Editor's note: Tucson Guide's "52 Things to Do" are listed in no particular order. All information given here was accurate at press time. You may want to phone for confirmation prior to visiting these attractions. This is a special advertising section.
Tucson Attractions PassportSouthern Arizona
is home to some of the best attractions in the state. With historic sites and museums, nature parks, shops, arts, and entertainment, the region entices visitors to this unique region. Purchase an Attractions Passport
, good at at local attractions throughout the region, including Tucson, Oro Valley, Marana, Tombstone, Bisbee, and Green Valley. This handy guidebook includes 2-for-1 deals and discounts. The Southern Arizona Attractions Alliance
website features maps and an events calendar
Tucson Botanical GardensTucson Botanical Gardens
is a tranquil oasis in the heart of midtown, displaying the desert southwest in a rainbow of colors, from native cactus to fluttering butterflies to blooming flowers. An on-site gallery
, a gift shop, hands-on classes, plant sales, and a seasonal cafe
are some of the other highlights here.
Desert Diamond Casinos & Ent.
You can bet on fun at Tucson and Sahuarita's Desert Diamond Casino
. From slots and blackjack to bingo and poker, this place offers games galore. Gambling not your thing? A nightclub, restaurants, and a hotel are other offerings on the table. Owned and operated by the Tohono O'odham Nation, Desert Diamond Casino's two locations are conveniently located within an easy drive of Tucson.
O.K. Corral Gunfight SiteO.K. Corral Gunfight Site
, located southeast of Tucson in
Tombstone, is home to what is generally regarded as the most famous gunfight in
the history of the American Old West. The fight took place on October 26, 1881,
between Doc Holliday, the Earp Brothers, McLaurays, and Clantons, and has since
come to represent a time in American history when the
frontier was an open range for outlaws roaming the vast West.
Tucson Visitor Center
You'll find tasty takes on traditional Mexican dishes in
many parts of the US--think Tex-Mex or Baja styles--but for autentico flavors from south of the border, there's no place like Tucson. Within the boundaries of our
metropolis, great Mexican chow-down spots are concentrated in a roughly 23-square-mile
radius (yes, there are geeks who measured this). We all have our favorites.
If you disagree with mine, I'm happy to discuss the matter over a cerveza or margarita.
Queen Mine Tours
Experience cooler temperatures as you delve below ground and become a miner for a day in Bisbee's 47-degree caves, 90 miles southeast of Tucson. The Queen Mine Tour
--a fun, safe, and authentic mining tour--offers five trips daily (each are 75 minutes long), and reservations are recommended
Casino Del Sol/ Casino of the Sun
Slot machines and table games at Casino Del Sol
energy, and the entertainment options multiply from there. People-watch at the
elevated bar in the middle of all the action. Get dressed up for dinner and a
show. Or make it an overnighter and luxuriate at the spa.
City of Bisbee
Nestled 90 miles southeast of Tucson, Bisbee
mbines a laid-back atmosphere with old-world charm. Visitors to this former mining town savor Bisbee's unique allure--a blend of creativity (check out the art galleries), friendliness (converse with locals in Brewery Gulch), romance (stay at a quaint B&B or historic hotel), and annual events (like the Bisbee 1000 stair climb)--in the intriguing Mule Mountains
Mini Time Machine Museum
Experience a wonderful charm-filled world at the Mini Time
, a fantastical museum in midtown Tucson. Discover
intricate details in the more than 275 miniature houses and room boxes--all part
of the museum founder's extraordinary 30-year collection
. For adults and
kids alike, this museum offers a unique experience--the only one of its kind in
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, nestled in the scenic Tucson Mountains, is dedicated to
interpreting the plants, animals, and natural history of the bi-national
Sonoran Desert region. Take Speedway Boulevard west through majestic Gates Pass
to reach this world-renown living museum with two miles of scenic walking paths
through 21 acres of stunning natural desert habitat.
