25 Best Things to Do in Tucson AZ (Arizona)

Things to Do in Tucson

Tucson, a university town with a long and rich history, is gorgeous, fun-loving, and one of the Southwest’s most culturally stimulating locations. The second-largest city in Arizona seamlessly combines American Indian, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo traditions. It is located in a flat valley surrounded by snaggletooth mountains and swathes of cactus. 

The 19th-century architecture provides a deep sense of community and history that is absent from the more contemporary, metropolitan Phoenix. 

Often known as the “City of Sunshine,” Tucson has an eclectic mix of cultural and outdoor attractions that keep tourists occupied. Travelers are mostly drawn to the city because of its warm, dry environment. Sunbathing has its own attraction, as does golf in the winter or relaxing by the pool at one of Tucson’s luxury resorts.

The city is home to fascinating museums, historic locations, top-notch food, and fantastic shopping. For those interested in outdoor activities, the nearby mountains and deserts offer a playground with lovely parks, fantastic hiking and bike routes, camping, and some amazing scenic drives.

colorful historic buildings

Tucson’s charm is made up of two parts—colorful historic buildings, fantastic pubs and restaurants, and quirky shops—but the other part is found outside of the city. You won’t regret venturing outside city boundaries given the gorgeous Saguaro National Park, the wild Santa Catalina Mountains, and the iconic Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Figure out what would you like to see as here are 25 great things to do in Tucson Arizona – 

Table of Contents

1. Take a Heritage Walk to El Presidio Historic District

El Presidio Historic District

The El Presidio Historic District, one of the earliest inhabited areas in the USA, is home to centuries of history. Hohokam Indians previously lived in the area. IN 1775, it became the headquarters of the Spanish military.  Today’s architecture is a fusion of Spanish-Mexican, Anglo-American, and adobe residences that have been meticulously restored. It is one of the top Tucson attractions. 

The Old Town Artisans, a market from the 1850s that has been preserved, is one of the primary tourist attractions in Tucson az. It comprises shops and galleries housed in unique buildings. The shops provide a variety of jewelry, crafts, home goods, and other items. 

2. Reserve a Day for Outdoor Excursions at Catalina State Park

Catalina State Park

The desert part of Catalina State Park, located just north of Tucson, is a known picnic and camping site It also has excellent hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian paths. The 10.8-mile Sutherland Trail, which may be done in full or in part, is one of the best circuits in the park. There’s a fair possibility you’ll see some wildlife, and it is one of the best outdoor activities in Tucson

A second reason people visit the park is to observe the archaeological site of Romero Ruin. You can take a walk along a 1-mile desert trail that takes you to the settlement of Hohokam Indian which existed between AD 500 and AD 1450. It is the place where the founding fathers of the city took refuge. 

3. Learn all About the Aviation at Pima Air and Space Museum

Pima Air and Space Museum

With more than 400 aircraft and spacecraft, the Pima Air and Space Museum is the biggest privately funded air museum in the world. The collection comprises both classic and cutting-edge models of aircraft. John F. Kennedy’s presidential aircraft and a replica of a Wright Brothers Flyer from 1903 are among the featured attractions.

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Orbis DC 10 Flying Eye Hospital are two of the most recent additions. The museum is home to over 100,000 commercial and space aircraft. It is one of the fun things to see in Tucson

4. Walk, Hike, and Climb at Tucson Mountain Park

Tucson Mountain Park

Tucson Mountain Park gives you the chance to see and learn about this fascinating desert landscape. Just west of Tucson, the park spans around 20,000 acres of Sonoran Desert terrain. Although there is a vast network of trails for horseback riding, biking, and hiking, many visitors come here just to see the museum and capture the sunset view.

You may easily combine a visit to Tucson Mountain Park and Saguaro National Park. The park is home to a variety of animals, including jaguars and mountain lions. However, some of them prefer to hang out in the most isolated sections.

Gilbert Ray Campground, one of the top campsites in the Tucson region, is located in this park. It is one of the best things to do in Tucson AZ at night.

5. Visit the Most Beautiful Spanish Missions in the Country – The San Xavier Del Bac

San Xavier Del Bac

This mission’s gleaming white domes rise from the arid desert floor is a captivating architecture that gives the desert landscape a surreal charm.  Also known as the “White Dove of the Desert,” comprises an elegant mix of Moorish, Byzantine, and Mexican Renaissance architecture. 

