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Seven Top Mural Hotels in the U.S.

By Ashley M. Biggers
January 27, 2022
​Creation at Dawn mural by Nanibah Chacon​ at Nativo Lodge
Photo by Jeff Caven, courtesy of Nativo Lodge
More and more, hotels are turning to local or internationally known artists to customize their rooms and common areas with murals. Here's some of the best.

Have you ever stayed in two different hotels on separate coasts and seen the same art prints in each? You’re not alone. Hotels have long rubber-stamped their art collections, though that’s changing. The Alexander hotel in Indianapolis, for one, has an accredited art museum curating its collection.

Hotels are also coloring outside the frame and decorating with street-art-turned-interior-décor. Some hotels commission internationally known artists to create one-of-a-kind murals, while others hire locally to give the interior a distinctive sense of place. Either way, the muralists transform the hotels into pieces of art in their own rights. Here are seven hotels with the best – and yes, most Instagram-able – murals in the country.

Mural_Hotel_Hotel_Chicago_West_Loop.jpg?mtime=20191018153008#asset:107112Mural by Asend at Hotel Chicago West Loop, courtesy of the hotel


Hotel Chicago West Loop

Chicago, Illinois

Six rooms in Hotel Chicago West Loop’s art-centric annex immerse guests in Windy City culture. Chicago-based artists including Josh Grotto, Brandin Hurley, Elloo, and Ascend have lent their talents to mural rooms, which showcase Chicago architecture, music, and history. Ascend’s work is exhibited locally and internationally, including in top-notch art fairs like Art Basel; his paintings combine a classical approach to portraiture with contemporary backgrounds. When not in use, the street-art rooms are open for viewing, giving the public a chance to see the works outside hallowed museum halls or traditional galleries. The artistry is growing: In late 2019, street artists will install another six eye-popping guestroom murals. Art students will join the artists for mentorship during the installation of the new murals. Hotel Chicago West Loop plans eventually to install paintings in the majority of its 116 rooms. From $119

Nativo Lodge

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Heritage Hotels & Resorts called upon a stable of contemporary Native American artists to paint 47 guest rooms (and counting) with murals. The rooms feel like living inside an artwork; they touch every wall and even flow into the bathroom and vanity spaces. Their artwork is rooted in cultural traditions and symbolism, but it’s expressed in vibrant and surprising ways. For example, in Love Movement, Jaque Fragua researched pre-Columbian Mesoamerican pottery designs in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. and expressed these designs in a hot-pink background splashed with gold paint. In Sustenance, Warren Montoya expresses traditional hunting practices of the Pueblo (Native American) people in the Rio Grande Valley. From $118.

Hotel Des Arts

San Francisco, California

Hotel Des Arts certainly lives up to its artistic name: More than fifty guest rooms show installations or edgy, graffiti-art inspired murals. Internationally known street artists including Shepard Fairey, David Choe, Buff Monster, Jeremy Fish and Casey O’Connell have painted the one-of-a-kind room. David Cloe, a Los Angeles artist who painted room 304, has collaborated with everyone from Facebook to Jay-Z. Shepard Fairy, the South Carolina artist behind room 210, is perhaps most well-known for illustrating former President Barack Obama’s “Hope” campaign poster. From $159

Hotel McCoy

Tucson, Arizona

In its first life, Hotel McCoy was a 1969 motor lodge, but in the fall of 2018 new owners transformed it into an art hotel. Hotel McCoy has worked with 48 (and growing) Tucson artists on the outdoor murals, and via the lobby art gallery and in-room art. The murals capture Tucson’s creative side. They serve another purpose, too: “The inspiration behind my idea to incorporate art comes from my love of travel and addressing the feeling of homesickness that comes from it,” says Nicole Dahl, general manager and creative director. “When we travel, often our hotel leaves us feeling empty, disconnected if you will. We wanted to fix that and offer people a place where they could stay and feel a connection.” From $109

Hotel Vintage Portland

Portland, Oregon

Graffiti artist Andrew Horner freestyled three of Hotel Vintage Portland’s original murals in 2015. Just him, spray paint, and inspiration emanating from Portland’s sub-cultures. He incorporated Portland landmarks and symbols, like roses after the City of Roses’ nickname, in paintings located in a game lounge, downstairs hallways, and the main entrance stairwell. In 2016, this trio doubled when Viva La Free, a Portland non-profit that teaches at-risk youth to use art for healing, painted three additional murals on the fences of the Urban Soak Suites. The hotel is an urban outpost in Oregon’s wine country, the Willamette Valley, and the murals have a (perhaps surprising) similarity to wine: Just as a wine’s flavor blossoms with each sip, the murals reveal hidden elements over time. From $218

