A Beginner’s Guide to Tucson, Arizona

After being a ‘major city’ girl for the first 25 years of my life, I moved to Tucson Arizona. At first it was my family encouraging me to move here that brought me here, but after living here for over 24 years, it is the city I now love. I would like to share with you some of the facts about Tucson Arizona, along with some of the best places to visit while you are here – whether to live or just to visit.

Tucson Statistics:
Area: 162 square miles
County: Pima
Location: Northeastern Pima County
Tucson Population: 532,350
Pima County Population: 955,800
Elevation: 2,584 feet

Tucson’s History:

First I would like to share with you some of Tucson’s history. Tucson’s name is believed to have begun as a Native American term meaning “spring at the foot of the black mountain.” Towards the end of the 17th century, at the bottom of the hill known as “A” Mountain(a landmark which can still be seen today), was a smaller community the Indians called Schookson, which gave its name to the present city. The city is also often referred to as the “Old Pueblo”, which became popular more than 70 years ago. Although, looking at its modern skyline, Tucson’s nickname ‘”the Old Pueblo” hardly seems appropriate. The name seems to have come from our Spanish and Indian history.

The Pima Indians(our county is named for them) settled in this area around 400 A.D. and early Spanish and Mexican settlers, who arrived in 1775, called the Native American villages “pueblitos.” Tucson became a European settlement on August 20, 1775 and over time, Tucson has been under four flags. In the beginning, it was an outpost of Spain. When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, the Mexican flag was raised over the town. The present Tucson City Hall, the Pima County Courthouse and the Tucson Museum of Art are all located within an area once surrounded by a wall that protected early Hispanic Tucsonans from attacks by hostile Indians. Most of that wall remained in place until after Southern Arizona became a part of the United States in 1854. Until 1854, Tucson stayed in Mexican territory.

Around 1861, secessionists gained control of Tucson. The Stars and Bars waved over the Old Pueblo, and businessmen who were not willing to take the Confederate oath were forced to leave town. The Union Army recaptured Tucson in 1862, shortly after the battle at Picacho Pass(which is re-enacted every March) and then Arizona became the 48th state on February 14, 1912. It is believed that the first person to arrive in Tucson and Southern Arizona happened at least 35,000 years ago – definitely more than 11,000 years. Tucson’s first residents were called “Paleo Indians”, which were men, women and children perceived as hunters, people who relied heavily on big game for food, clothing and possibly even their shelter. Their spear points have been found in southeastern Arizona and can be seen on display in the Arizona State Museum on The University of Arizona campus. Their successors, the “Archaic” people, are believed to have been more gatherers than hunters. Local archeologists have uncovered 15 pit house dwellings of Archaic peoples(also mentioned above) in a village at the foot of “A” Mountain that were occupied sometime between 1,000 B.C. and A.D. 200. It was some 1,300 years ago, around A.D. 700, that the first so-called Hohokams took up residence in Tucson.

Along with raising crops of corn, squash and beans, they made large quantities of plain ware as well as decorated earthenware pottery. They created elegantly carved and etched shell artifacts as ornaments and objects of trade. Examples of these can also be seen in the Arizona State Museum. At the end of the 17th century, the present metropolitan area of Tucson included several Indian settlements, the largest of which was San Xavier del Bac. There are 21 federally recognized tribes in Arizona, including 2 in our area: Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui. The “Pima” or Piman-speaking people, which after the mid-19th century came to be known by others as the “Papagos” in 1986 became the “Tohono O’odham(means Desert People) Nation” and now a majority of them live on the Tohono O’odham reservation, which is the 2nd largest reservation in the United States. Today, this Nation operates a gambling casino and bingo hall, called Desert Diamond Casino, which has 2 locations on the San Xavier District of the Tohono O’odham Nation – one of the locations also has a concert venue and a fine dining restaurant. Traditional O’odham food including delicious fry bread, wheat tortillas, chili and beans is always available next to the plaza at Mission San Xavier del Bac.

