My View: Explore the 'real' Arizona with these four southern gems – The Business Journals


When I wrote about key locations in and around Phoenix to visit to get a deeper understanding of what makes Arizona unique and special, my many friends in Tucson kept reminding me about Southern Arizona and especially Tucson.
Before I get to the Old Pueblo, let’s look at four places that are a day trip from Tucson or worth an overnight stay. (Numbers in parentheses are drive times from downtown Phoenix and Tucson)
A unique geographic feature of our southern desert is our sky islands. These mountains rise to over 9,000 feet above the desert floor, creating isolated pine and oak ecosystems a short drive from cactus and rock. Mount Lemmon (two M’s!) is an hour’s twisty drive north of Tucson. Its altitude creates a unique and biodiverse collection of plants and animals, and it is also 30 degrees cooler and offers 100-mile views. (3 hours from Phoenix, 1¼ hours from Tucson)
Not wanting to be topped by Northern Arizona’s Jerome, the southern part of the state has its own former mining town, Bisbee, also featuring a thriving art colony, great restaurants and plenty of ghosts. The crown jewel of the city is the Copper Queen Hotel. There are several other unique and quaint places to spend the night, including other renovated turn-of-the-century buildings, scores of rental houses, an old mining camp, and my favorite, a motel made up of vintage trailers. Eleven miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, Bisbee is also famous for having over one thousand stairsteps connecting its streets. (3 hours, 1½ hours) 
Founded in 1752, this small community has a state park preserving the original Spanish Presidio, a  world-class resort, and the heart of the town, a thriving 70-year-old art colony. Bring a big enough vehicle to haul back the pots, paintings, and furniture you will most likely buy here. (2¼ hours, 45 minutes)
Arizona’s first wine area is around the town of Sonoita along the border with Mexico. According to experts, the soil is similar to France’s Burgundy region. The wine is good, and there are a growing number of excellent food options. But for me, it is gazing over the wide-open spaces that make sitting on a winery’s patio and sipping their latest Cabernet so wonderful. (2½ hours, 1 hour)  
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