Most U.S. travelers have heard of Tucson, Arizona. Far fewer are aware of Marana, Az Tucson's next door neighbor. Perhaps this is because Tucson has been around since 1775. Marana would not officially become an incorporated town until 202 years later.
Today, Marana is a vibrant community with lots of things to see and do, as well as an ancient history. Archaeologists know that people have lived here in the Santa Cruz River Valley for at least 12,000 years. About 4,000 years ago, Paleo-Indians, predecessors of the advanced Hohokam culture, began farming in the flood plain of the Rillito River where, in 2015, they discovered human footprints 2,500 to 3,000 years old.
Marana is home to major retailers, such as Costco, Target, and Home Depot. In 2015, Tucson Premium Outlets opened in Marana with stores such as Nike, Toys R Us, Old Navy, Levi's, J Crew, Gap, Banana Republic and many more. Almost immediately, Premium Outlets became Marana's #1 attraction.
Marana is full of pleasant surprises, but none greater than to discover Arizona's the finest resort in the rugged Tortolita Mountains 26 miles north of Tucson. The Ritz-Carlton at Dove Mountain is included in Travel Leisure Magazine's Top 100 Hotels in the World. It is also the only Forbes 5-Star Hotel in Arizona. Everything about the Ritz is first-class; from the spa, to the outstanding restaurants, to the adventure programs, and Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf course; all set in our magnificent Sonoran Desert.
Not far is the scenic Saguaro National Park West and Sonora-Arizona Desert Museum. If you go to Saguaro National Park West, do visit the Red Hills Visitor Center for an orientation. Then ask directions to Signal Hill Picnic Area to experience thousand-year-old petroglyphs on the adjacent hill. It is a short, easy climb.
The Desert Museum is Southern Arizona's #1 attraction. We recommend that all newcomers visit the Desert Museum at the very beginning of their stay because it is such a great orientation to the flora & fauna of our beautiful desert. If you go, plan on 3 to 4 hours to see most of what the Desert Museum has to offer. And go out of your way to attend at least one of two "Raptor Free Flight" programs offered at 10 AM and 2 PM daily in the cooler months. Also, the Desert Museum has two good restaurants.