Tucson, Arizona, may not be the obvious choice at the top of many vacation destination wish lists. However, it shouldn’t go overlooked when thinking about an Arizona vacation.
The Tucson community is one of the fastest-growing urban areas in the country, which means new attractions popping up all the time and a lively culinary scene that is also on the up and up. As one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in North America, Tucson is also rich in history, with traces of the centuries-old Hohokam community still visible throughout the region, as well as the famous Spanish colonial San Xavier del Bac Mission.
Additionally, according to the American Lung Association, Tucson is rated as having the third cleanest air compared to other cities in the United States. So, during your visit, you can breathe easily, filling your lungs with pure, clean air, complimented by typically gorgeous weather. This is one part of the country where being in the great outdoors, truly is great.
Tucson is a vibrant community, offering visitors a year-round outdoor playground for visitors to explore, play, dine, and relax. Ultimately, Tucson is perfect for nature lovers, history buffs, foodies, and kids. It’s ripe for a vacation, so start thinking about things to do in Tucson!
- Most significant landmark – Mission San Xavier del Bac
- Best park – Saguaro National Park
- Best free activity – Trail Dust Town
- The best activity for kids – Valley of the Moon
- The best activity for adults – Tucson Trap and Skeet Club
- Best nightlife – Bojangles Night Club
- Best all-around accommodation – Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort
Best Things to do in Tucson, Arizona
If you’re planning on visiting Arizona, Tucson is a fantastic city that needs to be on your list. To help you along, we have compiled a list of amazing locations you should check out. Read on for more!
1. Valley of the Moon
Address: 2544 E Allen Rd, Tucson, AZ 85716
If you are looking for a fun, iconic landmark in Tucson, you want to make sure to stop by the Valley of the Moon. The now hundred-year-old brainchild of George Phar Legler (one of the kindest men in American history), this fun, festive children’s fantasy park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the city council has zoned this as a historic landmark.
Imagine, wandering through a world that feels like a magical wonderland right out of a fairy tale. Valley of the Moon is the wonderland you are seeking, right in the heart of Tucson, offering unique oversized displays made from recycled materials, rocks, and trees. This is truly an outdoor walking adventure like no other in the area and like nothing you have ever experienced before – unless you’re vacationing from Narnia or Neverland.
When visiting Valley of the Moon, enjoy the food trucks and vendors who are often there selling items, artwork, and much more. Then stick around for a show at the funky, yet charming outdoor performing arts theater featuring family-friendly shows to keep the kids engaged and excited about your trip to Tucson. Discover a fascinating roadside attraction, treat your kids (or your inner kid), and have the time of your life exploring one of Tucson’s most endearing landmarks.
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2. Reid Park Zoo
Address: 3400 E Zoo Ct, Tucson, AZ 85716
Founded in 1967, Reid Park Zoo has more than 500 animals calling the zoo home. The beautifully landscaped park features various exhibits, including giant anteaters playing, marching elephants, and polar bears chilling. Over the years, the zoo has developed, transformed, and expanded, making this one of Tucson’s most unique places to visit – and it’s still being improved upon.
The zoo is very family-friendly offering many things to see and do for visitors of all ages. The animal habitats are spacious and the residents are typically out roaming during the day (unless it is raining – admittedly a rare occurrence here).
In addition to the zoo’s real animals, several animatronic animals can be found throughout the park offering fun for the kids and plenty of photo opportunities. Plus, the dinosaur exhibit is a must-experience if you have aspiring paleontologists traveling with you.
Immerse yourself in the world of wildlife as you explore the zoo, get some of that fresh Tucson air, and discover the wonders of the animal kingdom. Though relatively small, Reid Park Zoo is exceptionally clean and beautiful, and since it should only take a couple of hours to get through the entire Reid Park Zoo, you can make plans to go to lunch at Luke’s Italian Beef or Wooden Nickel Tavern afterward. If you enjoy that beautiful fresh air, consider heading to the neighboring Reid Park after your visit.