Come experience The University of Arizona's Biosphere 2 and see why it was named by Time Life Books as one of the 50 must-see wonders of the world! Visitors from all over the world journey here to explore Earth's largest science center dedicated to researching future life on our planet. Bio 2 makes big ideas happen, like the just completed massive mountain hill slopes of the new "Landscape Evolution Observatory" experiment, which explores water movement. Bio 2 is a transforming—not conforming—21st-century innovation center with behind-the-scenes tours that will inspire all visitors. Highlights of the tour include an intro movie, multi-media exhibits, and access to see all of Biosphere 2, which is a reflection of Biosphere 1 at a size of more than 3 football fields—in essence, a mini-world! Beneath 6,500 panes of glass live a rainforest, coastal fog desert, marsh, savannah, million-gallon ocean, and much more. It's a remarkable place for discovery and imagination. Located at a cool elevation of almost 4,000 feet at the base of Tucson's Santa Catalina Mountains, just north of Tucson on Oracle Rd./AZ Hwy. 77 at mile marker 96.5. Guided tours daily. Information: 520-838-6200, www.B2science.org.
Named "One of the Great Botanical Gardens of the World" by Travel + Leisure
, Tohono Chul is nestled in 49 acres of lush desert. You'll discover nature paths, gardens, art galleries, shops and a tasty meal at the Garden Bistro. 8 a.m–5 p.m. 7366 N. Paseo del Norte, 520-742-6455, www.tohonochulpark.org
SANTA THERESA TILE WORKS
Wander through Tucson's Historic Warehouse Arts District and let Santa Theresa Tile Works' colorful, handmade tile inspire the creativity in you! Whether you craft a mosaic plaque, table, or backsplash in our cozy showroom, take one of our many workshops, or learn to make tile from scratch—you will amaze yourself! Prefer to keep your hands clean? Collaborate with one of our experienced and talented tile artists and design a custom-made piece for your home or business. Any way you tile it, it's sure to be fun, memorable, and amazing! A truly authentic Tucson arts experience! 440 N. 6th Ave., 520-623-1856, www.santatheresatileworks.com
IT'S COOL UNDERGROUND
Explore the depths of Bisbee's famous Queen Mine. Don mining hats, slickers, and lanterns worn by miners...ride the mine train deep into the mine...marvel at remaining copper minerals...experience the life of miners as they toiled in the subterranean tunnels. Open daily. Tour times: 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m. Tours leave from the Queen Mine Tour building located within walking distance of historic Bisbee. The mine is a cool 47°. Dress accordingly. Tours last approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. Reservations suggested. Call 866-432-2071 or visit www.queenminetour.com. Stop by the Queen Mine Store for gem and mineral specimens, jewelry, and other unique items. Visit www.discoverbisbee.com for official visitor information. Ninety miles south of Tucson, Bisbee offers Old World charm and new-world charisma.
ROOSTER COGBURN OSTRICH RANCH
Voted one of the best roadside attractions in America. Feed the ostrich, deer, miniature donkeys, goats, and lorikeets. On weekends, Monster Truck Tours show you ostrich, the desert, 4-wheelin' adventures, and ostrich fishin'. Affordable fun for all ages! Located on I-10 and exit 219 at Picacho Peak. Visit us online for hours at www.roostercogburn.com or call 520-466-3658.
University of Arizona scientists and engineers are producing the world's largest and most challenging ground-based telescope mirrors. A tour provides a unique opportunity for visitors to get a behind-the-scenes look at the cutting-edge technology involved in making giant telescope mirrors. These processes are changing the way astronomers and telescopes explore the universe today and in the future. 520-626-8792, http://mirrorlab.as.arizona.edu
OLD TOWN ARTISANS
History, shopping, dining and live entertainment at the city block of Old Town Artisans, located in the downtown historic district, between the Art Museum and Presidio. Dine in the cantina or courtyard, and stroll through the unique shops housed in a historic 150-year-old adobe building. Old Town Artisans, the True Historic Tucson Experience. 201 N. Court Ave., 520-622-0351, www.oldtownartisans.com
TUCSON'S BEST STARGAZING DESTINATION
Join Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter for an exciting evening of exploring the universe while viewing aspects of the cosmos most people rarely get to see! The center is home to the largest public viewing telescope in the Southwest. They offer nightly tours with award-winning presenters and world-acclaimed astrophoto-graphy. A comfortable and easy-to-understand experience—fun for all ages! 520-626-8122, www.skycenter.arizona.edu
Late-summer rainstorms are glorious. Cloud-gaze throughout the day, then relish their power as they dump buckets of rain—cooling the air and creating spectacular sunsets.
