Arizona’s Pima County is where Tucson is situated. Tucson, the second-largest city in Arizona after Phoenix, is home to the University of Arizona and has a population of over 500,000.
Start your journey off with walks through the well-known cactus landscapes, then end out with a picnic at dusk atop Sentinel Peak Park. Visit a waterpark with the family, go on a culinary tour of the greatest Mexican cuisine this side of the border, and then wash it all down with a pub crawl while tailgating at a University of Arizona football game!
Tucson is a year-round vacation favorite because it offers art galleries, Japanese gardens, stunning resorts (many with infinity pools), and a setting that never seems crowded (unless during the rodeo festival).
The city is located in a desert environment and is strongly impacted by it. It is located north of the US-Mexico border. Visitors to Tucson may anticipate stunning architecture, lush gardens, desert flora and animals, customary pursuits like panning for gold, and a variety of cuisine and drinks with Mexican influences. Here are some of the top things to do in Tucson:
1. Visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to Experience the Deserta
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a complex located to the west of Tucson that spans 98 acres and has an art gallery, aquarium, zoo, and botanical garden in addition to a natural history museum. The museum is dedicated to educating tourists about the varied flora and fauna that can be found in the Sonoran Desert region, and it has more than a thousand distinct plant species as well as over two hundred distinct types of desert animals.
Over 400,000 people visit this interesting museum every year, making it one of the most popular tourist sites in Arizona. It is comprised of many exhibits that explain animal and plant life in both historical and present settings. Several of them are titled “Rivers to the Sea,” “Cat Canyon,” and “Life on the Rocks,” respectively.
2. Go Hiking in Sabino Canyon
The Sabino Canyon is tucked away in the Coronado National Forest and Santa Catalina Mountains, just north of Tucson. The canyon provides options for climbing and trekking along with spectacular routes and breathtaking vistas.
Unexpectedly, given that the canyon is situated in a desert, Sabino Creek is also close by. This creek has waterfalls that may be seen and crossed by a bridge. There is a tram through the canyon with nine stops for those who would rather not climb.
3. Wander the Saguaro National Park Trails
The park, which is a part of the US National Park System, is spread out across two different areas to the east and west of Tucson. The park encompasses a portion of the Sonoran Desert, the Tucson Mountains, and the Rincon Mountains. On one of the several treks offered around the park, tourists may see these cacti up close.
The term “saguaro” was originally given to the park after the name of an indigenous cactus that grows there. Lengthy and short hiking trails are designated and accessible to people of all fitness levels and levels of stamina, however, park officials advise against doing long excursions in the more isolated areas of the park during the summer when temperatures soar.
4. Join the Tucson Botanical Garden as a Botanist
Tucson Botanical Gardens, a sizable complex made up of 16 different gardens, is the perfect destination for tourists looking to take a walk in the middle of nature. The 5-acre garden complex is renowned for offering a brief oasis of peace in the sometimes hectic metropolis.
Visitors are encouraged to explore the downtown Tucson botanical gardens’ themed areas, which include a children’s garden, a Zen garden, and a butterfly garden. The complex also has a gallery with several changing exhibits and installations on different topics related to botanical interest in the Arizona region, including desert plants.
5. Visit Reid Park Zoo and Take a Wild Side Stroll
Established in the 1960s, the 20-acre Reid Park Zoo is home to more than 500 different animal species. There are bears, elephants, giant tortoises, and other creatures in the zoo’s four distinct zones.
The university also employs veterinarians, and the city’s residents have collected money throughout the years to take care of the animals and provide them with the finest treatment possible. As a result, the zoo is a well-liked attraction in the area. In addition to native species, the zoo has creatures from all over the globe.
6. Wander About Tohono Chul Park
Tohono Chul, which translates as “Desert Corner,” got its name from the Tohono O’odham, an indigenous group in Arizona. The Sonoran Desert Region and environmental stewardship are the main goals of the park, which is made up of an on-site museum.
Visitors to the park may take advantage of the floral gardens, a riparian environment, a geology wall, and exploration pathways in addition to the Santa Catalina Mountains rising majestically in the backdrop.
7. The Pima Air & Space Museum is a Great Place to Learn About Aerospace
The complex, which is more than 80 acres in size and is widely acknowledged as one of the largest air and space museums in the world, is home to more than 300 aircraft and spacecraft that may be seen by anybody who have an interest in the aerospace industry.
The museum, which is privately funded and derives money from admission fees and ticket sales, expanded from its humble beginnings in the 1970s, when it only had 48 aircraft, to become the significant establishment that it is today. For travelers who are interested in the history of the United States Air Force, there is a historical tour that takes them through the years, and there is even a replica control tower located on the premises.
