Author: Daniela Siqueiros

The Inn Crowd

A historic property has opened its doors to visitors who wish to enjoy the downtown Renaissance.

Romi Carrell Wittman

The Armory Park Inn, an example of Railroad Transitional architecture, was built in 1875.
Several seating areas now occupy the space that once was the zaguan, a central passageway leading from the front door to a courtyard.

Amy Draper didn’t set out to become the proprietor of a boutique hotel in Tucson’s historic downtown, but it’s a job that has become her passion.

Innkeeper Amy Draper

An eighth-generation Tucsonan, Draper has an abiding appreciation for our city’s unique culture and history, and she found herself wanting to be part of the recent rebirth.

“Our youngest son was headed off to college and I asked myself, ‘So what are you going to do now?’ I wanted to do something meaningful,” Draper says. “I was so proud of the amazing growth and development happening here. I wanted to be among those who were bringing their energy, talents and passion to turn downtown Tucson into an economically vibrant place.”

A trip to Nashville to visit her daughter planted a seed in Draper’s mind. “I stayed in an adorable boutique inn there,” she explains. “I realized that I could do something similar in Tucson.” She was excited because it was an opportunity to combine her passions of design, travel and talking to strangers, not to mention the chance to be part of the downtown revitalization.

She soon discovered the home that would become the Armory Park Inn. “When I walked in the front door, I was hooked,” she enthuses. “I was struck by the thought of just how many stories have taken place here.”

Built in 1875, the Armory Park Inn is among the oldest structures in the Armory Park neighborhood and is a gorgeous example of pre-railroad, Sonoran Transitional architecture. With 22-inch-thick adobe walls, 18-foot ceilings adorned with saguaro ribs, a rock foundation and stuccoed exterior, stepping inside the 7,600-square-foot abode feels like a journey back in time. The building is rumored to have served as a stagecoach stop in the days before the railroad was completed.

An original fireplace is just inside the entrance to the inn.

The Inn features a traditional zaguan layout, with a center hall running from the front door to the back of the building. A work shed (now a laundry facility) was added in 1922, and two rounds of renovations also have taken place, the first in 1990 and the second in 2010. The building served as a private residence until Draper purchased it in 2018.

In order to convert the structure into a luxurious boutique hotel, Draper knew she had to modernize it while retaining what makes the Inn so special. “It’s solar-powered, fully networked, and operated in an environmentally conscious manner,” she adds with a smile. “We continue to welcome weary travelers, whether arriving by stagecoach, Uber, or the Modern Streetcar.”

Each of the Inn’s seven rooms pays tribute to an icon of late- 1800s Tucson. Draper partnered with Nashville artist Caitlin Mello to create portraits that not only depict each pioneer, but also their achievements and role in local history. Isabella Greenway, famed politician, entrepreneur, philanthropist and creator of the Arizona Inn — and also the person Draper refers to as her “spirit animal” — watches over one room. In another room, guests can admire Estevan Ochoa, a shipping entrepreneur who became the first Mexican mayor of Tucson, and served in the Arizona Territorial Legislature. Ochoa also donated land for the first public school in the area and introduced legislation to create public schools in Arizona. Another room spotlights Peter R. Brady, a successful businessman who was part of the Territorial Legislature, as well as the sheriff of Pinal County, and started Arizona’s first mining company. Brady also happens to be Amy Draper’s great-grandfather.

The Isabella Greenway room is one of seven named for prominent Tucsonans.

Draper is proud of the modern, yet authentic, aesthetic of the Inn. All rooms feature carefully curated vintage and custom furniture, private and modern bathrooms, and other amenities. Bikes are available for those who want to go explore, while the serene courtyard is perfect for those who desire a little peace and quiet.

Draper’s aim is that, in addition to a great stay at her inn, guests walk away with an appreciation of Tucson’s roots as well as all that it has to offer today. “We hope that our guests feel like they’re part of the local landscape,” she concludes, “and that they’ll fall in love with Tucson.”