The Xavier del Bac is one of the most exquisite and well-preserved Spanish missions in the country. It was meticulously renovated in the 1990s with the assistance of professionals from the Vatican and is still religiously active. 

One of the best attractions in Tucson AZ accepts donations to help with the ongoing restoration. The historic church and its grounds are open for visitors to explore at their convenience. The museum showcases historical artifacts from the Mission and a 20-minute documentary that offers great insight.

6. Soak amidst Nature at Tucson Botanical Garden

Tucson Botanical Garden

Tucson Botanical Gardens, a sizable complex made up of 16 different gardens, is the perfect destination for tourists looking to take a stroll in the wilderness. The five-acre garden complex is renowned for offering a brief oasis of peace in the occasionally frantic city. 

Visitors are encouraged to explore the gardens’ themed areas, which include a children’s garden, a Zen garden, and a butterfly garden. It is one of the best things to do in Tucson with kids.

The complex also houses a gallery with a number of changing exhibits and installations on various topics related to botanical interest in the Arizona region, including desert plants. 

7. Appreciate the Arts of Ansel Adams at CCP

Arts of Ansel Adams at CCP

The Centre of Creative Photography a.k.a CCP is renowned for its constantly evolving, top-notch displays. Additionally, it manages Ansel Adams’ archives and occasionally exhibits his works, he is considered to be the best-known landscape photographer in American history.  Admission is free of charge and is one of the fascinating things to do in Tucson this weekend.

8. Hike at the Sabino Canyon 

Sabino Canyon

The Sabino Canyon is hidden 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 bridge. There is a tram through the canyon with nine stops for those who would rather not prefer to climb.

The Sutherland Trail is also a noteworthy trekking option in the region where you can choose between a long and short hike. In the west of Saguaro National Park you can take a quick stroll at the Valley View Overlook Trail. Hiking here is one of the great things to do in Tucson today. 

9. Walk the Talk with Your Favorite Animals at Reid Park Zoo

Reid Park Zoo

Established in the 1960s, the 20-acre Reid Park Zoo is home to more than 500 different animal species. There are wolves, giraffes, giant tortoises, and leopards in the zoo, and it is split into four different zones.  

The facility also employs veterinarians, and the city’s residents who have funded throughout the years to preserve the wildlife and give them the finest treatment possible. 

Reid Park Zoo

As a result, the zoo is one of the best things to see in Tucson AZ. The zoo houses native species in addition to animals from throughout the globe.

A huge loop runs through the center of the zoo, and three smaller loops—Expedition Tanzania, Tropical Trail, and the Lee H. Brown Family Conservation Learning Center—are encircled around it.

The Giraffe Encounters are among the best participatory activities the zoo offers. You can hand-feed a giraffe for a modest fee and is one of the best things to do in Tucson AZ with kids. The Reid Park Zoo Express train, a wet play area, and varying daily events are other attractions in the park.

10. Visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum provides a close-up view of the desert landscapes of Tucson. This museum is a great place for a family outing because it combines a zoo, a natural history museum, and a botanical garden.

Some endangered species, such as the Mexican wolf, thick-billed parrot, anaconda, margay, jaguarundi, desert pupfish, Sonora leech, bonytail chub, and razorback sucker are native to the Sonoran Desert.

Keep a watch out for the active, bright hummingbirds fluttering from one post to another as you stroll along the pathways. Here, one may witness about 40,000 plants representing 1,200 species. Exploring the collections of gems, minerals, and fossils will be a blast for geology geeks.

The live animal shows, such as Raptor Free Flight, where hawks fly over the crowd, are among the top Tucson AZ attractions. 

11. The Tucson Portrait Project is for Tourists Seeking Culture and Diversity

This wall-to-wall mural of over 7000 house walls of the city portrays a straightforward yet striking illustration of the ethnic diversity of the city. The Tucson Portrait Project is located in the tunnels created where 4th Avenue crosses a railroad. You simply take a walk to appreciate the artistic and creative side of the city. It is one of the best places to go in Tucson for art lovers.