W Hotel Bellevue

Bellevue, Washington

The artists behind W Hotel Bellevue’s six murals may hail from outside the Pacific Northwest, but they certainly capture its vibe. Baltimore-based street artist Gaia gives a lesson in the past, present, and future of Bellevue in Settler Futurity. The towering, three-story mural on the main stairwell showcases the city’s agricultural roots with depictions of strawberry fields, and points to its present and future with aviation references. Other murals include three by Japanese-born and Brooklyn-based Lady Aiko, and two murals by San Francisco artist Zio Ziegler. The W brand hotels emphasize design and the Bellevue edition lives up to that mission. From $289.

Mural_Hotel_Ace.jpg?mtime=20191018153211#asset:107113Mural by Chaz Bear at Ace Hotel and Swim Club, courtesy of the hotel


Ace Hotel & Swim Club

Palm Springs, California

The hoteliers behind Ace Hotel & Swim Club had an artistic eye when they reimagined a 1965 Westward Ho Hotel and former Denny’s restaurant as a mid-century modern hotel and King’s Highway restaurant. They outfitted the hotel with vintage furniture and a sun-washed bohemian design. Each year, the hotel invites a new artist to complete a mural on the property ahead of Desert Gold, a twelve-day Coachella oasis that includes meditative sound baths and wellness pop-ups. In 2018, Laura Berger used desert hues in Lifting the Sun, which speaks to humanity’s interconnectivity. In 2019, Chaz Bear painted vibrant florals in Desert Void, which reflects upon the experience of living in the desert. From $159