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Room for More

A spate of construction downtown includes hotels that will cater to everyone from business travelers to casual tourists.

By Tara Kirkpatrick

There’s never been a better time to stay downtown.

After more than 40 years without a new hotel, downtown Tucson landed the hip AC Hotel three years ago, and now is awaiting additional neighbors in the midst of an exhilarating culinary, entertainment and lodging renaissance.

The triumphant launch of Marriott’s boutique concept in 2017 marked the first new downtown hotel since Braniff Place was built in 1973 on 180 W. Broadway. Later becoming Hotel Arizona, it shuttered in 2012, leaving the historic, 40-room Hotel Congress as the lone source for downtown rooms.

“We were proud to be part of a historic moment when the AC Hotel Tucson Downtown became the first new hotel built in four decades,” says Nick Fox, partner of Cima Enterprises, the hotel’s management firm. “Since opening in 2017, we’ve seen an impressive increase of business year over year. We’re privileged to welcome thousands of guests to the property each year, as well as host visitors and locals.”

But the AC is just the beginning. A new DoubleTree by Hilton will open adjacent to the Tucson Convention Center later this year. Hampton Inn and Home2 concepts will follow at Cathedral Square and another developer is planning a hotel in the iconic tower on 1 S. Church Avenue for 2021.

“It’s amazing to see the amount of progress that has been made downtown in the last five to six years,” comments Brent DeRaad, president and CEO of Visit Tucson. “Seeing the AC Hotel up and running and having such a fantastic start, it’s really raised the confidence level in other developers to take a look at downtown.”

“Originally, most of the developers were local, but we are now beginning to see a great deal of outside interest,” adds Fletcher McCusker, chairman of Rio Nuevo, the key group that invests state tax dollars in public and private projects for a vibrant city center. Under his leadership, every dollar Rio Nuevo invests yields $10 of privately funded investment.

Today, with numerous restaurants and bars, the Fox and Rialto theaters, the streetcar, the AC Hotel and other exciting hotel projects in the works, “You have a reason to come downtown now,” McCusker notes.

Details have yet to be nailed down, but the former Hotel Arizona is being re-developed by HSL Properties as a Hyatt Regency.

Hampton Inn and Home2 76 Rooms – Hampton 123 Rooms – Home2 Opening 2021

Two Hilton-brand hotels, Hampton Inn and the extended-stay Home2, are being built as a six-story complex near Cathedral Square at Stone Avenue and Ochoa Street.

The dual-hotel project, slated to open in Spring 2021, aims to bring new life to this corner of downtown and will be close to the Tucson Convention Center, says Grey Fay, managing partner of the Dallas-based Fayth Hospitality Group.

“If you draw a circle around downtown, there is really not another extended-stay hotel in that circle. We thought that was an unmet need.”

Fay continues, “The growth in the market there and the revitalization that Rio Nuevo is creating,” is a big reason why the Texas developer chose downtown Tucson. Fay adds, “We’d like to thank the city and Rio Nuevo for supporting the project and enabling us to bring this downtown. Without that kind of support, projects don’t happen.”

AC Hotel Tucson 136 Rooms Opened 2017

AC Hotel Tucson, a Marriott boutique concept that originated overseas, opened to much fanfare not only for its chic, European flair but for the sheer feat of making a new downtown hotel a reality.

The entire project, from concept to opening, took roughly five years, says California-based developer Scott Stiteler, who partnered locally with developer Rudy Dabdoub to build the stylish new lodging.

The striking eight-story building has a parking garage tucked inside, a sixth-floor pool deck with downtown views, a luxe lobby bar and lounge, a fitness center, and 1,500 square feet of meeting space for up to 100 people. Inside, stylish rusts and grays are paired with stone accents and glass train murals in the lobby. Tucson’s own Whiskey del Bac is served in the bar.

“When you open something that has a lot of caché and buzz, the way people received it in the community here, I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Stiteler observes. “You see locals come in the lobby and they feel like it’s theirs.”