PRO TIP: Admission to the Reid Park Zoo is included in the Southern Arizona Attractions Discount Pass, which provides you with access to several local attractions.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Phoenix, Arizona (+ Map)
3. Trail Dust Town
Address: 6541 E Tanque Verde Rd, Tucson, AZ 85715
Hunting for a historic Tucson destination where you can enjoy shopping, dining, and entertainment all in one location? If this is what you see from your Tucson vacation, you must add Trail Dust Town to your itinerary. This outdoor shopping center also features some incredible artifacts, including a small western theme park, and a classic Allan Herschell merry-go-round from 1954.
As soon as you walk into the Trail Dust Town, you will be immersed in an old west setting – albeit one that is mighty spruced up! As you walk the streets you find yourself surrounded by facades resembling a boom town, including saloons, hotels, billiard halls, and more.
Built in 1961, the Trail Dust Town has always been a popular destination, including many shops and The Savoy Opera House (formerly known as the Playbox Theatre) which still hosts performances. This tiny tourist town is also home to the Museum of the Horse Soldier, the mini Trail Dust Town Railroad, and hosts the Pistoleros Wild West Show on weekends, which is a real crowd-pleaser.
As well as the old storefronts, the streets are filled with unique wild western motifs, including old stagecoaches, trains, tracks, teepees, cactus plants, and mannequins wearing period attire. As well as the mini train for kids to ride, and the historic merry-go-round, the mini theme park also includes a mini Ferris wheel made to look like individual covered wagons.
There is always something to do at Trail Dust Town and it is one of the more popular attractions in Tucson for visitors to enjoy. You can make a real day of it and if you plan on doing so, the Hilton Tucson East is close by and is the perfect place to stay to explore Tucson.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Chandler, Arizona
4. Tucson Trap and Skeet Club
Address: 7800 W Old Ajo Hwy, Tucson, AZ 85735
Fancy yourself a bit of a gunslinger? Adults looking for something fun and unique to experience when visiting Tucson will want to make time for Tucson Trap and Skeet Club. Tucson Trap and Skeet Club is one of southern Arizona’s premier shooting destinations and has become one of the most extensive shooting facilities in this part of the country. The skeet club features 50 trap fields, 13 skeet fields, sporting clay courses, and wobble traps.
As one of the largest trap and skeet facilities in the country, it has an amazing staff ready to help you with your experience. They can even teach you how to shoot properly, even if you have never handled a firearm before. Whether you’re a novice shooter or an expert marksman, it’s super easy for the day to fly by as you blast skeet out of the air.
If you are visiting Tucson with a group of adults or have older teenagers, the Tucson Trap and Skeet Club should be on your to-do list. Bearing that in mind, make plans to stay at Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, which puts you close to the club, offering you plenty of access to nearby amenities and other things to do in the area.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Scottsdale, Arizona
5. Bojangles Night Club
Address: 5244 S Nogales Hwy, Tucson, AZ 85706
Tucson has a vibrant night scene, and Bojangles Night Club is a popular destination for night owls to gather. This nightclub offers a terrific night out, with banging choons and many drink specials to increase social lubrication levels.
Bojangles Night Club features live entertainment, amazing DJs, and a place to play pool in-between dancing and mingling with others. Not only are the music and drinks amazing, but the club’s vibe also sets the mood and tone for an exciting night out in Tucson. The service is tip-top (which says a lot considering the average nightclub), and if you are feeling peckish, make sure to try the Cajun fried chicken, the signature dish for this Southern-inspired club – trust me, it’s killer.
If you want to find a place to sit, plan to arrive early, because this nightclub is very popular and tends to get crowded fast. Even if you are tired from spending the day exploring parks, going shopping, or being adventurous, save some energy (or slam a couple of vodka Redbulls) to experience the toe-tapping, head-banging, hip-grinding scene at Bojangles Night Club.