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Inspiration

The Best Hotels and Resorts to Spend the Holidays

If you are considering taking the plunge and spending your cherished holiday time somewhere other than home, there are many factors to consider—like how far you want to travel, whether you’re going with family and what, if any, special holiday details are being offered. To help with this difficult determination, we’ve rounded up five super places to consider this holiday season. From sandy beaches to sin city, we’ve got you covered for everything happy and the merry. The Emerson Resort and Spa is a great place to get cozy in upstate New York © Tobey Grumet / Budget Travel Emerson Resort & Spa, Mt. Tremper, NY Location, location, location. Sitting directly between the most sought-after vacation towns in New York’s Catskill mountain range, like Woodstock and Phoenicia, this sprawling resort is just a two-hour drive from NYC, offering a family- and dog-friendly, cold-weather sanctuary from the city. In addition to cold weather pursuits and a weekly bonfire, you can try other included resort activities like a Winter Guided Nature Walk, an ornament making class and Storytime in the Great Room with a delicious hot chocolate bar on hand. The Emerson Resort and Spa is also home to the world’s largest kaleidoscope, and a Holiday Kaleidoshow is being planned for guests. Interested in a little relaxation? Hit the spa and reserve a treatment with its Peppermint Rosemary aroma and signature tea—or get a 20% discount on any manicure through December. The onsite Woodnotes Grille will also be offering holiday-inspired specials, like the Edge of Esopus cocktail and a pan roasted porterhouse pork chop with apple sage butter, roast potatoes and braised red cabbage. Bellagio, Las Vegas, NV Las Vegas has something for everyone when it comes to the holidays. And though you may come for the mild the desert weather, you’ll stay for the shows, restaurants, nightclubs and family activities—including the massive Strip-wide fireworks show on New Year’s Eve. As a home base, the Bellagio is a working winter wonderland you won’t want to miss. In addition to the 42-foot white fir tree with five-car motorized train in its Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, you’ll want to stop and gawk at the polar bear-escorted ice queen, dressed in a couture gown created from preserved roses, silver palmetto leaves, hydrangeas and orchids. Nearby, there is also a Gothic castle and connected passageway inspired by New York’s Central Park. In fact, over 34,000 flowers and 28,000 poinsettias will be on display around the exhibit. Don’t forget to visit restaurants like Spago, New York’s Soho darling Sadelle’s, and the iconic Le Cirque. New Year’s weekend will also herald the opening of The Mayfair Supper Club, a classic dinner and a show experience with the well-known Bellagio fountains dancing in the background. Gaylord Palms Resort, Kissimmee, FL Nobody does family time better than central Florida. And though Disney may be the draw, this Marriot Bonvoy resort is offering holiday fun for all ages. The popular ICE! Exhibit has a Polar Express theme this year and includes hand-carved sculptures and displays made from over two million pounds of ice, while the Cirque Dreams Unwrapped stage show is a combination of a circus and Broadway-style revue. The Gaylord Palms Resort's on-site Alpine Village brings a little bit of cold weather fun to the tropics and the whole family can tube down eight lanes of real snow, while the Santa’s Snow Throw exhibit lets you pound Santa’s Elves with buckets of snowballs. Christmas trees abound in the Evergreen Atrium, a perfect place for a leisurely stroll and the Relache Spa is offering seasonal treatments for adult relaxation. Christmas and New Years buffets are available for brunch and dinner, and kiddos might enjoy the Elf on the Shelf Character breakfast. Christmas packages are now 20% off. The northern lights dance over the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, which is located within a UNESCO World Heritage Site © Tobey Grumet / Budget Travel Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, Alberta, CA Do winter right at this Canadian lodge located directly inside the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jasper National Park. With 700 acres to explore, activities are diverse and include hiking, sledding, tobogganing, snowshoeing and, of course, skiing. The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge's Festival of Christmas includes Santa’s Cabin with sleigh and reindeer, and the Winter Wonderland will be set up with all the equipment you’ll need to enjoy the amenities—including fat tire bikes for hire. Hit the Lake Mildred Ice Park, surrounded by Rocky Mountain views, to join a game of hockey, try your hand at figure skating or just tool around the 1km loop. Kids can also check out the indoor Christmas Carnival, decorate their own stockings on Christmas Eve, drop-off letters to Santa and enjoy s’mores under the stars on Lac Beauvert’s frozen shores. Of course, adults can have some fun too by joining a mixology class, beer tasting or cooking demo—all exploring holiday flavors. The Spa & Salon is featuring 24K gold manicures and pedicures for the season as well as an Express Holiday Makeup service if you want to get glam. Best of all, if you’re lucky, you’ll have a chance to catch the stunning aurora borealis over the lake. Half Moon, Montego Bay, Jamaica Enjoy your holidays island style at this festive Jamaican stunner in popular Half Moon. Named for the crescent, white sand beach it cradles, the resort’s open-air lobby and Cedar Bar are the social center of the property—and here you’ll be able to enjoy the “Chrismus breeze,” clink festive cocktails and dance to the seasonal, live music and tribute concerts. A curated Christmas program also includes a tree-lighting ceremony, ice-sculpting lessons and a holiday-themed sandcastle building competition—created specially for bragging rights. Of course, Jamaican Santa doesn’t deign to come by sleigh, so kids can catch him as he flies into Half Moon by parasail. Book a villa in the Rose Hall section of the resort and you can organize a floating feast in your private pool, and have staff customize your decorations and lights. Other family friendly activities include goat races and pony rides, and you can use golf carts or bikes to get around the resort’s 400 acres. Golf and tennis are complimentary, and the Fern Tree Spa is offering a free body exfoliation when you book the therapeutic massage. A Gentleman’s Spa is also available for that guy who has everything.