12. Explore The Rugged Trails of Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park provides a convenient opportunity to view and enjoy the Sonoran Desert that spans from the eastern to the west end of the city.  The iconic saguaro cactus, the tallest variety in North America, may be seen here. The park has hiking routes that provide excellent possibilities to encounter wildlife and is one of the best things to do in Tucson. The desert is home to a variety of creatures and reptiles, such as jackrabbits, Gila woodpeckers, cactus owls, desert tortoises, and Gila monsters (lizards).

The Saguaro East (Rincon Mountain District) and Saguaro West (Tucson Mountain District) are the two portions of the park. Saguaro East is conveniently located and offers a picturesque drive with brief climbs. Although Saguaro West is a little further out and yet has more of the rough beauty. It also boasts longer and more magnificent hikes. 

13. Shop and Stroll at Barrio Historic District

Barrio Historic District

This small community, which was bordered by I-10, Stone Avenue, and 17th Streets, was a significant business district in the late 19th century. The Barrio now has hip stores and galleries housed in colorfully painted pueblo homes that scream to be captured. 

Don’t forget to visit El Tiradito while you’re here. This shrine honors a 19th-century local who was allegedly murdered by his father-in-law after falling in love with his mother-in-law. It is situated in Tucson’s Barrio Histórico and continues to accept donations from people who are mourning a lost loved one. It is one of the perfect things to do in Tucson for couples.

14. Drive along the Mount Lemmon Scenic Highway

Mount Lemmon Scenic Highway

Take the time to drive the Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway if you want to get away from the city. One of the top things to do in the Tucson area is this route, which begins about 15 miles outside of Tucson.

On the Catalina Highway, a 27-mile one-way road that winds its way up the Santa Catalina Range, you can quickly experience a number of very different ecosystems. Additionally, it offers some of the most breathtaking views of the valleys and mountains in the area.

The drive will take you from a parched desert floor with cacti all the way up to towering pine trees, tiny creeks, and picturesque lakes, providing a pleasant respite from Tucson’s heat. Stopping by the Mount Lemmon Cookie Cabin for one of their famous gigantic cookies, an ice cream cone, or a slice of pizza is a ritual for many families, so you might want to give it a try while you’re in town. And is one of the fun things to do in Tucson Arizona.

15. Walk into the Special Exhibition at the Tucson Museum of Art

Tucson Museum of Art

Tucson is a tiny city with a sizable art museum. The permanent exhibition of pre-Columbian relics will make you feel like Indiana Jones. Alongside, there is a fine collection of American, Latin American, and contemporary artwork as well. There are varieties of interesting special exhibits and a number of noteworthy historic residences on the street around the building. And, it is one of the top indoor activities in Tucson.

16. Marvel at the 19th Century Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Century Colossal Cave Mountain Park

The 19th-century Colossal Cave Mountain Park comprises not just one cave but an extensive series of caves with more than five miles of interior corridors. Visitors can explore the old Apache Indian dwellings inside. Visitors who prefer to stay around the caves have plenty of options. These consist of a campground, two museums, and famous stone sculptures.

One of the biggest dry caverns in the country, Colossal Cave is a short drive east of Tucson in the nearby town of Vail. Local folklore claims that some of it is still unexplored and contains the stolen goods from a stagecoach heist. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most fun places to go in Tucson.

In addition, the 2,400-acre park has a museum, a butterfly garden, wagon drives, horseback riding training, and hiking. 

17. The City is the Melting Pot for Mexican Food!

Melting Pot for Mexican Food

Tucson is known for having some of the most delectable Mexican food, and any visit to the city wouldn’t be complete without indulging in the wealth of authentic Mexican Mexican. 

There are so many options that stretch over 23 miles of the city. Many of the locals’ favorite hangouts have been passed down through generations while continuing to emphasize family-style cuisine in the traditional manner. 

In the city, you may find tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and many other lesser-known options, all with varying degrees of Mexican chili spice.

18. Hike the Tumamoc Hill Trails

Tumamoc Hill Trails

Want to do something fun while you’re in Tucson? Visit the Tumamoc Hill. This three-mile trip offers a moderate elevation increase and is surrounded by wildflowers in the spring. It is on a paved track with breathtaking views over the city.  

Up the hill, a broad, paved route ascends in a winding motion. The approach is gradual at first and then becomes a little more challenging.

This walk is great for solo travelers and is a highly popular local activity. You’ll see hikers, family groups, and athletes on the trail, and is one of the most-attempted Tucson activities. There are benches and explanatory placards that describe the local flora and fauna along the walk. 

