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Patagonia, Arizona: Weekender

The onetime boomtown shines, thanks to its stunning setting and outsize arts scene.

Matt Jaffe
McKeown Avenue in Patagonia’s downtown, picture
Photo credit
Photo: Jill Richards
Photo caption
McKeown Avenue in Patagonia’s downtown shows signs of the town's silver mining roots.

When prospectors struck silver in southern Arizona in the mid-1800s, Patagonia sprang up to supply them. The mines closed decades ago, but the mountain town has persevered thanks to tourism: Today, it’s a hub for artists and bird-watchers.

  • Though Patagonia may be small (population 913), it has mighty cultural prowess. Take, for instance, the Santa Cruz Foundation for the Performing Arts. Each summer, the nonprofit brings in groups such as jazz trios and Russian folk musicians, who play on a stage on wheels—the Concert Haul—at various locations around town.

  • For a broad-strokes sample of the area’s arts scene, stop by Creative Spirit Artists Gallery. Here, you might find hand-carved wooden flutes alongside wreaths made of dried artichokes. Don’t miss Carolyn Shafer’s silver jewelry, set with turquoise mined by the artist herself.

Gathering Grounds Patagonia Arizona turkey club wrap, picture
Photo credit
Photo: Jill Richards
Photo caption
A turkey club wrap at Gathering Grounds.
  • Gathering Grounds—a true gathering place for locals, who come for cappuccinos, conversation, and green chili–studded breakfast burritos—also bakes luscious sweets. Just try passing the display case and resisting the pies, which combine flaky crust with generous fillings of cherry, peach, and rhubarb.

  • With their iridescent plumage and acrobatic flight, hummingbirds inspire wonder. Spend time in their midst at the Tucson Audubon Society’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds, a backyard turned national hummingbird hot spot. Settle under the new shade pavilion to keep watch for the violet-crowned, broad-billed, and blue-throated varieties.

Patagonia–Sonoita Creek Preserve, picture
Photo credit
Photo Courtesy of The Nature Conservancy
Photo caption
Relax in the Patagonia–Sonoita Creek Preserve.
  • Hundreds of bird species, 130-year-old trees, and 873 acres of verdant floodplain. The Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia–Sonoita Creek Preserve dazzles with its abundance. Walk the one-mile, cottonwood-shaded Creek Trail to take in the lemon-yellow butterflies, the rushing stream, and the rising and falling calls of the cicadas, clicking gently like castanets.

  • Velvet Elvis Pizza Company takes its name from the saintly black velvet painting of a crying Elvis Presley that commands the dining room. The King shares the spotlight with an impressive lineup of creative pies. It’s worth ordering ahead to score the Inca: a pizza built on a quinoa–wheat flour crust, topped with roasted tomato and wine sauce, stacked with cheeses and sautéed vegetables, then baked in an iron skillet.

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This article was first published in Summer 2018. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.