Children's education in Tucson -- for Parents
Vail schools probably are fine, but you should be aware that Arizona Schools in general are very poor. If you are coming from Europe or any metropolitan areas, the schools will seem horrible. Many people use "Charter" schools -- be careful, the quality of these schools is extremely variable -- or many people including those who are not religious choose to send their children to Roman Catholic parochial schools.
What is a downtown?
American cities I visited including Tucson look quite different than old European ones and they don't have a city center (centre), they have a downtown - usually it's located really down but not always hehe.
Don't look for numerous lovely, picturesque, small streets (usually closed to traffic) full of small shops oops... stores, cafes, restaurants with tables outside and with lovely yards.
Look for high buildings (skyscrapers), a few streets with buildings not quite as tall full of restaurants of various kinds (mainly American and Spanish/Mexican) located one by one (Congress Street) plus shopping mall and convention center somewhere close. It's just an American typical downtown - small in area but big in height usually.
Maybe it's more practical (like most things in the USA) but does it look more beautiful? I don't think so.
redington pass and the rincons
The Rincons Mountains could be considered the younger, overlooked cousin of the Catalinas. This is not to say that they're any younger in geologic age, but rather they're slightly smaller and less dramatic, but are much more isolated and desolate.
There are three ways into the Rincons:
The best way is to hike. The Douglas Spring Trail, starting from the end of Speedway Boulevard, takes you into the beautiful yucca-lined grassland representing the foothills of the Rincons. After about 6.5 miles, you hit the Douglas Spring campground and have the chance to continue to Rincon Peak. This a really nice trail to do as a long day hike (going all the way to the peak is an overnighter) and is not very crowded past two or three miles. Keep in mind that there is no water on the trail, except what you may find in the creeks.
You can also drive in on two different roads.
Redington Road starts paved from the end of Tanque Verde Road on the far eastern side of town past the horse ranches and cactus nurseries. It quickly becomes a windy, narrow, gravel and dirt road. Once you pass the more popular Tanque Verde Falls parking lots, you're in a very desolate part of the Rincons. You'll see ATVers, horseback riders, hunters and people just out there to shoot, but they'll taper off the further you go. At about 12 miles, you hit the Italian Spring and Arizona Trail. If you head south, you will eventually meet the Douglas Spring Trail mentioned above and can gain access into the heart of the Rincons. The road eventually heads back down into the desert and hits San Pedro Road at the village of Redington.
other bar areas
Like most other cities, Tucson does have some good bars off of its major bar strips.
Grant Road is one of the better ones, with bars strewn along for several miles:
The Kingfisher (between Tucson and Country Club) mainly serves as a high-end restaurant, but also has a popular, high-end bar mostly frequented by the hip, late 20's, early 30's set.
French Quarter (just east of Country Club) serves Louisiana style food, has live music (usually cover bands) on the weekends, and is a pretty decent bar. It's a little wilder than Kingfisher, but good all the same.
The Shelter (between Alvernon and Swan) has a strong 60's motif (not Tim Leary 60's, but rather JFK 60's), a good crowd, and is a good drinking spot on most nights. It's a small place, in a very interesting building, so it fills up quickly after 9pm Th-Sun. Very casual and very Tucson.
During the day, it's mostly a business area, but at night, the strip between Speedway and Grant is a popular bar area. The big ones are the Cactus Moon (country music dancing, but also hip-hop with a very mixed crowd) and Sakura (sake bombs with live patio music on Fri/Sat), but there are several establishments close by. Monkey Business, a restaurant on Wilmot south of Broadway, is a good hang-out for after-work drinking. There are also two newer, more dance club places in the area: DV-8 on Speedway west of Wilmot and Ice (formerly City Limits) on Wilmot at Pima. The Kingfisher is a little snobby, although I don't think anything is official. Business casual level should be suitable.
Eat With a View of the Desert and Its Wildlife
This restaurant began as an eight stool, two table café in 1956 it has since expanded to accommodate its many customers. Although the food is of average quality, it is the best choice when visiting either Saguaro National Park East or Colossal Cave. The dining area has large glass windows that look out onto the desert. The owners of the restaurant have a feeding program for wildlife, and we enjoyed watching many birds including cardinals, gambles quail, and humming birds. We also saw a coyote and some rock squirrels as we ate our lunch