8. Find Your Inner Peace in San Xavier del Bac
The Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation is home to the Spanish Catholic Mission San Xavier del Bac, which is located in the heart of Tucson. The mission is named after Francis Xavier, a revered co-founder of the Jesuit Order and a Christian missionary. The area, which was constructed in the 18th century, is often regarded as having some of the best Spanish colonial architecture in the country.
It is accessible to the public every day and receives over 200,000 visitors annually, many of whom see the location as a pilgrimage. Tourists may enjoy the tranquil ambiance at one of the oldest European structures in Arizona, which is still managed by Franciscan members of the Christian community.
9. Aim Higher with Sentinel Peak
Sentinel Peak is located in the Tucson Mountain District, southwest of Tucson. Because of the surrounding volcanic ground, which is thought to be 20 million years old, the peak is sometimes mistakenly thought to be the consequence of a dormant volcano.
The picturesque views across Tucson Valley and Tucson City are one of the attractions of the mountain, which gives trekkers and hikers options.
10. Enter a Set at the Old Tucson Studios
A visit to Old Tucson Studios is a must for movie lovers and followers of classic Westerns. The studios were constructed expressly to serve as the setting for the well-known films Little House on the Prairie, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and Arizona.
They stand near the Tucson Mountain park. The studios have now been transformed into a theme park where guests can enjoy tours replete with historical explanations and live-action plays that include stuntmen and ladies and gunfights.
11. Spend Some Time in Contemplative Silence in the Saint Augustine Cathedral
The Cathedral of Saint Augustine is a Catholic church that shares a building with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson and is situated on Stone Avenue.
The church is remarkable for its slanted flooring, which allows all of the attendees (it can accommodate over 1,000 people) to have a clear view of the alter altar and a crucifix from Pamplona, Spain.
Along with sculptures of native flora found in the Arizona Desert area, other highlights include stone work with Pope Pius XI’s coat of arms.
12. Take in the Night Sky at Kitt Peak National Observatory
Kitt Peak National Observatory provides the ideal views of the night sky for guests who wish to come closer to the stars. The biggest and most varied collection of astronomy instruments in the world, including 24 telescopes, is housed at an observatory that is perched atop Kitt Peak in the Quinlan Mountains.
Depending on the visitor’s level of interest in all things astronomical, there are two tour options available: a daytime tour that focuses on the observatory’s history and the development of the telescope, and a nighttime tour that starts at dusk and allows guests to view the cosmos through telescopes above the Arizona Desert.
13. Break a Sweat While Climbing Tumamoc Hill
Tumamoc Hill, sometimes known as a “butte,” is a remote hill to the west of Tucson that serves mainly as a transmission station for radio, television, and public safety transmitters. It also houses an astronomical observatory with telescopes for observing the night sky.
Although the terrain is difficult and is thus advised for more experienced hikers, a lot of people visit the hill in quest of trekking possibilities. If you do manage to ascend, there are informative excursions and talks about the butte’s ecological importance and local history atop the hill.
14. Depart the Highway at Mount Lemmon
The highest point of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Mount Lemmon, rises to a height of over 9,000 feet and is crowned with an observatory for scientific study. Visitors may enjoy unmatched views during a picturesque drive on the route that cuts through the summit.
There is also a road segment on the north side of the peak that is known as the “Back Side” of the mount and provides the opportunity to ride motorbikes or off-road vehicles for those seeking a more rough approach.
15. Take in Some Peace at Kennedy Lake
10 acres of parkland make up Kennedy Lake, which is situated in Tucson’s J.F. Kennedy Park. Rainbow trout, bass, catfish, and carp are just a few of the many fish species that call the lake’s waters home.
Visitors may take a leisurely walk around the lake and take in the scenery, but there are also boating and fishing options available for those who want to try and capture some of the lake’s famed residents.
16. Spend a lot of Money at Foothills Mall
Foothills Mall is a large indoor retail center that is situated near Casa Adobes in northwest Tucson. If spending money is not on the plan, there is a 15-theater movie complex or tourists may eat at one of the 8 restaurants located there.
The mall has over 90 different retail establishments, so visitors can indulge. This indoor shopping paradise has over 700,000 square feet of retail space, so there is something for everyone to enjoy.
17. Visit Colossal Cave Mountain Park to go Caving
Colossal Cave Mountain Park, which was founded in the 19th century, is made up of not just one cave but an extensive series of caverns with more than 5 kilometers of interior corridors. Visitors may explore the old Apache Indian homes in Colossal Underground Mountain Park if they dare to endure the year-round steady temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) in the cave paths, but if they’d rather stay above ground, there are plenty of alternative options available.
These consist of a campground, two museums, famous statues, picnic spots, equestrian riding, and picnic places.
18. Wander Around the DeGrazia Gallery at the Sun Museum
The Ettore DeGrazia-founded DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun Museum is best defined as an outdoor museum with a variety of exhibitions and old structures scattered around the desert. Visitors may tour the region and the numerous structures, including a pottery workshop, a ghost home, a nun’s house, and many more.