Inspiration

Where to Find The Best Cocktails for Fall

When those summertime margaritas and rum punches turn to cherry-tinted Manhattans or bourbon-forward Old Fashioneds, you know autumn has fallen. From tailgating to Thanksgiving to Halloween, these complex, robust, cold-weather cocktail flavors combine the crispness of the season with a warmer, more generous, flavor profile. Want to get started on your seasonal cocktailing? Here are six fall cocktails to look out for and where you can hunker down to drink them. The Palm, multiple locations This classic steakhouse, known for its prime beef and lively caricatures of patrons and celebrities lining the walls, has gone from a single New York City restaurant in the 1920s to 21 locations around the globe. And though you can always enjoy a generous martini, this season you can also choose from five new fall cocktails. For a more well-heeled concoction, the Figaro consists of Basil Hayden’s dark rye, Amaro Montenegro, caramelized fig syrup and black walnut while the South Side of Italy is a playful mixture of Plymouth gin, Lillet Blanc, Caravella Limoncello, simple syrup, lemon juice and mint. The Sazerac Bar, New Orleans, LA This French Quarter gem occupies a slice of New Orleans cocktail history. And with its signature dark wood, leather chairs, and dark, narrow bar, you’ll want to make sure you have time to enjoy its namesake Sazerac in the place it was born. The timeless drink is mixed with Sazerac Rye, Peychaud’s bitters, sugar and Herbsaint but you can also sip the Brown Derby, with Buffalo Trace bourbon, grapefruit, lemon, honey and Rhubarb bitters. The Watch: Rooftop Kitchen Spirits, Charleston, SC This rooftop restaurant shells out handcrafted cocktails relying on locally sourced, unorthodox ingredients like carrots and corn. Take a seat indoors or outdoors and soak up the panoramic views of Charleston’s stunning architecture, then order one of these eccentric drinks to keep you company. The Trader’s Village is a play on Mexican street corn and combines corn infused tequila, ancho reyes, egg yolk, lime juice, and avocado orgeat, while the clarified milk punch dubbed the Clearwater merges bourbon, Plantation 5 year rum, port wine and citrus, garnished with warm bread pudding. Now, if that won’t warm your soul, nothing will. My Friend Duke, New York, NY A downtown cocktail den seamlessly plunked in Manhattan’s Murray Hill, My Friend Duke is a neighborhood joint with an upscale vibe. In addition to the 11th St. Manhattan, which adds a cheeky taste of Drambuie to its rye, antica and bitters, the Night Owl is an exciting potion fusing cold brew coffee soaked in oats, Irish whiskey and Demerara sugar – then charged with nitrogen. By the time you’ve imbibed these fall mixtures, this cocktail den will morph to a place where everybody knows your name. Nari, San Francisco, CA The biggest problem at Nari will be choosing which cocktail to try next. A sister restaurant of New York’s beloved Kin Khao, this two-level Thai palace pairs bold seasonal flavors with an ambitious cocktail menu broken up into punch, standard cocktails, low-alcohol and zero-proof. The punches are sized for sharing so you’ll have to bring friends to sample concoctions like the Tua Kua, with whiskey, amber vermouth, lime, peanut orgeat, cacao and bitters. Standard cocktails include the coconut-washed bourbon, salt and bruleed palm sugar lime peel that make up the Benja. Or the Sita, a blend of whiskey, toasted brown rice, Benedictine, amaro and angostura. Feel like taking it easy? Try the refreshing session cocktail called the Ambhan, with sweet vermouth, amaro, plum liqueur and spiced angostura. King of Cups, Chicago, IL Sow your royal cocktails at this imperially themed bar in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. And in addition to the over-the-top Rococo-style décor, including an interactive throne, the cocktails are many and come on tap, with a swizzle, stirred or shaken. The perfect cool companion, the Absolute Rule is a carbonated tap cocktail blending bourbon, brandy, and Guinness while The Lady India is likened to a whiskey sour and shakes together a strange brew of bourbon, sweet vermouth, lemon, IPA, beer syrup and angostura. And if you’re mood for a boozier creation, try the well-stirred Ginger Grant, with Scotch, fry vermouth, pomegranate balsamic and orange bitters.

