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Mission San José de Tumacácori

Tubac is a small town in South Central Arizona. In the mid-20th century an art school was established here, and today it is known primarily as an artists' colony, drawing visitors to its many art galleries as well as to the nearby Spanish missions.


Tubac (from Spanish Tubaca, derived from the original O'odham name Cuwak – 'rotten') was established as a Spanish colonial garrison in 1752 to protect the nearby Jesuit missions of Tumacácori, Guevavi, and Calabazas from Native Americans in what was then New Spain. It is the first and oldest European settlement in what is now Arizona, and was the starting point for explorer Juan Bautista de Anza's search for an overland route to the Pacific coast, eventually leading to the founding of San Francisco.

In the 19th century Tubac became Mexican after the Mexican War of Independence, and then American following the Gadsden Purchase. During this time the town faced persistent Apache attacks and was twice abandoned, by both Mexicans and Americans; it remained a quasi-ghost town until the early 20th century.

Get in[edit]

By car[edit]

Tubac lies directly off of Interstate 19, about a third of the way between Nogales (Arizona), and Tucson.

Get around[edit]

There is no public transportation, but Tubac is very small and the core is easily traversed by foot. To go to Tumacácori National Historic Park, four miles south, a car is necessary.


  • 1 Tumacácori National Historical Park, 1891 E Frontage Rd (Tumacácori-Carmen, 4 miles S of Tubac), +1 520-398-2341. Daily 9AM-5PM, closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. This park protects the photogenic ruins of three Jesuit Spanish missions in an area of 360 acres. The first and oldest mission in the area was established in 1691. Only the Mission San José de Tumacácori is generally open to the public; the other two missions can be visited only with guided walking tours January through March, on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, from 9AM-1PM. The tours must be reserved in advance online.
    A gift shop at the entrance sells Tohono O'odham handicrafts as well as books on the region.
    Park admission (valid for 7 days): $5 (adults), free (children under 16); annual pass (for pass holder + 3 adults): $20; guided tour of Guevavi and Calabazas: $25. Tickets can be purchased beforehand online, and National Park Annual Passes are accepted. Tumacácori National Historical Park (Q3895769) on Wikidata Tumacácori National Historical Park on Wikipedia
    • 2 Mission San José de Tumacácori. This structure was completed in 1757 as a replacement for an earlier abandoned church. Following the expulsion of the Jesuits from New Spain (Mexico) in 1768, the Franciscan Order took over its operation. The mission was ultimately abandoned in 1848 and lay in ruins until the establishment of Tumacácori National Monument in 1908.
      Although no longer functioning as a church, mass is held here twice a year: on the first Sunday of December in conjunction with the annual Tumacácori Fiesta, and once in October during Tubac's annual Anza Day celebration. On the grounds is a museum with displays illustrating daily mission life, and there is also a small gift shop by the main entrance.
      Tumacácori Mission (Q6878724) on Wikidata Mission San José de Tumacácori on Wikipedia
    • 3 Mission Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi. Established in 1691, the existing structure was built in 1751 and abandoned in 1775 due to persistent attacks from Apaches. Now in ruins, it was added to the park in 1990, and can be visited only as part of a guided tour. Guevavi Mission (Q6878629) on Wikidata Mission Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi on Wikipedia
    • 4 Mission San Cayetano de Calabazas. Founded in 1756, the church was completed in 1773. The mission was abandoned in the late 18th century and again in the early 19th century because of Apache attacks, and was finally completely abandoned in 1878. Also added to the park in 1990, this can be visited only with a guided tour. Calabazas Mission (Q6878711) on Wikidata Mission San Cayetano de Calabazas on Wikipedia
  • 5 Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, One Burruel St, +1 520-398-2252. Daily 9AM-5PM. The park preserves the ruins of the Presidio San Ignacio de Tubac, a Spanish fortress, as well as a few other historic buildings, one of which houses a small museum. The park also hosts a number of cultural events, including the annual Anza Days celebration and various demonstrations, guided tours, and concerts. $5 adults, $2 children 7-13, free for children under 7. Tubac Presidio State Historic Park (Q7850700) on Wikidata Tubac Presidio State Historic Park on Wikipedia
  • 6 Tubac Center for the Arts, 9 Plaza Rd, +1 520-398-2371. Aug: Th-Sa 10AM-4:30PM, Su 1-4:30PM; Sep-May: M-Sa 10AM-4:30PM, Su noon-4:30PM; closed Jun-Jul. The local artists' cooperative organizes individual and group art exhibits, workshops, and other events, and has a gift shop.


  • 1 Agua Linda Farm, 2643 E Frontage Rd, Amado (off of I-19), +1 520-891-5532, . A privately owned farm/ranch which opens to the public for seasonal events, including the Easter Egg Hunt, Garlic and Onion Festival, and the Fall Festival. $5-$8.