The buildings are notable because they were built utilizing traditional methods and materials, such as cactus flooring. The DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun Museum is best understood as both a gallery and a museum, or just as a large and distinctive art installation amid the desert.
19. Retreat to the Garden of Gethsemane to Unwind
If you want to find some shade beneath one of the park’s numerous trees and watch the world go by, this park on the west bank of the Santa Cruz River offers a green oasis of cool in the city and is open all day.
The many sculptures in the Garden of Gethsemane are noteworthy because they depict various biblical themes and give the space a mood of silent reflection. The park is renowned for being home to Tucson’s biggest eucalyptus tree.
20. Use Gold Panning to Find Your Fortune
Why not give gold panning a try if you want to return home with a little more cash? Join the Desert Gold Diggers club and visit one of the many areas in the Arizona Desert that are rumored to contain gold.
You can either use a rake and pick to sweep the ground in search of a valuable nugget or you can pan for gold directly from a water source.
21. Have a Wild Time in Tombstone
The town of Tombstone is located not far from Tucson. While Tombstone was previously prosperous due to the wealth of silver discovered there, the place no longer has such good fortune, but tourists may still come to view a true old “wild west” locale that was once dreaded Apache territory.
For those who desire to experience a piece of the past, the town was associated with gunslingers and prospectors.
22. Try Some Mexican Cuisine
A trip to Tucson wouldn’t be complete without indulging in the quantity of authentic Mexican cuisine that is available, as the locals would confirm. Tucson is recognized for having some of the tastiest Mexican food found north of the border. The recipes for many of the city’s most popular hangouts have been passed down through the years, and they are still focused on serving traditional cuisine prepared in a family-friendly, home-style setting.
There are so many different options available to choose from that they stretch over 23 kilometers of the city. In the city, you can get a wide variety of Mexican dishes, including tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and many more lesser-known alternatives, all of which have varied levels of chili pepper heat.
23. Visit a Microbrewery in Tucson to Quench Your Thirst
Over the years, Tucson has established a reputation as the location to get the freshest beer available. The high quality of the items on sale will satisfy your thirst after a scorching day in the desert, even if you are not a beer connoisseur.
A variety of conventional and cutting-edge microbreweries have sprung up recently, manufacturing their products on the premises and instructing customers about the brewing process. However, tasting the completed beverage is arguably the finest part.
24. Visit the Fort Lowell Museum
The United States Army Garrison Fort Lowell, which was erected in 1873 and is situated outside of Tucson, ended operations in 1891. Much of the old fort was abandoned over time and left in ruins until being renovated to become the Fort Lowell Museum, which is now open to the public.
The museum represents military life at the fort and is a property of the Arizona Historical Society. The bigger Fort Lowell Park complex, which also has a sizable pond, a swimming pool, play areas, and athletic courts, incorporates Fort Lowell Museum.
25. Visit the University of Arizona Art Museum to Explore Your Artistic Side
The University of Arizona Art Museum is the place to visit in Tucson if you are interested in seeing some works of art. The University of Arizona manages the campus, which includes a museum and permanent exhibits with more than 6,000 pieces of art from all over the world, including sculptures, textiles, prints, and hand drawings. These works of art are shown in a variety of different galleries. The diversity of artworks on show puts an emphasis not just on European art but also on art from the United States.
View the Top Hotels in Tucson
It is possible to locate all of the city of Tucson’s available lodging options in one convenient location on any of the booking websites, regardless of whether you are looking for five-star grandeur and extravagance, basic hostels that provide breakfast, or anything in between. The city of Tucson has a wide range of accommodations for any price range.
The Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort and the Miraval Arizona Resort and Spa, both of which are situated at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountain Range, are two of the most elegant resorts in the area, and it is difficult to find a competitor for either one (with an incredible infinity pool to boot). It would be a mistake to overlook the historic Arizona Inn and The Westin La Paloma since they both provide a comprehensive range of amenities in picture-perfect locations.
If you are searching for something on the more affordable side, the gorgeous Hotel Congress has been established for more than a century and is situated in the very center of downtown. An option that has three stars and is suitable for families is the La Quinta by Wyndham Tucson – Reid Park.
Check out the University Inn or the Hotel Tucson City Center; both of these accommodations provide comfortable accommodations at prices that are more reasonable. The Ascend Hotel Collection includes the Hotel Tucson City Center as one of its properties.
Reserve an Airport Transport to Save Time
Quickly reserve airport transport to make it easy to reach your accommodation.
The most practical method of transportation is a private airport shuttle service, which enables you to relax en route while the helpful locals do all the driving. While the cost is equivalent to a taxi, there is no waiting in line or haggling with cab drivers.
Since you’re on vacation, why not begin your journey in style with a sophisticated ride to (and from) the airport in a svelte black sedan or SUV?
Also read: Best Hotels in Astoria Oregon.