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6. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Address: 2021 N Kinney Rd, Tucson, AZ 85743
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a natural history museum, a world-renowned zoo, and a botanical garden all in one. With so much in one location, this museum is one place you will want to take advantage of if you want to enjoy more of that beautiful fresh air.
During your visit, you will encounter everything from mountain lions to Gila monsters, prairie dogs, and other creatures native to the Tucson desert area. With more than 300 animals and 1,200 plants, every corner of its 21 acres is packed.
The When Nature Calls Tour takes you on an adventure to experience the area’s rich culture and the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. Book a tour and enjoy this fantastic experience, including a stop at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
Although you can zip around this place in a couple of hours if you’re crunched for time, you can easily make a day of this top Tucson attraction. To save time, purchase your admission tickets to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum ahead of time and skip the line.
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7. Christopher Columbus Park
Address: 4600 N Silverbell Rd, Tucson, AZ 85745
We all need to take a breather in a stacked vaycay. When residents are looking for a park to enjoy time outside, they tend to visit Christopher Columbus Park – so why not take a leaf out of their book?
This lovely park is nestled on Silverbell Lake, where visitors can enjoy sports fields, RC model airfields, boat rentals, and a dog park. Everything you need for a fantastic family outing, including barbecues, water-drinking fountains, and covered picnic areas, can be found at this park.
If you’re looking for cheap or chilled things to do, the best thing to do at this park is to enjoy a picnic with the family and soak in the fabulous views of the nearby mountain ranges. Bring your lunch from your hotel, cook some barbecue, or grab something from Angelo’s Pizza & Gyros on your way to the park.
Walking around the lake provides many opportunities to relax and enjoy the weather. If you’re something of a pro fisher or amateur angler, this is a great place to fish for trout, bass, sunfish, carp, and even catfish. If you are into birdwatching, Christopher Columbus Park plays home to several native birds, including wintering ducks, herons, blackbirds, hummingbirds, and woodpeckers.
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8. Arizona State Museum
Address: 1013 E University Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85721
The Arizona State Museum is a great location where visitors to the area can enjoy educational and research opportunities while learning about the great state of Arizona. The museum stores countless local artifacts and exhibits various archaeological finds at the University of Arizona’s Tucson campus.
Discover how native peoples existed in this corner of North America for more than ten millennia, including exhibits on their lifestyles, homes, art, and means of communication. It’s a fascinating place, and you will likely be in awe when standing among the fantastic collections and exhibits found throughout the Arizona State Museum. Exhibitions include many photographs, transparencies, and a growing digital collection.
I highly recommend purchasing admission tickets in advance because it can get busy here. For more information about the University of Arizona and to see more of the campus, consider booking a Tucson Urban Experience E-Bike Tour too.
After spending a day exploring the Arizona State Museum, head over to the Tucson Marriott University Park for an evening of relaxation.
See Related: Best Museums in the US to Visit
9. Saguaro National Park
Address: 2700 N. Kinney Road, Tucson, Arizona 85743
If you’re hunting for a beautiful area to explore nestled in the Sonoran Desert, Saguaro National Park is the place to go in Tucson. I love this place – it is beyond stunning.
This national park encompasses more than 500 square miles of land, set at 2,400 feet above sea level, greeting outdoor enthusiasts with giant cactus plants, a beautiful forest, and an opportunity to spot Arizonan wildlife, such as cougars, bears, and the elusive coati (they’re so freaking cute). Keep your eyes open when exploring the Saguaro National Park because you may encounter petroglyphs of the ancient Hohokam people along the Signal Hill Trail.
The best thing about Saguaro National Park is that it’s one of the lesser-known national parks, which means there are fewer crowds, making your visit feel just that little bit more exclusive. During your explorations, you can observe beautiful desert scenery, and at the gorgeous setting of the sun, you can see the stretching shadows of the cacti that fill the park.
Saguaro National Park offers two major scenic drives through the park, with many places to pull over, and enjoy the views of nearby mountains, as well as hiking trails, picnic areas, and overlooks. Access to these scenic drives makes it possible to enjoy the Saguaro National Park if you are not an avid hiker or have little kids who might not be strong enough to explore the entire park on foot.
