If you’re looking for a unique and exciting destination to explore, Tucson, Arizona is definitely worth considering.
Situated in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, this city is surrounded by stunning natural scenery and offers a wide range of outdoor activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the top things to do in Tucson, including historic sites, cultural attractions, and natural wonders.
From the University of Arizona campus to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, there’s something for everyone to discover in this vibrant and fascinating city.
So whether you’re a local or a tourist, get ready to explore all that Tucson has to offer.
17. Trail Dust Town
If you’re in the northeast part of the city, you won’t want to miss Trail Dust Town.
This outdoor shopping center has a unique Wild West theme, complete with shops, a carousel, ferris wheel, and miniature train.
It’s rumored to have been a movie set in the past. Since its opening in 1961, Trail Dust Town has been a popular tourist attraction.
You can enjoy sizzling steaks at Pinnacle Peak, watch a Wild West stunt show, or try your hand at panning for gold.
16. Tucson Mountain Park
If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, Tucson Mountain Park is the perfect place to explore.
Established in 1929 to protect the remote range, this park offers over 100 kilometers of trails for hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding.
With its breathtaking scenery and prominent peaks, the park is a popular destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
You’ll have the opportunity to spy splendid saguaros and capture spellbinding views and photos from up high.
Don’t miss out on this wonderful wilderness experience in the sun-scorched Sonoran Desert.
15. University of Arizona Campus
If you’re looking for a lively yet laid-back atmosphere, the University of Arizona Campus is the perfect place to be.
This prestigious university, founded in 1885, covers a huge part of the city center and has a sizable student population.
The campus boasts gorgeous grounds and beautiful old buildings that date back to the early 20th-century.
As you explore the campus, you can appreciate the array of architectural styles and visit the excellent Arizona State Museum and the magnificent Museum of Art.
Don’t miss the chance to see the impressive collections of art and artifacts that these museums have to offer.
14. DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun Museum
If you’re looking for a unique museum experience, the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun Museum is a must-visit destination.
Founded by Arizona artist Ettore DeGrazia, the museum is now a National Historic District and houses an impressive collection of artworks.
The adobe buildings are a treat to look at, and the permanent collection of paintings is a standout feature.
The paintings showcase the history of the native cultures of the American Southwest, and many of DeGrazia’s abstract and Impressionist pieces are on display.
Don’t miss the chance to explore this captivating museum.
13. Gaslight Theatre
Looking for a fun night out with the family? The Gaslight Theatre on Broadway Boulevard in the east of the city offers a variety of performances from melodramas and musical comedies to wild Westerns, Christmas specials, and sci-fi shows.
Since it opened its doors in 1977, the Gaslight Theatre has been a popular destination for both locals and tourists due to its engaging performances and friendly atmosphere.
The theater is designed with a Wild West theme, and you can enjoy a meal, drink, and popcorn while you cheer on the hero and boo the villain.
12. Tucson Botanical Gardens
If you’re looking for a peaceful and scenic place to take a stroll, the Tucson Botanical Gardens is a must-visit.
Located just a short distance from the city center, this oasis of calm and tranquility features a stunning collection of orchids, bromeliads, and succulents, as well as numerous cacti and palms.
Originally the private property of the Potter family, the historic home and its grounds were transformed into a beautiful botanical garden in the 1970s.
Today, the gardens have expanded to include a variety of themed gardens, such as herb, barrio, and children’s gardens, as well as a serene Zen section and a butterfly greenhouse.
Whether you’re a nature lover, a gardening enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, the Tucson Botanical Gardens is a must-see destination.
11. Madera Canyon
If you’re a birdwatching enthusiast, Madera Canyon is a must-visit destination.
Located just 45 minutes south of Tucson, this natural wonder is nestled amidst the Santa Rita Mountains and is home to over 250 species of birds.
The canyon’s tranquil and secluded setting makes it a popular resting spot for migratory birds.
Aside from birdwatching, Madera Canyon offers an array of hiking trails that lead you through patches of ponderosa pine and alongside a charming creek.
The trails eventually lead to prominent peaks and viewpoints, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
10. Reid Park Zoo
Reid Park Zoo, located east of the city center, is a popular destination among both locals and tourists due to its diverse range of animals.
The zoo, established in 1965, features four zones that showcase various animals from Asia, Africa, and South America.
Visitors can learn about the animals’ natural habitats through displays and demonstrations, and even hand-feed giraffes.
Additionally, the zoo boasts a wild and wet water park, providing a refreshing break from the Arizona heat.
Some of the animals that can be seen at Reid Park Zoo include grizzly bears, jaguars, giraffes, elephants, and tigers.
Overall, Reid Park Zoo is an excellent place to experience a variety of animals and learn about their habitats.
9. Old Tucson
If you’re looking for a fun day out with your family, Old Tucson is the perfect destination.
This Wild West theme park, also known as ‘Hollywood in the Desert’, offers a range of exciting attractions and entertainment options that are sure to keep everyone entertained.
Originally built in the 1930s as a film studio, Old Tucson has been used for over 400 films and TV shows, including Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and El Dorado. Today, visitors can explore the sprawling set and its various buildings, such as the county jail, ranch house, and railroad station.
