Editor's note: Tucson Guide's "72 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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's most notable, or should we say most easily noted, landmark is "A" Mountain. Since 1916, 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.
AIR, SPACE & DEFENSE MUSEUMS
One of the largest collections of historic aircraft in the US is at the Pima Air & Space Museum, 6000 E. Valencia Rd. Its Space Gallery offers a historical look at space travel, while several hangars house memorabilia, airplanes, and exhibits. More than 275 aircraft are on display, inside and out, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission fee. Phone 520-574-0462. Another sure bet is the partly underground tour at the Titan Missile Museum. You can see the massive 760-ton rollback silo door, visit the launch-control center, and experience a simulated launch. In Sahuarita (I-19, exit 69 west on Duval Mine Rd.). Phone 520-625-7736. Admission fee. Take a jaunt into southeastern Arizona for Fort Huachuca's Main, Annex, and US Army Intelligence Museums (520-533-3638). The Main and Annex Museums explore our military past from 1877 to the present, and the Intelligence Museum records Fort Huachuca's place in the history of US Army intelligence. Open Tues.-Sat., 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Free admission; donations accepted. Open to US residents and non-residents with tour guide.
Whether you're after English teapots, quilts, glass, or period furniture, antiquing in Tucson has its surprises and its rewards. With reasonable prices and a wide variety, Tucson's antique market has everything from collectibles to true antiques. Stop by Morning Star Traders & Antiques (2020 E. Speedway Blvd., 520-881-2112), Copper Country Antique Mall (5055 E. Speedway Blvd., 520-326-0167), or Darlene Morris Antiques (2940 N. Swan Rd. #128, 520-322-9050).
ARIZONA-SONORA DESERT MUSEUM
Wandering through this living museum is like taking an enchanted walk through the desert. There's lots of information, plenty of shade and water, and close-up views of bobcats, prairie dogs, coyotes, hawks, Mexican gray wolves, rattlesnakes, quail, scorpions, roadrunners, and more. Aviaries offer a birder's haven and the new aquarium shows our native aquatic fauna. The internationally famous museum-ranked in the top 10 on TripAdvisor-has seasonal fine dining and year-round casual dining. Trained museum docents give live-animal demonstrations and seasonal guided tours. Admission fee. Open daily at 2021 N. Kinney Rd. Phone 520-883-2702 or visit desertmuseum.org for hours.
In the Santa Catalina Mountains, 9,157-ft. Mt. Lemmon is an instructor's manual in vertical life zones. The winding Catalina Hwy. takes you from the saguaro-studded desert floor to a forest of pines, aspens, and firs. Summerhaven, a quaint village near the top, makes a great rest stop. Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley, a little farther up the mountain, is the site of many outdoor festivals. A road fee is charged for use of Forest Service facilities only. At 4,687 ft., Wasson Peak in the Tucson Mountains affords a spectacular view of the Tucson Basin and, on a clear day, miles beyond. The highest peak in the Santa Rita mountain range at 9,453 ft., Mt. Wrightson has numerous trails of varying difficulty. Drive south on I-19 to Madera Canyon and look for the signs. And finally, Mt. Graham, a sacred site for Apaches, is a 10,720-ft. peak in the Pinaleño Mountains, about 125 miles northeast of Tucson near Safford. Check the weather forecast and check in with park rangers before hiking and always take water, sunscreen, and a cellphone.
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 aztrail.org.
THE ART OF GLASS
Glassblowing-it's an incredible art requiring precision timing and scorching temperatures. Many local galleries feature a wide range of beautiful glass creations, including Obsidian Gallery (520-577-3598), Skyline Gallery (520-615-3800), and Philabaum Glass Gallery & Studio (520-884-7404). Learn how to make your own glass art at The Sonoran Glass Art Academy (520-884-7814).
When you visit this old mining-town-turned-artists' enclave and wander among the steeply tiered hillside houses or delve 1,500 feet underground on the Queen Mine Tour (520-432-2071) to experience what mining was really like, you'll understand why people speak so fondly of this little town. Take a Lavender Jeep Tour (520-432-5369) to find more of what Bisbee and Southern Arizona have to offer. On the 2nd Sat. of each month, tour the more than 20 shops and galleries that stay open late for a town-wide art walk, featuring live entertainment, sidewalk sales, demonstrations, and food. Located about 90 miles southeast of Tucson on AZ Hwy. 80. Phone the Bisbee Visitor Center, 520-432-3554 or 866-2BISBEE, or visit discoverbisbee.com. Check out our Bisbee special section for a broad selection of restaurants, shops, hotels, and attractions.
