Wondering what activities and attractions you can’t miss in the Old Pueblo? Our guide to the best things to do in Tucson is just what you need!
There are plenty of reasons why people add Tucson, Arizona to their list of places to visit. In fact, Tucson has some of the best things to do in Arizona in and around its city limits.
You’ll find some of the cleanest air in any major city globally. And even more refreshing than that is the breathtaking Sonoran Desert, where you can see the iconic giant saguaro cactus and hike some epic trails
Many people travel to Tucson, Arizona, for its mouth-watering, delicious Southwestern cuisine, hiking, horseback riding, history, art, and stunning scenery.
And as the record-breaking sunniest city in the United States, Tucson offers plenty of year-round sunshine to explore its great outdoors as often as possible.
If you’re wondering what to do in Tucson, we’ve created a list of all the best activities and attractions. This catered list combines interests that intrigue history buffs, art connoisseurs, nature lovers, and active goers so everyone can experience the best of Tucson, Arizona!
Table of Contents
- The Best Things to Do in Tucson, Arizona
- 1) Learn About Tucson’s Wildlife & Nature At The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
- 2) Enjoy Stunning Sunsets At Saguaro National Park
- 3) Discover Planets At Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium
- 4) Follow The Path Up Tumamoc Hill
- 5) Go On An Adventure In Coronado National Forest
- 6) Unwind At John F. Kennedy Park
- 7) Explore The Historical Significance Of Mission San Xavier del Bac
- 8) Stroll Through The Refreshing Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson
- 9) Learn About Historical Aircraft At The Pima Air & Space Museum
- 10) Learn About Wildlife Management At The International Wildlife Museum
- 11) Hike The Santa Catalina Mountains
- 12) Tour The Tucson Botanical Gardens
- 13) Absorb The History & Art Of DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun Museum
- 14) Take The Kids To Reid Park Zoo
- 15) Tour Downtown Tucson
- 16) Go Camping At Catalina State Park
- 17) Visit The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures
- 18) Go Horseback Riding At Tucson Mountain Park
- 19) Shop For Souvenirs At Trail Dust Town
- 20) Stop For A Show At Gaslight Theatre
- 21) Join A Cave Tour Of Colossal Cave Mountain Park
- Where to Stay in Tucson, Arizona
The Best Things to Do in Tucson, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona is located at the edge of the Sonoran Desert Region in the southwestern USA. In addition to lots of amazing national parks and hiking spots like Sabino Canyon and Coronado National Forest, Tucson is also home to some interesting museums and attractions.
From touring the Tucson Botanical Garden to exploring one of the largest dry caves in North America at Colossal Cave Mountain Park, Tucson is full of adventure, nature, scenic views, and recreational activities to take on!
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1) Learn About Tucson’s Wildlife & Nature At The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is an expansive attraction in Tucson full of adventure and fun things to explore.
Opened in 1952, the 98-acre Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is home to a botanical garden, aquarium, world-renowned zoo, art gallery, natural history museum, and publisher.
Rated #1 on TripAdvisor in Tucson, visitors can take in the spectacular beauty of the Sonora Desert and its year-round sunshine at this one-of-a-kind attraction.
Take pictures and learn about 230+ animal species, including bighorn sheep, rattlesnakes, and hummingbirds. Also, prepare to get your steps in, and don’t forget to wear sunscreen; the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is 90% outdoors.
- Address: 2021 N Kinney Rd, Tucson, AZ 85743, United States
- Hours: 8:30 am – 5 pm
- Cost: $29.95
2) Enjoy Stunning Sunsets At Saguaro National Park
Split into two sections available on opposite sides of Tucson, Saguaro National Park is named after the saguaro cactus, an impressively large native species.
This cactus species is the largest in the nation and is found in the desert environment of Tucson, Arizona. Saguaro National Park protects these unique plants that only grow in a small part of the United States.
The park is split up into the Rincon Mountain District, east of Tucson, and the Tucson Mountain District, west of Tucson.
