52 Things to Do

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.

Featured Places

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.

Tucson Attractions Passport

Southern 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.

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.

Mini Time Machine Museum

Experience a wonderful charm-filled world at the Mini Time Machine Museum, 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 the Southwest.

Tohono Chul

Tohono Chul sits on 49 acres, a desert park conveniently located in the center of northwest Tucson. Cactus-lined paths, demonstrationgardens, two Southwest gift shops, a restaurant, a greenhouse full of desert plants, and art galleries make up this nature preserve.

Town of Marana

Nestled quietly just north of Tucson, the town of Marana is an ideal place to set up base camp. Close to it all, from Marana you can get right into the gorgeous outdoors and disconnect but you're still close enough to amazing shopping, dining, and entertainment in town or just down the road in Tucson.

Reid Park Zoo

See more than 250 animals from around the world at this AZA-accredited zoo within Tucson's Reid Park. At Reid Park Zoo, you'll learn about how you can help protect wild animals while you explore the habitats and watch animal care staff give demonstrations.

Bisbee 1000 The Great Stair Climb

Forget the StairMaster--get outside and power through a challenging run up and around the mile-high town of Bisbee during this endurance-testing 5k race, Bisbee 1000 The Great Stair Climb, on the third Saturday of October. What began as an effort to save Bisbee's 1,000 historic steps has turned into a unique trek through the former mining community. There's also an Ice Man Competition--participants must carry 10-pound blocks of ice up 155 stairs with antique tongs--plus serenading musicians, arts & crafts booths, merchant discounts, and more.

Bisbee Visitor Center

Nestled 90 miles southeast of Tucson, Bisbee combines 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.

Pima County Fair

One of Tucson's oldest and largest annual events, the Pima County Fair attracts more than 325,000 visitors to the fairgrounds April 19-29, 2018. See concerts, rodeo, animal attractions, car shows and more all for the admission price of $9!

O.K. Corral Gunfight Site

O.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.

TOHONO CHUL

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, tohonochul.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, santatheresatileworks.com

REID PARK ZOO—NOTHING GETS YOU CLOSER

Reid Park Zoo, an AZA-accredited zoo, is home to more than 250 animals from around the world, including tigers, anteaters, lions, flamingos, grizzly bears, elephants, rhinos, and more! Learn how you can help protect wild animals and wild places while you explore naturalistic habitats, watch our Animal Care staff give training demonstrations throughout the day, or schedule a behind-the-scenes tour prior to your arrival. Find the zoo at within Reid Park, at 3400 E. Zoo Court.

Admission prices are $10.50 for adults aged 15–61, $8.50 for seniors over 62, $6.50 for children aged 2–14, and free for children under 2. Members of the Reid Park Zoo also have free admission. Hours are 9 a.m.–4 p.m through May 31, and 8 a.m.–3 p.m. starting June 1. For more information, visit ReidParkZoo.org or call 520-881-4753.

KITT PEAK

Close to 7,000 feet in elevation, Kitt Peak offers a cool summer getaway. Open daily 9 a.m.– 3:45 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. noao.edu/kpvc, 520-318-8726

THE MINI TIME MACHINE MUSEUM OF MINIATURES

Adventures await you this summer at The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures—with more than 10,000 square feet of air-conditioned exhibit space, showcasing antique and contemporary miniatures. From snow villages and a witch’s mansion to European castles and Asian gardens, this collection will delight all ages. Check the website for information on special exhibits and details on programs like Kids Create, Tiny Tales for Tots or Tinker Workshops! Open Tues.–Sat. 9 a.m.–4 p.m. and Sun. noon–4 p.m. 4455 E. Camp Lowell Dr., 520-881-0606, theminitimemachine.org

NO BORED KIDS!

Experience the joy of play-based learning at Children’s Museum Tucson and Oro Valley! Downtown, find 13 rooms with fun, interactive STEM- and art-based exhibits. In Oro Valley, specially sized for kids 0–5, experience tactile and sensory exhibits that encourage exploration. Always something new! Downtown: 200 S. 6th Ave., 520-792-9985. Oro Valley: 11015 N. Oracle Rd., 520-297-8004. childrensmuseumtucson.org

GOLD PANNING

Do it just like the original gold diggers—dry washing, kneeling in running streambeds, or digging with a pick and shovel. See desert-gold-diggers.org for organized outings.

TUCSON ORIGINALS

Hungry? Get an authentic taste of Tucson and head to one of the independently owned restaurants that make up the Tucson Originals. tucsonoriginals.com

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. Of course, shorter jaunts along the Arizona Trail near Tucson are beautiful, too. For maps and detailed information, phone the Arizona Trail Association at 602-252-4794, or visit aztrail.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 salsatrail.com for a map and directions, or call 888-837-1841 before heading out.

ROOSTER COGBURN OSTRICH RANCH

The Darndest Place You’ll Ever Visit!

Voted one of the best roadside attractions in America. Come get a hands-on experience like no other at this extreme petting zoo. Have fun with the goofy ostriches, miniature donkeys, rainbow lorikeets, goat kissing booth, bunny exhibit, stingray hand feeding, and more. It is laugh-out-loud fun for all ages! On I-10 and exit 219 at Picacho Peak. roostercogburn.com or call 520-466-3658.