Tucson’s other major Native American group is the Yaqui(they call themselves Yoeme and are Decendants of Mexico’s Toltecs) have been in Southern Arizona at least since the early part of the 18th century. In 1978, the Yaquis organized as the Pascua Yaqui Association and their community also became an Indian Reservation. This reservation is located 15 miles west of Tucson, and on the reservation the tribe owns an operates Casino of the Sun and Casino del Sol. Casino of the Sun is a popular gaming facility that features slots and table games; Casino del Sol also has gaming, in addition to dining facilities and a large state-of-the-art outdoor concert venue(Anselmo Valencia Tori Amphitheater, also known as AVA).
A lot of Tucson’s history can still be seen in many forms today. In downtown Tucson there’s Presidio Park where Tucson began as a Spanish fort, and there are also many performing arts venues, including the Fox Tucson Theatre, a historic movie house that opened in 1930 and closed in 1974. It is supposed to reopen in January 2006, as the centerpiece for the Rio Nuevo Project – a massive, multi-million-dollar project which is designed to bring a variety of housing, shopping and cultural developments into Tucson’s downtown.

The Fox Tucson Theatre’s sister theater – The Rialto – has undergone some improvements and is currently open as a concert venue; it’s scheduled for a full makeover at some point in the future. Also part of the project is a new look for the Amtrak train station,(just north of Hotel Congress), which still functions as a depot, as well as containing the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum. History and cowboy buff notes: recently dedicated statues of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday at the train station commemorate the 1882 shooting of Frank Stillwell, which was in revenge for the murder in Tombstone of Morgan Earp.

Below is a list, with brief descriptions, of other historic attractions around town which are well-known and frequently visited:

Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum: This is the place to go to see flowers and all else native to the Sonora Desert, including reptiles, birds, insects, mountain lions and a lot more. They offer guided tours, lectures, hands-on activities and gallery showings. Hours: March-September:7:30 AM-5:00 PM; October-February:8:30 AM-5:00 PM. Location: 2021 North Kinney Road. Telephone #(520) 883-1380.

Biosphere 2 Center: This is the planet’s largest enclosed, controllable mini-world. Public hourly tours take visitors inside Biosphere 2 to explore the various ecosystems and the structure’s inner workings. There are restaurants, gift shops, a hotel and a conference center on the premises. Hours: daily: 9:00 AM-4:00 PM. Location: Highway 77 to Mile Marker 96.5. Telephone #: (520) 838-6200.

Colossal Cave Mountain Park: Here you can experience a part of Southern Arizona’s history in this cool getaway(70 degrees underground year-round). They offer tours, guest speakers, hands-on activities, picnicking and horseback riding(through a nearby area). Hours depend on the time of year. Location: 16711 East Colossal Cave. Telephone #: 647-7275.

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun: The unique adobe building, along with the other buildings, including his Mission in the Sun(completed in 1952), a little chapel dedicated to Father Eusebio Kino, and the Gallery in the Sun(completed in 1965) were all designed by the prolific Tucson artist, Ted DeGrazia, whose oil paintings of Mexican children) won worldwide approval. These paintings, known as his “Los Ninos” paintings, were reproduced as a 1960 United Nations UNICEF greeting card and today his paintings are sold as many attractive items. On this 10-acre compound you can see many of his original paintings. The gallery is open daily, 10:00 AM-3:45 PM. Location: 6300 North Swan. Telephone #: 299-9191.

National Optical Astronomy Observatories at Kitt Peak: Here you can see the world’s largest collection of ground-based optical telescopes. The Visitor’s Center offers daily guided tours of telescope facilities, public-observing events, and exhibits and videotape presentations on astronomy and the Tohono O’odham culture. Location: about 90 minutes southwest of Tucson via Route 86. Hours: Open daily 9:00 AM-4:00 PM. Telephone #: 318-8200.

Reid Park Zoo: This zoo exhibits more than 500 animals from all over the world. Hours: 9:00 AM-4:00 PM. Location: Within a recreation complex that includes Randolph Golf Course and Hi Corbett Field. 1100 South Randolph Way. Telephone #: 791-4022.

