Downtown Destinations Offer Staycation Relaxation, and More

June 24, 2014

by James J. Jefferies

There are very different kinds of vacations possible, but really, they tend to fall into two distinct categories: the kind of regimented, once-in-a-lifetime long voyages that demand a lot of energy as you whip yourself into a restless human transit tornado utterly compelled to see everything you can, and the other kind.

The kind where all you intend to do is to relax, crack open a book with a glass of wine, and forget all about your daily grind. ‘Staycations’ take this a step even further, all but removing the travel component from the equation and focusing on a pleasant sojourn in a home away from home.

The fantastic pool deck at Convent House.

The fantastic pool deck at Convent House.

The rich history of Tucson, and Downtown in particular, has made for some really terrific destinations in this mold. Roaming the oldest of Tucson’s neighborhoods yields a divine selection of wonderful architectural treasures, from adobe-style homes to Victorian hybrids and everything in-between. Luckily for you, some of these fine monuments to times past have been converted into a variety of places you can stay, and we’ve got profiles on these best bets for summertime escapes right here.

CONVENT HOUSE– Located at 92 W. Simpson in the heart of one of Tucson’s oldest corners, Convent House was originally built in 1880. If you want that rustic Sonoran adobe-walled vibe, this place is going to knock your socks off. Looking very much as if Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’ video could have been shot here, this 3-bedroom 3-bath home is an ornate visual treasure trove, from the original 19th-century cactus-ribbed ceiling to the enormous double-doors that lead the way to the third bedroom.

Owner Craig Baugh feels it’s an excellent value if you’ve got a family or a big traveling crew that needs a residence for a week or two. “August is an incredibly slow season here in Tucson,” said Baugh. “As such, we run a special that month, offering the house at a rate of $995 a week, plus a $200 cleaning fee.” Given the incredible architecture and the quiet neighborhood in which the home resides, you could be very easily forgiven for getting completely lost within the considerable charms of Convent House.

Just a small sample of the luscious outdoor spaces that surround El Presidio Inn.

Just a small sample of the luscious outdoor spaces that surround El Presidio Inn.

There is ample space with the gorgeous kitchen for cooking your own meals, an outdoor pool and spa, a stairway to an upper deck, and the entire place simply oozes the character of the region. Photographs barely do it justice. To further investigate this excellent rental, please check out their listing on the web here, or give Craig a call at (520)203-3699.

EL PRESIDIO INN– Owner Patti Toci oversaw a long, loving restoration of this landmark property that broke ground in 1886, first coming to life as a humble square adobe home whose major distinction was its prime location along what was then a main drag on Main Avenue. The property reopened as a bed and breakfast in 1985, and has been a mainstay for visitors looking for an authentic turn-of-the-century Tucson experience along with some truly amazing surrounding outdoor spaces and gardens. The birds are just about the only thing you’ll hear on a quiet morning there.

“I’ve got a long-running love affair with this property,” said Toci. It’s not hard to see why, spending just a bit of time there and experiencing what represents a genuine trip back into Tucson history, from the cobblestones around the fountain to the sitting room and historic library containing artifacts and mementos from El Presidio’s long timeline here.

Enter another era.

Enter another era.

Of all the things Toci enjoys most about taking care of guests, the food takes the honors. “Food is love,” said Toci. “When guests come in, they don’t necessarily want fancy stuff for breakfast, they want the classics. The bacon platter gets passed around first.” El Presidio Inn is running a fantastic summer special through September 15th – $99 a night. This is an extraordinary value considering the beauty and history of this exceptional bed and breakfast. Check them out on the web here, or give them a call at (520) 623-6151 or 1-800-349-6151 toll free. They’ve even got individual parking spaces they can set you up with!

HOTEL CONGRESS– It’s an absolute Tucson institution, a – wait for it…  legendary – place whose status as a cornerstone of the Old Pueblo is undisputed. Occupying the corner of 5th Avenue and Congress since 1919, this hotel has seen many things come and go around it, but the incredible Southwestern-tinged art deco style remains firmly in place, throughout every room and into the Hotel Congress’s magnificent lobby. John Dillinger, notorious bank robbery and the FBI’s original Public Enemy No.1, was captured here after a fire torched the third floor in 1934.

This represents just a small fraction of the Victorian splendor epitomized by The Royal Elizabeth.

This represents just a small fraction of the Victorian splendor epitomized by The Royal Elizabeth.

Of course, the desirability of this particular locale depends on exactly how restful you’d like your stay to be, for the Hotel Congress is also home to Club Congress, which has forged its own ferocious dance floor tradition since 1985. As such, the place is a consistent venue for terrific live concerts and regular booty-shaking outings, and the noise level is generally off the charts if you’re intent on getting any sleep before 2am.

The downstairs Tiger’s Tap Room serves up excellent drinks (I recommend their Old Fashioned), named in honor of local legend Thomas ‘Tiger’ Ziegler, who has tended bar there since 1959. Also of note is the Cup Cafe, which serves up an award-winning three squares a day (the omelets are tops) and has an awe-inspiring dessert case full of majestic treats.

Again, this may be a better bet for adventuresome adults and couples looking for a base from which to embrace Downtown Tucson’s extensive nightlife, especially given their special summer rates, which range from $69-99 a night! Check out their extensive webpage and calendar of events here.

THE ROYAL ELIZABETH– Aimed primarily at couples and professionals looking for an intimate and luxurious bed and breakfast experience, The Royal Elizabeth Bed & Breakfast Inn almost comes off as if Wes Anderson had a beautiful Victorian fever dream after too much mescal.

Detail, luxurious detail, and yet more exquisite detail is the order of the day here, as you’ll find yourself slack-jawed in amazement at how far the owners have strived to maintain that 19th-century charm, right down to the original intricate woodwork and tapestries.

The Royal Elizabeth's pool is a glorious little oasis in a mellow corner of Downtown Tucson.

The Royal Elizabeth’s pool is a glorious little oasis in a mellow corner of Downtown Tucson.

Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, the original home came into being in 1878, built by an Army veteran named Charles Rivers Drake. Drake himself ordered 200-pound glass skylights and original fir woodwork for the house to be shipped on a horse-drawn wagon from San Francisco, where he owned a mercantile business.

As a bed and breakfast in 2014, the ‘Liz’ offers a very personal touch, as you will be cared for directly by caretakers Susan and Glenn Miesch. Susan is the chef, and she’ll be serving breakfast promptly everyday at 8am, at a communal table along with your fellow guests. “You’re more than welcome to show up in your pajamas with your hair in a towel,” said Miesch.

It’s their aim to make you feel right at home, and they’ve got the stars to prove they can. Delightfully quiet, with a lovely pool offering shade at all times of day, it’s a genuine oasis in the desert. Right now, they’re offering their summertime ‘Get Wet’ special, which means any room in the house (and there are six incredibly distinct ones!) goes for a song at $169 a night. They’re on the web here, or you can give them a call at (520) 670-9022.