Ever since I heard of Tucson Gem Show over a decade ago I've had an urge to go and see the World's largest crystal show for myself. I'm back from my big trip now and it was indeed huge, in fact no-one can really prepare you for how enormous the whole event is. Tucson isn't one show, it is many and the shows are spread all over the city. Many of the individual shows are massive and it may take you all day to look around just one of these. I thought five days would be ample time to see everything before I went out there...it isn't!
Here are my top three favourite shows:
The Pueblo: This is a prime show for anyone interested in the metaphysical side of crystals. It is made up of a huge number of traders in hotel rooms and there are lots of outdoor stands. Singing bowls, metaphysical books and lots of other things that may interest you here. There are also some high end crystals if you have lots of money to invest, or just love to see top quality crystals as I do.
I did more purchasing at the 22nd Street Show. Enormous marquees, rows and rows of traders. My tip, go and talk to the Brazilian traders. I made my best quality purchases at the most reasonable prices from their stands. Again there are some museum quality crystals on some of the stands.
The Kino Sports Centre hosts another huge show with plenty of great crystals. We were flagging a little as this was our last day and we'd literally viewed thousands of crystals by then. I picked up some lovely crystals here.
My top tips:
If you know someone who is 'an old hand' at Tucson ask them if they'd mind showing you around or giving you some pointers. We were assisted by a friend of ours who spent the first day with us. Invaluable!
If you can plan your trip for the end of the three weeks when the original Tucson Gem Show is running. Apparently has some of the best exhibits and some interesting talks. We had to return before it started due to teaching commitments, however we were not short of good things to see!
If you see something you'd really like to buy take careful note of where it is and don't plan to come back later that week - you may not track it down again or it may have sold. I was going to deploy my usual tactic of a good look round everything before buying. I had to ditch that plan quite quickly. Go back on the same day before moving to another show if you like to mull over your purchases like I do. I kept a little notebook in my bag to keep track.
Take cash to the shows. A lot of the smaller dealers don't take cards. The cash machine at one show rejected our British bank cards so we had to get money out at a supermarket. There is a surcharge at a lot of these cash machines too. If you are in business take your business credentials including tax number. Take plenty of your business cards too so you can swap contact details.
If you are bringing crystals back with you be mindful of the weight of rocks! Bear in mind the expense of shipping and import duty if you are buying a large amount. I chose a relatively modest number of crystals which I knew I could pack in my case and didn't go for anything really heavy or fragile. I wrapped them carefully and padded all around them with my clothes. Airport security did open my case (presumably crystals look suspicious on the x-ray) but they arrived back safe and sound. I was praying for them all the way though! Do check insurance if you have any high value crystals. I wouldn't have risked putting anything expensive or delicate in my case.
Allow for all temperatures. Tucson is in the desert and we had clear blue skies the whole time and hot sunshine each day we were out there, but apparently some years it has been cold, this is after all Winter in the desert. The daytime heat dissipates quickly at night so pack your cosy pyjamas! Wear a sunhat. I didn't and I regretted it, especially at the Kino where the food court area was in full sun.
Stay hydrated. Drinks at the shows tend to be a bit pricey so buy a multipack of bottled water at a supermarket and take at least a couple of bottles with you each day. It is 'dry heat' there, wonderfully comfortable compared to the sticky heat we get in the UK, but that means you can get dehydrated without realising very easily.
Eat ethnic food. Tucson is the USA's first UNESCO City of Gastronomy and the Mexican food culture is fantastic. Tucson is really close to the border with Mexico and we found the Mexicans the most lovely warm people. If you want to self-cater the Mexican owned supermarket Food City is good value.
Take at least one day off for sightseeing, believe it or not you will need a break from crystals! The desert and its wildlife is incredible. We loved the desert landscape and were glad that we'd chosen accommodation just outside the city in the desert. We struck lucky with Airbnb and had incredible hosts. Read those reviews before you book! Hearing the coyotes calling at night was magical and in the daytime the hummingbirds whirred past on the way to their feeders. If you do stay further out you'll need to hire your own car and you'd better have nerves of steel to negotiate the lanes of traffic! I was glad I was not the driver!
If you are staying a few weeks you can plan some longer excursions. We had a couple of days to explore Sedona at the end of our trip. More of that in another blog post!