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Tucson Festival of Books - Attraction Guide

Tucson Festival of Books storybook characters

***THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED FOR 2020 DUE TO CONCERNS RELATED TO CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19).***

The Tucson Festival of Books is a two-day event on the University of Arizona Campus that celebrates books, authors, illustrators, and readers.

Founded in 2009, TFOB is the third-largest book festival in the USA and draws visitors from all over the country.

The fest features more than 300 presentations, 350 authors, and 200 exhibitors. There are book signings, panel discussions, food vendors, children's and Science City programming, and dozens of free activities for all ages on the University of Arizona Mall.

Festival organizers project that this year’s event will draw about 140,000 participants.

GENERAL INFORMATION

What are the dates for the 2020 Tucson Festival of Books?

The 2020 Tucson Festival of Books will be held on Saturday, March 14 and Sunday March 15.

What is the location of the Tucson Festival of Books?

The Tucson Festival of Books is held on the University of Arizona Campus in midtown Tucson.

What are the hours?

9:30am-5:30pm on both days

Why would I go to the Tucson Festival of Books?

  • To meet your favorite local and national authors
  • To attend workshops about writing, literacy, publishing, and social media
  • To visit the children's area - crafts, games, storybook characters, and more
  • To meander through Science City
  • To purchase books (and get them signed on-site!)
  • To nosh on local treats from food trucks, area restaurants, and bakeries

How much does it cost?

Free Admission.

What is the parking situation?

Parking at the University of Arizona is complimentary in surface lots and in the Park Avenue and Highland garage during Festival weekend. The Cherry Avenue, 6th Street, Tyndall, and Main Gate garages are available for $5 per vehicle; free entry is granted after 4pm. Use of public transportation is strongly encouraged. Both the SunTran bus system and the SunLink street car provide convenient alternatives to parking at the University of Arizona.

What should I wear?

Temperatures in this region in mid-March range from 48°F to 73°F, often with blue skies and lots of sun. The temperature is rarely below 40 degrees or above 84 degrees. Aside from the workshops/lectures, the festival is mostly outdoors so good walking shoes and light layers are best. Sunglasses, sunscreen, and hats are also recommended. The festival happens rain or shine!

What should I bring with me?

A camera for any fun characters you may meet! You may also want to bring water bottles, snacks, cash for food and/or souvenirs, and a picnic blanket.

Are bathrooms available?

Yes.

Can I bring my dog to the Tucson Festival of Books?

From the TFOB website: "Service dogs are welcome, but please leave all pets at home. The event is very busy and can be upsetting to our four-legged friends."

Is the Festival wheelchair accessible?

Yes. Read more about disability access at the Tucson Festival of Books.

DINING

Is outside food allowed at the Tucson Festival of Books?

Yes. Feel free to pack a picnic basket or a few snacks to tide you over in between sessions and activities.

What dining venues are available on-site?

There are a number of food truck style eateries and booths. Chick-fil-A is also on-campus in the Student Union - serving up chicken nuggets, chicken sandwiches, milkshakes, iced tea, and lemonade.

What restaurants are located near the Tucson Festival of Books?

So many good ones! You might want to consider some of our favorite places that are within a 2-mile radius:

  • Time Market, 444 E. University Blvd (less than 1 mile away) - produce, bakery, coffee, sandwiches, soup, pizza
  • The B Line, 621 N. 4th Ave (about 1 mile away) - breakfast, burritos, pasta, salad, sandwiches
  • Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink, 101 E. Pennington St (1.4 miles away) – lunch, dinner, spirits, wine, beer garden
  • Cafe Poca Cosa, 110 E. Pennington St (1.4 miles away) – upscale urban bistro, “imaginative Mexican cuisine,” menu changes twice daily, reservations required
  • Maynards Market & Kitchen, 400 N. Toole Ave (1.5 miles away) – indoor + outdoor seating, sandwiches, salads, beer + wine
  • La Cocina, 201 N. Court Ave (1.6 miles away) – brunch, lunch, dinner, sandwiches, salads, southwestern fare, indoor + outdoor seating, live music
  • 47 Scott, 47 N. Scott Ave (1.7 miles away) – neighborhood bistro, dinner daily (4-10pm), happy hour (4-6pm), weekend brunch
  • Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails, 135 S. 6th Ave (1.8 miles away) – dinner, desserts, happy hour, gourmet American cuisine prepared by a renowned chef
  • Cafe a La C’Art (inside Tucson Museum of Art), 150 N. Main Ave (1.8 miles away) – Monet inspired garden patio, pastries, breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Culinary Dropout, 2543 E. Grant Rd (1.9 miles away) - classic meals, cocktails, bar, live music, weekend brunch

BABIES & KIDS

Can kids attend the Tucson Festival of Books?