Steward Observatory: This observatory has a 21-inch telescope and a 7-inch photographic telescope. There are photos of outer space on the walls. They offer public viewing nights. Location: University of Arizona campus. Telephone #: 621-2288.

Trail Dust Town: Authentic Old West architecture and its distinct atmosphere are features of this “in town” Western town. It has been a Tucson landmark for about 50 years. Its many attractions are: the Savoy Opera House, Dakota CafÃ?©, Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse, galleries, retail shops, Dragoon Street Wild, Wild West Stunt Shows, the Fiesta del Presidio carousel, the C.P. Huntington narrow gauge train and mine tunnel tour, the Shootist Arcade, and the Museum of the Horse Soldier. From personal experience, The Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse is a great place to eat and fun too. Residents of Tucson know not to wear a tie when dining there, as it will be cut and added to the many others worn by other customers, that don the walls. During Rodeo Week, Trail Dust Days features live entertainment and Western craft makers. Location: 6541 East Tanque Verde. Telephone: 296-4551.

Amerind Foundation Museum: This is an archaeological and ethnological museum which displays jewelry, pottery, baskets, crafts and other items unique to the native people of the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. Location: Off I-10, between Benson and Wilcox. Hours: Open daily 10:00 AM-4:00 PM; closed on Mondays and Tuesdays from June to August and major holidays. Telephone #: (520) 586-3666.

Arizona Historical Society: This is the official state agency that contains the collection, preservation and dissemination of the history of Arizona and Northern Mexico. It is the state’s oldest cultural organization. A permanent building, the present headquarters, was built in 1955 and enlarged in 1975. The Society of Arizona Pioneers became the Arizona Pioneers Historical Society in 1897 and the Arizona Historical Society in 1980. The motto of the Arizona Historical Society is “History Lives.” A visit to its museum will show you why this is true. Its branch museums throughout the city are:
Main Museum: This branch has an extensive research and archive department which contains collections on Western history, ranging from early Spanish armor to furniture from the Arizona Territory. including thousands of manuscripts, photographs, maps, periodicals and more. Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00 AM-4:00 PM; Library hours: Monday-Friday 10:00 AM-3:00 PM; Saturday 10:00 AM-1:00 PM. Closed Sundays. Location: 949 East 2nd Street. Telephone #: 628-5774.

Fort Lowell Museum and Park: This original fort was established to protect settlers and travelers from hostile Indians and at the time(1873-1891) was situated 7 miles from Tucson. Today it is surrounded by the city. The ruins of the fort hospital and the men’s barracks are still there and the museum contains furnishings and artifacts that show life on a military post in frontier Arizona. Hours: Wednesday-Saturday: 10:00 AM-4:00 PM. Location: 2900 North Craycroft. Telephone #: 885-3832.

Sosa-Carrillo-Fremont House Museum: This is one of Tucson’s oldest adobe residences restored to circa 1880, when it was rented by Territorial Governor Fremont and his daughter. Its previous owners were the Jose Maria Sosa family(around 1860) and the Leopoldo Carrillo family(between 1878 and 1969). The Tucson Heritage Foundation restored it. This branch displays 19th-century furnishings and memorabilia of the Sosa, Carrillo and Fremont families. Hours: Wednesday-Saturday: 10:00 AM-4:00 PM. Location: 151 South Granada(in the Tucson Convention Center Complex). Telephone #: 622-0956.

Arizona State Museum: Established in 1893, this is the oldest and largest anthropology museum in the Southwest. It focuses on anthropology and archaeology. Exhibitions display cultures of Arizona, the Greater Southwest and Northern Mexico. It is Arizona’s premier research museum and home of the world’s largest collection of Southwestern Indian pottery. Its experts and collections are among the most significant resources in the world for the study of Southwestern peoples. They offer programs, a renowned research library and an educational museum store. It is a Smithsonian Institution affiliate. Hours: Monday-Saturday: 10:00 AM-5:00 PM, Sunday: 12:00-5:00 PM. Location: The University of Arizona Campus. Telephone #:621-6302.

