Located in southern Arizona, the City of Sunshine is very close to the United States-Mexico border, so a lot of its attractions take on a more desert-like theme. With museums, outdoor adventures, parks, gardens, and family-friendly activities, the city of Tucson, Arizona is a must-visit.
Here are 18 things to do in Tucson that you and your family can’t miss.
REID PARK ZOO
Start your visit to Tucson with a trip to the Reid Park Zoo. While not as big as some of the other zoos in the state, this zoo still houses a very impressive collection of animals for you to see. The entire compound spreads across 17 acres, featuring various species of lions, bears, tigers, elephants, and giraffes, among many others.
The best part about the zoo is that all of the attractions inside are in a giant loop, which you can start from one corner and end up back where you started. There are three smaller circles, all of which offer different attractions, like the Tropical Trail. And if you want to get up close and personal with the animals, consider taking a behind the scenes tour!
Details: 3400 E Zoo Ct, Tucson, AZ 85716 | Website
SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK
Explore the wilder side of the city by going to Saguaro National Park, where you can spot all sorts of wildlife and unique plant life. This 92,000-acre park (!) consists of two areas — the Tucson Mountain District, about 10 miles west of the city of Tucson, and the Rincon Mountain District, about 10 miles east of Tucson.
While taking on one of the many hiking trails, you can see the desert’s signature plant, the saguaro cactus. It is the longest species of cacti in North America, with tour guides also telling visitors about how vital it is to the desert’s ecosystem.
You will even get a chance to spot some of the local desert wildlife, including reptiles and small birds. You can find Gila monsters (lizards), jackrabbits, desert tortoises, and Gila Woodpeckers, among some others. You can even go horseback riding with Houston’s Horseback Riding to get the full cowboy experience.
Details: 2700 N Kinney Rd, Tucson, AZ 85743 | Website
CATALINA STATE PARK
Catalina State Park is a short drive from Tucson; a massive desert area retrofitted into a dedicated camping ground. It’s located at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The park is home to various hiking trails, with the best one being the Sutherland Trail. The 10.8-mile stretch offers people plenty of opportunities to spot the local wildlife and even some famous plants.
Another popular attraction in this park is the Romero Ruin Archeological Site, which gives visitors a look at an ancient Indian settlement. The trail is less than a mile long, and goes through the Hohokam Indian Village. Various structures throughout the old site remain intact.
Details: 11570 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85737 | Website
TOHONO CHUL BOTANIC GARDEN
If you’re looking to learn more about the flora and fauna in the desert, then the Tohono Chul Botanic Garden is one of the best places. While it is not as big or as well known as some other museums or gardens in the city, it is still one of the most beautiful places to visit.
Throughout the 49-acre compound, you will find over 500 species of plants unique to this desert environment, with the stand-out addition being the Cereus plant. To see this plant bloom, you will have to visit at night its most unique characteristic.
Details: 7366 N Paseo Del Norte, Tucson, AZ 85704 | Website
KITT PEAK NATIONAL OBSERVATORY
One of the best parts about Tuscan is that there are plenty of pockets that you can visit to get a better look at the stars. You can easily clear away from all the city’s pollution and see the beautiful stars in the sky at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. The site itself features 24 telescopes, making it one of the most well-equipped observatories in the state.
You can choose between two separate tours, one of which is about the observatory itself and how it came into existence. The second tour starts at night and is where tour guides go into detail about different stars, allowing visitors to see through the many telescopes and observe the cosmos.
Details: Tucson, AZ 85634 | Website
ARIZONA HISTORY MUSEUM
Learn all about the history of southern Arizona with a visit to the Arizona History Museum in Tucson.
At this museum, you’ll see awesome exhibits featuring everything from Tucson’s transportation history to Old West firearms and decorative art. Walk through a replica of an underground mine, and learn stories about Geronimo and Wyatt Earp.
The museum also hosts visiting exhibits and events throughout the year. It’s open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Details: 949 E 2nd St, Tucson, AZ 85719 | Website
THE OWLS CLUB
If you’re done exploring for the day and want to hit up the city’s night scene, then one of the best bars that you can visit is the Owl’s Club. The casual bar aesthetic goes very nicely with the many drink orders that they offer and the dark and dim lighting.
The Owl’s Club is one of the premier bars in the city, with a drink list including old-world wines, an extensive whiskey collection, and a well-curated selection of spirits. All of that combines to make the Owl’s Club so exciting.
Details: 236 S Scott Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701 | Website
Tombstone is a small town just out of Tucson that keeps its old cowboy roots intact. The town is empty, but was once a bustling center, mainly thanks to massive mines nearby. But when the silver ran out, it soon became infamous as a feared Apache Territory.
If you’re looking to bring out your inner gunslinger, you can visit the town that just won’t die. Head on into a saloon, or meet up with one of the local prospectors in the area to get an authentic-feeling, Wild West town. It is easily one of the most authentic cowboy experiences.
EL CHARO CAFÉ
Claimed to be the oldest continuously operating family-owned Mexican restaurant in the U.S., the El Charo Café gives you a taste of Mexican authenticity. The café itself is also located in the El Presidio Historic District, one of the oldest inhabited locations in the U.S.