Yes! In fact, there is an entire area designated specifically for children.

Should I bring a stroller?

Maybe. A stroller could be useful as you walk the length of the mall with little ones. Note, however, that foot traffic is intense and navigating a stroller through the crowds can be pretty tiresome. A baby carrier might be your best bet for infants.

Is there a designated area for nursing moms?

Yes - there are several different lactation areas on the University of Arizona campus. Consult this Family Resource Map for a full list of changing tables, family restrooms, and lactation rooms.

Are changing tables available?

Yes- in the restrooms. There are also some grassy areas that would be just fine for changing diapers. Trash cans are plentiful.

Will there be a Character Breakfast at TFOB in 2020?

Yes. UA BookStores organizes and puts on a ticketed Storytime Character Breakfast each year at the Tucson Festival of Books. The theme for 2020 is Paddington with two special guests in attendance - illustrator R.W. Alley and the famous bear himself!

"Take a trip to London with Paddington on Sunday, March 15 at 8:30 a.m. during the Tucson Festival of Books. Illustrator R. W. Alley will be the guest of honor to read, make crafts, and draw with you! Don’t miss out on the chance to get your copy of Paddington: Storybook Favorites signed! Book is included with child's ticket purchase."

The cost is $21.99 per adult and $21.99 per child (includes a copy of the book). Children under age two are free, but do require a ticket.

Will there be an American Girl Tea Time at TFOB in 2020?

No. UA BookStores held an American Girl Tea Time from 2011-2014, but has since discontinued that event.

EVENTS

Can I have my wedding at the Tucson Festival of Books?

It's not really a wedding-venue - unless you want an audience of 120,000 people on a super crowded university campus. ;)

WHERE TO STAY

What hotels do you recommend for visitors to the Tucson Festival of Books?

Check out our resort guide for a number of excellent options! Arizona Inn would be an especially good pick since it is less than 2 miles from the University of Arizona campus.

MISCELLANY

Is the Tucson Festival of Books active on social media?

Be sure to follow the three below accounts for coverage –

What else do I need to know before I go to the Tucson Festival of Books?

This is a popular event! Crowds can be thick and the number of booths can be overwhelming. We've listed our top ten tips below to help you maximize your experience.

1. Dress in layers. Weather in March can range from sunny and smoldering to stormy and overcast, but usually it's just plain beautiful. Expect temperatures in the 70's, but layer just in case.

2. Hydrate. "Water is always a good idea." That's pretty much a Tucson motto. You'll have more fun and more energy if you hydrate well throughout the day.

3. Bring a backpack full of snacks. Food is available for purchase from a variety of food truck style vendors and in the food court. Even so, a snack stash never hurts - especially if you have young children with you. There are plenty of places to enjoy your food on the grass or at tables throughout the campus.

4. Plan your day ahead of time. The Tucson Festival of Books is expansive - shows, booths, science exhibits, hands-on workshops, and loads of speaker panels. Scroll through the schedule prior to jumping in the car to ensure that you get to all of the places you hope to.

5. BUT - be prepared to go with the flow. There are typically over 100,000 people at the festival so lines can be long and sessions sometimes do fill up. Since there's so much to see, you may find that you divert from your planned schedule. That's okay! Have fun and be spontaneous.

6. Sunscreen is a good idea. Same with visors/caps and UPF clothing. The Tucson sun can be intense, especially toward mid-day. You'll probably stay longer than you expect and there isn't a lot of shade so plan ahead with sun-protectant gear and wear (including sunglasses!).

7. Bring the kids. TFOB has a whole area designated just for children! There are free books, games, shows, demonstrations, and experiments. The festival is definitely a family affair.

8. Attend sessions too! In short, the Tucson Festival of Books is a FREE conference. If you are an aspiring (or current) writer, artist, musician, screenwriter, journalist, filmmaker, professor, teacher, or editor - you're bound to find plentiful professional development opportunities.

9. Stash some cash. Along the way, it's likely you'll want to buy something - a cold drink, a scoop of gelato, a souvenir, perhaps a few books or two? Bring some cash to make your purchases quick.

10. Don't forget your camera. You never know who you might run in to at the Tucson Festival of Books! You might see authors and illustrators - local, international, famous, and not-so-famous. You might see athletes and coaches from the University of Arizona. Best of all, you might even be able to snag a pic with your favorite storybook character. Clifford, Corduroy, Pout Pout Fish, Brother Bear, Sister Bear, and Ladybug Girl have all made appearances in past years.

That just about covers it. Have a great time!

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