Getting There

Tuscon has a great small-ish airport (TUS) that makes getting to and from Tuscon easy. If you are trying to save some cash but plan on renting a car, you can also fly to Phoenix (a 1 hour 45 min drive).

Places to Stay

The best deals in town are on Airbnb or VRBO. You can find casitas (guest houses), apartments, and whole houses for relatively cheap. Rooms or guesthouses run from around $60 - $150 per night. But book soon! The closer it gets to the show days the less stock there is and prices go up!

Need a roommate? Use our Roommate Finder to connect!

Most of the hotels/motel prices go way way up during the gem show… But here are a few fun places, if you have the budget.

Hotel McCoy
Hipster art motel. Is usually very reasonable, but during the gem show can be pricey (around $250/night sharing). Split it with some friends!

Graduate Hotel
Cute Cute Cute - but V. pricey ($500/per night during the show! 😅)

Farther out from the center of Tuscon you can find deals…

Tucson West
Bed & Bagels
Kooky pet friendly bed and breakfast by Sharon. On the outskirts with nice hiking options. Pretty affordable too ($150ish)!

Tuscon North
3 Palms Tucson
Resort-ish with a pool and putting green (if you’re into that sorta thing!). Double queen room runs about $225.

Getting Around Tuscon

The Gem show events are pretty spread out.

And affordable way to rent a car is through the car-sharing marketplace Turo.

If you will not have a car, there is a shuttle service run by the City of Tuscon that will take you to nearly every show. They run pretty frequently and can save you money on parking. It you decide to use the shuttle as your primary transportation, be sure to stay in accommodations close to the shuttle route!

This guide outlines the shuttle routes: https://tucsongemshow101.com/shuttles-parking

And of course there is UBER/LYFT in Tucson!

Shows WE Like

All of the following shows will be open during the Tuscon 2024 SNAG event, Feb. 1 - 4. Outside of those dates, please check each shows website!

Open to the Public

Kino
This show has the most variety, from mineral specimens to cut gems. Notable features are the all shell tent and the all animal parts tent. At this show you can buy pretty much anything, including unusual specimens for cutting or adding to your rock collection direct from the miners who unearthed them. This is a huge show so expect to spend at least 3 hours browsing around.

Free admission and parking!

African Village
Located in the downtown area, this show has many venders from Africa selling cool glass beads, braided leather cords and finished jewelry, indigo textiles, carved wood and leather furniture, etc.

Free admission and free and metered parking available.

Pueblo at Ramada Inn
This show takes over an entire motel. Exhibitors can be found in the rooms and all around the grounds. Cut gems, uncut gems, mineral specimens, fossils, finished jewelry, and crystals as big as a bear on its hind legs can be found here!

22nd Street Mineral, Fossil, Gem & Jewelry Show
The only of the “big 3” shows that is open to the public. Free admission, and “the cleanest restrooms in Tuscon”. On-site parking is $10 or $5 if your willing to walk a bit.

Trade Only

AGTA
This is an industry/trade only show run by the American Gem Trade Association that takes place in the convention center. It features both cut and uncut gems, finished jewelry, antique dealers, and some jewelry service companies (casting/3d printing). They also do live gem cutting seminars! If you are a student, you may be able to apply for a student membership ($50) to attend. And if you already buy from a stone dealer, they may be able to score you a pass. There is a pay parking lot, but you can also find metered street parking.

GJX
Wholesale/trade only with 700 booths in a 120,000 square foot mega tent. Requires pre-registration.

JOGS Tucson Gem & Jewelry Show
You must have a business ID or guest pass and must register before your visit. High quality stones and fine jewelry findings for wholesale price. Leans toward commercial jewelry.

Melee
Another buyers only show. This is a curated collection of designers and makers of fine jewelry. Registration requirements are pretty strict. You really need to have a gallery or shop to get in.

Tips

Good site to visit for first time visitor: https://tucsongemshow101.com/

This link listed pretty much all things to know as a first time visitor!

  • Bring a bag/backpack, snacks, water,  jewelers 10x loupe, tweezers, and a cloth. Not to mention sunglasses and an umbrella if you are sensitive to the sun. Some shows (like African Village, and parts of Kino, are outside!)
  • Bring CASH. It’s the best way to bargain.
  • Some shows/vendors are industry/trade only, so if you have a tax ID number have it handy. Some shows might want you to register/fill out a form beforehand, so double check online before you go.
  • You can haggle for almost everything. Only a few higher end vendors will not bargain. You’ll get the best price when you seem like you don’t really want the item too bad.
  • If time allows, be willing to visit shows more than once! You will see the same kind of thing in many places. You might print out maps of the vendor booths and take notes so you can double back if necessary, but as you go on you will get a feel for how much things actually cost, and might have better luck haggling after your first day at shows.
  • If you are concerned about carrying around too much treasure, some vendors will ship for you.

Special thanks to Tuscon local Claire Webb for these great tips and the food and drink rec’s below!!

Food, Drinks & Non-Gem Shopping 

By Claire Webb

Eats

For Mexican food try El Charro - it gets busy though, so plan accordingly!

For sushi, if you are going for taste over ambiance, try Yamato on Grant Rd. The interior is small and casual, but the chef there is legit, and he makes signature cured salmon sushi/sashimi that is amazing, and nothing like I have tasted anywhere else.

For sushi/ramen if you want ambiance try OBON - the location is killer, the vibe is great, and the food is very good.

If it is a nice day you might try LaCo - you will eat in a lovely courtyard surrounded by many cool shops that are connected. It is nice to walk the shops and then have a bite and a drink. Very casual.

One of my personal favorites is Saguaro Corners - it is a bit out of the way, but I love the vibe and the food. It is near the Saguaro National Park, so it is a great way to end the day if you visit the park.

I’ve heard The Coronet is quite good!

There are SO many good restaurants in Tucson.

Drinks

Portal Cocktails - Cool secret speakeasy vibe, tucked away in the back of Ermanos Bar, just walk through to the rear.

Owls Club - Craft cocktails, cool vibe.

Barbata - Intimate and swanky Euro-inspired basement bar beneath BATA restaurant, at which I have not had the pleasure of dining yet, but was recognized as one of Bon Appétit’s “Best New Restaurants of 2022.”

The Tap Room (called Congress Tap Room on Google Maps) - Dive-y bar in the back of Hotel Congress - great patio, chill vibe, great location.

Royal Room - owned by Claire Webb’s  friends Laura and Ian, this bar is cool and casual. As a bonus, across the street is Bhava Wellness Shop + Apothecary which has lovely things if you are into that vibe.

Misc

For eats/drinks/shopping in one place you’ve got to hit the MSA Annex & Mercado San Agustin, which are next to each other. It is a super cool collection of shipping container buildings that house a multitude of businesses. If  you are there, don’t forget to hit the amazing boutique El Be Goods, in one of the new retail spaces across the street, which is owned by my friend Laura ;).

Tucson Botanical Gardens - beautiful and small with a great cafe.

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