Inspiration

Take A Bite Out of NYC’s Best Food Halls

New York City’s dining scene has been embracing the concept of the food hall as a recipe for success. These epicurean centers house a mix of eateries as tenants or involve a single culinary theme. Right now, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens are leading the menu, with food halls to suit many different tastes. Here are some of New York City’s best food halls to see and eat at. City Kitchen Escape the crowds and the corresponding waits at one of the restaurants in this Times Square food mall off the corner of Eighth Avenue and 44th Street. With only seven vendors it might sound small, but this 4000 sq ft venue has enough options for a quick pre- or post-Broadway show meal or a bite before catching your ride home. Dough’s glazed or filled donut creations include cinnamon sugar or lemon poppy flavors, while Ilili Box has pita wraps and other Mediterranean dishes. Gabriela’s Taqueria, Kuro-Obi, Luke’s Lobster, Whitmans New York and Azuki round out the list. A bowl of udon at Industry City © Image courtesy of Industry City Industry City Comprised of repurposed warehouses and factory buildings, this 6 million sq ft, mixed-use complex in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, holds a ton of businesses specializing in fashion, food, fitness, film and architecture. It’s also the headquarters for the Brooklyn Nets basketball team and a retail section known as the Design District. As for dining, Industry City's main food hall is a global cornucopia of cuisines from different parts of the city and the world. Choose from Yaso Tangbao’s Shanghainese street food; Ejen’s Korean comfort food; Table 87, a Brooklyn coal-oven slice pizza shop; Kotti Berliner Doner Kebab (Turkish-German street food); Colson Patisserie’s Belgian pastries; and Li-Lac Chocolates, Manhattan’s oldest chocolatier. There’s also Japan Village, a 20,000 sq ft marketplace with a specialty grocer, an izakaya (traditional Japanese pub), a cocktail bar, and food stations serving traditional Japanese dishes. Turnstyle Underground Market It might sound gross to go to a food hall inside a subway station, but Turnstyle Underground Market, within Manhattan’s Columbus Circle-59th Street Subway Station, is filled with eateries that will foster your appetite. Commuters can grab breakfast, lunch and dinner from 19 food vendors. Hey Hey Canteen serves up Asian fusion fare, while Daa! Dumpling prepares the Russian version of this doughy dish, and Arepa Factory prepares this Latin American corn cake. Access the market through seven street-level entrances; there are shops and pop-up stores too. Inside Essex Market © Image courtesy of Lower East Side Partnership Essex Market With a history dating back to 1888, this Lower East Side institution started as an outdoor pushcart market where vendors hawked everything from hats to herring. As city streets got more hectic, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia created an indoor sales space for them in 1940. Over the decades, as the neighborhood changed and supermarkets rose in popularity, the Essex Market was showing some wear and tear. In May 2019 it re-opened following a 21st-century makeover and a move to a different spot on Essex Street. Occupants include shops from the previous location (fruits and vegetables, meats and cheese providers) along with newcomers. Try Thai fried chicken at Eat Gai, breakfast from Shopsin’s and Middle Eastern food from Samesa. The Pennsy Penn Station has been the subject of mixed feelings over time, but this addition makes it easier to squeeze in a food stop at this major rail-transit hub before a train or a show at neighboring Madison Square Garden. Featuring five chef-driven concepts and a bar with indoor and outdoor dining spaces, diners can order veggie dishes from The Cinnamon Snail and The Little Beet, or go for carnivorous options from the butchery Pat LaFrieda. There's also Neapolitan pizza from Ribalta, rolls and rice bowls from Sabi Sushi and the taqueria and juice bar Taco Dumbo. HK Food Court This 2019 newcomer to Flushing, Queens, provides a taste of Asia with food stalls reflecting the continent’s diverse culinary heritage that compliments the neighborhood’s Asian population. On a former grocery store site, this food hall has Tibetan, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, and regional Chinese cuisine including Henan, Fuzhou, northwest halal and Sichuan food. Order Thai stewed pork from Khao Ka Moo NYC, spicy Tibetan lamb ribs from Khawachen, tom yum soup from Just Noodles and Taiwanese pork belly buns from Hang. Chelsea Market © Image courtesy of Chelsea Market Chelsea Market This food hall in Chelsea has a tasty backstory. The building was once the factory for the National Biscuit Company – better known as Nabisco. It's also where their Oreo Cookie was produced. Becoming an indoor artisan market in 1996, Chelsea Market is spread out, with artisan grocery shops, retail spaces and food stalls along with their Artists & Fleas craft-makers’ area. Good market eats include cheese-stick-makers Big Mozz; the Fat Witch bakery; Jamaican eatery, Tings; and Thai restaurant, Ayada. Nearby, step into Gansevoort Market, another food hall with Asian to American fare. Mercado Little Spain Similar to the all-Italian Eataly in the Flatiron District and World Trade Center, and the French-themed Le District in lower Manhattan’s Brookfield Place, this Spanish-inspired eatery from chefs Jose Andres and brothers Albert and Ferran Adria is inside Manhattan’s Hudson Yards development and has restaurants, bars and kiosks putting the spotlight on Spain’s regional foods. Have a tapas crawl, feast on asador-cooked meats, or simply dine on empanadas and bacalao frito followed by helado for dessert. DeKalb Market Hall Home to 40 food vendors, this Fort Green, Brooklyn, venue features well-recognized NYC restaurant names – it boasts the only Katz’s Deli outpost – alongside up-and-coming business in their own right. Ample Hills Creamery and Arepa Lady have locations here, too. Consider Isan-style grilled chicken over jasmine or sticky rice from Chicks Isan, Fletcher’s barbecue ribs or Home Frite’s sea-salt brined fry varieties. DeKalb Market Hall also has a craft cocktail bar and an events space that hosts regular happy hours and dance parties. The Plaza Food Hall USA On the concourse level of The Plaza New York Hotel, this opulent marketplace is full of fine food purveyors and counter-style dining options, where you can feel a little fancy while having breakfast, lunch and dinner or when taking your order to go. Pick up some high-quality Kusmi Tea or purchase fresh-baked breads and delicate pastries from Boulud’s Épicerie or Pain D’Avignon Bakery. Or get tempted by the colorful macarons made by Ladurée or the richly-layered cakes from Lady M. Savory. Options extend to Pizza Rollio, whose approach to pizza-making is worth tasting, Tartinery, noted for its refined French fare, and Takumi Taco, a popular Mexican brand.