FAMILY FUN CENTERS

Pack up the kids and head out the door, because Arizona is perfect for enjoying the great American pastimes of miniature golf, bumper boats, batting cages, go-carts, and video arcades. There’s nothing wrong with a little family-friendly rivalry to get that high score. Visit Funtasticks Family Fun Park at 221 E. Wetmore Rd. (520-888-4653) or Golf N’ Stuff at 6503 E. Tanque Verde Rd. (520-885-3569).

CONNECTING ART TO LIFE

Join us for Second SundAZe Family Day @ TMA presented by the Stonewall Foundation. From 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. the second Sunday of each month, the museum offers free general admission for residents of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. The day features informal gallery talks, special performances, and drop in hands-on art making projects. Celebrate your creativity at TMA and enjoy family-friendly activities that vary monthly, focusing on a different exhibition in the galleries. Free general admission to residents of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico For more information, please call 520-624-2333 or visit tucsonmuseumofart.org.

PLANT WALKS

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.

ST. AUGUSTINE

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.

ENJOY TUCSON ON THE SUN LINK STREETCAR!

While in town, hop on board the Sun Link Streetcar and visit more than 100 restaurants, bars, shops, and museums in five of Tucson’s unique entertainment districts. Sun Link’s 23 stops offer a variety of fun things to do in the heart of Tucson.

To ride, download a 1-Day Pass or Single Boarding Fare on your smartphone at GoTucsonTransitApp.com, or purchase a 1-Day Pass at a ticket vending machine located at each street-car stop. Cash is not accepted once on board Sun Link. For Sun Link schedule and route information, visit sunlinkstreetcar.com or call 520-792-9222.

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.

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 cool, so please dress accordingly. Tours last approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. Reservations suggested. Call 866-432-2071 or visit queenminetour.com. Stop by the Queen Mine Store for gem and mineral specimens, jewelry, and other unique items. Visit discoverbisbee.com for official visitor information. Ninety miles south of Tucson, Bisbee offers Old World charm and new-world charisma.

MEXICAN FOOD

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 these authentic eats.

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.

ALL ABOARD!

Toy-train aficionados will want to make a stop at the Gadsden-Pacific Division Toy Train Operating Museum (520-888-2222, gpdtoytrainmuseum.com), with more than 6,000 square feet of displays and detailed scenic tracks. Located at 3975 N. Miller Ave., near N. Romero and W. Roger Rds., it’s a little hard to find but well worth the effort. Attractions include old telegraph equipment and other historic memorabilia, including hundreds of toy trains that date back to the 1940s. Call ahead for days and hours of operation. Next stop—fun!

SAILING

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.

WET ’N’ WILD

The free Splash Pad at Brandi Fenton Memorial Park (3482 E. River Rd.) features a large concrete pad with water buckets, hoses, fountains, and other water features to beat the heat.

AMERIND FOUNDATION

The Amerind Foundation Museum contains a fine collection of archaeological and ethnographic materials, with an art gallery featuring works by Native American artists. Located an hour east of Tucson, in the spectacular rock formations of Texas Canyon. Open 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Tues.–Sun. Phone 520-586-3666 or visit amerind.org.

101 PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES

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.

LOCAL AUTHORS

For a spine-tingling mystery, check out J. A. Jance’s latest novel, Proof of Life. Several U of A professors also have published novels and short stories. Other regional classics include Charles Bowden’s Down by the River, Tom Miller’s Jack Ruby’s Kitchen Sink, Jim Griffith’s Saints of the Southwest, and Richard Shelton’s Going Back to Bisbee. For the true bookworm, don’t miss the Tucson Festival of Books.

SWIMMING

This is a year-round activity in Tucson. If you’re staying at a hotel, you’ve probably got a pool with lots of lounge chairs. But if by chance you don’t have a pool where you’re staying, try the many city-operated pools available to the public, but don’t go without sunscreen! Phone 520-791-4245.

WESTERN BOOTS

Tucson probably offers more leather goods than any place you’ve visited. Belts, billfolds, purses, cowboy hats, and—most of all—boots. Tucson is the place to find it all!

TUBAC

Situated 45 miles south of Tucson, Tubac was once the site of a Spanish presidio. Today it offers golf, restaurants, lodging, art galleries, and more. 520-398-2704, tubacaz.com

2ND SATURDAYS DOWNTOWN

It’s a shopping trip, an art walk, and a night of entertainment that celebrates the vibrancy and quirkiness of Tucson. 2ndsaturdaysdowntown.com

POETRY CENTER

The nationally acclaimed University of Arizona’s Poetry Center has more than 60,000 books, periodicals, and recordings in its exhilarating home at 1508 E. Helen St.

WALK THE TURQUOISE TRAIL

Head downtown to explore Tucson’s historical landmarks on this self-guided walking tour. The 2.5-mile trail takes you to 23 sites, including Hotel Congress and the Fox Tucson Theatre. Pick up a free map at the Visit Tucson’s Visitor Center, 811 N. Euclid Ave., or download it at tucsonpresidio.com.

