We spent two fabulous weeks exploring and getting to know the high desert area of Tucson Arizona. It was unexpected. I loved pretty much everything about it and I will definitely come back next winter. In fact, I really think I could spend several months a year in this lovely town, surrounded by nature. Here are the things I loved the most, the nine things to do in Tucson Arizona.
Saguaro National Park
You must spend time in this remarkable place. It is not the biggest national park, or the most diverse, but it is indeed a gem. Saguaro National Park offers hikes for people of all capacities from nature walks (wheelchair accessible) to multi-day excursions. We enjoyed all of the hikes we did, short and long, and especially the unique desert plants. Saguaro National Park.
Sabino Canyon National Forest
This is where we enjoyed my favorite hike during our visit, called Phone Line Trail. We hiked more than nine miles on this trail, that cuts across the side of a mountain with spectacular views. But you don’t need to be able to hike that distance to enjoy Sabino Canyon. A National Forest Service tram provides transportation into the canyon. You can walk a portion of the canyon, and then catch the tram at your leisure. Sabino Canyon.
Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
I always love learning about the local flora and fauna and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is one of the finest of this kind of museum I have ever seen. Acres of desert flora are marked with interpretive and interactive signage. Indoor exhibits of reptiles, birds, and a replica of an underground cave give visitors a up close look at desert life. The museum also is home to a mountain lion, bear, wolves and javelina. Don’t miss this wonderful place. Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
Tucson Botanical Garden
This historic site was once home to the Porter Family, a leading Tucson family in the landscaping business. The property has been home to the Tucson Botanical Garden since 1974. Beautiful gardens offer a wonderful look at desert plants from aloe to cactus including an herb garden, butterfly garden and pollinator garden. Definitely worth a visit. Tucson Botanical Garden
The Barrio Viejo
This historic neighborhood was once home to to Tucson’s working class, immigrants from Mexico, Central America, Africa, Asia and Europe. The adobe homes were built in the 1800’s as Tucson grew in agriculture and as a crossroads in the Southwest.
Unfortunately many of the old buildings were bulldozed during Tucson’s “revitalization” period when the new convention center was built. Today, the remaining homes are becoming popular to purchase and restore and a walk through these neighborhoods offers a peek into Tucson’s history as well as a colorful opportunity for photographers. Barrio Viejo.
The Tucson Museum of Art
As we were walking around Tucson we noticed the Tucson Museum of Art was offering a special exhibit of the works of the Wyeth Family. My husband and I both love the work of Andrew Wyeth so we thought we should check it out. The beautiful museum is right in the center of Tucson in a newish building that is attached to one of the most historic homes of Tucson.
The $12 entrance fees seemed very reasonable and we not only enjoyed the Wyeth Family exhibit, but wandered through all the permanent exhibits of the museum. Well worth a couple of hours when visiting Tucson. Tucson Museum of Art
San Xavier del Bac Mission
A truly unexpected beauty of a mission rises up out of the desert like a white beacon about ten miles outside of Tucson. This National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797. Entrance is free and it is definitely worth checking it out. Very beautiful. San Xavier del Bac Mission.
Walking Tour Historic Tucson – Presido Trail
From the original Presidio in historic Tucson you can easily walk in any direction to multiple buildings and sites of historic significance. Throughout this walk you will also find numerous historic markers interpreting the unique and interesting history of Tucson. Tucson is home to several sites on the National Historic Register. It’s an easy walk (flat) for just about anyone and worth an hour or more depending on your interest. Presidio Walking Trail
On one of the colder days during our visit we drove up Mount Lemmon all the way to where the road ends. This drive offers spectacular views as well as some hiking options. Worth a half a day to see how the landscape changes from saguaro to pines. Beautiful. Mount Lemmon
There you go, nine things to do in Tucson Arizona. Throughout the area there are several places designed to show visitors what the old west was like, but they aren’t authentic and I usually shy away from such things. But if you are interested to learn more about the wider variety of things to see and do in this remarkable region of Arizona at Visit Tucson. There are certainly more than nine things to do in Tucson Arizona…but this will give you a start.
We will definitely be back. Thanks Tucson. We loved you.
Want to take a day trip south? Read our post Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson Arizona.
Next week we will post about our favorite food in Tucson.
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