Inspiration

Tap into The Spirit of The Desert in Tucson, Arizona

With 350 sunny days a year, Tucson is a wonderful place to see the great outdoors, especially at Saguaro National Park. And thanks to its eclectic mix of American, Mexican, and Native American culture, it’s also an excellent blend of Southwestern influences. From the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures, this article will guide you through some of the best indoor experiences and attractions that Tucson has to offer. In no particular order, you’d do well to add one or all of the below to your bucket list: 1. See the world’s largest collection of grounded aircraft. Aircraft boneyards and parked airplanes are a big deal in Tucson. This is because the dry, clear, and mostly smog-free climate is an ideal place to minimize corrosion while storing them. What’s more, Tucson's alkaline soil is so firm that airplanes can be towed and parked on it without the need of a tarmac. Which is why the U.S. Air Force keeps an astonishing 4,400 reusable aircraft parked here. Although the government boneyards are closed to the public, you can get an impressive and up-close taste of them at the Pima Air & Space Museum, home to more than 350 specialty airplanes sitting on 80 acres of both indoor and outdoor display. 2. Learn how life survives in the desert. As indicated by the extreme temperatures and lack of perceivable life, it takes one tough cookie to survive the Sonora and greater Arizona deserts. That fight for survival is on full display at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which is a 98-acre outdoor zoo, indoor aquarium, botanical garden, art gallery, and natural history museum not far from the west entrance of Saguaro National Park. With two miles of designated trails, shade cover, and ice cream on site, it’s an enlightening way to soak in both state and Tucson history. It’s also a great way to see local wildlife, whether at one of two aviaries on display or at one of the coyotes, bears, mountain lions, or reptile exhibits. 3. Get campy at the award-winning Gaslight Theatre. For more than 40 years, the Gaslight Theatre has been spoofing pop culture, movies, and performing arts in a wonderful saloon-type setting. Known for its music (especially its talented pianist), laugh-out-loud acting, audience participation, and free popcom, its an unexpected but pleasant surprise. To get a taste of the variety on display, the theatre is currently parodying both Star Trek and James Bond, as well as cover concerts celebrating the music of Dolly Parton, Barbara Streisand, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. 4. Go back in time at the museum of miniatures. Even better than the famous Miniature Rooms at The Art Institute of Chicago, the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures is a magical experience through time and place, as told by more than 300 miniature houses and decor in over 10,000 square feet of exhibit space. Looking at miniature houses dating back to 1742 might not seem like much, but most visitors stay up to two hours and leave unexpectedly delighted. “Jaw dropping,” wrote one recent visitor. “I was a little skeptical at first but will definitely go back,” wrote another. 5. See great southwestern art in a beautiful desert setting. Named a “National Register of Historic Places,” the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun Museum rates just as well among visitors as it does art historians. Designed and built by acclaimed Arizona artist and architect Ted DeGrazia, the 10-acre site features world-famous painting, a mission, adobe gallery, and cactus courtyard just to name a few. Built in 1951, the setting and artwork on display is as surreal as it is inspiring. 6. Take the scenic car route. If you want to see the great outdoors while still beating the heat, consider scenic drives by car through either Saguaro National Park (both east and west sections), Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway, or the stunning Gates Pass via the Tucson Mountains. For even more good looks, you’d do well to visit the Franklin Auto Museum. For over 40 years, the classic car collection has displayed more than 20 antique Franklin automobiles in the center of Tucson. It’s only open from October to May, however, so plan accordingly. 7. Eat your heart out. Not fully Mexican and not quite Tex-Mex, Tucson has its own Southwestern flavor. You can try that first hand at Boca Tacos. Or at the oldest Mexican restaurant in the country at El Charros. But if you really want to go big, you could attempt the full 23 miles of the best Mexican food in America, as rated by UNESCO. BONUS: For an excellent and recently restored Spanish colonial church, visit Mission San Xavier del Bac. This article was independently commissioned for sponsorship by Visit Tucson. All editorial views are those of Budget Travel alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.

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