Carne asada, tortillas, chiles rellenos—the tastes are as good as the names, some with spicy, tears-to-your-eyes flavor. There are literally dozens of places to find authentic eats.
PIMA COUNTY FAIR
The Pima County Fair, April 18–28, is one of Tucson's oldest and largest annual events with nearly 250,000 visitors! Cost for admission is only $8, and fairgoers can enjoy concerts, motorized events, interactive exhibits, animal attractions, and car shows, plus motorized and equestrian events....all included in the low price of admission! Visitors to the Pima County Fair also have the opportunity to sample and enjoy the famous fair food that only comes once a year, such as giant corn dogs, funnel cakes, fried ice cream, and curly fries! Join the Pima County Fair social network for discounts, contests, and meet-and-greet opportunities! 520-762-9100, www.pimacountyfair.com
ARIZONA-SONORA DESERT MUSEUM
An aquarium in the desert? Yes! The interpretation of the Sonoran Desert region would be incomplete without recognizing the importance of the freshwater rivers that flow through it and the significance of the Gulf of California, which is a major part of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem. The Warden Aquarium's Rivers to the Sea is the museum's first new major exhibit in 10 years. Plan a visit and learn about the importance of water to the "lushest desert on earth." If you're planning a summer visit, be sure to request the museum's Beat the Heat
guide—chock full of helpful ways to keep cool while still experiencing the magic of this all-encompassing interpretative center: zoo, botanical garden, natural history museum, art gallery and aquarium! For nighttime visits, the museum is open Saturday evenings June 1–August 31 until 10 p.m. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a world-renowned living museum. Exhibits recreate the natural landscape of the Sonoran Desert region so realistically that you find yourself eye-to-eye with mountain lions, prairie dogs, Gila monsters, and more. More than 230 animal and 1,200 plant species are contained within the almost two miles of paths traversing 21 acres of breathtaking desert landscape. 2021 N. Kinney Rd., 520-883-2702, www.desertmuseum.org
CHOCOLATE IGUANA ON 4TH
Come visit Tucson's most unique family owned café, Chocolate Iguana on 4th (500 N. 4th Ave., 520-798-1211). You'll love our gourmet salads and sandwiches, made-from-scratch scones and pastries, sinfully delicious desserts, and jars of candy from around the world.
The U of A campus boasts a collection of plants from all over the world. The Visitors Center, at Euclid Ave. and University Blvd., has maps directing you to the highlights.
Calling all bargain hunters! Two local "thrift-anistas" are on the lookout for daily deals, free or low-cost activities, dining discounts, and more. Log on to www.tucsononthecheap.com.
In an effort to preserve ancient desert crops and farming methods, Native Seeds/SEARCH, a Tucson-based conservation organization, has traveled into remote areas and collected more than 1,800 desert-adapted crop seeds. Researchers cultivate the plants and make the seeds available to seed banks, farmers, and gardeners. Visit its retail store at 3061 N. Campbell Ave. (520-622-5561, www.nativeseeds.org).
ENJOY THE DESERT WITHOUT THE HEAT
Spend the day in the galleries of the Tucson Museum of Art and enjoy great works of Western, Latin American, and Contemporary art. On view is Desert Grasslands
, part of the Desert Initiative: Desert I multi-state collaboration. This exhibition will be accompanied by a variety of stimulating educational programs for children and adults. Plus, be sure to stop by for Arizona Biennial 2013
, on view July 20 through Sept. 29. TMA is located at 140 N. Main Ave. in historic downtown. For a complete exhibition schedule and museum hours, visit www.TucsonMuseumofArt.org.