AC began as a line of independent boutique hotels conceived in 1998 by Spanish hotelier Antonio Catalan, who entered into a joint partnership with Marriott in 2011. Tucson was selected as one of the U.S. cities for the brand, along with Miami, New Orleans and Chicago. “That was quite a surprise to us,” says McCusker.

“They picked Tucson along with those cities. The AC Marriott has changed the game for everybody. It’s an attraction in its own right.”

“People are still thrilled about it,” Stiteler enthuses. “The impact it’s having on business with Caterpillar, Raytheon, the University of Arizona … they are all booking here.”

Tower Hotel 150 Rooms Opening 2021

Scottsdale-based Opwest Partners is in the designplanning phase for a nine-floor hotel inside the copper-hued tower at 1 S. Church Avenue.

Multiple chains are interested in the project, which will include 1,500 square feet of meeting space, a 4,000-square-foot restaurant and bar, outdoor patios and a marketplace, says Tyler Kent, Opwest managing partner.

“Our property is envisioned to position at the top of the Tucson hotel market and will provide an authentic, higher-end boutique option,” he notes. “Downtown needs at least 600 new and quality hotel rooms for the convention center to better establish itself, grow and remain a sustainable destination for the future. The new hotels downtown will help reduce the loss of business that would otherwise be committing to TCC, as well as induce new demand.

“I am a native of Tucson and I want to add value,” Kent adds. “New development and capital investment will help stimulate the Tucson economy, create jobs, etc. There also is a huge gap in the Tucson market when it comes to hotel product. The AC has done very well and is a great example of what downtown needs more of.”

Tucson Convention Center, DoubleTree by Hilton 170 Rooms Opening 2020

A DoubleTree by Hilton adjacent to the Tucson Convention Center is planned to open later this year and will not only serve the conference attendee, but also theater, music and sports buffs who want a place to dine before and after events and shows.

The hotel will feature a rooftop pool with bar on the second floor, a restaurant with ample outdoor seating and a new parking garage. Its interior will showcase Tucson’s history and other beautiful Arizona landscapes and gems, says Roy Bade, executive vice president for Scottsdale-based Caliber, a wealth development company that also completed a multimillion-dollar renovation of Hilton Tucson East.

“Caliber is excited to be a part of Tucson’s growth,” Bade comments. “We have truly enjoyed working with our many partners on this project and are excited for the future of downtown Tucson.”

The TCC, which hosts the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Show each year and is home to the Tucson Roadrunners professional hockey team, the Tucson Sugar Skulls professional indoor football team, and the main venue for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Arizona Friends of Chamber Music and many other groups, has long needed a nearby place for visitors to stay.

“The Tucson Music Hall and the Leo Rich Theater are there,” he says. “Sometimes, people want to stay and have dinner or a cocktail before or after a show. They want to make an evening of it. They will now have the ability to stay on site and have a relaxing evening.”

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Garden Calendar | April

As the weather warms, we Tucsonans get busy in our gardens.

Tip of the Month

Vines add an interesting vertical element to your landscape. They can act as a divider, barrier or privacy screen. Climbing over an arbor, they also create shade. Vines have a wide variety of leaf shapes and textures. Many have bright flowers that add color and aroma — all these benefits without taking up much ground space! There are four main types: self-climbing (which attach to masonry, like creeping fig), non-climbing shrub vines (need support, such as bougainvillea), twining (stems twist for support, i.e., honeysuckle) and tendril-climbing (tendrils act as support, like passion flower). Vines are said to sleep the first year, creep the second year and leap the third year.

Clockwise from above: Passion Flower, Orange Trumpet, Honeysuckle, Bougainvillea, Creeping Fig.

Planting Plant color annuals such as pansies, petunias, larkspur and primrose. Plant warm-season flowering bulbs such as canna, dahlia, daylily and gladiolus.

Set out warm-season annuals such as cosmos, four o’clock, globe amaranth, gloriosa daisy, lisianthus, marigold, portulaca, vinca, zinnia, celosia, salvia, sunflower, gaillardia, beans, okra, cucumber, peanut, pumpkin, melon and squash.

