David Puddy asked it on the television show Seinfeld: “What can you get at the Gap in Rome that you can’t get at the Gap on 5th Avenue?” Use this as your mantra while shopping in Tucson and Southern Arizona. The Old Pueblo has all the chains, more so than most midsized cities. But if you spend your time at the Gap you’re going to miss a unique shopping experience—a chance to find that treasure that has eluded you, to return home with an authentic artifact.
You’ll find merchants with Mexican imports, folk arts, Western Americana, and Indian jewelry; boutiques with clothes you’ll find nowhere else; and galleries featuring the work of artists from Tucson and the rest of the world.
Take a short drive south to Tubac—an artist’s village that caters to, or better yet exists for, the discriminating treasure hunter—then on across the border to Nogales, Sonora, and you’ll find items you never knew you had to have.
A brief scenic journey east and you’re among the antiques stores and artisan boutiques of old-town Bisbee. Fear not: Shopping in Southern Arizona isn’t just for the moneyed (though it may be easier for them). There are finds for everyone, and for every budget.
If you you’re looking for that truly Southwestern gift or souvenir to take home, there are many places to find such items. Some of the most popular items that just scream “Tucson” are the many Day of the Dead calaveras available throughout the borderlands; and, of course, anything with the beloved visage of the Virgin of Guadalupe will remind you of your time in the desert every time you look at it.
- Best Items Made by Tucson Artists: Bohemia
- Best Native American Arts: Bahti Indian Arts
- Best Bookstore: Bookmans
- Best Music Store:Zia Record Exchange
- Best Thrift Store: The Buffalo Exchange
- Best Shopping District: 4th Avenue
- Best Upscale Shopping: La Encantada
- Best Antiques: Speedway Antiques District
- Best Place to Buy Folk Art: Tubac
- Best Gifts from the Desert: Native Seeds/SEARCH
© Tim Hull from Moon Tucson, 1st Edition