“A” Mountain: Also known as Sentinel Peak, this landmark was a lookout point for the valley’s early inhabitants. Indians watched for flash floods and approaching enemies; the Spaniards used it to provide warning of Apache raids. Traditionally, the “A” is painted by University of Arizona students, but it is painted green for St. Patrick’s Day. Location: To the west of Tucson.

Barrio Viejo(Barrio Historico): This redeveloped area of territorial Tucson is the oldest area of the city. It includes the famous El Tiradito Wishing Shrine. Location: 356 South Main Avenue.

Mission San Xavier del Bac: White in color, because it can be seen for miles as it stands alone in the desert, it is often called “The White Dove of the Desert.” It is still the mission for the Tohono O’odham Indians and it was the most northern mission established by Father Eusebio Kino in 1629. The buildings that exist today were begun in 1783 and took about 14 years to construct. They were restored in the early years of the last century, and conservation efforts are still underway. Masses are celebrated on a regular basis. Hours: 7:00AM-5:00 PM. Location: San Xavier Indian Reservation. Telephone #: 294-2624.

Flandrau Science Center: This is a planetarium, observatory, mineral museum and science store. They provide a free telescope viewing. Hours: Monday-Saturday: 9:00 AM-5:00 PM; Sunday: 1-5 PM; evenings Thursday-Saturday: 7-9 PM. Location: University of Arizona Campus. Telephone #: 621-STAR.

Pima Air and Space Museum: This is the world’s largest privately funded aerospace museum. It contains famous a little-known military and civilian aircraft. They provide tours of the nearby Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, otherwise known as “the Boneyard.” Hours: 9:00 AM-5:00 PM daily(last admittance at 4:00 PM). Location: 6000 East Valencia Road. Telephone #: 574-0462.

Titan Missile Museum: This is the only deactivated site in the country that has been maintained as a museum, which houses America’s line of defense, during the Cold War, including hidden underground silos with Titan II ICBMs. They provide tours which give you an insider’s look at how the missile crews lived and worked. Hours are seasonal. Location: In Sahuarita at 1580 West Duval Mine Road. Telephone #: 625-7736.

Tucson Botanical Gardens: This 5.5 acre oasis includes a low water garden, a cactus and succulent garden, wildflower and butterfly gardens, a tropical greenhouse, a sensory garden, a backyard bird garden, a Native American crops garden and more. Also on the property is Porter House, which features art and historic exhibits and a gift shop. Hours: Monday-Sunday: 8:30 AM-4:30 PM. Location: 2150 North Alvernon Way. Telephone #: 326-9686.

Tucson’s Children’s Museum: Housed in 1901, this building was once an Andrew Carnegie Library. This museum provides interactive fun and walk-through exhibits, featureing everything from police and fire vehicles to life-size dinosaurs. They also offer special activities, guest speakers and summer camps. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 10:00 AM-5:00 PM; Sunday; 12:00-5:00 PM. Monday hours during the summer. Location: 200 South Sixth Avenue. Telephone #: 792-9985.

University of Arizona Museum of Art: This museum exhibits their permanent collections, which span the Middle Ages through the 20th century and temporary exhibits. Hours: Tuesday-Friday: 9:00 AM-5:00 PM; Saturday-Sunday: 12:00-4:00 PM. May-August: Tuesday-Friday: 10:00 AM-3:30 PM; Saturday-Sunday: 12:00-4:00 PM. Location: The University of Arizona campus. Telephone #: 621-7567.

Many people fall in love with Tucson’s sunsets, its mountain views and its laid-back way of life. Nestled in a dry valley surrounded by four mountain ranges, Tucson attracts lovers of the outdoors, because of its distinctive desert setting, its various recreation options and knowing that preservation of the local environment is taken seriously.

