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Portland to Tucson is easier than ever

The Rose City’s gray skies and rains have only just begun, but thanks to Alaska Airlines, Portlanders can make a quick escape to Tucson, Ariz., for a healthy dose of sunshine, golf, poolside relaxation and outdoor adventure. Alaska Airlines now offers nonstop service between Tucson (TUS) and Portland (PDX).

DSC_0059Tucson is a natural destination for Portlanders. Artistic, colorful and hospitable, the city offers awe-inspiring golf, walks through “forests” of saguaro cacti, memorable wildlife parks, distinctive art galleries and open-air markets. Best, Portlanders can fly direct instead of stopping off in Phoenix to change flights or rent a car to get there.

“This is an important air service achievement for Tucson, as we’ve heard from both business and leisure travelers that the Pacific Northwest is an important destination,” said Tucson Airport Authority (TAA) President and CEO Bonnie Allin.

Alaska’s schedule shows a daily outbound flight leaving PDX at 9:15 a.m., with a flight leaving TUS at 1:45 p.m. Fares start at $139 each way. Tickets are on sale now at AlaskaAir.com.

To help plan your trip, check out the Visit Tucson website to book rooms and purchase attraction passes.

Still unsure? Here’s a lineup of reasons why Tucson is such an outstanding destination:

DSC_0114Get buzzed by a raptor: The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is one of Tucson’s most-visited destinations, bringing visitors close to the kind of wildlife most of us would be too timid to encounter on our own. We’re talking about bobcats, ocelots, wolves and porcupines. Handlers also showcase desert creatures such as gila monsters (a poisonous lizard that won’t release its bite until you cut off its head), rattlesnakes, scorpions, ringtails and kangaroo rats. There are gardens, an aviary and earth sciences center, but what truly thrills is the Raptor Free Flight, held through April 20, 2014 (when the weather gets too hot). With shows daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., the collection of hawks, falcons, owls and ravens fly so close to your head, you’ll be stunned. It’s a truly beautiful experience to see these great birds so close.

DSC_0233Discover an iconic Southwestern artist:

The DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun celebrates Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia and his art. DeGrazia learned to paint

with a palette knife, and worked with famed Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco on mural projects in Mexico City. He’s best known for painting angels and native children. Set on a 10-acre National Historic District located in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, the permanent collection holds more than 15,000 of DeGrazia’s original works of art including oils, watercolors, sketches, serigraphs, lithographs, sculptures, ceramics and jewelry.

Relish an upscale resort and desert golf experience:The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa enjoyed a $35 million renovation this past year, which included a remodeling of the hotel’s facilities and its three, nine-hole golf courses. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, the Canyon, Hill, and Ridge courses had their bunkers and greens completely refurbished under the Golden Bear’s supervision, creating an unforgettable day or three on the links.

Enjoy a classic desert retreat: Long whispered to be the romantic hideaway of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, the Hacienda del Sol is a gorgeous ranch located in the foothills of the Catalina Mountain range. Even Clark Gable and John Wayne hung their hats at the Hacienda. Originally a school for the daughters of society’s elite families, the Hacienda has been renovated into one of Tucson’s more glorious properties, featuring the latest technology, top-notch culinary offerings, gorgeous gardens and spa treatments that will sooth and delight.

DSC_0011Wander in the shadow of towering saguarosSabino Canyon offers gorgeous hikes through desert land where mammoths once trod. There are trams operating daily with narrated tours, but I opted to pack some water and enjoy an easy hike along trails. I enjoyed the many, multi-armed saguaro cacti assuming human positions. The main road is a favorite for both hikers and bicyclists, ascending from 2,800 to 3,300 feet and crosses Sabino Creek over nine stone bridges.

Pima Air and Space Museum: The largest non-government funded aviation museum has more than 300 aircraft and spacecraft, including many of the most historically significant and technically advanced craft ever produced.

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