Graduate Tucson isn’t an homage to Dustin Hoffman’s breakthrough film, nor is it a reference to a lesser-known Third Eye Blind single. Instead, one of Southern Arizona’s newest hotels is intended as a complement to the sprawling University of Arizona campus — and to what surrounds it. “We try to highlight our connection to the university, but also to the unique culture of Tucson and the Sonoran Desert,” says Scott Darlage, the hotel’s director of sales.
Arizona is home to two of the 30 Graduate properties, found in college-anchored towns throughout the U.S. and U.K. The chain’s first hotel in Arizona was Graduate Tempe, a retrofit of the old Twin Palms just south of the Arizona State University campus. Graduate Tucson, which opened in October 2020, is a new 15-story building in Main Gate Square, a pedestrian-friendly dining and shopping destination just west of UA’s campus.
Darlage says one of the chain’s main principles is that “everything we do tells a story,” and that’s evident starting with the saguaro sculptures and Tucson Mountains mural behind the front desk. On the way to the elevators, you’ll pass curated local art and historical photos on the walls, along with the Button Ballroom — named for John Byrd “Button” Salmon, the ill-fated student-athlete whose dying words became UA’s “Bear Down” slogan.
The crash course in all things Tucson continues in one of the 164 guest rooms, which offer either two queen beds or one king. There, you’ll find photos of Barbara Eden, the I Dream of Jeannie star born in Tucson, and Elizabeth Roemer, a groundbreaking astronomer and UA professor. Art prints above the bed depict roadrunners, rattlesnakes and other desert wildlife, and there’s even a saguaro-shaped floor lamp. So much of the decor catches your eye that the view out the window — which on the east side of the hotel includes the college campus and the Rincon Mountains — might be the last thing you notice.
The hotel’s centerpiece is its rooftop pool, where you can sip a cocktail from The Moonstone, the adjoining bar and restaurant, and take in views of downtown Tucson, the Santa Catalina Mountains and distant Picacho Peak. There also are breakfast and lunch options at the lobby’s Poindexter Café, and more than 30 other restaurants are within walking distance. Fourth Avenue’s art galleries are a short walk or streetcar ride away, too.
In short, there’s no shortage of things to do in and around Graduate Tucson, and that’s the way the hotel’s management likes it. “With a lot of hotels, the goal is to get [guests] there and keep them there,” says Jody Hall, the property’s general manager. “Our goal is for them to experience Tucson, the people and the culture, and hopefully they leave saying they saw or learned something new.”
930 E. Second Street