Vegan Travel: Tucson

Vegan Travel: Tucson

by JLgoesVegan on May 5, 2011

I’m just back from my first trip to Tucson, Arizona.  I’m the queen of finding time on business trips to enjoy my surroundings and explore. And that I did.

The conference was held at the Westward Look Resort,

which was spectacular.

I arrived early Tuesday afternoon, well before check-in, and my room wasn’t ready so I used the opportunity to pick up a few supplies. I had researched in advance and found a health food store, Sprouts, near the hotel. While driving there I also discovered a Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.  As I mentioned on Facebook and Twitter, I think vegans develop a sort of “Vegan-dar” (much like “Gay-dar”) in which we are able to detect our people/restaurants/stores.   Anyway, I scored at Sprouts and purchased nuts, dried fruits, fresh fruit and veggies and a bottle of organic, vegan wine.  With supplies in hand, and no word from the hotel, I drove to the Whole Foods Plaza and ducked into Wildflower for a late lunch (which ended up being dinner, too) I had this beautiful salad of beets, quinoa and squash with an alternative, vegan dressing.

The conference began on Wednesday. Still on New York time, I got up at 4:00 a.m. and I was out for a beautiful run by 5:30 a.m. The conference’s complimentary breakfast was an omelet station.  Anticipating that, I found a smoothie joint, Keva Juice, where I got a 24 oz carrot juice with a double shot of wheat grass. Zooooom!  Lunch time came around and we sat outside (lovely) and the server placed a salad, with cheese, in front of me. I asked “may I have a salad with no cheese?” to which she asked “are you the vegan?” Woot!  I had a nice starter salad followed by this

Portobello Mushrooms with Peppers, Squash, Eggplant and Tomato Coulis

It was delicious!

The conference concluded at 3:30 and I found myself drawn to the lap pool by the fitness center (There are several pools on the property.)

I got in a solid 25 minute swim workout — my first since August! — and then just chilled out by the pool for a bit before heading out  for dinner with my pal, and former boss, for dinner. We went to P.F. Changs. This was my first time back as a vegan.  I was surprised when I told the server I was vegan and she asked me to hold on. I saw her speak with the manager. She returned to say that none of the appetizers were vegan. In fact, there was only one vegan entrée option–Buddha’s Feast–if steamed. I got it steamed. It was tasty.

Thursday morning I was up at 4:30 and in the gym by 5:30 for a bike ride (see, even on the road I was following my triathlon coach’s training plan!)  I popped over to Whole Foods and got a green smoothie

and a small kale salad,

which I took to the conference breakfast (while my colleagues ate bagels and cream cheese).  For lunch I was served this gorgeous tofu dish

Happy vegan!

Thursday night I took myself out to Lovin’ Spoonfuls, a fantastic vegan restaurant, just recently given a 2 Diamond rating from the AAA.   I had big food!

You can read all about this incredible meal on, where I wrote this Vegan Field Report: Lovin’ Spoonfuls in Tucson.

Friday morning I got out for another run and then enjoyed Lovin’ Spoonfuls leftovers for breakfast.  The conference wrapped at 11:30 and I hopped in the car for a drive to Patagonia, AZ.  Why?  Because on Tuesday, when I tweeted out my arrival in Tucson, I got a tweet from Sarah inviting me to join her and Courtney for lunch at the Tree of Life Arizona.  Um, you don’t have to ask me twice!

I enjoyed the 1.5 hour drive south and waltzed into the cafe just after 1:00 and just as the staff and guests were blessing the food.

What is it?

YUM!  I loaded up my garden burger plate with sprouts and salads and dressing and…. well, you get the picture.

Okay, I confess, I walked in, didn’t know anybody, so I piled up my plate, met a new friend named Tina, and sat down outside to enjoy the food.  And then, there they were, my lovely hosts! Sarah and Courtney!

Courtney, JL, Sarah

The Tree of Life is an incredible place. Smack dab in the middle of nature.  Somehow lush and green in the middle of the desert.

I cannot thank Sarah and Courtney enough for such a wonderful afternoon!

So, as I was driving to Patagonia I couldn’t help but notice the “Welcome to Wine Country” signs in Sonoita (might I have “Wine-dar”, too?).  As I left the Tree of Life I checked my GPS system for a vineyard and found Canelo Hills Vineyard and drove directly there.  Guess what? Vegan wine!

I bought a bottle of Estate Tempranillo to enjoy for my last few days in the hotel. And, I must admit, I was pretty tired those last few days. Friday night I ordered Indian food carry-out. Saturday morning I was back in the gym at 5:30 for a bike ride, another day of meetings, and then I went back to Lovin’ Spoonfuls for carry-out dinner.  Sunday morning I returned to New York

So, as you can see, I jammed in a lot in this trip.  I have to confess, though, that my highlight was going out  to a tree each morning to check on Mama Owl

who was looking over her three, five-week old babies.  Here’s one:

Love those owls.

And I loved Tucson.

JL is a food and fitness writer. She blogs at JL goes Vegan:  Food & Fitness with a side of Kale.  You can follow JL on Twitter.


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