Tubac Arts

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Festival of the Arts in Tubac, Arizona
Tubac, a small town in southern Arizona known for its artist community, hosts an annual Festival of the Arts

(Tubac’s 2024 Festival of the Arts runs February 7 to February 11, 2024)

Tubac, a small town along the Santa Cruz River in southern Arizona with a population of a little over 1,000 people and a history dating back 300 years, describes itself as a destination for the arts. Every year in early February, it hosts the Tubac Festival of the Arts. The 56th Annual Festival in 2015 became my opportunity to visit the town and the festival.

As we followed vehicles into town, it became apparent what a popular festival this is. Several streets, where the festival is located, are closed to vehicular traffic. Numerous areas around these streets are designated as parking lots. Police and volunteers directed us past a number of full lots. We began to think we would have to walk quite a distance to the festival, but as we looped around the streets we wound up in Parking Lot C, with festival tents visible just across the street.

Tents, showcasing the works of close to 200 artisans from near and far, lined streets blocked off to vehicular traffic. Volunteers at the parking lot handed us a map. The list of participating artists on the reverse side of the map showed artists’ home locations, which included Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Connecticut, North Dakota, Minnesota, Texas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri and Wisconsin. This was clearly not just a local festival.

Horse-drawn wagon at Tubac Festival of the Arts
Horse-drawn wagons and trolleys offered free rides

The types of works were as varied as the locations of the artists. Glass work, oil painting, metal work, clothing, quilts, pottery, food products, jewelry and more.

Sample of the type of art and artisan products at the Tubac Festival of the Arts
Paintings on display beside a tent at the Tubac Festival of Arts with a brick studio in the background

There was a large and diverse collection of arts and crafts in the Festival itself, but there was still more to be found within Tubac shops. The opening of an artist school in Tubac in the 1940s began the evolution of the artist colony in Tubac. Today, there are over 80 shops and galleries.

Adobe buildings at Artist Row in Tubac, Arizona
Artist Row, a collection of art studios
Adobe shops connected by landscaped walkway in Tubac
More shops

Tubac has a history that extends well past its birth as an artist colony, The Tubac area is believed to have been inhabited for over 11,000 years. The Spanish Colonial Era began when Jesuit missionary Father Kino entered the Santa Cruz Valley in 1691. By 1731, Tubac was a mission farm and ranch. The Spanish established a fort at Tubac in 1752 and it became the first European settlement in Arizona. That history and heritage are evident as one walks through the town.

Hohokam pit house
Example of a Hohokam pit house in the Flying Leap courtyard
Ramada shelter of saguaro ribs and Ocotillo branches
Hohokam wa:to site (ramada shelter made from saguaro ribs and Ocotillo branches) in Flying Leap courtyard
Simple white brick church
Current Saint Ann’s church, built in 1930, stands on foundations laid in 1767
Church interior
Interior of St. Ann’s church

More of Tubac’s history can be explored at Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, located within the town centre. I took time away from exploring art to explore history there and wrote about that experience in the History Lives at Tubac Presidio post.

Tubac has an interesting and colourful collection of buildings and is very pleasant to walk through.

Adobe building with red-brick covered veranda area
Brick building with old wood timbers
Adobe inn at Tubac

I enjoyed my short visit to Tubac and its Festival of the Arts. I would like to return to Tubac at a non-festival time and explore its history and shops in a more leisurely, lingering manner. 

Tubac is located about 40 minutes south of Tucson, approximately twenty miles north of the Mexican border. As soon as you get south of Tucson, highway signs marking the distance to upcoming towns change from miles to kilometres. Returning north to Tucson, there is a border check point just north of Tubac. There was a fair bit of traffic coming from the Festival and it took us about 10 minutes to get through the stop. The patrol officer took one look at us and our Manitoba licence plate and waved us through.

Entrance to the Tubac Festival of the Arts is free, but there is a charge for parking. There are several bed and breakfasts, hotels and RV parks. All book up early for the festival.


Tubac, a small colourful town in southern Arizona known for its artist community, hosts an annual Festival of the Arts. More arts and crafts found in shops in this town filled with history. #Arizona #history #Tubac #art #festival

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  1. I’ve never heard of Tubac so I especially enjoyed this tour! I’ll remember it if I get back to that area..looks wonderful!

  2. Though I have never heard of Tubac before, I am sure it will be a wonderful place to visit. The photos and your descriptions testifies this. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. I never heard of Tubac but it sounds like a great place to visit, especially during the Arts Festival. You certainly aren’t one of those snowbirds who lets the grass grow under your feet. Thanks for sharing all your explorations~

  4. Thanks for the introduction to Tubac which looks like a fascinating little town with a lot of interesting history. I would love to attend the festival, browse through the art and try some of the chiltepin pepper chocolate.

  5. What a great find! We were in Tucson in 2006 and loved it, but didn’t hear anything of Tubac. What a shame – it looks just like the kind of town we would like to visit. Thanks for all the info.

  6. I’d never heard of Tubac before this. I think my brother will eventually retire to Arizona and this might be a good destination to put on the list. Love these kinds of open air art festivals!

    1. We did not go to Mission de Tucumcacori. It was (is) on my list if we had stayed longer, but we were only there for part of the day. We did tour the Presidio State Park. I really enjoyed the museum there.

  7. I have never heard of Tubac, but I positively love what I’ve read about it in your post. A town with 1,000 people and 80 shops and galleries sounds just delightful. Thanks for the introduction! Carry on Donna!

    1. We did have a beautiful day. I hate to say this, but it was almost too hot and sunny. Walking around the booths outdoors in the afternoon might have been less tiring on a slightly cooler day.

  8. I haven’t been to Tubac yet, but my cousin in Phoenix is a big fan of the place and visits often. From what she tells me and what I’m reading here, I really should get there next trip to Arizona. I love art festivals, so it would be fun to see it then.