Plant seedlings of pepper, tomatoes, squash, eggplant and green onion. Sow seeds for warm-season flowers such as hollyhock, salvia, sunflowers, tithonia and zinnia in garden beds.


Look for new growth on native and desert-adapted plants.

Prune winter-damaged plant parts. Allow flower stalks on spring bulbs to brown and die back naturally. When spent, clip off at the base.


Watch for iron deficiency on citrus, pyracantha, gardenia, nandina and bottlebrush. Look for yellow leaves with green veins, which signal gardeners to apply chelated iron according to package directions.

Always water before and after applying any fertilizer.

Feed Bermuda grass with high nitrogen fertilizer.

Feed roses every two weeks or use a slow-release fertilizer for longer season intervals during spring’s peak bloom.


Reap flower seeds. Allow wildflowers and cool-season annual flowers to dry and scatter seed; or collect dry seed and store to sow next fall.


Adjust drip-irrigation systems to accommodate new plants and the warming temperatures.


Plant red bird of paradise, ageratum, eupatorium, passion vine, desert hackberry and datura to attract butterflies.

Plant container-grown roses. Plant new citrus and protect trunks from sunburn.

Plant desert landscape shrubs, cacti and succulents so that the roots reestablish before the summer heat.


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Where the Chefs Eat

They can all take the heat, but we asked six of Tucson’s most renowned chefs to get out of the kitchen and name their favorite dishes at spots other than their own.

Betsy Bruce

The average human tongue is covered in 10 thousand taste buds … sensory receptors that detect sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami … then communicate to the brain the rapturous message: this is delicious. But Tucson Lifestyle isn’t interested in average taste buds. We asked the most well-known, award-winning, food-obsessed chefs in Southern Arizona where they go when they crave a favorite dish. Just one rule applied to their passionate picks — no choosing their own establishment.





Bisbee Breakfast Club’s Chicken Fried Steak with sunny-side-up eggs.


Prep & Pastry’s Monte Cristo Sandwich.


Best Breakfast

You’ll find the frenetic line chefs cracking eggs for El Charro Café’s Carlotta Flores at her favorite breakfast hang, Frank’s on Pima at Alvernon — a true neighborhood joint. Choose a plate-covering omelet, such as Ham and Cheese or Denver, accompanied by home fries — chunks of savory potato, sautéed skin-on — or crispy hash browns. And because well-enough is never left alone at Frank’s, diners must also choose from a fresh tortilla, buttermilk biscuit or half a dozen types of toasted breads. Classic diner stools overlooking the grill are in high demand … there is always another customer waiting to climb aboard.

Casino Del Sol’s Executive Chef Ryan Clark moseys around the corner from his Barrio Viejo home to 5 Points Market Restaurant for their signature Smoked Salmon Benedict with poached eggs. Chef Ryan describes his favorite savory side as “that delicate potato pancake … sooo good.” The restaurant scores another point from Kingfisher Chef Jim Murphy, who zeroes in on their Huevos Rancheros: over medium eggs atop a fresh corn tortilla, white cheddar, pintos and avocado slices crowned with cilantro-serrano pesto and pico de gallo. Travis Peters of The Parish jokes, “If I have something to prove, I’ll definitely go after the King Kong at The Baja Café on Ina.” The towering plate layers together crispy hash browns, sausage, ham, bacon and over-easy eggs, blanketed in smoked gouda cream sauce. Chef Travis further admits to being “a sucker” for Bisbee Breakfast Club’s chicken fried steak, with sunny-side up eggs and  hash browns.

Bisbee Breakfast Club’s Chicken Fried Steak with sunny-side-up eggs.

The Smoked Salmon Benedict from 5 Points Market Restaurant.