19. At the Cathedral of Saint Augustine, Take Some Time for Contemplation

Cathedral of Saint Augustine

Designed in the Mexican Baroque architecture style, the St. Augustine Cathedral is reminiscent of Mexico’s Cathedral of Querétaro. After the cathedral was reconstructed in the late 1960s, all that is left of the old structure are the façade and towers.

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 tilted flooring, which allows all of the worshippers to have a clear view of the altar. And is one of the well-known Tucson tourist attractions. 

The elaborate coat of arms of Pope Pious XI and detailed sculptures of several natural succulents can be seen on the façade. An impressive crucifix that is thought to be from the 12th or 13th century hangs just inside the door. 

20. Explore the Rarest and Most under-rated City’s Attraction – The Tohono Chul

The Tohono Chul

The Tohono Chul botanical gardens are definitely worth visiting as it offers a  beautiful collection of Sonoran desert plants, and are dispersed over 49 acres. There is more than 500 arid vegetation on display. The Cereus plant, which only blooms at night, is one of the most preferred things to see in Tucson.

The garden is intelligently designed with eight various outdoor exhibitions, from a wall showcasing the local geology to an oasis of desert palm trees. The southern part of the garden is traversed by two walking paths.

21. It’s the kid’s Day Out at Tucson’s Children’s Museum

Tucson's Children's Museum

This museum will appeal to families. The interactive, hands-on exhibitions cover a range of subjects, from the arts and sciences to wildlife and engineering. The 13 diverse permanent exhibits, which include a large nose in Bodyology, a huge magnetic wall in Gravity, and drums and other instruments in the Music Garden, provide entertainment for kids of all ages. And, it is one of the fun things to do in Tucson Arizona.

The Tucson Children’s Museum is located in a Henry Trost-designed structure and was built in 1901.

22. Tucson’s Microbreweries Are Something Not to Miss!

Tucson’s Microbreweries

Over the years, Tucson has established a reputation as the location to find the freshest beer available. The high quality of the items on offer will quench your thirst after a scorching day in the desert, even if you are not a beer fan. A variety of conventional and cutting-edge microbreweries have shaped the culinary scene of the city, manufacturing their products on the premises and organizing tours about the brewing process. However, tasting the ultimate beverage is arguably the finest part.

23. Enjoy the City View at Sentinel Peak

Sentinel Peak

Sentinel Peak is located in the Tucson Mountains, southwest of Tucson. The peak is frequently mistakenly thought to be the consequence of a dormant volcano due to the surrounding volcanic ground, which is thought to be 20 million years old. The picturesque views across Tucson Valley and across Tucson City are one of the attractions of the mountain, which gives trekkers and hikers the answers to their introspection – what to do in Tucson this weekend?

24. Tucson’s Top Attractions is its Educational Hub – The University of Arizona

University of Arizona Museum of Art

The spectacular Arizona State Museum, Mineral Museum, Centre for Creative Photography, University of Arizona Museum of Art, Flandrau Science Centre, and Campus Arboretum are all located at the University of Arizona in Tucson. 

25. Visitors Can Spend a Few Hours or Even a Few Days Exploring the Campus’s Attractions

Campus's Attractions

The Arizona State Museum has a sizable archaeological collection that spans 10,000 years of Indian cultural history. 

It is the oldest and biggest anthropology museum in the Southwest of the United States opened in 1893. 

One of the finest Navajo textile collections, the largest vessel collection of Southwest Indian pottery, a thorough display of Hohokam artifacts, and hundreds of Mexican folk costumes are just a few of the exhibits.

Despite the fact that the Arizona State Museum is the main draw on the site, you should also check out some of the other facilities. 

For instance, the minerals from Arizona and Mexico are given particular attention in the Mineral Museum. It houses a sizable collection of gems, minerals, and meteorites from the USA and other countries, and is one of the top things to see in Tucson AZ.

Best Places to Eat in Tucson Arizona

Best Places to Eat in Tucson Arizona

Tucson was designated a World City of Gastronomy in 2015. Due to its close proximity to the Mexico border, the region offers a plethora of Mexican food while also celebrating the diversity of its residents. 

