The Modern Streetcar
After two days of being at the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, I decided to take a break from the newsroom to explore the area. To a visitor like me, Tucson’s almost one-year-old streetcar line provides efficient access to newly thriving parts of the city. Tickets are $4 for a day pass and can be purchased at any stop.
The following are some highlights along the route I traveled, from University Boulevard to Mercado San Agustin, the last stop, west of downtown.
Gentle Ben’s Brewing Co.
The Sun Link stop sits just outside of Gentle Ben’s Brewing Co. on University Boulevard, where my trip began. Seated less than a block away from the University of Arizona’s campus gates, it’s a great place to enjoy a selection of brews, local and otherwise, snacks and outdoor seating.
According to Tucson Night Out, The Wreck “is a true representation of a Southern bar that blends Country and Southern Rock.” If you love music, drinking beer and having a good time, this might be a great stop for you.
If you’re in the mood for a bite, check out The Hut, a tropical-inspired beach bar and restaurant where you can sip a Mai Tai as you watch or participate in karaoke.
Also near the Fourth Avenue stop, bargain-hunters can sift through the racks of clothes at Goodwill.
Once you’ve eaten, wet your throat and shopped, take a tour of the Old Pueblo Trolley, where you can get a glimpse of Arizona’s mass transit history. The Old Pueblo Trolley was a popular option for a fun ride between Fourth Avenue and University Boulevard before it was replaced by the Sun Link.
The Book Stop
For those who’ve forgotten what it’s like to walk into a bookstore and touch a hard copy of Edith Wharton’s “An Extraordinary Life” on the shelf, The Book Stop is a trove for used and out of print books. Claire Fellong, the owner and manager of the store, has worked there since she graduated from the University of Virginia in 1978. The Book Stop has been in Tucson since 1967 and has been in this location for the past seven years, Ms. Fellong said.
The Book Stop is across the street from the streetcar stop, and Ms. Fellong said foot traffic had picked up. “This summer we will celebrate its first anniversary,” Ms. Fellong said. Summer, she added, is also the low season as University of Arizona students leave town. “In the summer we just trade,” she said.
I did not get a chance to check out on Broadway, but if you do, consider stopping at The Coronet, a brasserie-style restaurant inside the Coronado Hotel, which, according to its website, was built in 1928 and functioned as a hotel until the mid-1970s.
Just before you reach the Granada Avenue stop, you’ll pass a commercial area with tall, modern buildings and restaurants. When the streetcar pulls off from the Granada stop, it isn’t long before you’re greeted by Instagram-worthy mountain views and the desert.
The Hub Restaurant and Ice Creamery
On hot days, few treats are better than ice cream or sorbet. I visited The Hub Restaurant and Ice Creamery, famous for its homemade ice cream. The Hub has flavors like salty caramel, rocky balboa and cotton candy. Across the street, the restaurant recently celebrated the opening for their new ice cream outpost, Hub Ice Cream Factory.
Next, I visited the Congress Hotel, a landmark building best known for being the place where John Dillinger, the gangster, bank robber and fugitive, was finally arrested during the Great Depression. Souvenirs bearing his name are at the front desk.
The Rialto Theater is across from the hotel and offers bands, comedy and drag shows, speakers, an occasional film screening and more. It was built in the mid-1910s and is where the artist Beck performed during the Grammy awards in February.
Hydra Leather and More
On Congress Street I noticed Hydra, an eclectic and retro clothing store. “Think Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page,” said Margo Susco, 51, the owner and a native Tucsonan. Some of the reasons for the boutique’s success, Ms. Susco said, are the different clothing styles the store offers — Western, 1950s-inspired lingerie, feminine dresses, cowboy boots, bowling shirts — and her loyal clientele.
Mercado San Agustin
The Mercado District, west of downtown, is at the last stop on the streetcar and is home to lots of restaurants and shops.
A tall, ornate iron gate by the entrance invites visitors to the market and into a small courtyard, and a few tables with umbrellas are spread around the patio.
A few young children played at the center of the plaza to the sound of Latin music. Couples were enjoying their lunch, sipping wine, others eating ice cream.
The Mercado District’s emphasis on supporting local business also makes it a distinctive destination on the Sun Link route. The food options range from sweet to savory snacks to multiple-course meals. On the weekends, you’ll find a farmers market.
Seis Kitchen and Catering
Seis draws on six culinary regions of Mexico — Northern Mexico, Oaxaca, Mexico City, Baja, Yucatȧn and western Mexico. Popular dishes include carnitas with crispy chile tarte and avocado tacos.
Agustin Kitchen supports local farmers. Ryan Clark, the owner, chef and a Tucson native, opened the restaurant two years ago. “We have one of the largest wine lists in Tucson,” he said, and is a three-time winner of “Iron Chef.”
“The most popular is our house wine,” said David Scharf, a bartender who has been working since the restaurant’s opening. Mr. Clark said the streetcar helped his business by bringing downtown crowds to the restaurant after they attended late shows.
The bartender was adding orange peel and a few mint leaves to two tall glasses of slushy sangria. Penca offers Mexico City-inspired cuisine and is decorated with colorful flowers. Visitors can enjoy their guacamole, chips and pico de gallo to music.