Of course, it is not just the oldest Mexican restaurant, but the café also claims that it was the first one to invest in Chimichangas. And when you get a taste of one of their deep-fried burritos, you might even believe them. They offer many other authentic Mexican options like burritos, tacos, and spicy nachos.
Details: 311 N Court Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701 | Website
ARIZONA-SONORA DESERT MUSEUM
One of the few things that makes Tucson an interesting place to visit, is its unique and varied landscape. And you can learn more about the desert area surrounding the city through the Arizona-Senora Desert Museum.
You can find various hiking trails that lead through the Sonoran Desert, giving visitors the chance to see the local wildlife for themselves. Don’t forget to bring a camera, because this is not something that you want to miss. Furthermore, the museum is three different attractions rolled into one, featuring a botanical garden, natural history museum, and a zoo. So make sure you set aside two or three days to get the most out of this experience.
Details: 2021 N Kinney Rd, Tucson, AZ 85743 | Website
COLOSSAL CAVE MOUNTAIN PARK
Colossal Cave Mountain Park is the perfect attraction for people looking for an adventure. The caverns inside are completely dry and have remained relatively unexplored. However, if you don’t have the recommended fitness or don’t want to engage in high-intensity exploration, there are multiple packages.
Each tourist plan is incredibly fun and offers a deeper look into the caverns, if you have the skills and fitness. Apart from the caverns, people can also relax and unwind through guided horseback tours, a butterfly garden, and museums.
Fun fact: Rumor has it that the caverns hold loot from a failed stagecoach robbery.
Details: 16721 E Old Spanish Trail, Vail, AZ 85641 | Website
UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA MUSEUM OF ART
The city is also home to one of the branches of the University of Arizona, which boasts an incredible art museum. If you’re looking to explore various pieces of contemporary or old master’s art, this is the place to be. The museum features 6,000 permanent exhibits that will leave you breathless.
The museum also has many temporary exhibits that are worth looking into. You can visit their website to learn more about the different exhibits that they have, and all the fun events they host here.
Details: 1031 N Olive Rd, Tucson, AZ 85721 | Website
PIMA AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM
The Pima Air and Space Museum is the perfect place to go for people who have a soft spot for everything that flies. It also happens to be the biggest museum dedicated to air and spacecrafts funded privately. There are over 400 unique models of planes and aircraft for people to see, with the most popular being a full-scale replica of the first flying contraption by the Wright Brothers.
You can even find over 120,000 plane and space-related artifacts, one of which is a moon rock. And if you’re feeling extra curious, you can even take a quick trip to the boneyard.
Details: 6000 E Valencia Rd, Tucson, AZ 85756 | Website
TUCSON BOTANICAL GARDENS
The desert is not the only thing surrounding Tucson — it is also a beautiful place full of unique plants. And if you’re looking to connect with the city’s unique ecology, then a visit to the Tucson Botanical Gardens is one of the best things to do in Tucson.
The garden is quiet and calm, with tour guides taking visitors throughout the compound, explaining the different species of plants that the state of Arizona offers.
Details: 2150 N Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ 85712 | Website
MISSION OF SAN XAVIER DEL BAC
San Xavier Del Bac was one of the Jesuit Order’s co-founders, which is one of the oldest missionaries in the world.
Religious visitors can follow along in prayer in one of the churches and even meet the local pastor. But even if you are not particularly religious, the site is a great place to admire Spanish colonial architecture.
Details: 1950 W San Xavier Rd, Tucson, AZ 85746 | Website
SEVEN FALLS WATERFALL
Hikers rejoice, as one of the best hiking trails in the state is in Tucson. Grab your hiking shoes, because you don’t want to miss all of the incredible sights that you will be able to see here.
The trail features seven waterfalls, unique terrain, and the Sabino Canyon, which makes for a great place to take pictures. Furthermore, there are different hiking trails throughout the area, each with varying difficulty levels.
Details: Bear Canyon Trail, Tucson, AZ 85749 | Website
MOUNT LEMMON SCENIC BYWAY
One of the most beautiful locations in Tucson is the Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway, which stands at a staggering 9,000 feet above the ground.
It is the peak of the Catalina Mountains, with scenic drives leading to the top of the mountain. You can even go to the hoodoo vistas and get an even better look at the scenic drive up the mountain or at the city below. The view from the observation deck is especially breathtaking.
TUCSON CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
The Tucson Children’s Museum is one of the best attractions in the city for families, as it allows kids to explore their interests.
There are 13 unique exhibits, all of which are massive in scale and size. Let your children play with fun musical instruments at one of the exhibits, and then take them to see the giant magnetic wall of gravity.
The museum is very easy to find and is generally a great time for everyone in the family.
Details: 200 S 6th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701 | Website
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO ARIZONA
- TEMPE: 10 Great Things to Do in Tempe AZ
- SCOTTSDALE: 19 Best Things To Do In Scottsdale AZ To Make Long-Lasting Memories
- FLAGSTAFF: 15 Amazing Things To Do In Flagstaff For Year-Round Fun
- PHOENIX: 21 Amazing Things To Do In Phoenix You’ll Love
- AZ RESORTS: 17 Top-Rated Arizona Resorts To Indulge In
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