Combined, both districts total over 91,000 acres, each offering iconic landmarks and hikes, like the Bajada loop drive, the unbelievable sunsets on Hugh Norris Trail, the iconic Sonoran Desert Overlook, and the petroglyphs at the Signal Hill picnic area.
We highly recommend visiting Saguaro National Park for various reasons, mainly because of the outstanding sunsets.
And if you want to test your bravery while absorbing unbelievable views, join this hot air balloon ride over the Sonoran Desert with champagne and breakfast in hand!
- Address: Saguaro National Park, Arizona
- Hours: 9 am – 5 pm
- Cost: $15 for entering by foot, bike, or horseback, $25 for entering by car (passes are valid for 7 days)
3) Discover Planets At Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium
Part of the University of Arizona, the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium is named after famed American author Grace Flandrau.
The science museum and planetarium feature a 15.2-meter dome and 16-inch telescope with the opportunity to view Saturn’s rings, the Andromeda galaxy, the cloud belts of Jupiter, and more unforgettable images of outer space.
In addition, at the science center are many interactive exhibits that feature minerals and fossils to explore.
Curious minds of all ages are welcome at the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium, where worlds await discovery!
- Address: 1601 E University Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85721, United States
- Hours: 10 am – 5 pm (Closed Mondays)
- Cost: $9
4) Follow The Path Up Tumamoc Hill
A United States National Historic Landmark, Tumamoc Hill is an 860-acre ecological reserve created by the Carnegie Institution in 1903.
A butte, or steep-side tower of rock, the reserve is home to various television, public safety, and radio transmitters. It also functions as an active study site for the University of Arizona.
People are welcome to visit Tumamoc Hill but must remain on the paved road. Many walk the paved path halfway up to enjoy the scenery and then turn back.
Others, seeking a challenge, continue up the steeper upper road with switchbacks to follow the path that leads to the top of the summit, where rewarding views are granted.
- Address: Tumamoc Hill Rd, Tucson, AZ 85745, United States
- Hours: 4 am – 10 pm
- Cost: Free
5) Go On An Adventure In Coronado National Forest
Containing 16 “sky islands” or scattered mountain ranges, Coronado National Forest is a biologically diverse area where explorers can experience four different seasons in one day!
As one of Tucson’s top things to do, this attraction offers stunning outdoor views. First, traverse the desert surrounded by giant saguaro cacti. Pack food to picnic by crystal-clear lakes or trickling mountain streams.
Next, skip through the snow or take part in a snowball fight. Then, sit back to bask in outstanding mountaintop views to explore the beauty of all four seasons at this stunning national forest.
6) Unwind At John F. Kennedy Park
Named after United States President John F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Park is a beautiful destination to go for a stroll and enjoy the inspiring views of Tucson, Arizona’s mountains and desert landscapes.
Many locals and tourists come to John F. Kennedy Park to walk on the different hiking trails, picnic at the picnic tables, fish, go wildlife watching, swim at the pool or join recreational activities at the sports fields.
In addition, there are playgrounds for the kids to play on, and the park is only a short walk from the public library.
- Address: 3700 S Mission Rd, Tucson, AZ 85713, United States
- Hours: 6 am – 10:30 pm
- Cost: Free
7) Explore The Historical Significance Of Mission San Xavier del Bac
Near downtown, Mission San Xavier del Bac is one of the top historical things to do in Tucson. The historic Spanish Catholic mission is found on the Tohono O’odham national San Xavier Indian Reservation.
A National Historic Landmark, the mission was founded in 1692, making San Xavier del Bac the oldest intact European structure in Arizona.
During its establishment, Southern Arizona was conjoined with New Spain. A Franciscan missionary began constructing the mission, hiring an architect and a large group of O’odham to help build the church.
One of the top free things to do in Tucson, San Xavier del Bac mission welcomes visitors from across the globe that desire to gaze upon the prime historical Spanish Colonial architecture.