Taking in Tucson’s breathtaking scenery on horseback, just as the early settlers did, is a relaxing, peaceful way to go. If you rather not horseback ride, try hiking, bicycling and/or even walking across the desert landscape. Tucson has many parks for desert enjoyment, hiking, leisurely walks and exercise such as: Catalina State Park(Pusch Ridge Wilderness -overnight camping too); El Presidio Park(site for the Tucson Folk Festival); Saguaro National Park; Tohono Chul Park and Tucson Mountain Park.

The 2 most well-known and frequented parks are: Kartchner Caverns State Park: A cave on the property was announced to the world as recently as 1988. Tours vary, depending on the time of year. Camping sites and walking trails are also in the area. Park hours: 7:30 AM-6:00 PM daily. Location: State Highway 90, exit 302, near Benson. Telephone #: (520) 586-4100; reservations: (520)-586-CAVE; and Sabino Canyon: Long regarded as one of Tucson’s favorite escapes, here you can take a guided tour(on a tram), hike, observe the wildlife(road runners, javelina, mountain lions, etc.), bike, picnic and even take a splash in Hutch’s Pools. Location: Sabino Canyon Road. Telephone #: 749-2861or 749-8700.

ALL ELSE ABOUT TUCSON:

A saguaro cactus is a symbol of Southern Arizona.

Tucson’s mayor is Bob Walkup.

Education: Tucson has 11 public school districts and many private schools. In 1885 Tucson was handed the rights to build an institution of higher learning – thought at the time it was far less useful. The problem was, there was no land available, until gamblers E.B. Gifford and Ben C. Parker and saloon keeper W.S. “Billy” Read decided to donate 40 acres east of town on which to build a university. 120 years later, The University of Arizona has become beloved and invaluable in our community. Students enrollment is more than 35,000, and despite budget cuts the university is one of the largest employers in Pima County, as well as one of the biggest in the state. Pima Community College was founded about 35 years ago, and today is the eight-largest multi-campus community college in the nation. More than 85,000 students(credit and noncredit) enroll yearly in more than 5,500 classes.

The Tucson-Pima public library system has 24 branches.

Tucson has 11 hospitals.

There are two major newspapers available in Tucson – one in the morning, the Arizona Daily Star and one in the afternoon, the Tucson Citizen. There are also two business papers: Inside Tucson Business and The Daily Territorial. Other smaller papers are: Arizona Jewish Post, Bear Essential News for Kids, The Desert Leaf, The Explorer, Good News Tucson, Green Valley News & Sun and Tucson Weekly.

Tucson’s ‘in town’ bus system is called, Sun Tran. Bus fare is $1.00(Seniors and low-income discounts are available) and transfers are provided. Because of the many bus stops conveniently located(most are covered because of the hot weather), the low fare and on-time service, many residents and visitors use the bus as their means of transportation. All buses are equipped with bike racks on the front so you can ride your bike to and from the bus stops.

Greyhound Bus Lines provides service out of town, as well as Amtrak Trains and Tucson International Airport(which is only 10 miles south of the downtown area).

Tucson has at least 12 golf courses and with such good climate(more on the weather shortly), newcomers are faced with the pleasant problem of which golf course to play next.

Tucson’s baseball team is the Sidewinders and its college basketball team is the infamous Wildcats.

You don’t have to look far to find the arts in Southern Arizona. The city’s fine cultural offerings entertain thousands of Tucsonans and visitors in every season. Whether you’re looking for a cappuccino and a leisurely stroll through the Arts District or a night at the ballet, the art scene will surprise, enchant and impress you with its diversity and charm. Locals take pride in professional symphony, theater, opera and ballet companies and art museums. Dozens of independent galleries, musical and dance troupes add to Tucson’s vibrant atmosphere. The University of Arizona alone is a cultural district. There you will find the Peter Marroney and Laboratory theaters, the University of Arizona Repertory Theater, the world-class John P. Schaefer Center for Creative Photography, known for its extensive research archives of important creative photographers such as Ansel Adams and the fine art museum listed above. Pima Community College joined the Tucson art scene in a big way in 1992 when the $6.2 million Center for the Arts opened on its Westside campus. The complex encompasses the high-tech Proscenium Theatre, Black Box Theatre, recital hall and art gallery, and boasts groups from the Tucson Symphony and Ballet Arizona on its performance schedule. Downtown’s Temple of Music and Art, an architectural cousin to Southern California’s Pasadena Playhouse, was designed in 1927 to be the cultural center of Tucson. A stunning renovation, completed in 1990, lured the Arizona Theatre Company as anchor tenant, and the Temple continues as a cultural focal point. The Southern Arizona Light Opera Company(SALOC), the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Arizona Opera also perform around town.