ARTE AEROPUERTO

The first taste of Tucson many visitors get is Tucson International Airport—and while it may seem an unlikely place to start, the airport gallery provides an excellent introduction to the local arts scene. The fine selection does far more than decorate the walls—it adds a sense of place and welcomes travelers to Tucson. For a list of current and upcoming exhibits, see flytucson.com.

BIKER’S DELIGHT

Dedicated to promoting positive bicycle use, Bicycle Inter-Community Art & Salvage (BICAS) is a nonprofit community cooperative. It creates and sells items made out of old bike parts, assists with repairs, and offers classes. Don’t miss the reconditioned used bikes available for reasonable prices. Located at 2001 N. 7th Ave., 520-628-7950, bicas.org.

LINGERING EVENINGS OUTDOORS

Warm nights, stirring sunsets, dark starry skies—we don’t advertise it, but these are some of the things that keep residents in Tucson year-round. Enjoy dusky moments at Gates Pass, “A” Mountain, the Santa Catalina foothills—or explore and find your own spot.

SABINO CANYON

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—a definite Tucson must-see. Located on N. Sabino Canyon Rd. Call 520-749-2861 for information on the tram’s schedule.

PIMA COUNTY FAIR

The Pima County Fair, April 19–29, 2018, is one of Tucson’s oldest and largest annual events with more than 325,000 visitors. Cost for admission is $9, and fairgoers can enjoy the concerts, rodeo, crafting, interactive exhibits, animal attractions, car shows, and equestrian events, all included with 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 turkey legs, funnel cakes, and deep fried treats. Follow us @PimaCountyFair on social media for your chance to win fair prizes! Visit PimaCountyFair.com for more information.

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 tucsonhistoricdepot.org.

SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED

Ever see a handcranked stamp dispenser? How about a letter bag from the days when letters traveled by rail? The Postal History Foundation features a 19th-century post office and showcases all kinds of post-office antiques. The museum, at 920 N. 1st Ave., is open for tours from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mon.–Fri.; tours last about half an hour. The Peggy J. Slusser Philatelic Library, featuring postal history and Civil War books, is open 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Mon.–Fri. Phone 520-623-6652 or see postalhistoryfoundation.org.

SEE THE LIGHTS OF TUCSON

Drive north on Campbell Ave. and, when you reach Skyline Dr., look south. The lights dusted across the valley reveal the cosmopolitan glow of this desert pueblo.

“A” MOUNTAIN

Tucson’s most notable, or should we say most easily noted, landmark is “A” Mountain. Drive to the top of the peak to enjoy a view of the city.

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 visittucson.org/things-to-do/restaurants/farmers-markets.

GHOST TOWNS

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 ghosttowns.com.

SUNDAY BRUNCH

When Sunday rolls around, pamper yourself with brunch at a world-class resort or fine restaurant, with ice carvings, fresh-squeezed juice, smoked salmon, make-your-own omelettes, Belgian waffles, and much more. Check our “Desert Dining Guide” for an excellent selection.

NATIVE PATHS

A permanent exhibit at the Arizona State Museum, Paths of Life, takes an innovative look at contemporary native cultures. Explores the histories of 10 regional Native cultures in a fascinating mix of life-size dioramas, prehistoric artifacts, and historic objects. 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 statemuseum.arizona.edu.

CHIRICAHUA MOUNTAINS

Known for its incredible volcanic rock formations, “Land of the standing-up rocks,” was once home to Geronimo and Cochise. Find more than 20 campsites and 22-plus miles of hiking and horseback-riding trails. Chiricahua National Momument is located 36 miles southeast of Willcox on AZ Hwy. 186.

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 sanxaviermission.org for more information and a mass schedule.

CATALINA STATE PARK

Just 12 miles north of Tucson on Oracle Rd. (AZ Hwy. 77), this park offers the best views of the canyons, cliffs, domes, and spires on the north side of the Santa Catalina Mountains. White-tailed deer abound. Walk the Romero Ruin Interpretive Trail to the archaeological site of an ancient Hohokam village that was later a Spanish hacienda. Picnicking, camping, biking, and hiking are available. A day pass is $7 per vehicle. Phone 520-628-5798.

GEOTOUR TUCSON

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. scitucson.org

GATES PASS

A winding uphill drive west on Speedway Blvd. (which becomes Gates Pass Rd.) brings you, at its apex, to Gates Pass—and panoramic views of Tucson to the east and Saguaro National Park to the west. A great drive at any time of day, it’s a perfect setting for inspiring sunrises, midday contemplation, and romantic sunsets. (It’s a favorite ride for bicyclists, too—be aware!)

EL TIRADITO WISHING SHRINE

A love triangle, broken hearts, and a crime of passion are all pieces of the intriguing legend behind this shrine. Find this national historic site at 400 S. Main Ave.

REID PARK ROSE GARDEN

Hundreds of rosebushes have brought this garden national acclaim. See the park, at Country Club Rd. just north of 22nd St., in full bloom from Mar. to May.