Best Brunch

Three-time Tucson Iron Chef Ryan’s pick for brunch is “everything at Loews Ventana Canyon on Sunday mornings. Chef Ken Harvey and his culinary crew crush brunch. Blues, Brews and BBQ is nationally acclaimed and is a must stop if you brunch professionally.” Tucson Weekly’s Best of Tucson Winner Chef Travis agrees, “Chef Harvey dreamed up something really special here — all your brunch favorites plus lots of delicious beers.” The Ritz-Carlton is Chef Jim’s brunch best-of, featuring fresh seafood, meat carving and omelet stations, decadent cheeses and buttery house-made pastries. Chef Carlotta’s brunch favorite is Prep & Pastry, where classics are elevated. Biscuits and Gravy becomes Herbed Cheddar Biscuits with Duck Fat Gravy, and the Monte Cristo is composed of honey-roasted ham, Swiss cheese and pineapple-jalapeño mascarpone on brioche French toast.


Best Lunch

Chef Ryan’s go-to lunch spot is Reilly’s Craft Pizza and Drink downtown. “A mini pizza, or Pizzatta as they call it, and a salad with all the Italian fixings is the way to go,” he says. “Who doesn’t like a lunch that simple and delicious?” A quartet of great lunch spots are offered up by Chef Carlotta: the Cup Café in the Hotel Congress, Rollies Mexican Patio on S. 12th, In-N-Out Burger, and Pub 1922 in Sahuarita, which she says is worth the short venture south for all-natural burgers, house-made pizza, and 22 beers on tap. It features a mod atmosphere, with beer kegs hanging from the open ceiling (empty, we hope) and scroll-back stools positioned along an endless blonde bar. Ask Chef Travis to roll up his sleeves and his lunch favorite becomes apparent. He has the elfin characters of the Lucky Wishbone logo tattooed on his elbows. The Tucson native says even the iconic restaurant’s gizzards are delightful, washed down with the fountain black cherry soda. You’ll also find him hunkered over a bowl of Tonkatsu Ramen (sliced pork belly) at the near northwest side Ikkyu Japanese Restaurant at least once a week, observing, “It’s absolute magic, with a perfect balance between flavor and texture.” Smokey Mo’s Turkey Melt sandwich with a side of collard greens is Chef Jim’s lunch pick, made up of house-smoked turkey, pepper jack, tomato, lettuce, avocado and chipotle mayo on marble rye. Though Feast’s Chef Doug Levy admits he doesn’t get to eat out often, he “loves those tacos” at Boca Tacos y Tequila on Fourth Avenue. The 24 varieties — meat, veggie and seafood — are served with warm, fried-to-order tortilla chips. And when a carb craving kicks in, Chef Doug heads for Za’atar on North Country Club for “their amazing bread.”

The Turkey Melt at Smokey Mo.

OBON Tucson’s Rainbow Poke Bowl and Sashimi Assortment.


Best Place for Seafood Dishes

“Even though we are in a desert” says Chef Travis, “we have some great spots for seafood, such as the always-delicious Kingfisher — a favorite for oysters — or Charro del Rey downtown. But my personal favorite is Mariscos Chihuahua on Swan. I’ve been ordering their Chihuahuita (oysters, shrimp and ceviche cocktail) for more than 20 years. Fresh and filled with both cooked and raw seafood, I squeeze tons of fresh lime and lots of hot sauces all over it. It is probably one of my favorite things to eat, period.” Chef Ryan gives a nod to Kingfisher as well. “I love their signature steamed mussels with just the right amount of Sriracha. James Beard Award-winner Chef Janos’ pick is the Rainbow Poke and Sashimi at OBON Tucson on East Congress downtown. The Poke bowl combines fresh tuna, salmon, yellowtail and shrimp atop cucumber, jalapeños, seaweed salad, avocado and sushi rice or mixed greens. Chef Doug makes it a triple play for Kingfisher, named in Tucson Weekly’s Best of Tucson every year since 2003.

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Tucson Lifestyle

Tucson Lifestyle Magazine is Tucson's only glossy, monthly city magazine, targeting Southern Arizona’s affluent residents. With over 35 years of publishing experience, Tucson Lifestyle is committed to showcasing the people, places, local flavors, and attractions that make our city unique.

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