were important in creating Tubac’s reputation, “Where Art and History Meet.” Other galleries feature temporary exhibits and new works by local artists. We found the gift shop worth checking out, leaving with a unique piece of jewelry.
When feeling almost overwhelmed by painted wall lizards and rusty metal javelinas or coyotes we find a quiet, shaded courtyard for a restful break. Even then we find appealing scenes to photograph.
Elvira’s exterior fits into the artist community of Tubac perfectly – tan plaster walls, red tile pieces, colorful pottery, unusual metalwork. Walk through the door to find absolutely nothing usual. Stunning would be an understatement.Brightly colored light fixtures, baubles of blown glass reflect magentas, blues, crimson, gold and silver.
Chef/owner Ruben Monroy has a graphic arts and interior design background. Combining traditional and contemporary Mexican arts he shares the colors and culture of his native country. From every angle, in every nook and cranny there’s a new detail to note and admire. One’s tempted to play a game of I Spy With My Little Eye.
Ornately framed mirrors, flying cherubs, Mexican tin star lamps, multi-globe chandeliers, creative flower arrangements – what do you spy?
The original Elvita’s served customers in Nogalas, Mexico from 1927 – 2008. Monroy reports 95% were coming from north of the border. The Tubac restaurant opened in 2009. The menu displays Monroy’s creativity as much as the decor. Among the five or six mole choices Mole Negro remains “The King”, 34 ingredients in perfect balance. Seafood selections include at least eight shrimp preparations, Chilean sea bass, flounder, cabrilla and ahi tuna.
When visiting Tubac let yourself be dazzled by the cuisine, service and decor of Elvira’s.
When You Go: Elvira’s is located at 2221 E. Frontage Rd, Building A-101, Tubac, AZ, 520-398-9421, http://www.elvirasrestaurant.com. Open Tuesday – Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday 11am – 3pm. Closed Mondays.
Chili in every form imaginable, plus a few more, calls customers to theSanta Cruz Chili Company a few miles south of Tubac, Arizona. I find it interesting to watch people enter: some come with shopping list in hand, other are totally intimidated even leery of sampling something from the tasting table. Many are awed at the multitude of products. Today a woman with cell phone in hand was calling a friend in Wisconsin for her requests. In addition to their own products, grown and processed in the fertile Santa Cruz Valley, they carry selections from other companies featuring Mexican and Southwest flavors.
Looking for cookbooks, regional history or adventure? A wide variety awaits perusal. After taste testing I must leave with a mango salsa, spicy bbq sauce plus several packets of seasonings for pork, tacos and beans. Once discovered Santa Cruz Chili is a must stop in Southern Arizona.
When You Go: Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Company is located just north of exit 29 off of Interstate 19 on the East frontage road, 520-398-2591. Store is open 8am – 5pm Monday – Friday, 10am – 5pm Saturday (Summer 10am – 3pm), Closed Sundays.
Commemorating Franciso Vasquez de Coronado’s 1540-42 expedition, the National Memorialoffers panoramic views of the US-Mexican border and the San Pedro River Valley thought to be Coronado’s probable route. The expedition was in search of the Seven Cities of Gold.
A short nature trail near the Visitors Center features desert foliage including yuccas and ocotillos. Not a true cactus, the spiny ocotillo stems look like dead sticks until crimson clusters appear on the tips.
Bob tried to look tough and mean armed with saber and wearing a morion – the metal helmut associated with conquistadors. He reported the headgear was extremely uncomfortable and couldn’t image wearing it for any length of time.
Bisbee attracts visitors with its rich mining history and present day art community. The first adjectives that come to my mine are quirky and funky.
Bob spotted a likely looking lunch spot, Cafe Cornucopia. What a great find. The tiny eatery seats 24 for lunch or a sweet treat.Their homemade bread and an array of homemade desserts shouldn’t be missed. I loved the Pina Colada Cake.
San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
Late afternoon found us at San Pedro House, a popular Cochise County birding location. Trails lead into the Riparian Forest, past pools and ponds. Throughout our visit a large, white breasted hawk never left his perch in the top of a large cottonwood. Armed with bird books and binoculars we spend a couple of hours. We are novices and don’t try to photograph the flighty feathered creatures.
Friends of the San Pedro River, a non-profit organization operate a book and gift store in San Pedro House. Materials reflect nature and regional interests; the book selection is outstanding including children books for all ages and novels. I could spend a fortune here; a good way to support the organization’s efforts.
Anyone near Sierra Vista wanting to shop for books should head east on AZ Hwy 90 and browse the selection at San Pedro House. And, indulge in some bird watching while they’re there.