While walking through the city’s center, you might see a tourist from Hermosillo enjoying a bowl of miso ramen at a picnic table or a Vietnamese man wearing a cowboy hat sipping tequila drinks in a little bar. Without further ado, here are Tucson’s top eateries.

  • Ruiz Hot Dogs Los Chipilones – The popular Sonoran hot dog from Tucson is served on a slightly sweet bun with sliced cucumber, red pepper, grilled onion, pinto beans, mustard, horseradish, and green salsa. It is also wrapped in bacon. Because there are so many toppings, execution differs greatly. Ruiz is the local’s favorite restaurant as the venue won the America’s Classics Award because of its toasted bread and the ideal amount of toppings. 

Address – 1140 S 6th Ave, Tucson, AZ

  • La Indita – Only a small number of restaurants serve Native American food, despite Tucson having two of the largest Native American reservations in the nation Mara Garca, the matriarch of La Indita, offers culinary traditions from her Tohono O’odham ancestry. The Oaxaca cacao beans’ creaminess and bitterness make the luscious chicken stew sing.   You must try the enormous Indian taco, which is topped with beans and red chile meat.

Address – 722 N Stone Ave, Tucson, AZ

  • Mercado San Agustin – Discover a diverse selection of eateries and stores in an outdoor courtyard designed in the Spanish colonial style.  The menu features food from all around Mexico. Its Yucatán-inspired POC chuc is the best chicken taco in town.  Grab a pumpkin tortilla and couple it with a great cup of coffee from Presta Coffee Roasters down the hall. The in-house bakery bakes traditional pan dulce every day. 

Address – 100 South Avenida del Convento, Tucson, AZ

  • Zemam’s – Zemam offers a variety of meat and vegetarian dishes on a plate that may be shared along with pita bread. The diners with allergies can pre-order a gluten-free variety of flatbread. People visit to take advantage of the cozy atmosphere. 

Address – 2731 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson, AZ

Best Places to Stay in Tucson Arizona

Loews Ventana Canyon Resort

Staying in one of the high-end, full-service resorts grouped in the Catalina Foothills is always a fantastic choice for travellers if they want to bask into the sunshine and gorgeous landscape. The best course of action is to stay downtown if you wish to spend more time enjoying the sights and learning about the history. Here are a few of the best hotels in these areas:

  • Loews Ventana Canyon Resort – The stay here is ideal for its majestic views of 40,000 sq ft  of outdoor area. It has about 400 rooms and 26 suites. Enjoy the lovely koi ponds and vegetation at the hotel. The hotel welcomes dogs and even provides canine room service. Live blues music and scrumptious food are offered during a Sunday brunch by the pool. Some luxurious options include sushi, grilled salmon, BBQ ribs, and hamburgers.

Address – 7000 N Resort Dr, Tucson, AZ 

  • Arizona Inn – It is a historic boutique hotel with 92 restored rooms and suites, nestled in 14 acres of meticulously maintained grounds with fountains and flowers. The elegant, Hacienda-style eating spaces have won awards, and the poolside dining area with an ice cream bar is ideal for brunches. Additionally, the hotel provides free bikes, afternoon tea during specific months, and saunas all year round. 

Address – 2200 E Elm St, Tucson, AZ

  • The Downtown Clifton Hotel – For guests who do not plan to stay in their rooms for an extended period of time, the Downtown Clifton Hotel is a fantastic low-cost choice. The chic boutique hotel is conveniently located near downtown’s museums and eateries. The bunkhouse-style rooms have queen beds and saddle blanket bedspreads in vibrant colours. Free breakfast in the morning. The wifi, and the outdoor pool are examples of modern conveniences.

Address – 485 S Stone Ave, Tucson, AZ

  • Embassy Suites by Hilton Tucson Paloma Village – It  is a wonderful alternative if you want to save money. After exploring the desert during the day, you may cool off in the hotel pool; in the evening, there is a free happy hour from 5:30 to 7:30; and in the morning, there is a complimentary made-to-order breakfast. Additionally, it is convenient to local dining, nightlife, and shopping. 

Address – 3110 E Skyline Dr, Tucson, AZ 

Conclusion

All in all, Tucson is an excellent choice for getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There is something for everyone here. Whether your cup of tea is fine dining and art galleries or a good hike to escape hectic traffic, there’s no place like Tucson.

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