PATAGONIA LAKE STATE PARK
Tucked away in the rolling hills of southeastern Arizona is Patagonia Lake State Park. The park is an ideal place to find whitetail deer roaming the hills and great blue herons walking the shoreline. Anglers can fish for crappie, bass, bluegill, and catfish. Hikers can stroll along the beautiful creek trail and see a variety of birds such as the canyon towhee, Inca dove, and several species of hummingbirds. The park offers camping, picnic areas, restrooms, showers, a creek trail, boat ramps, a marina, and the Lakeside Market. Visit www.AZStateParks.com/parks/pala for hours as well as entrance and camping fees.
Close to 7,000 feet in elevation, Kitt Peak offers a cool summer getaway. Open daily 9 a.m.–4 p.m., the observatory is the world's largest. Daily telescope tours; visitor center with exhibits and gift shop. 15–20° cooler temps await you. Stargazing programs run nightly but are closed July 15–Aug. 31 due to monsoons. www.noao.edu, 520-318-8726
Built in 1896, the cathedral is reminiscent of European church architecture. Every Sun. the clergy conduct mass accompanied by live mariachi music. 192 S. Stone Ave.
Indulge at a world-class resort or fine restaurant, with fresh-squeezed juice, smoked salmon, make-your-own omelettes, Belgian waffles, decadent desserts, and more.
ICES & CREAMS
Tucson summers demand the occasional relief of a frozen confection. Sample sherbets, gelato, snow cones, frozen yogurts, and milkshakes at the many malls, shops, and restaurants in the area, and don't forget the shaved-ice cones, called raspados, in dozens of flavors from roadside vendors in Tucson's barrios.
THE MINI TIME MACHINE MUSEUM OF MINIATURES
Adventures await you this summertime at The Mini Time Machine! The museum offers more than 10,000 square feet of air-conditioned exhibit space, showcasing antique and contemporary miniatures sure to delight all ages. Send the kids on a trip around the world with our themed weeklong summer camps or our new afternoon drop-in program, clubHOUSE! Check the website or call for details. Open Tues.–Sat. 9 a.m.–4 p.m. and Sun. noon–4 p.m. 4455 E. Camp Lowell Dr., 520-881-0606, www.theminitimemachine.org
COME FACE-TO-FACE WITH SHARKS & SEA TURTLES!
Dive in and discover SEA LIFE Arizona Aquarium, a magical underwater world filled with a dazzling array of creatures. Every step will reveal something new—from an up-close encounter with sharks to a hands-on rock pool experience. Opening spring 2013, experience Jellyfish Discovery, the largest collection of jellyfish in Arizona. Marvel at their graceful motion and ghostlike forms in a display that reveals their mysterious lives. SEA LIFE Arizona features an amazing 360-degree ocean tunnel, 30 displays and more than 5,000 creatures, including sharks, rays, and sea turtles. It's the perfect stop for family fun! Located at Arizona Mills Mall Tempe, 480-478-7600, www.sealifeus.com.
MISSION SAN XAVIER DEL BAC
Called "The White Dove of the Desert," the San Xavier del Bac mission was founded by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino in the late 1600s. The church, built by the Franciscans in the 1700s, is one of the finest examples of Spanish mission architecture in the US. Visitors can enjoy the results of a major restoration, portions of it by experts who restored the Sistine Chapel. Take I-19 to exit 92, then watch for signs once you get onto the Tohono O'odham reservation. Phone 520-294-2624 or see www.sanxaviermission.org for more information and a mass schedule.
Balinese fire chains, flaming swords, fire eating, and a flying trapeze—just another performance for Flam Chen, the pyrotechnic theater troupe based in Tucson. This amazing group combines fine arts, circus skills, modern dance, martial arts, and traditional and environmental theater. Call 520-272-9041 or visit www.flam-chen.com for upcoming dates and performance locations.
A winding uphill drive west on Speedway Blvd. brings you, at its apex, to Gates Pass—and panoramic views of Tucson to the east and Saguaro National Park to the west.