In addition to touring the studio, visitors can also watch live reenactments of gunfights and enjoy amusement rides.
Whether you’re a fan of Western movies or just looking for a fun day out, Old Tucson is definitely worth a visit.
8. Catalina State Park
Located just 30 minutes north of the city, Catalina State Park is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts.
This park boasts rugged canyons, sparkling streams, and diverse wildlife, all set against the backdrop of the towering Santa Catalina Mountains.
With trails suitable for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, you can immerse yourself in the stunning scenery and enjoy breathtaking views of the mountains and Tucson in the distance.
Whether you’re an experienced outdoorsman or a casual visitor, Catalina State Park has something for everyone.
7. Tohono Chul
Tohono Chul, a botanical garden and cultural museum located on the way to Catalina State Park, offers visitors a chance to connect with the Sonoran Desert region’s nature, art, and culture.
The name of the museum, which means ‘Desert Corner’ in the local indigenous language, reflects the museum’s focus on the desert region.
Founded in 1985, Tohono Chul boasts stunning gardens filled with wild and native flowers, shrubs, and trees.
The museum also features an exquisite art gallery showcasing sculptures and folk art from around the American Southwest.
6. Mission San Xavier del Bac
If you’re looking for a historic and visually stunning site to visit in Arizona, the Mission San Xavier del Bac is a must-see.
This beautiful white Baroque building, also known as the ‘White Dove of the Desert’, is located south of the city center and is a popular destination for both pilgrims and tourists.
Built between 1783 and 1797, the Mission San Xavier del Bac is the oldest European structure in Arizona.
Its exterior boasts an elegant entrance and exquisite decoration, while the interior is adorned with frescoes, paintings, and statues.
The building’s fine Spanish Colonial architecture is a testament to its historical significance and cultural value.
5. Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is a stunning desert park with two distinct sections located on either side of Tucson.
The park was established in 1933 to protect part of the Sonoran Desert and the towering Tucson and Rincon mountain ranges that run through it.
The park is named after the giant saguaro cactus that dominates the landscape, with some reaching up to 12 meters tall.
The park offers visitors an array of activities, including hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding on its numerous trails.
There are also several scenic drives that provide breathtaking views of the desert landscape.
However, the standout attraction is the park’s swathe of spiny saguaro, which is an iconic image of the American Southwest.
Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast or just looking for a scenic drive, Saguaro National Park is a must-visit destination.
4. Pima Air and Space Museum
If you’re interested in aviation, the Pima Air and Space Museum is a must-see destination.
As one of the largest aerospace museums in the world, it boasts an impressive collection of over 400 historic aircraft and spacecraft.
The museum’s expansive airfield and hangars house both civilian and military planes, including bombers, missiles, and unmanned spacecraft.
In addition to the aircraft, the museum also features engaging exhibits and artifacts that showcase the evolution of aviation.
Whether you’re a history buff or simply fascinated by flight, the Pima Air and Space Museum is sure to impress.
3. Sabino Canyon
If you’re looking for a picturesque outdoor destination, Sabino Canyon is a must-visit spot.
Located in the Santa Catalina Mountains, just northeast of Tucson, this popular location offers a wide range of activities and breathtaking scenery.
From hiking and horseback riding to exploring creeks and cacti, there’s something for everyone here.
For a more relaxed experience, hop on the Sabino Canyon Tram, which stops at various trailheads, picnic spots, and viewpoints.
As the canyon is entirely located within the Coronado National Forest, visitors can also expect to see a diverse range of wildlife and even waterfalls.
2. Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway
As you embark on your journey along the Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway, you’ll be treated to a drive that’s widely regarded as one of the most picturesque in the southeastern part of the state.
This scenic byway spans over 40 kilometers, taking you all the way up to the summit of Mount Lemmon.
Along the way, you’ll be able to take in stunning views of the surrounding natural beauty and the numerous viewpoints that dot the route.
The drive takes you through a range of desert landscapes, including serene lakes and streams, before reaching the lofty summit of the Santa Catalina Mountains.
From here, you’ll be able to enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of Tucson and the Sonoran Desert.
The area is also popular for outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and skiing, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers.
1. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
If you’re looking for a fun and educational day out in Southern Arizona, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a must-visit.
Founded in 1952, this facility offers a comprehensive look at the natural history, animals, and plants of the Sonoran Desert.
The museum features a botanical garden, zoo, art gallery, aquarium, and natural history museum.
Visitors can witness coyotes and cougars in their natural habitat and learn about the history and nature of the remote region.
Located just 20 minutes west of the city, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a popular attraction that offers a unique and fascinating insight into the desert’s ecosystem.
With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder that this museum is one of the most visited places in the area.
Here are some of the highlights of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum:
- Botanical garden showcasing the diverse plant life of the Sonoran Desert
- Zoo with over 200 species of animals, including coyotes, cougars, and desert tortoises
- Art gallery featuring works inspired by the desert landscape
- Aquarium showcasing the aquatic life of the region
- Natural history museum with exhibits on geology, ecology, and anthropology
Overall, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a fantastic destination for nature lovers, families, and anyone interested in learning about the unique ecosystem of the Sonoran Desert.