Many well-known names have been associated with Tucson over the years. Award winning singer Linda Ronstadt grew up here and until recently called Tucson home. Lee Marvin spent the last years of his life here, and Linda McCartney(a one-time UA student), her final days. Others who have attended the U of A include former NBA stars Steve Kerr and Sean Elliot; actors Craig T. Nelson and Greg Kinnear; politicians Barry Goldwater, Dennis DeConcini and Bob Dole; high-powered film producer Jerry Bruckheimer(who graduated with a degree in psychology); and TV personalities Geraldo Rivera and Nicole Richie. A number of celebrities have had brushes with the law in Pima County, including the late Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, who was investigated in 1978 for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and Diana Ross, who pled guilty in 2004 to a DUI charge. Going way back into history, Wyatt Earp played cards here and John Dillinger and his gang were busted and sent back to Illinois.

WEATHER SMARTS. I’m sure everyone has heard of Tucson’s summer heat and the saying, “But it’s a dry heat.” After living here for over 24 years and spending my previous years in the East with humidity, I personally feel that humidity is worse, but everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. I think you have to experience both yourself, to come to a conclusion. Let me give you the facts about our weather here.

TUCSON’S TEMPERATURE AVERAGES
MAXIMUM/MINIMUM
From the records of the National Weather Service
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUNE JULY AUG SEPT OCT NOV DEC
63/38 67/40 71/44 81/50 90/57 98/66 98/74 95/72 93/67 84/56 72/49 65/39

Although these are the average temperatures, it is well-known that during the summer months in Tucson, the temperature can soar as high as 118 degrees. Yes, there is very low humidity with these temperatures. Hydration is especially important during these months. If you aren’t already in the habit of carrying bottled water with you, you may want to develop it when you’re in Tucson. As a rule of thumb, you should drink at least one liter of water per hour to avoid dehydration. You’ll also need to wear sunscreen and protective clothing. Outdoor activities you used to enjoy at 9:00 AM in another part of the country, may need to be done here at 6:00 AM.

Pets need to be provided with shelter from the heat, especially if they are going to be outside for long periods of time. Outdoor pets need more than just trees for shade – they need doghouses, or any other enclosure that protects them from direct sunlight. Always supply them with fresh water both inside and outside the house. Inside a vehicle is no place to ever leave a pet, even for a short time. Even when the outside air temperature is relatively cool, the interior of a parked car can heat up to 100 degrees or more.

Although southwestern Arizona is just about the driest area in the country, we do have what is called our “monsoon(rainy) season.” During this time, which is still during our hot, summer months of July and August, the temperature drops and the humidity rises a bit(still not as high as in the east). During our monsoon season, and at other times as well, flash floods sometimes occur. Washes, underpasses, bridges and even level streets can become impassable in a matter of minutes, from the heavy rains. Many areas are posted to warn of flood danger, yet every year motorists get stranded in futile and dangerous attempts to drive through submerged terrain. Often our streets are deceptive and dips are much deeper than they appear.

Living “creatures” and other dangers of the desert:

If I only told you the “best of Tucson”, first you would probably think something was up and at the same time, guilt would overcome me, as I know about the dangers of snakes and other inhabitants of the desert. Yes, Southern Arizona is one of the most beautiful and lush deserts in the world, but our minds immediately associate the word ‘desert’ with scary desert inhabitants – snakes, Gila monsters, scorpions, tarantulas, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcatsâÂ?¦.Don’t let these frighten you off though. Throughout the 24 years I’ve been living here, I’ve only seen about 8 of the most harmful of these “pests” and most of them usually pose special hazards, during the hot summer months.