Tucson's most easily noted landmark is "A" Mountain. U of A freshmen have made a yearly tradition of painting the letter "A." Drive to the top of the peak to enjoy a view of the city.
The BLOC climbing + fitness, Rocks and Ropes' sister facility, is a 20,000-square-foot, air-conditioned bouldering and fitness facility with 7,000 square feet of state-of-the-art bouldering walls, auto-belays, treadwalls, a portable wall, PreCOR cardio and weight equipment, yoga+pilates classes, and outfitter and outdoor guide service. The BLOC (Eastside): 8975 E. Tanque Verde Rd., 520-209-2562. Rocks and Ropes (Downtown): 330 S. Toole Ave., 520-882-5924. www.rocksandropes.com
Tucson has been called "the lightning capital of the US." A favorite pastime of Tucsonans is viewing the show in the sky that accompanies each monsoon. And what a show it is: thunderheads building over distant mountain peaks as evening descends, then bolts, streaks, and tracings of white light playing across the sky.
FROM APPLES TO ZUCCHINI
If you enjoy fresh food, fresh air, and friendly faces, a farmers market may be just the place for you. Find seasonal fruit and vegetables, herbs, arts & crafts, gourmet soups and sauces, coffee, baked goods, and more throughout the city. Check out www.visittucson.org/visitor/culinary/farmersmarkets.
A picture is worth a thousand words... But what if the image is literally created from a thousand words, as is Wondrous
, a magnificent sculpture at the Wheeler Taft Abbett Sr. Library in Marana? The public art piece combines literary phrases from many genres and languages. At night, colorful lights illuminate the display. Find the library at the southeast corner of Silverbell and Cortaro Rds.
PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES
How much of the environment (and money) would we save if we all traveled by rail? That's one of the questions posed at the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum, located in the renovated historic train depot in downtown Tucson. Here, visitors can contemplate the pros and cons of alternative transportation, practice Morse code as the conductors of the railroad once did, view historic artifacts and photos, and visit the restored 1900s locomotive parked trackside. Open Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–3 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., and Sun. 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Free admission, but donations are accepted. Call 520-623-2223 or see www.tucsoNhistoricdepot.org.
A permanent exhibit at the Arizona State Museum, Paths of Life: American Indians of the Southwest
, takes an innovative look at contemporary native cultures. Located just east of the Main Gate on the U of A campus (at Park Ave. and University Blvd.). Phone 520-621-6302 or visit www.statemuseum.arizona.edu.
At Cinema La Placita, view classic films beneath starry skies. Bring a blanket for the lawn and $3 to 110 S. Church Ave. every Thurs. May–Oct. www.cinemalaplacitacom.
TAKE IT OUTSIDE
Warm nights, sunsets, starry skies—these are some things that keep residents here year-round. Enjoy dusky moments at Gates Pass, "A" Mountain, Mt. Lemmon, and more.
Join the ranks of outlaws, settlers, ranchers, ecologists, coatimundi, javelina, mule deer, hummingbirds, herons, and hawks. Part of the Coronado National Forest east of Tucson, the ranch affords its visitors rich riparian and backcountry wilderness areas, plus a visitors center, overnight casitas with natural hot springs, birdwatching, hiking, and a knowledgeable staff. Phone 520-212-4295 or visit www.nature.org/arizona.
Explore the scientific wonders found only in Southern Arizona. From viewing native plants and animals at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, to stargazing with The University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, this region offers a wealth of scientific discoveries. Don't miss cave exploration at Kartchner Caverns, too, and Biosphere 2's climate zones beneath the dome. www.scitucson.org
This little village's claim to fame is revealed by its name. Just below the summit of 9,157-ft. Mt. Lemmon, Summerhaven offers cool mountain air, mountain streams, views, and the sound of gently rustling leaves. Picnic, hike, bike, ride the ski lift, eat homemade fudge, or savor delicious desserts at the Cookie Cabin. Follow Catalina Hwy. north through Coronado National Forest.
