Tubac / © Kathy Jamieson
Published November/December 2015

Treasures in Tubac

This artists’ colony has become a popular tourist destination

BYMark Mussari
Nestled in the verdant Santa Cruz Valley and bathed in some of the Sonoran Desert’s most romantic lighting, Tubac has long attracted both artists and those with an artistic sensibility. And no wonder — the town is steeped in history and enveloped in natural beauty. Tubac was first occupied by Europeans in 1752 and established its tourist reputation in 1856. For more than a century and a half, that renown has only grown and expanded as new visitors discover the allure of this enchanting village.
With more than 100 galleries and shops, many featuring handcrafted items and Mexican and Native American designs, Tubac offers visitors a wide range of shopping choices. In addition to the boutiques, galleries, and eateries of Old Tubac, the newer La Entrada de Tubac and Plaza de Anza serve up their own eclectic array of shops and restaurants in Southwestern-style architecture. Spanning more than 55,000 square feet, La Entrada resembles a mammoth hacienda, its towers recalling Tubac’s past as a one-time presidio (fort).
Nature lovers can hike in the nearby Santa Rita Mountains or bird-watch while walking on the Anza Trail along the Santa Cruz River. Take the trail from the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park south to the Spanish Colonial ruins at Tumacácori National Historical Park.
Art Galore
Thanks to its long history as an artists’ colony, Tubac delivers on the art scene. Numerous galleries — representing a wide swath of artistic styles — beckon at every turn as visitors stroll through the historic town.
K. Newby Gallery & Sculpture Garden exhibits some of the finest Southwestern art produced today, from arresting wildlife paintings to deftly rendered plein-air (open air) landscapes to monumental sculptures. Cobalt Fine Arts features painting, sculpture, and ceramics by both local and national artists. The Red Door Gallery serves up contemporary jewelry, Oaxacan folk art, and Navajo and Zuni treasures. Local and international women artists, working in myriad media, are represented at Feminine Mystique Gallery.
Authentic Mexican folk art — from carefully crafted santos (carved religious statues) and milagros (charms) to brilliant ceramics — are featured at La Paloma de Tubac. For those with more modernist tastes, Mas y Mas mixes a contemporary European style with some first-class Southwestern arts.
Much of Tubac’s modern history began in what is now known as the Tubac Golf Resort & Spa, which dates back to 1789. The original property was a functioning cattle ranch named after its owner Don Toribio de Otero and located on the first Spanish land grant in the Southwest. In 1959, crooner Bing Crosby led a group of investors who purchased the ranch and turned it into the Tubac Golf Resort & Spa.
For fine dining, consider Stables Ranch Grille in the resort, or the inventive Mexican cuisine at Elvira’s Restaurant in La Entrada. For a casual lunch, shoppers can relax at Shelby’s Bistro or Tubac Deli & Coffee Company. 
MARK MUSSARI, a Tucson-based freelance writer, thinks that the cows grazing on the greenery at the Tubac Golf Resort have the life. 
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