Booking a Saguaro National Park East E-Bike Tour is a great way to experience this national park and get up close with the many amazing plants and wildlife throughout the area.
See Related: Best National Parks in the USA to Visit
10. Tucson Botanical Gardens
Address: 2150 N Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ 85712
Looking for some more nature? Set on 5.5 acres of land, the winding paths of Tucson Botanical Gardens lead guests through breathtaking gardens, including a Zen Garden, a Barrio Garde, a Prehistoric Garden, a Butterfly Garden, and a Children’s Garden. Scattered through the gardens are beautiful orchids, jungle vegetation, and bromeliads, and chances to encounter several species of birds that call the gardens home, such as hummingbirds, hawks, new world sparrows, cardinals, and woodpeckers.
Of course, no visit to a botanical garden is complete without learning more about the unique flora and fauna found in Arizona. During a self-guided tour of the Tucson Botanical Gardens, you can learn about aloe plants, the various cacti, succulents, orchids, hibiscus, sword ferns, and much more.
If you are traveling to Tucson with smaller children, see the Children’s Discover Garden and the Thornville Garden Railway, where kids can learn about the lifecycle of plants and watch a miniature train travel through a small model town. Choo-choo, y’all!
Save time and money by booking your Tucson Botanical Gardens admission tickets before your arrival.
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11. Sabino Canyon Recreation Area
Address: 5700 N Sabino Canyon Rd, Tucson, AZ 85750
The Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is set in the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Coronado National Forest, providing plenty of places to walk, ride, or hike. This recreation area has hiking trails leading to large waterfalls, bridges, picnic areas, and breathtaking views of the area. While hiking, you may catch a glimpse of a variety of wildlife, including tortoises, deer, javelina, skunks (you’ll probably smell them before you see them), rattlesnakes (watch your step!), owls, and mountain lions.
After hiking through the area, take a break at the natural spring, where you can relax by the water, dip your toes in, or go for a swim to cool off from the hot Arizona sun. Camping is also allowed in the recreation area, allowing you to spend more time with nature and enjoy opportunities to explore this massive recreation area. If you are not up for walking, there is a guided bus tour provided by the park or you can also take the tram with several stops throughout the park.
In addition to exploring the many areas of this park, the Friends of Sabino Canyon hosts several events to help raise money for the recreation area, including their annual outdoor holiday concert – Music in the Canyon. If you are traveling through Tucson when these events are held, do not skip them because they are amazing and a unique addition to any vacation to Arizona.
If you plan to visit the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, get your tickets a day or two in advance because they do sell out and if you do not pre-book your tickets or arrive early, you may not have an opportunity to get in.
After exploring the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, staying at the nearby Loews Ventana Canyon Resort is a great option if you don’t fancy sleeping under the stars. Staying here puts you close to the recreation area, allowing you multiple days to explore, so you don’t have to rush it.
See Related: Best Sedona Tours: Top Excursions for Exploring
12. Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
Address: Catalina Highway, Tucson, AZ
The Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway is one of southeast Arizona’s most beautiful scenic drives. As the only paved road leading up to the uppermost reaches of Mount Lemmon and the Santa Catalina Range, the byway is about 60 miles round-trip consisting of canyons, mountainsides, deserts, forests, and more natural eye candy. You can stop by the Palisades Visitor Center for a rest and more information about the scenic drive and must-see views.
Following the Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway takes you 27 miles up to the heights of Mount Lemmon, where you will have fabulous views of the area from 9,157 feet above sea level. The scenic byway winds throughout the mountain landscape, providing amazing views and a super sightseeing experience for anyone visiting the Tucson area. Additionally, suppose you want to get out and stretch your legs. In that case, several trail options are available, and you can park your car to experience a hiking adventure and a picnic among the breathtaking scenery of Mount Lemmon.
