Only about an hour drive from the Saguaro-studded hills of Tucson, Patagonia offers a friendly, small-town respite that is a world away from the surrounding low deserts. In classic blink-or-you-might-miss-it fashion, Patagonia is small enough you might have to pull a U-turn if you're not paying attention. But this hamlet is well worth turning around for, with antique shops, art galleries, and eateries lining Naugle Avenue, the town's main thoroughfare.
Patagonia, along with sister towns Sonoita and Elgin, are touted as hidden jewels of the Mountain Empire. Fortunately, these are not just empty slogans hawked by the local chamber of commerce. With a past steeped in ranching, mining, and railroads, Patagonia and its sister towns have managed to retain the unique flavor of the region. Patagonia has done this by staying small, sustaining a small population of artists, ranchers, and other locals, but not growing too fast and preserving the natural beauty of its surrounding landscape, made famous for the abundance of Arizona Oaks, Walnut trees, Cottonwoods, and Willow forests. If you're longing to enjoy classic fall color, this is one of the best spots in Southern Arizona watch the leaves turn.
One of the best ways to appreciate Patagonia is by spending the day outdoors, exploring The Nature Conservancy's Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve and Patagonia Lake State Park. Patagonia has rightfully earned a reputation as a world-famous birder's paradise, with over 300 species of birds spotted in the area. Hummingbird enthusiasts take note: Patagonia is one of the best places in the United States to spot these elusive, jewel-colored birds as they migrate south to Mexico.
You won't find a lot of corporate hotel chains here, but plenty of color bed-and-breakfasts, cottages for rent, and guest ranch retreats. The Stage Stop Inn Motel, smack dab in the middle of town, is said to have hosted John Wayne. Don't leave town without grabbing something healthy to eat at Velvet Elvis Pizza Company, which former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano designated as "An Arizona Treasure" in 2005.
For culture-lovers, Patagonia plays host to one of the more unique book events in Southern Arizona. Every year around late winter, the Patagonia Public Library presents the annual Writers' Round-Up, a literary free-for-all that brings an impressive number of well-regarded writers for discussion, book signings, and free workshops.
150 Blue Haven Road