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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    The 6 best places to hop on (and off) the Tucson streetcar

    If you’ve stepped foot on the UA campus in the past couple of years, you’ve probably witnessed the transportation marvel that is the Sun Link Tucson Modern Streetcar.

    The streetcar has come to define the UA, as it runs right through the middle of campus and connects students to downtown Tucson and beyond.

    For students that rarely leave campus, the streetcar may seem to serve no purpose aside from making noise outside of classrooms and catching bicycle wheels in its tracks (this is a real issue, newbies, so watch out).

    However, the streetcar acts as the gateway to some of the coolest things that Tucson has to offer. The 3.9-mile line runs through several districts of Tucson and runs until midnight on the weekends.

    While this article can’t cover everything, here’s a rundown on the best of the best along the streetcar line.

    University Boulevard/Tyndall Avenue

    Filled with bars, cafes, unique restaurants and shops, Main Gate Square is where non-academic life happens on campus. Don’t make the rookie mistake of eating at the Student Union Memorial Center when your parents move you in — head to Gentle Ben’s or Illegal Pete’s instead.

    Pitaya and Grand Central Clothing sells girl boutique fashions and are some of the most popular clothing stores along University Boulevard. If these stores don’t vibe with your style, don’t fret — a two-story Urban Outfitters will greet you with its doors wide open, just waiting for you to drop $70 on a paisley shirt.

    University Boulevard/Third Avenue

    Just one stop away from Main Gate Square sits Time Market. This grocer/cafe/restaurant/bar/bakery fits right into its historic neighborhood, West University. Time Market’s laid-back environment is the perfect place to enjoy an espresso or one of its famous slices of pizza.

    Just a block west of Time Market you’ll find another super chill eatery, Epic Cafe. As a self-proclaimed anti-establishment, this cafe is as real as they come. Epic freshly bakes their own pastries every day and serves up amazing espresso drinks. Friendly folks of Tucson frequently sit outside and are always ready to strike up a conversation. The cafe stays open until midnight, serving as a perfect place for nighttime study sessions.

    Fourth Avenue/Seventh Street

    Tucson loves nostalgia, and walking into Hippie Gypsy feels like stepping into a time machine headed back to the summer of love.

    Located in the heart of Fourth Avenue, Tucson’s quirky shopping district, Hippie Gypsy sells everything we’ve come to know and love about counterculture, including tapestries, incense and Janis Joplin T-shirts. The store also has an 18+ up section in the back where you can buy locally crafted bongs, ahem, I mean water pipes.

    Generation Cool offers an equally nostalgic experience, but centered around the 1980s and ’90s. Looking for a throwback jersey, some Nintendo 64 games or a “Space Jam” shirt? You’ll find it here — Generation Cool has more memorabilia laying around than your stoner uncle’s garage. Forget Portland, the ’90s is alive in Tucson.

    There’s even MORE nostalgia just around the corner at D&D Pinball. This old-school arcade claims to be dedicated to preserving the art, fun and sport of pinball. Open until 11 p.m. on the weekends, D&D has 30 classic pinball machines and an area where you can hang out in between crushing pinballs.

    Congress Street/Sixth Avenue

    Downtown Tucson might not be as fun for the under-21 crowd, but there’s still plenty going on down there. The Rialto Theatre has awesome acts come through their doors all the time and anchors the fun and lively scene happening on West Congress Street.

    Hotel Congress sits right across the street from the Rialto. Opened in 1919, Congress gained notoriety as the place where John Dillinger’s gang was caught. This painfully cool hotel has live music every night at their downstairs club, as well as a fantastic restaurant called Cup Cafe where breakfast is served until 4 p.m.

    Batch Cafe & Bar specializes on small batch food & drink (get it), particularly whiskey and donuts. This unlikely combination brings patrons in from brunch time up until last call at 2 a.m. For those (probably most of you) who aren’t big kids yet, it’s still worth a visit to try their artisanal doughnuts — especially their signature item, The Stud. What more could you want than a doughnut topped with chocolate frosting, bacon and filled with bourbon maple Bavarian cream?

    Granada Avenue/Cushing Street

    UA students should check out the Tucson Convention Center for its great educational and insightful conventions year-round. Nah, just kidding — the reason it made this list is because the TCC’s Arena hosts the UA’s ice hockey team. 

    Despite the absence of any actual cold weather, Wildcat hockey games are arguably some of the most fun sporting events in Tucson. Tickets only run $10 for students and the streetcar drops you off right in front of the TCC. The arena holds large shows and concerts as well, including Twenty One Pilots in February!

    South Avenida del Convento/Congress Street

    If you’re adventurous enough to take the streetcar all the way to the end, you’ll run into Mercado San Agustin, or “the Mercado” for short. This plaza has several restaurants and shops, including Seis, home to the best carnitas tacos you’ll have this side of the border; and La Estrella Bakery, a Mexican bakery that sells all kinds of pastries including delicious one-dollar empanadas.

    So remember, the streetcar is your friend. There may be times it’ll blatantly close its doors and drive away as you chase after it, but the next one is only just 10-15 minutes away. 

    Pass on that surge-price Uber and take the streetcar downtown instead (with help from the map below) — 24-hour passes cost only four dollars. Rolling up right to your destination is dope, but figuring out public transportation is even doper. 

    Follow Sean Orth on Twitter

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