You can bet Tucson has its share of casinos. Desert Diamond Casino & Hotel (7350 S. Nogales Hwy., 520-294-7777, ddcaz.com), owned and operated by the Tohono O'odham Nation, deals up live blackjack, slots, bingo, and poker, among other games. Or check out its 2nd area location in Sahuarita at I-19 and Pima Mine Rd. Also, Casino of the Sun (7406 S. Camino de Oeste, with a 2nd location, Casino Del Sol Resort, at 5655 W. Valencia Rd.; 800-344-9435, casinodelsolresort.com), owned and operated by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, brings a little piece of Vegas to the Old Pueblo, offering live blackjack, video poker, slot machines, bingo, and more. If you're not having any luck with the one-armed bandit, grab something to eat-from Mexican food to prime rib-or catch a show; most casinos offer big-name entertainment. You must be 21 or older to enter any of the casinos.
CAVES & CAVERNS
Cave explorers of all ages and abilities can have a field day in Arizona. Kartchner Caverns State Park, near Benson, has been described as an underground nature preserve. Providing spectacular sights in a football-field-sized room, this living cave also features a 58-foot-tall stone column dubbed "Kubla Khan." Reservations are recommended (520-586-2283, azstateparks.com). Colossal Cave Mountain Park, 17 miles east of Tucson on Old Spanish Trail (520-647-7275), is a cave that has earned its name-it's one of the largest "dry," or dormant, caves in the country. In the 1880s, outlaws sought refuge in the passageways and secret exits, and rumor has it there is hidden treasure within. Coronado Cave, near the Mexican border and part of Coronado National Memorial (520-366-5515), is a more primitive cave, but it's worth the effort to enjoy the cool temperature and calcite formations. Flashlights are required for exploring the cave.
CULTURE FOR KIDS
Tired of TV? For stimulating entertainment, try Children's Museum Tucson at 200 S. 6th Ave. The museum focuses on participatory exhibits and displays geared to learning and exploration. Check out Investigation Station, Public Safety, Electri-City, and Ocean Discovery Center. Visit childrensmuseumtucson.org or phone 520-792-9985.
DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW
Even Tucson offers a "white Christmas" this holiday season. Every Fri. and Sat. from Nov. 28 through Dec. 20, La Encantada Shopping Center (2905 E. Skyline Dr.) hosts 2 enchanted "snowfalls" from 6 to 7 p.m. in the main botanical courtyard. Enjoy hot chocolate, treats, and holiday music. Call 520-615-2561 or visit laencantadashoppingcenter.com for more information.
Many works by one of Tucson's most famous artists, Ted DeGrazia, are housed in DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun. Built by the artist with the help of close friends, the compound of low-slung adobes (constructed of materials from the surrounding desert) once served as his home and studio. The permanent collection includes works by DeGrazia. Rotating exhibits and a gift shop round out the mix. The 10-acre site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is at 6300 N. Swan Rd. Phone 520-299-9191 or visit degrazia.org.
Find an urban oasis near you! Tucson Botanical Gardens (2150 N. Alvernon Way, 520-326-9686, tucsonbotanical.org) has demonstration gardens; a seasonal café; tours; lectures; classes; a gift shop; and exhibits of arid, semitropical, and tropical plants-all displayed in intimate garden settings around an adobe home. Tohono Chul (7366 N. Paseo del Norte, 520-742-6455, tohonochulpark.org) was created to promote the conservation of arid regions. It includes nature trails, art and cultural exhibits, a greenhouse, a children's garden, a restaurant, plants for sale, and gift shops.
DAY OF THE DEAD
Tucsonans citywide celebrate Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday that pays tribute to ancestors and late loved ones, Nov. 1-2. Enjoy music, dancing, colorful altars, skeleton figurines, festive community gatherings, and the always festive All Souls Procession-this year on Nov. -through downtown and Fourth Avenue. To purchase your own Day of the Dead treasures any day of the year, stop by Borderlands Trading Company (6020 N. Oracle Rd. and 7700 E. Wrightstown Rd.), Picante Designs (2932 E. Broadway Blvd.), and Tolteca Tlacuilo (186 N. Meyer Ave.).
