The advantages that draw thousands of visitors and snowbirds to Tucson during the city’s peak season are sunshine and warmth—and neither is as reliable as you’d think, especially from mid-December through mid-February, which is the city’s second rainy season, and when occasional frosts rime the desert. Hotel rates are highest during this season; restaurant reservations and tee times can be hard to get. The annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in February complicates things further, with sky-high airfares, room rates and rental-car demand before, during and after. All that aside, it can be lovely to sunbathe by the pool in mid-January, even if the temperature barely reaches 70. This is the best time for desert hiking, and a round of golf with a light breeze blowing off the Santa Catalinas in the afternoon is a memorable winter experience.
Summer in Tucson is hot indeed, but what most people don’t know is that the Sonoran Desert’s two summers create a bargain travel window in July and August that can offer pleasant-enough weather—daily cloud build-ups, numerous showers, occasional torrential downpours, highs in the mid-90s. OK, that’s still hot by most standards, but it’s a budget travel window of unparalleled opportunity. Resort rates, golf-course fees, rental-car costs: All drop May 1st and stay low until November. Restaurants offer deals, streets are uncrowded, golf courses embrace visitors and tee times are obtainable. May and June can be beastly hot to those unused to the desert, but once the monsoon arrives the temperatures drop in accord with the late-spring price-plummet.
These two months are Tucson’s most delightful, with daily highs in the 80s, night-time cooling into the 50s, and still-low visitor demand that keeps rates and crowds down. May is the month of the saguaro bloom; late October brings golden color to the cottonwoods and aspens in the mountains around Tucson. Winter resort crowds and snowbird residents do not arrive until November, and depart by Easter. Nights are cool, days perfect, and hiking, swimming, golf, riding and just generally relaxing are all at their best.