Tucson’s Small Town Charm is an Invitation to LGBTQ Travelers

Tucson by Titus Castanze Rock Martinez et al (courtesy of Visit Tucson)

Big cities are generally ideal for queer-friendly travel (love that). But with size often comes other things: crowds, traffic, high prices, and let’s get real…bougie drama.

Enter Tucson.


Despite being the second-largest city in Arizona, Tucson radiates small-town vibes. From artsy accommodations to inspired imbibing, the LGBTQ+ game in this “big yet small” town is on point. Take a trip with us to the desert.

Where to Stay

First and foremost, let’s get your accommodations squared away because you definitely need a super comfortable (and Instagram-able) place to crash at the end of every adventure-filled day. Pro tip: Beauty sleep is essential.

Hotel McCoy (Images courtesy of Visit Tuscon)

Hotel McCoy

The motto of this retro-chic mid-century modern hotel is “Travel for All.” Talk about a great start! From the fully restored pool and A-shaped entrance to the lobby with exposed original beams and motor lodge-style parking, Hotel McCoy is a hip respite that celebrates diversity and embraces individuality. If you’re looking for a memorable stay where acceptance and hospitality reign supreme, you’ve come to the right place.

The Downtown Clifton


This black & queer-owned escape is part of the heart and soul of downtown Tucson, with historic barrios surrounding it. Purchased in 2014 and lovingly restored to its vintage roots, The Downtown Clifton offers the perfect blend of mid-century hip and modern comfort (saddle blanket bedspreads and original 1940s bathroom tile serve as a cheeky contrast to the polished concrete floors). Best of all, it’s close to the amazing nightlife and cultural attractions Tucson is known for.

Where to Eat

Tacos? Yes. More tacos? Also, yes. Tucson offers these and a whole lot more. Immerse yourself in a food scene driven by rich cultural heritage, innovative spirit, and a passion for the Sonoran Southwest. 

Boca Tacos y Tequila (left) & Tumerico (right)

Boca Tacos y Tequila

Chef Maria Mazon is a two-time nominated James Beard Award finalist and standout Top Chef Season 18 contestant (in other words, a beyond-badass culinary artist) who is very out and very proud. Bring your appetite and venture into new taco territory at Boca where traditional options like carne asada and al pastor mingle alongside adventurous creations such as rattlesnake and kangaroo. When Chef Maria isn’t in the kitchen she can often be found hosting events and fundraisers in support of LGBTQ+ causes. Given that, it’s no surprise that Boca has become a beloved spot for both locals and visitors alike.



If you think a Vegan restaurant can’t win a James Beard Award, chef Wendy Garcia has already proved you wrong. In the span of about a decade, the standout chef and restaurateur went from selling tamales at local farmers markets to taking home the top prize in gastronomy. Says chef Wendy, “What’s a better meal than nopalitos harvested from the backyard and fresh chiles from a local farmers market for a salsa, or a good soup made of local tepary beans? I just love getting local ingredients and creating a meal that will make someone’s day, physically and mentally.” Her innovative menu—as well as her passion for food and community—is renowned in Tucson. And for traveling foodies, Tumerico is a must-try.

Borderlands Brewing Co.

Borderlands co-owner Ayla Kapahi was the first female head brewer in Arizona. She is also an outspoken advocate for supporting women and minorities in the craft brewing industry—and backs it up by employing an all-female brewing staff. In 2021, she and other local female brewers made history by collaborating with female brewers in Mexico to create Las Hermanas, Arizona & Sonora’s first all-female-brewed beer. Now, Borderlands has upped their food game by partnering with aforementioned celeb chef Maria Mazon to offer a Sonoran-inspired menu at their Sam Hughes neighborhood location near the University of Arizona.

Where to Party

Now that you’ve laid a base, let’s do this. Tucson’s queer-friendly nightlife offers everything from spurs to sparkle. 

Image by Copilot

IBT’s Bar + Food


Tucson’s #1 gay bar deserves top billing so we are starting here. That said, you should plan on ENDING here so maybe read these in reverse order and pace yourself. (Hydrate, people.) IBT’s Bar + Food has it all: Karaoke Mondays, Trivia Tuesdays, drag shows Wednesday through Sunday, 2-4-1 call bottle beers on Thursdays, and Wild Men of the West on Fridays & Saturdays. All of this plus multiple dance floors and DJs. Yassss, queens.

Brodie’s Dark Horse Tavern

The best way to describe this place is kitsch with a rainbow twist. Already sounds fun, right? Grab a bite and a drink at Brodie’s Dark Horse Tavern and enjoy the large open patio with a scene that really starts cranking on weekend nights.


Known as the home bar for the Tucson gayborhood and Bears of the Old Pueblo, this Levi’s and leather spot has stood the test of time in the Tucson gay community. Visit Venture-N and play some pool, grab a spot on the patio, or just chill with a very friendly, welcoming crowd.

Surly Wench Pub

In 1927, this site on 4th Avenue housed a Piggly Wiggly. Today, it’s a lesbian-owned bar known for raucous burlesque shows, live music, and 80s dance parties. Now, that’s an improvement! Surly Wench Pub is a must-stop on any self-respecting Tucson bar crawl route.

What to Do


By now, you’ve likely realized that you will be eating and drinking a lot—so here are a few fun ways to get some steps in while visiting the Sonoran Desert. Let’s burn some calories, folks.

Sabino Canyon (left) & Saguaro National Park, (photo: Brian Emch)

Saguaro National Park

Here’s your chance to get up close to the majestic cacti you’ve only seen in movies. Saguaro National Park is home to the elders of the cactus forest, which can grow 50 feet tall and live for over 200 years. Separated by Tucson, the park has east and west districts, with more than 170 total miles of hiking trails. Pick your adventure: from desert romps in the west to mountainous treks in the east, this is an unforgettable way to get moving.

Sabino Canyon

Stunning desert landscapes, lush riparian areas, and rugged mountain scenery come together in Sabino Canyon. Hiking trails range from easy walks to challenging treks, with highlights including the Seven Falls Trail and the Sabino Canyon Trail. Prefer not to hoof it around? The Sabino Canyon Crawler is an hour-long narrated tram tour that winds nearly 4 miles into the canyon, crossing nine stone bridges over Sabino Creek. Keep an eye out for desert flora and fauna such as saguaro cacti , desert bighorn sheep, and a variety of bird species!

For the LGBTQ+ community, Tucson does not disappoint. Ready to be a desert diva? Learn more at visitarizona.com/lgbtq.

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