Mount Lemmon is also a great destination for true adventurers. You can book a half-day rock climbing tour of the canyons around Mount Lemmon for a thrilling experience, complete with all the fantastic views the area has to offer. You can also book a private rock climbing experience of Mount Lemmon for you and your party.
Rock climbing isn’t for everyone, and by everyone, I mean me. So, if like me, you want a more relaxing experience exploring Mount Lemmon, book your Oasis Tour of Tucson, which includes a peaceful drive up to Mount Lemmon where you can enjoy the views without soiling yourself as you cling to a rock face.
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13. International Wildlife Museum
Address: 4800 West Gates Pass, Boulevard, Tucson, AZ 85745
The International Wildlife Museum is the place to go in Tucson to learn more about all creatures great and small. This museum is home to more than 400 stuffed species of mammals, birds, and insects collected worldwide and provides a closer look into wildlife conservation, rehabilitation, and breeding. Additionally, the museum displays many dioramas depicting animals from around the world in their natural settings.
Although the museum was founded in 1988, several exhibits and displays are over 100 years old. These specimens were donated to the museum by government agencies, captive breeding programs, wildlife rehabilitation centers, and zoos, as well as other generous individuals and supporters of this famous Arizona museum.
One of the best things about the International Wildlife Museum is that some unusual specimens are on display. Plus, they also host several fun events throughout the year (such as an Easter egg hunt) and have meet and greets with live animals too!
If you are an animal lover or want to learn more about species you may never have heard about before, visiting the International Wildlife Museum is a must.
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14. Mercado San Agustin
Address: 100 South Avenida del Convento, Tucson, AZ 85745
The Mercado San Agustin is a dynamic shopping, dining, and entertainment center where residents and visitors gather to enjoy time in a tree-lined market complimented by beautiful architecture.
If you’re searching for a premier shopping and dining experience in Tucson, or you’re looking to dawdle and do some people-watching, Mercado San Agustin is the place you want to visit.
It’s one of the best places in town to see where old meets new and does more to sum up the spirit of Tucson than just about anywhere else. As Tucson’s first public market, the Mercado San Agustin has become a popular tourist attraction, with the main market hall open.
This shopping center is home to many locally owned businesses and a few larger chain-type companies, providing shopping for clothing, groceries, household goods, decor, and just about anything you can think of. Popular stores at the Mercado San Agustin include La Estrella Bakery, Taqueria El Pueblito, Sno Cones Sonora, Dolce Pastello, Taxco Silveria, San Agustin Trading Company, and Morocco Store.
If you’d like to learn more about Tucson and this historic market, the Tucson Behind the Scenes tour includes a visit to the Mercado San Agustin and many other key parts of town.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Phoenix, Arizona
15. Flandrau Science Center
Address: 1601 E University Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85721
The Flandrau Science Center is the perfect place to learn more about the world and the universe, including sharks, space, fossils, and spiders. Pay a visit to immerse yourself in an under-the-sea mission, learn about some of Earth’s scarier creatures, and see how life has evolved by studying various fossils. On top of that, the observatory at Flandrau allows you to see an up-close view of the Milky Way, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, and Saturn’s rings.
It should take you about three to four hours to experience everything Flandrau Science Center has to offer and you especially do not want to miss the Planetarium Theater (featuring a full dome digital projection system – it’s lit and legit). The center has an excellent staff of knowledgeable folks who are always willing to help provide information and create a fun learning experience.
This is a great place to bring the kids, where wee visitors can be treated to an immersive science experience, interactive exhibits, activities, and games. Do yourself a favor and get ready for the ultimate science experience at the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium by purchasing your tickets in advance.
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16. Southern Arizona Transportation Museum
Address: 414 N Toole Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701
The Southern Arizona Transportation Museum is a wonderful railroad museum and is one of the best things to do in Tucson for free. The museum showcases railroad memorabilia and various collections dedicated to preserving southern Arizona’s transportation history. The staff goes out of their way to provide you with historical information, including details about Wyatt Earp gunning down the outlaw Frank Stillwell at the Tucson train station.