Festivals and events[edit]

Folklorico performance at La Fiesta de Tumacácori
  • La Fiesta de Tumacácori, 1891 E Frontage Rd, Tumacácori-Carmen (at Tumacácori National Historical Park). A colorful two-day fiesta held annually on the first full weekend in December. The fiesta features food, crafts, and performances by regional Native American and Mexican dancers and musicians. Free.
  • Anza Day Mass, Tumacácori National Historical Park. Once a year in October Catholic Mass is held in the mission church, with participants dressed in period costume. This is a very popular event, registration is required. Free.
  • Anza Days, One Burruel St, Tubac (at Tubac Presidio State Historic Park), +1 520-398-2252. annually in October. A three-day festival commemorating Juan Bautista de Anza' 1774 arrival in Tubac. Costumed actors on horseback ride from Tumacácori to Tubac, and re-enact historic scenes. Other presentations include music and dance, as well as children's activities. Free.
  • Christmas Eve Tumacácori Luminaria, 1891 E Frontage Rd (at Tumacácori National Historical Park). Dusk. In an annual Mexican tradition, thousands of paper lanterns are set in and around the mission church and grounds. It is a beautiful experience, and well worth the effort to see. People start queuing about an hour before dusk. Free.


Typical crafts for sale at Casa Maya de Mexico

Given Tubac's current incarnation as an artists' colony, unsurprisingly most shops and galleries cater to visitors looking to buy art and handmade crafts. The diverse offerings on hand range from outright kitsch to more tasteful items, and include garden furnishings, Mexican and Guatemalan imports, Native American jewelry, and paintings and sculpture. Most shops are clustered in the area bounded by Plaza Road, Tubac Road, and Burruel Street.

  • 1 Old Presidio Traders, 27 Tubac Rd, +1 520-398-9333, . Daily 9AM-5PM. A family-owned and operated trading post which sells handmade items by Native American artisans, including by Zuni, Navajo, Hopi, Apache, and Tohono O'odham tribal members.
  • 2 Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Co., 1868 E I-19 Frontage Rd (Tumacácori-Carmen), +1 520-398-2591, fax: +1 520-398-2592, . M-F 8AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-5PM (in summer 10AM-3PM). A small family-operated shop which manufactures its own spice and herb mixes, and sells cookbooks as well as gourmet items. The shop also has a small museum with displays relating to regional history.


  • 1 Elvira’s Restaurant, 2221 E Frontage Rd A-101, Tubac, +1 520-398-9421. Tu-Th 11AM-9PM, F Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 11AM-3PM. Specializes in Sonoran Mexican cuisine.
  • 2 Shelby’s Bistro, 19 Tubac Rd, Tubac, +1 520-398-8075. Su-Th 11AM-3PM, F Sa 11AM-3PM 4PM-8:30PM. A popular spot for lunch and dinner.


  • 1 Tubac Deli & Coffee, 6 Plaza Rd, +1 520-398-3330. Daily 6:30AM-5PM. Serves a full range of hot and cold brews, with the coffee freshly roasted in nearby Arivaca. Also serves quiche, pastries, and soups and sandwiches, with all breads and pastries baked onsite. Free Wi-Fi available.
  • 2 Gadsden Coffee Company, 16850 W Arivaca Rd, Arivaca, +1 520-398-3251. A local hangout, also has sandwiches and pastries. Wifi available.


Tubac Golf Resort and Spa

Most people visit Tubac on a day trip from Tucson or Green Valley, but there are several accommodation options for visitors who want to stay longer.

  • 1 Tubac Country Inn, 13 Burruel St, +1 520-398-3178, . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. A bed and breakfast with free Wi-Fi; pets permitted for no extra charge. Doubles $155+.
  • 2 Tubac Golf Resort and Spa, One Otero Rd, Tubac, +1 520-398-2211. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. It was established in 1789 as a farm in a Spanish land grant. The estate evolved into the seat of the largest ranching operation in Arizona, staying in the same Spanish family until 1941. In 1959 it was acquired by a group of businessmen headed by Bing Crosby, who restored the historic ranch buildings and developed the property into a golf resort. Facilities include two onsite restaurants and one bar, tennis courts, spa and fitness center, outdoor heated pool, gift shop, and bicycle rentals. Free Wi-Fi, pets accepted. Doubles $256+.
  • 3 Amado Territory Inn, 3001 E Frontage Rd, Amado, +1 520-398-8684, . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Nine rooms, some with private patios and balconies. No smoking, pets accepted (with restrictions), wi-fi. Evening wine and cheese tasting and breakfast included. Birders are welcome to visit the property without spending the night.


Go next[edit]

Routes through Tubac
TucsonGreen Valley  N  S  Nogales, AZHeroica Nogales via

This city travel guide to Tubac is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.