It's a lesson in culinary mathematics: 9 days of 3-course dinners for only $30 or $40 per meal at restaurants statewide. That's enough to make your head spin...and whet your appetite. During Arizona Restaurant Week, held Sept. 20-28, Tucson joins a host of other cities holding restaurant weeks throughout the nation. Call 602-307-9134 or see arizonarestaurantweek.com for a complete list of participating eateries.
DINNER & A SHOW
Looking to add a little drama or mystery to your dinner out? Check out one of these Tucson theaters that specialize in keeping their audiences entertained and well fed. Don't miss The Gaslight Theatre's campy, original melodramas: Cronan the Barbarian Sept. 4-Nov. 9 and The Secret Santa Nov. 13-Jan. 4. Pizza and ice cream, among other treats, are sold at the theater. Catch a show at 7010 E. Broadway Blvd.; reservations and advance payment are required. Phone 520-886-9428 or visit thegaslighttheatre.com. Mystery Dinner Theater (520-624-0172, tucsondinnertheater.com) offers a candlelit 3-course dinner and the interactive Murder at the Vampire's Wedding and Murder at Magic Manor on Fri. and Sat. nights. Reservations required.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?
Let your imagination run wild with a show that goes way beyond pulling rabbits out of hats. Carnival of Illusion's intimate performances offer a modern twist on the world of magic. The Victorian-inspired illusion show takes place at the Doubletree Hotel Tucson at Reid Park, 445 S. Alvernon Way, Fri. and Sat. evenings. General admission tickets start at $35; discounts available. Phone 520-615-5299 or see carnivalofillusion.com.
Two historic theaters reign as the grandes dames of Tucson's city center. The refurbished Fox Tucson Theatre (17 W. Congress St., 520-547-3040, foxtucsontheatre.org) earned its ranking as a National Historic Landmark for its unique decor and acoustics, featuring elements reminiscent of its prime in the 1930s and 40s. It hosts concerts, film festivals, theater performances, and silent movies. Built in 1920, The Rialto Theatre (318 E. Congress St., 520-740-1000, rialtotheatre.com) once welcomed such stars as Clara Bow, Ginger Rogers, and Dolores del Rio, as well as touring vaudeville and musical acts. Today it hosts various live musical acts year-round.
EL TOUR DE TUCSON
This annual event, which began in 1983, takes place on the Sat. before Thanksgiving (Nov. 22 this year) and brings more than 5,000 cyclists to Tucson to compete for prizes and medallions. Four courses range from 42 to 111 miles. Children and parents also participate on their own 3-mile and 1/4-mile courses. Rides start all over town, but all finish downtown. For information, call 520-745-2033, or visit perimeterbicycling.com.
Maria Luisa Teña began this spectacular nativity scene more than 30 years ago to honor both her mother and this Mexican household tradition. Each year, her nacimiento has grown-and now it fills an 8'x10' room. It has lights, running water, and hundreds of miniatures depicting scenes from Mexican rural life, Egyptian villages, the nativity, and biblical allegories. At La Casa Cordova (a 19th-century house in the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block), Tues., Wed., and Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thurs. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., and Sun. noon-5 p.m. Exhibit presented by the Tucson Museum of Art. Phone 520-624-2333.
Time Life Books recently named The University of Arizona Biosphere 2 "one of the 50 must-see wonders of the world." Experience it for yourself at Earth's largest living science center dedicated to exploring the environment, the future, and our planet. A unique trail system allows visitors to explore a tropical rain forest, savanna, coastal fog, desert, and a million-gallon ocean, while knowledgeable tour guides explain the history, research, and unprecedented science taking place inside this engineering marvel. New programs and events are offered monthly. Open daily. Call 520-838-6200 or see b2science.org.
FALLING INTO AUTUMN
The changing season typically means piles of fallen leaves, a nip in the air, and fresh-from-the-farm produce. On weekends from Sept. 27-28 to Oct. 25-26, desert dwellers can experience fall at Apple Annie's Produce & Pumpkins in Willcox, 80 miles east of Tucson, offering hayrides, a pumpkin patch, and adventures through Arizona's largest corn maze. A quick 5-mile jaunt down the road leads to Apple Annie's Orchard, with apple trees ripe and heavy for the pickin'. Also enjoy country-style pancake breakfasts, applewood-smoked burgers, homemade baked goods, and much more. Call 520-384-2084 or see appleannies.com for directions and hours.