The heart and soul of the museum is easily Southern Pacific 1673. This classic American locomotive, built in 1900, is a Mogul M-4 steam engine used to haul freight cars for around 50 years.
It later went on to star in the 1955 adaptation of Oklahoma! before being left to rot in Himmel Park. Mercifully, the locomotive was rescued, restored to its former gleaming glory, and eventually found a home at the museum, where it is ogled by train buffs year after year.
On top of its superb collection of railway artifacts, the museum hosts community events throughout the year, a downtown historic walking tour, oral history programs, and railroad safety education classes. The Southern Arizona Transportation Museum is also included as one of the stops on the Historic Bike Tour of Tucson.
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17. The Tour Too Tough to Die – Tombstone/Bisbee
Arizona is full of fascinating history and with many boom towns, it has been the site of countless wild west adventures, saloon brawls, and high noon shootouts. Several tours operated in the area take guests on a journey into the world of the wild west, including tours of Tombstone and Bisbee.
Imagine what it would feel like to see these historic wild west towns in person, places like Tombstone and the O.K. Corral, where you can almost feel the spirits of those involved surrounding you. Well, imagine no more.
On The Tour Too Tough to Die, Step back into the Old West during a full-day tour from Tucson to the Tombstone-Bisbee area. Enjoy shopping for antiques in Bisbee, and then head out to Tombstone, where you can walk the same streets as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. This tour is the perfect experience for those wanting to visit quaint stores, go sightseeing, and drink in a Wild West setting.
Tours are kept in small groups, giving each visitor a personalized tour experience. Space is limited, so be quick to book your place early on The Tour Too Tough to Die during your visit to Tucson.
You can also stop by the O.K. Corral Historic Complex to learn more about the battle between these infamous lawmen and the lawless cowboys they brought to justice – sometimes with the deadliest means. They host daily reenactment gunfights at the Corral. It’s a little hokey, but once the dust, smoke, and crowds have cleared, you can sense the tension of that famous gunfight all those years ago.
See Related: Most Famous Historical Landmarks in the USA
18. Pima Air and Space Museum
Address: 6000 E Valencia Rd, Tucson, AZ 85756
Experience the wonder of the Pima Air and Space Museum, one of the world’s largest non-government-funded aerospace museums. As a seasoned nomad and something of a science and airplane buff, this place was a real treat for me.
The Pima Air Space Museum features more than 300 aircraft on display over 80 acres and is home to the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame. When visiting the museum, you can explore the grounds where most of the planes are on display outside, and several additional planes are housed inside the display hangers at the museum.
This museum’s mock-up of a control tower that overlooks the aircraft boneyard (also called the Graveyard of Planes) at neighboring Davis Monthan Air Force Base makes this museum a little more unique than other aero museums. The boneyard is the most extensive aircraft storage and preservation facility globally.
If you love aviation and seeing historic airplanes up close, you must visit the Pima Air and Space Museum. Tours and tickets are available to be booked in advance.
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19. Armory Park/Children’s Museum Tucson
Address: 221 6th Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85701
If you want a laid-back day out with a family-friendly vibe, Armory Park is the place to visit, featuring everything you might need for a grand day out in Tucson. Exploring Armory Park, you will find historical monuments dedicated to The Mormon Battalion, the Spanish-American War, and the Tucson, Arizona World War II Memorial.
It’s also home to many immersive art and music exhibits courtesy of the Children’s Museum Tucson, just opposite Armory Park. This fantastic museum feature exhibits catered to children up to 10 years old, including hands-on activities and areas dedicated to biology, electricity, gravity, imagination, pets, investments, and even “curiosity…” admit it, you’re curious. Kids will love having a place where they can be kids, exploring, playing, learning, and finding an interest in the world around them.
Another great option about this neck of the woods is the food and the shopping. Dining opportunities are near endless, with restaurants serving everything from sushi to steaks, and it is home to a brewery taproom and pub with an in-house art gallery. If shopping is on your list of things to do in Tucson, Armory Park is home to some of the best independent stores showcasing and selling handcrafts, used books, candles, and vintage clothing.
