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Nicholas DeRenzo

Don’t be surprised when Tucson begins challenging Austin and Portland, Oregon, for the title of America’s cool-kid capital. Progressive, scrappy and creative, this Sonoran Desert city of about 540,000 has all the ingredients necessary to become a tourist boomtown: stylish hotels, from guest ranches to destination spas to reimagined mid-century motor lodges; abundant street art and unique museums; award-winning breweries and distilleries; and a 4,000-year-old food culture that draws on Native American, Mexican and Western influences—a history that helped Tucson become the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the United States. But if you really want to see what makes Tucson sing, you’ll need to head out into the wilderness that sits right beyond its borders, including Saguaro National Park, where roadrunners dart through the arid terrain, Gila monsters sun themselves on the rocks, and forests of multiarmed cacti stretch skyward.