THE ARIZONA TRAIL
Hike, bike, horseback ride, or cross-country ski on 800 miles of interconnecting trails through the Coronado, Tonto, Kaibab, and Coconino National Forests, from the border of Mexico to Utah. For maps and detailed information, phone the Arizona Trail Association at 602-252-4794, or visit www.aztrail.org.
REID PARK ROSE GARDEN
Hundreds of rosebushes have brought this garden national acclaim. Peak rose season is Mar.–May. The park is at Alvernon Way and 22nd St.
JIM CLICK HALL OF CHAMPIONS
Find tributes to all U of A athletic teams, including the national champion 2012 men's baseball team and the 2007 women's softball team. Open Mon.–Sat.
TUCSON CHINESE CULTURAL CENTER
Situated at La Cañada Dr. and River Rd., the Chinese Cultural Center serves the social and cultural needs of Chinese residents living in Pima County. The contemporary structure honors Chinese tradition with symbolic design elements and displays of items depicting the history of Tucson's Chinese Americans. Check out www.tucsonchinese.org.
ORGAN PIPE CACTUS NATIONAL MONUMENT
This takes some driving—168 miles of it—but it's worth it. Take AZ Hwy. 86 west to the tiny town of Why. Turn left on AZ Hwy. 85 to get to the monument headquarters. When you get to Organ Pipe, drive or hike through the 516.7-square-mile preserve of rare cacti.
TITAN MISSILE MUSEUM'S MOONLIGHT MADNESS
This special event is only offered for 4 nights in 2013. Moonlight MADness features a number of fun, exciting, and educational activities, as well as outstanding excitement for adults. This is truly a wonderful family event. Everyone will enjoy seeing the museum's missile light up after dark. Dates for 2013: June 8, July 13, Aug. 10 and Sept. 14. Hours: 5pm–9 p.m., with the final tour beginning at 8 p.m. Due to space limitations, reservations are required. Admission price: $7 for adults, free for members and children under 12. For reservations, call 520-625-7736 or email email@example.com.
PIMA AIR & SPACE MUSEUM'S NIGHT WINGS
Another very special event, this is offered only 3 nights this summer: June 22, July 27, and Aug. 24. You'll want to take advantage of this rare opportunity to explore The Museum at night (hours are 5–9 p.m., with last admission at 8 p.m.), participate in fun science and aviation activities, and be a part of several special presentations. Great food will be available in The Fight Grill. Admission is $10 for adults, free for members and children under 12. We are pet friendly—dogs fly free! For more information, call 520-574-0462 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
SOME LIKE IT HOT
For authentic Mexican food, beautiful scenery, and the hottest salsa, follow the fiery flavors of Arizona's Salsa Trail. The trail stops at restaurants, a chile company, and a tortilla factory. Think you can handle the heat? See www.salsatrail.com for a map and directions, or call 888-837-1841 before heading out.
Though few and far between, Arizona's lakes are warm-weather retreats. Sail at Roosevelt, Canyon, or Apache Lakes near Phoenix, or try speedboating at Patagonia Lake State Park.
Do it just like the original gold diggers—dry washing, kneeling in running streambeds, or digging with a pick and shovel. See www.desert-gold-diggers.org for organized outings.
When shutterbugs imagine heaven, it has the same light and the same photo opportunities as Arizona. From Ramsey Canyon hummingbirds and the Pima Air & Space Museum to old homes in the barrios and the Tucson Arts District, Southern Arizona invites camera buffs. Capture nature at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Tohono Chul.
They dot the landscape of Southern Arizona, remnants of 19th-century mining days. A short drive from Tucson, near Patagonia, you'll find what's left of Harshaw, Washington Camp, Mowry, Duquesne, and Lochiel. In the Tombstone/Bisbee area, you can visit more than 14 different ghost towns, including Pearce, Gleeson, and Charleston. For more information visit www.ghosttowns.com.
Enjoy narrated tours through the place where mammoths roamed, ancient Hohokam people made irrigation dams, and the Civilian Conservation Corps built bridges and cut hiking trails. Trams run daily, with multiple stops, including one at the trailhead of a hike to Seven Falls. Located on N. Sabino Canyon Rd. Call 520-749-2861.