Are you interested in staggering collections of fossils from around the world? Or perhaps gems and minerals of nearly every imaginable color and scarcity are more your thing (representatives of The Smithsonian are usually present to scan the exhibits). Also there is some of the most magnificent jewelry you are likely to ever see at the Tucson show. This extravaganza has been happening over 2 1/2 weeks (late January-mid February) for decades and is established as one of the best (if not biggest–approx. 4000 vendors) shows of this type. Actually there are more than 40 separate shows at various venues throughout the city during the 2 weeks with the grand finale occupying the entire Convention Center (and that is a LARGE convention center) on the last weekend. It may be possible to see all of the material that is on display and sale but that would be very exhausting (fun but difficult). So this blog will focus on some of the practicalities of planning a visit to this event and a few other interesting things in the Tucson area to consider when your brain would rather do anything other than talk with show exhibitors.
Unless you are driving, there are 2 airport options — Phoenix and Tucson. The Phoenix airport is about 2 hours from Tucson but seems to have more flights and may well have better ticket prices. As Tucson is a large urban sprawl, you will likely need a rental car no matter which airport you use. For those of you who travel via RV, there are some large RV resorts in the area. We are familiar with the Voyager RV Resort & Hotel on the South side of the city where there are lots of outdoor activities. There are good hotel/motel options around the Tucson airport, on the north side of town and to the East on Broadway. Be forewarned though that since so many buyers, sellers and gawkers show up, you better think about making reservations a few months prior to the event. Getting around to the many shows is made easier by the free shuttle services provided. In some situations, it is difficult to find a decent parking spot close to a show without paying for it.
Many of the sellers come from outside of the US and most are very happy to share information about their materials and what to look for at the show. Remember that nearly everything is for sale and that the sellers want to take as little home with them as possible so haggling is expected. Take along a pad to record the item that caught your attention, booth number and asking price–that way it will be easier for you to go back for a second look. It is not unusual for a fossil or mineral to be available at multiple booths so avoid picking up the first one you see whenever possible. Also take along a water bottle–you’ll need it. Can’t make the February show? Plans are in the works for a September show also.
When it’s time to get a break from items dug from the earth, consider a visit to Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. It is about 20 miles East of the city and is an impressive testament to the biodiversity of the desert. It is well set up with trails through both flora and fauna in natural settings. So if you are interested in learning more about life in the desert this is a good, enlightening stop. Another worthwhile place to visit is the Pima Air Museum. This unexpected treasure covering 80 acres is on the South side of the city (next to a large, active Air Force base) and contains a very impressive collection of aircraft from around the world. If you have never seen a B-36 this is your chance. Plus, you can sign up for a tour through the ‘boneyard’ that is located at the neighboring AF base. This is where decommissioned military aircraft go to wait to be used for parts, sold to some friendly party or perhaps put back into service. Between the museum and the ‘boneyard’, the variety and volume of planes is overwhelming. If you are a military buff or interested in significant civilian planes, this museum is a must.
House Spouse Jerry (Oregon)
September 2016 Tuscon Show http://www.xpopress.com/tucson-september-glw-holidome-gem-jewelry-show.html
Calendar of Gem Shows around the world http://www.xpopress.com/shows-expos.html
Pina Air and Space Museum www.pimaair.org
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum www.desertmuseum.org