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. 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).
The soil and climate in Southern Arizona-particularly in the small towns of Sonoita and Elgin-are perfect for growing grapes. More than a half-dozen vineyards offer up tastings and wine festivals throughout the year. To get there, drive east on I-10, then head south on AZ Hwy. 83 to AZ Hwy. 82. Popular stops include Kief-Joshua Vineyards (520-455-5582), Charron Vineyards and Winery (520-762-8585), Sonoita Vineyards (520-455-5893), and Wilhelm Family Vineyards (520-455-9291).
At the U of A, the Arizona State Museum exhibits pottery and artifacts, and presents important facts about the ways of life of prehistoric and modern Native Americans. Phone 520-621-6302. The nearby Arizona History Museum, established when Arizona was a territory, features period rooms, the Mining Hall mine-shaft replica, Geronimo's belongings, and hands-on exhibits. At 949 E. 2nd St. Phone 520-628-5774. The Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum has a permanent interactive exhibit on the underground and open-pit copper mining that began in Bisbee in the early 1880s. At 5 Copper Queen Plaza. Phone 520-432-7071. Learn about the history of Tucson's Jewish community at the Jewish History Museum, 564 S. Stone Ave. Located inside the first synagogue building in Arizona, the museum hosts exhibits, talks, and programming for all faiths. Call 520-670-9073.
HOLY COMIC BOOKS, BATMAN!
If you're looking to enter a world where good triumphs over evil, a world where the adventures of Superman and Spider-Man come to life on paper, Tucson boasts several comic-book shops featuring endless tales of superheroes and their nemeses. Visit Charlie's Comic Books (5460 E. Speedway Blvd.), Heroes and Villains (4535 E. Broadway Blvd.), Fantasy Comics (2595 N. 1st Ave.), and R-Galaxy (2406 N. Campbell Ave.), or stop by Tucson Comic-Con Nov. 8-9 in downtown Tucson at the Tucson Convention Center.
INTO THE SUNSET
Saddle up and ride through the land that inspires cowboys to write poetry. Guests of White Stallion Ranch (520-297-0252) and Tanque Verde Ranch (520-296-6275) enjoy Western-style horseback rides with experienced wranglers; or travel to Triangle T Guest Ranch (520-586-7533), 60 miles east of Tucson in the foothills of the Dragoon Mountains, to experience sunrise and sunset rides. Book a room in one of the ranch's Western-themed casitas. If you already have a place to stay and just want to go on a trail ride, check out Arizona Horseback Experience (520-455-5696), Pusch Ridge Stables (520-825-1664), or Pantano Riding Stables (520-298-8980).
Whether it's swing, big band, fusion, contemporary, or New Age, jazz in Tucson has plenty to offer its aficionados. Check with the Tucson Jazz Society (520-903-1265, tucsonjazz.org) for a complete schedule, although you're certain to hear live performances every Sun. at Loews Ventana Canyon's Blues, Brews & BBQ brunch (520-615-5496).
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.
Your family will jump for joy at Get Air trampoline park (330 S. Toole Ave., 520-624-5867, getairtucson.com). Just a hop, skip, and a jump from downtown Tucson, this state-of-the-art center is filled with more than 20,000 square feet of trampolines covering the floors-and sometimes walls. Along with open-air jumping, there are also basketball and dodgeball arenas on trampolines for an added twist, along with cameras and giant screens to show off your best jumps. This family trip is sure to have the kids bouncing with excitement-literally.
Prepare for side-splitting entertainment at Laffs Comedy Caffé, featuring nationally known comics. At 2900 E. Broadway Blvd., Ste. 154, Laffs is open Thurs.-Sat. with a $10 general admission and $15 for preferred seating. Don't miss open-mic night on Thurs. with free admission. Must be 21 or older. Phone 520-32-FUNNY or visit laffstucson.com.
For some of Tucson's premier upscale boutiques, national retailers, and unparalleled mountain and city views, head to this 2-story open-air complex for a complete day of shopping. Five unique restaurants-offering everything from sushi to wine flights-and a gourmet grocer complement the impressive selection of stores. At the northwest corner of Campbell Ave. and Skyline Dr., 520-615-2561, laencantadashoppingcenter.com.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION
3:10 to Yuma, 1957. Tin Cup, 1996. Traffic, 2000. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, 2008. What do all these movies (and 100+ more) have in common? They all used Tucson and Southern Arizona-an area renowned for its sunny weather and distinctive landscapes-as movie sets. To learn more about Tucson-based films, casting calls, and screenings, contact the Tucson Film Office (520-770-2151, filmtucson.com). Visit Old Tucson (201 S. Kinney Rd., 520-883-0100, oldtucson.com) for staged gunfights and musical and comedy shows, and to see where Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and other Westerns were filmed. Open seasonally, Oct.-May.