- Address: 1950 W San Xavier Rd, Tucson, AZ 85746, United States
- Hours: 9 am – 4 pm
- Cost: Free
8) Stroll Through The Refreshing Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson
The Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson are Japanese courtyard-style gardens located on less than an acre of space.
Using the creativity of Japanese culture to influence its design, the garden features classical Japanese imagery through its romantic courtyard perspectives and open pathways.
As you stroll through this refreshing Tucson attraction, you’ll find a Zen garden, grass garden, stone, gravel garden, and a strolling pond garden, each presenting its unique and stunning visuals.
After strolling the intimate garden settings at Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson, tour the inclusive museum that exhibits traditional Japanese folk artifacts and the largest Ikebana container exhibit in the United States to finish your intriguing and refreshing experience of these spectacular botanical gardens.
- Address: 2130 N Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ 85712, United States
- Hours: 9:30 am – 4:30 pm Thursday – Saturday, 12 pm – 5 pm Sundays, Closed Monday – Wednesday
- Cost: $15
9) Learn About Historical Aircraft At The Pima Air & Space Museum
One of the largest non-government-funded aerospace museums in the world, the Pima Air & Space Museum features over 400 historical aircraft across 80 acres on a 127-acre campus.
Home to the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame, the museum homes impressive aircraft, including a Wright Flyer dating back to 1903, the record-breaking Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird,” and a 787 Dreamliner.
Presenting indoor and outdoor exhibits, the Pima Air & Space Museum is full of educational value for people of all ages, making it a worthwhile trip to learn more about the impressive aircraft that have impacted history.
- Address: 6000 E Valencia Rd, Tucson, AZ 85756, United States
- Hours: 9 am – 5 pm
- Cost: $19.50
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10) Learn About Wildlife Management At The International Wildlife Museum
The International Wildlife Museum presents over 400 taxidermy animals from around the globe to share the diversity of wildlife and use it to educate visitors on the importance of wildlife management in conservation.
The collections at the museum are aged more than a century, while the animals were all donated by agencies, organizations, and individuals.
The museum uses hands-on exhibits, videos, natural settings, and interactive computers to allow others to see how these animals adapt to their habitats while teaching about conservation issues.
- Address: 4800 West Gates Pass, Boulevard, Tucson, AZ 85745, United States
- Hours: 9 am – 5 pm Thursday/Friday, 9 am – 6 pm Saturday/Sunday
- Cost: $10
11) Hike The Santa Catalina Mountains
Found in Coronado National Forest, the Santa Catalina Mountains are considered the most prominent range in Tucson.
Mount Lemmon is the highest point of the Santa Catalina Mountains, standing at 9,147 feet, and is a top ski destination across the nation.
An extensive range of rewarding hiking trails is available to remain active and explore these Tucson mountains.
Consider an easy hike like the Mt. Lemmon Meadow Loop featuring an active lookout tower and stunning views, or a more strenuous hike of Ventana Canyon Trail, which starts at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort and ends at a rock arch found at the top of a peak.
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is another highlight of the area. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike through incredible canyons and forests, all while admiring the best scenery in the Arizona desert.
12) Tour The Tucson Botanical Gardens
The Tucson Botanical Gardens combines a 5.5-acre collection of 16 residential-scaled urban gardens with connecting paths.
The thriving oasis is located in the heart of Tucson, featuring spectacular gardens like the Cactus & Succulent Garden and the Herb Garden.
Inside the gardens is the Cox Butterfly and Orchid Pavilion. From October to May, tropical butterflies sourced from breeders worldwide flutter around various plants for visitors to bask in the natural beauty.
Year-round guests can take in the highlighted year-round art and exhibits or even take part in the available classes and events to learn more!
- Address: 2150 N Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ 85712, United States
- Hours: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm
- Cost: $15
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13) Absorb The History & Art Of DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun Museum
The DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun Museum is an enigmatic museum that celebrates the life and art of Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia.
The Gallery in the Sun Museum was established by DeGrazia in 1950 and has become an influential tradition for locals and tourists visiting the city of Tucson. Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia was the son of Italian immigrants.
