Tubac is situated around 40 minutes south of Tucson and is easily reached via I19. The history of Tubac dates to 1752 when it was settled as a presidio by the Spanish as their empire extended northwards.
The site of the Presidio is still preserved today as the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. This includes a museum with an eclectic selection of artefacts related to the area and a schoolhouse dating from 1885 is also preserved.
The park was due to be closed by the state of Arizona in 2010 as part of budgetary cuts but the Tubac historical association in partnership with the state has managed to keep the park open.The main attraction in Tubac however is the range of stores selling arts and crafts with a Southwestern theme. This also includes items produced in Mexico. There is a particular emphasis on ceramics including large items suitable for display in gardens and many stores have large and colourful outdoors displays. Although the town is small, the concentration of stores and galleries is high so a few hours can easily be spent exploring what is on offer.
There are a number of restaurants situated in Tubac and I particularly like Elvira’s for Mexican cuisine.
Just south of Tubac is Tumacacori. It is worthwhile stopping at Tumacacori National Historical Parkwhere the ruins of a Spanish mission church are preserved. A self guided trail provides an introduction to Spanish mission life and the small indoor museum preserves artifacts from the period. An interesting model is also displayed that shows how the mission would have looked. There is also a small bookstore with an interesting and relevant selection of books.
To see a mission in a much better state of preservation San Xavier in Tucson is highly recommended.Adjacent to the mission is the Santa Cruz Chili and Spice Company. A manufacturer of chili based sauces and powders they also have a fabulous spice store on site. This provides an enormous range of spices including a number of blends designed to simplify the preparation of Southwestern dishes in particular. I make a point of stocking up here whenever I pass through the area.
All in all a visit to Tubac and Tumacacori makes and easy and interest filled day trip from Tucson. As the elevation is higher than Tucson, temperatures are a few degrees cooler so a trip here can provide an escape from the summer desert heat.