Essentially, whatever needs you to have for a great day on the town, Armory Park has you covered. A ride through Armory Park is included in the Mural Bike Ride, one of Tucson’s most popular bike riding experiences, and should not be missed when visiting the area.
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20. Colossal Cave Mountain Park
Address: 16721 E Old Spanish Trail, Vail, AZ 85641
Planning an epic outdoor day trip? Adventure awaits you at Colossal Cave Mountain Park, just 40 minutes from downtown Tucson. Here you can enjoy camping under the stars, hiking, biking, horseback riding, birdwatching, and you can see the Sonoran Desert Region the way it is meant to be experienced!
From the moment you step into the park, your senses will awaken as you are surrounded by the sounds of chirping birds and the scent of sage and mesquite. With 2,400 acres of land and no required trail fees or permits, the possibilities of things to do in Colossal Cave Mountain Park are endless. Park and trail maps are available at the gift shop.
After a long day of adventuring, take a break at the Terrace Cafe & Shop, where you can rejuvenate and refuel in a beautiful cafe set in a limestone building. While eating and relaxing, enjoy commanding views of the area, featuring iconic saguaro cactus and the distant Tucson mountains.
If you are near the end of your day, you should grab a refreshing beer or glass of wine and start making plans for your next day’s adventure. Once fully refreshed, explore the gift shop where you can purchase local and native arts and crafts if you haven’t already.
Cave and horseback riding tours are available here and make for a lifetime journey, where you can see the majestic desert surroundings and experience Tucson like never before. Taking a tour of this park is one of the top Tucson attractions if you want to experience the great outdoors in the Arizona desert.
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21. DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun Museum
Address: 6300 N Swan Rd, Tucson, AZ 85718
The DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, also known as the Sun Museum, is home to several structures scattered in a natural desert setting, featuring beautiful adobe buildings. When the museum was constructed in 1965, the buildings featured exposed beams, cactus flooring, and unique artistic touches.
The Mission in the Sun was the first building constructed and was dedicated to Our Lady Guadalupe and in memory of Padre Eusebio Kino. DeGrazia hand-painted murals on all the walls and a large painting of Our Lady Guadalupe at the brick altar. Today, visitors worldwide leave photos, candles, and mementos honoring her.
Though many of the original murals have been destroyed (in fact, one structure, the Island House, is no longer standing), plaster has been put up to help preserve what is left of the unique and magnificent buildings. Additionally, the museum is still home to 11 structures and DeGrazia’s grave.
The Sun Museum is open to the public, where you can see more than 15,000 original DeGrazia paintings and explore the 10-acre historic site.
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22. Mission San Xavier del Bac
Address: 1950 W San Xavier Rd, Tucson, AZ 85746
Arguably the most famous attraction in all of Tucson needs very little introduction – you just can’t miss it. The famous San Xavier del Bac Mission (The Mission of Saint Xavier of the Water in English), is also known by its nickname, “The White Dove of the Desert.” This gleaming white house of worship makes it clear why.
This historic Spanish Catholic mission, located about 10 miles south of downtown Tucson is a breathtaking example of Moorish-Spanish colonial architecture and has a well-earned place on the list of U.S. National Register of Historic Places, and is a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
Although this isn’t the original Mission San Xavier del Bac (which was built in 1692 and subsequently destroyed by Apache natives in 1770) the current structure was built between 1783 and 1797, still making it the oldest European structure in the state, and one of the oldest European structures in the country.
This place’s stark, white beauty as it seemingly rises out of the desert landscape is mesmerizing. And the interior isn’t to be sniffed at either.
Adorned with beautifully colored fixtures and intricate statues, to say the decor is stunning is an understatement. Having recently undergone restoration efforts, the fixtures, particularly the Altar are just as splendid as when they were first installed. Admission is free, but you can tour and learn more about the magnificent Mission San Xavier del Bac on a comprehensive South Arizona tour.