He came to live in the Tucson area, where he would become known as the “world’s most reproduced artist” for its iconic vibrant pieces of Native American children and Western scenes.
The gallery is located at the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, and it’s one of the best things to do in Tucson!
- Address: 6300 N Swan Rd, Tucson, AZ 85718, United States
- Hours: 10 am – 4 pm
- Cost: $8
14) Take The Kids To Reid Park Zoo
Established in 1967, Reid Park Zoo stretches across 24 acres to encompass the ultimate adventure of various natural habitats ranging from the African savannah to the South American rainforest.
The zoo hosts over 250 species and various exotic animals like jaguars and rhinos. In addition, visitors can hop on the zoo train to get a closer look at the different habits and the impressive creatures that live there.
A perfect family-friendly activity to enjoy with the kids, Reid Park Zoo presents guests with the opportunity to feed giraffes, ride the carousel, and hop on the zoo train for fun and adventure!
- Address: 3400 E Zoo Ct, Tucson, AZ 85716, United States
- Hours: 9 am – 4 pm October – May, 8 am – 2 pm June – September
- Cost: $10.50
15) Tour Downtown Tucson
Downtown Tucson is a prevalent attraction spot of Tucson and is full of cool things to see and do.
Museum lovers can check out the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, the University of Arizona Art Museum, the Arizona State Museum, or the Arizona Museum of Natural History.
You can also check out historical points on the Turquoise Trail, and see live performances at the Arizona Theater Company.
As the heart of Tucson, there are endless opportunities here to explore. So join the locals and fellow tourists for an authentic step into Tucson’s stimulating atmosphere full of prevalent history, culture, arts, and dining experiences.
On this self-guided audio history walking tour, you can discover downtown Tucson at your own pace to find hidden gems, learn about pioneers and mining tycoons, visit famous attractions like J Knox Corbett House, and more!
This is a great way to accommodate yourself with the history and architecture of the city when visiting Tucson.
16) Go Camping At Catalina State Park
Found at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Catalina State Park contains 5,500 acres of habitat home to thousands of 150 species of desert plants like the saguaros.
The largest park in Arizona, Catalina State Park offers eight trails open for hiking, horseback riding, and biking to take part in. Other activities to consider while at the park include camping, wildlife watching, and star gazing.
It’s not hard to find solitude and sink into the rugged desert landscape at Catalina State Park, which is full of opportunities to replenish one’s energy stores.
Find more info about camping on the Arizona State Parks website.
- Address: 11570 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85737, United States
- Hours: 5 am – 10 pm
- Cost: Park entrance fee is $7 per vehicle or $3 per person on foot or bicycle
17) Visit The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures
The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures is one of the top unique things to do in Tucson, Arizona.
At this interactive and educational museum, you’ll find tiny renditions of over 500 antique and contemporary dollhouses and room boxes.
The collection of miniatures began in the 1930s when Patricia Arnell, one of the founders, was gifted a set of Strombecker wooden dollhouse furniture.
After that first set was received, when Pat was just a girl, her passion for collecting these unique pieces of work extended to her and her husband, starting the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures.
This interactive space tells stories of different eras in an intriguing setting full of adventure, art, and history.
- Address: 4455 E Camp Lowell Dr, Tucson, AZ 85712, United States
- Hours: 9 am – 4 pm (Closed Mondays)
- Cost: $11.50
18) Go Horseback Riding At Tucson Mountain Park
Opened in 1929, Tucson Mountain Park is a massive park, consuming 20,000 acres to become one of the largest natural resource areas owned and operated by a local government in the United States.
A hot spot for recreational activities, around 62 miles of non-motorized shared-use trails are open to equestrians, hikers, and mountain bikers.
In addition, Tucson Mountain Park welcomes archery hunting from mid-December to the end of January with the proper requirements required to hunt. There are shooting, and archery ranges at the park available as well.
At Gates Pass, a scenic mountain pass overlook, visitors can explore historic structures and get hands-on with the interactive displays. Other options at Tucson Mountain Park include picnicking, wildlife viewing, and camping.