About 40 miles south of Tucson, the Santa Rita Mountains are home to Madera Canyon, one of the prettiest spots around. There are trails for hikers, tables for picnickers, a clear stream, and a variety of trees for all. In the cooler months, you should take a coat or a jacket. Take I-19 south of Tucson to the clearly marked turnoff near Continental Rd. (exit 63), just south of Green Valley. See friendsofmaderacanyon.org.
MEET ME AT MAYNARDS
Get lost in downtown with 200 new friends during this weekly 2-6-mile walk/run. It's noncompetitive, so go at your own pace and enjoy great specials and discounts at local restaurants along the changing route. Meet at Maynards Market & Kitchen (400 N. Toole Ave.) every Mon. night between 5:15 and 5:45 p.m. Flashlights are required. See meetmeatmaynards.com for details.
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. Free public tours take place Mon.-Sat. Take I-19 to exit 92, then watch for signs once you get on the Tohono O'odham reservation. Phone 520-294-2624 or see sanxaviermission.org for more information.
Relive all those memories of the arcade heyday at D&D Pinball (331 E. 7th St., 520-777-4969, danddpinball.com). Dedicated to the preservation of this nostalgic pastime, more than two dozen classic machines line the walls of this Art Deco warehouse just off Fourth Avenue. Sign up for one of the many tournaments to prove you're the ultimate pinball wizard, or grab some friends and have a private pinball party.
MUSEUMS OF FINE ART
The permanent collection of The University of Arizona Museum of Art includes Spanish and Renaissance art, as well as 19th-century American, contemporary, and modernist works. It's on the U of A campus, just south of Speedway Blvd. and east of Park Ave., near the pedestrian underpass. Phone 520-621-7567. Since the completion of a $2.7-million renovation, the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block (downtown at the corner of N. Main Ave. and Alameda St.) has been able to display more of its fine collection and attract larger exhibits, including Southwest Anthems: Landscapes of a Region on display Oct. 4-Feb. 8. The museum renovated the historic Hiram Stevens House into the Palice Pavilion for its permanent collection of pre-Columbian, Spanish Colonial, and Latin American folk art. Phone 520-624-2333.
THE MUSICAL ARTS
The Tucson Symphony Orchestra, under Music Director and Conductor George Hanson, continues to delight audiences with its classical, pops, and masterworks series (520-882-8585, tucsonsymphony.org). You won't want to miss the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church and at the Desert View Performing Arts Center in SaddleBrooke (520-308-6226, sasomusic.org). The U of A School of Music also puts on a number of concerts (520-621-2998). The Arizona Early Music Society hosts concerts from the medieval, Renaissance, and baroque periods Mon. afternoons, including preconcert talks, at St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church (520-721-0846 or azearlymusic.org). Arizona Opera (520-293-4336, azopera.org) presents Cruzar la Cara de la Luna Oct. 18-19.
Here's a great way to get a quick orientation to the city and Southern Arizona-contact one of Tucson's tour companies, Gray Line (520-622-8811, graylinearizona.com) or Reisen Arizona (520-319-8130, reisenarizona.com). A typical day tour will visit "A" Mountain, the downtown historic district, the U of A campus, Sabino Canyon, DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, Old Town Artisans, and Mission San Xavier del Bac.
Get off the highway and take a look at what you've been speeding past. Off-road Hummer and Jeep tours offer fascinating glimpses into the natural history of this exotic desert region. Experienced drivers can fill you in on all the details about the flora and fauna. A visit to historic and prehistoric sites may include a close-up look at Native American petroglyphs or a trip to a ghost town. Some companies will even tailor trips for your group. Contact Southwest Odyssey Tours (520-401-9797, southwestodyssey.com) or Trail Dust Adventures (520-747-0323, traildustadventures.com).