The rattlesnake and coral snake are the only snakes in Arizona capable of inflicting a potentially deadly bite. These snakes are most active during the warm months of April through October, particularly at night. However, most reptiles will not bite unless provoked. Your best bet is to leave them alone. If a snake must be moved, leave it to a professional handler. Despite the fact that the death rate from snakebites is less than 1 percent, serious symptoms are possible. If bitten, you will experience pain. Medical director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center advises to keep the affected limb as immobile as possible at approximately heart level. Even though there will be significant swelling, nausea and weakness, try to remain calm, being careful not to overexert yourself. Do not apply ice or cold packs and do not use a tourniquet, alcohol or any drugs. The victim should be moved to a medical facility immediately.

Gila monsters are the only known venomous lizards in the world. They will not attack humans unless significantly agitated. When they do attack, they deliver a tenacious bite, clamping down with their teeth and not letting go. If bitten, it is important to disengage the lizard as soon as possible. Place a strong stick between the bitten area and the back of the lizard’s mouth and push against the rear of the jaw. If this isn’t successful, immersing the lizard in water may make it release its hold. The Gila monster’s bite is extremely painful, and victims may experience localized swelling, nausea, hypertension, weakness, excessive perspiration, chills and fever. Scorpions, female black widow spiders with an orange hourglass marking on their undersides, tarantulas and “brown recluse” spiders with a violin-shaped marking on the back of their head are all venomous creatures. Adults stung by these creatures do not usually experience serious side effects for more than several days. Although the bite may cause pain in most cases, the scorpion’s sting may inflict numbness and tingling; the black widow’s nausea, vomiting, headache and anxiety; tarantula’s bite itching and rash; and the brown spider’s poison inflammation and lesions. We also have kissing bugs here, which are also known as conenose bugs and they may bite without being provoked. Typically, no pain is felt at the time of the bite, but later pain, redness, swelling and itching will occur. As with all of the above, children may experience more serious, and sometimes life threatening symptoms. It is recommended to always call the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center if bitten or stung.

On a much lighter note, even though they are well-known, attractive plants of the desert, most people try to keep their distance from cacti. Although they are wonderful for low-water landscaping , cacti pose problems where young children play. If a spine does stick you or your child, pull it out with a tweezers or use cellophane or duct tape, or a fine-tooth comb, being careful not to break off the spine. To remove smaller spines that may not even be visible to the eye, Miriam Fultz, M.D., a University Physician’s pediatrician recommended applying a thick layer of household glue, such as Elmer’s, and letting it dry. As the glue is peeled off, the spines comes out, too. She also advises to apply antiseptic to the puncture wound and watch carefully for redness or swelling that may indicate an infection from fungus on the spines. Oleanders are common landscaping shrubs in Tucson, but their long narrow leaves and brightly colored flowers are extremely poisonous. Don’t plant oleanders in areas of your yard where young children spend time. A toddler may find the red, pink or white blossoms irresistible and chew the leave or suck the nectar. Do resist the temptation to use oleander branches for barbeque kindling or as skewers. These forms of contact may cause nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, drowsiness and convulsions. Contact could be fatal within 24 hours. Anyone who accidentally ingests or suspects that there was exposure to oleander should call Poison Control. Don’t wait for symptoms to occur.

Put all the “scary” information in the back of your mind and let the beauty and sereneness of Tucson, its’ attractions and its’ perfect Winter weather prevail. If you’re looking for variety, you will definitely find it here. Enjoy!

For more information about Tucson, you can contact:

Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities(TREO), 120 North Stone, Suite 200, Tucson, Arizona 85701, 243-1900/1-866-600-0331, www.treoaz.org
Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau, 100 South Church, Tucson, Arizona 85701, 624-1817, www.visittucson.org
Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, 465 West St. Mary’s Road, Tucson, Arizona 85701, 792-2250, www.tucsonchamber.org

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