- Address: 8451 W McCain Loop, Tucson, AZ 85735, United States
- Hours: 24/7
- Cost: Free
19) Shop For Souvenirs At Trail Dust Town
A historical outdoor shopping center, Trail Dust Town’s shops are owned and operated by local Tucson families.
At Trail Dust Town, visitors can explore many art galleries and historical artifacts like the Allan Herschell merry-go-round. The center was once home to the Museum of the Horse Soldier, one of the nation’s largest public displays of artifacts from the era of the military horse.
Stop by one of the many shops that offer a diverse range of items, from fine arts and photography to boutique items and other novelty finds.
For food, stop at Pinnacle Peak, the home of the Cowboy Steak, or Millie’s Pancake Haus for an undeniably delicious breakfast and lunch. Then, for a thrilling performance, check out the Pinnacle Peak Pistoleros’s live stunt shows that engage the audience for a suitable dosage of interactive fun.
Find more info about shops and events on the website!
- Address: 6541 E Tanque Verde Rd, Tucson, AZ 85715, United States
- Hours: 5 pm – 9 pm
20) Stop For A Show At Gaslight Theatre
A Musical Melodrama Theater, Gaslight Theatre offers a Western vibe setting and shows ranging from musical comedies to sci-fi spoofs six nights a week.
Open since the 1970s, the theater delivers a family-friendly atmosphere and entertainment that has garnered plenty of praise and reputation.
Visitors of Gaslight Theatre can find concessions, like pizza and popcorn, and drinks that range from soda to beer and wine.
This is one of the top tourist attractions in Tucson, and it’s a great activity for a rainy day (though there aren’t many in this desert corner of the USA!)
- Address: 7010 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85710, United States
- Hours/Cost: Find showtimes and tickets on the website
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21) Join A Cave Tour Of Colossal Cave Mountain Park
On the National Register of Historic Places, Colossal Cave Mountain Park is one of the largest dry caves in North America.
Evidence has shown that the Hohokam, a prehistoric culture circa 900 AD, used Colossal Cave as a temporary shelter at one point. The cave was rediscovered in 1879 by Solomon Lick during the Westward expansion, where it became legendary as a hideout for train robbers.
Colossal Cave Mountain Park offers various activities, including cave tours, horseback riding, camping, mountain biking, hiking, and picnicking.
Explore the 2,400-acre park’s crystal-filled Colossal Cave on tour or step over to the La Posta Quemada Ranch for an adventure by horseback.
- Address: 16721 E Old Spanish Trail, Vail, AZ 85641, United States
- Hours: Park open 8 am – 4 pm, Caves open 9 am – 3 pm
- Cost: Check prices for cave tours and horseback riding online
Where to Stay in Tucson, Arizona
Now that you know the best things to do in Tucson let’s look at the best places to stay during your trip! Here are some options for travelers of all budget ranges.
Best Cheap Hotel in Tucson
Featuring an optimal location near top Tucson attractions like Sabino Canyon and Reid Park Zoo, Motel 6 Tucson, AZ – North presents a newly renovated modern room. All guests receive free WiFi and pool access for a quick dip after a long day of adventure.
Best Mid-Range Hotel in Tucson
Based in downtown Tucson, minutes away from the airport, Hampton Inn Tucson Downtown offers a prime location close to favorite Tucson activities like Historic Fourth Avenue and the Tucson Museum of Art.
At this hotel, all guests receive free WiFi, the fitness center, a complimentary hot breakfast, the outdoor pool, and streaming television for optimal accommodations and comfort.
Best Luxury Hotel in Tucson
Arizona Inn is a historic boutique hotel retreat promoting a unique yet charming setting in the Midtown neighborhood.
This refreshing hotel has been family owned and operated since 1930, where guests can find tranquility and serenity surrounded by Tucson beauty and charm.
At this one-of-a-kind boutique hotel, guests receive free WiFi access, personal service, and no resort fees, meaning valet parking, bike rental, and so on are included without the extra costs!
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