23. Tucson Desert Art Museum and Four Corners Gallery
Address: 7000 E Tanque Verde Rd, Tucson, AZ 85715
While Tucson is no stranger to art galleries, one of the best places to enjoy Native American and contemporary art is the Tucson Desert Art Museum and Four Corners Gallery. This is one of the top Tucson attractions for arty types and anyone interested in the area’s history and culture.
Partnered with the Smithsonian, this cultural museum and art gallery features some of the nation’s most comprehensive collections of Hopi and Navajo artifacts, including a huge collection of textiles. You can also admire a plethora of beautiful paintings, as well as a large gallery of historic and artistic photographs that help tell the region’s story.
While there is a fee for the museum, admission to the gallery is free! And if you need a place to stay the Comfort Suites at Sabino Canyon is just across the way.
24. Gaslight Theatre
Address: 7010 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85710
By now you might have cottoned on that Tucson is home to more than a few Old West experiences that might trigger the odd eye-roll. Well, you can stow your cynicism for now, because we’re getting onto what might be the hokiest of hokey Tucson attractions, beloved by locals and tourists alike.
I’m talking, of course, about Gaslight Theatre – the rootinest, tootinest theatre in the west! What started as the brainchild of University of Arizona student Tony Terry Jr. and a few of his chums from the drama department in 1977 has since turned into an old western-themed theatre.
Here you can take in modern twists on Victorian melodramas that cowboys would have watched back in the day – when not rustling cattle or shooting each other to pieces. Being such a small theatre, you’ll feel like you’re part of the performance. It’s impossible to have a bad time here.
They have a pretty stacked calendar, with hilarious plays, melodramas, and musicals performed by keen locals, as well as live music concerts. They also serve some nibbles (the pizza is quite good) so you don’t have to go hungry.
25. The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures
Address: 4455 E Camp Lowell Dr, Tucson, AZ 85712
Whenever I visit Tucson, I make time for the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures. Admittedly the name is a bit of a mouthful, but this mini museum of miniatures packs a big punch.
This might be my favorite Tucson museum and is a great place to stop by if you love history, art, culture, or all things teeny-tiny. It’s also one of the best tourist attractions in town to bring your children.
Featuring over 500 tableaus, dioramas, dollhouses, and roomboxes of buildings and scenes from history, literature, and even TV and film, this is one of Tucson’s best-hidden gems. Each display is immaculate, containing countless miniature objects in superb detail and many of the exhibits are interactive too.
One of the museum’s current projects is recreating a miniature of the Historic Ball-Paylore House, a stunning mid-20th Century Tucson designed by famous architect Arthur T. Brown. And if you’re interested, you can actually stay at this breathtaking house – the big one, not the mini one.
Is Tucson worth visiting?
Yes, absolutely! Ostensibly, Tucson may not seem like a town worth planning a vacation to and staying for more than one night. However, there are tons of things to do in Tucson, including gawping at the beautiful mountain views, exploring hiking trails, immersing yourself in the area’s rich culture, learning about Tucson’s unique history, and tucking into delicious Mexican cuisine.
What is Tucson best known for?
Tucson is known for many things, but the community is best known for being the home to the University of Arizona. Other than that, Tucson is known for its gorgeous outdoor spaces, fascinating museums, and yummy restaurants, as well as theaters and other cultural venues.
Is Tucson walkable?
A lot of Tucson is walkable. Depending on your plans when visiting Tucson, Arizona, you may not need a rental car. Tucson is very walkable in the downtown Tucson and University areas, and you can easily walk to many of the dining, shopping, and entertainment venues.
How far is Tucson from the Mexico border?
Visitors traveling to Tucson will find themselves about an hour’s drive from the United States-Mexico border. Additionally, Tucson is less than a two-hour drive from Phoenix, and many travelers combine visiting Tucson, Phoenix, and Mexico in a single trip through this part of the Americas.
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