OLD TOWN ARTISANS & MORE
In the historic Presidio district, Old Town Artisans (201 N. Court Ave., 520-623-6024) is a haven for those seeking beautiful arts & crafts or a relaxing meal in a wonderful courtyard at La Cocina Restaurant & Catering. The historic adobe structure is filled with items ranging from prickly-pear-pad spoon rests and handmade gargoyles to dried-flower arrangements, Western wear, and handcrafted jewelry and pottery. Nearby, you'll find historic homes, El Charro Café (520-622-1922)-purportedly the oldest family-owned Mexican restaurant in the nation-and more. It's a great area for shopping and sightseeing.
If you find yourself in Tucson without a bike, consider renting one from Broadway Bicycles (520-296-7819), RC Bicycles (520-624-2285), or Fairwheel Bikes (520-884-9018). Some lovely routes include the Loop along the rivers of Tucson, Old Spanish Trail, Saguaro National Park, Sabino Canyon, and various other paths around town. Pick up a free bicycle map at the Tucson-Pima Public Library downtown (520-594-5500). For more information on renting bikes, as well as some great trails, check with your hotel concierge-and don't forget to wear a helmet.
Established in 1975, the U of A Center for Creative Photography is one of the finest institutions of its kind. "Photo Friday," from 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on the first Friday of each month from Sept.-May, allows patrons to view a sample from the center's permanent collection, including works by Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. The center is located just east of the westernmost U of A pedestrian underpass (park in the garage at Park Ave. and Speedway Blvd.). For current exhibitions, phone 520-621-7968 or visit creativephotography.org.
DOWN ON THE FARM
Find the perfect pumpkin for carving or a delicious pie at the family-owned Buckalew Farms (17000 W. Ajo Way) then try to find your way through the farm's corn maze. If you're looking for a good scare, run from zombies and scream through the night in Terror in the Corn Fri.-Sat. nights during Oct. See buckelewfarm.com or call 520-822-2277 for more information.
In the fast-paced world we live in, it makes sense that yoga has become increasingly popular as a way to unify mind and body. If you're ready to unwind and clarify your life, check out Yoga Oasis (520-322-6142), Yoga Connection (520-323-1222), Tucson Yoga (877-TUC-YOGA), Yoga Flow (520-321-9642), and Barre3 (520-299-1287), which are all open to the public, offer regular classes, and are beginner-friendly.
With shiny fangs and a winding tail, a huge diamondback rattlesnake serves as a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Broadway Blvd. at the Barraza-Aviation Pkwy., just east of downtown Tucson. A hollow stomach serves as the covered bridge-another Tucson success in combining public art with city-improvement projects.
REID PARK ZOO
If you see a young giraffe learning to run across an open field; a polar bear taking a plunge; or ostriches, cranes, and other birds sharing an African grassland with antelope, you must be at Reid Park Zoo. The zoo has carefully created natural habitats and multispecies exhibits-a pleasant setting for animals and visitors alike. Be sure to see the new 7-acre elephant exhibit, too. Located in Reid Park off 22nd St., between Alvernon Way and Country Club Rd. Phone 520-791-4022 or visit tucsonzoo.org.
ROCK CLIMBING & BOULDERING
For those with a penchant for natural adventure, rock climbing provides the ultimate thrill. If hanging high above the ground is not your idea of fun, then bouldering-climbing without ropes and closer to the ground-may be more your speed. Professionals strongly advise classes for beginners. Summit Hut (5045 E. Speedway Blvd., 520-325-1554 and 7745 N. Oracle Rd., 520-888-1000) has an extensive selection of equipment, apparel, guidebooks, and tips on the best climbing destinations. Or if you're ready to start climbing, try Rocks and Ropes (520-882-5924). This indoor rock-climbing gym provides lessons, equipment rentals, and memberships, and also has a pro shop in the building.
2ND SATURDAYS DOWNTOWN
It's a shopping trip, an art walk, and a night of entertainment that celebrates the vibrancy and quirkiness of Tucson. Phone 520-225-9019 or see 2ndsaturdaysdowntown.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.
Are you brave enough to venture into Southern Arizona's abandoned mines and caves, deserted warehouses and buildings, and through forgotten headstones and overgrown cemeteries in search of lost souls? Arizona Ghost Tours (520-432-3308, arizonaghosttours.net) leads visitors through historic mining areas, frontier communities, railroad towns, and Wild West camps from Bisbee to Tucson in search of spirits that once called the area home.
It's hard to imagine Asian-inspired gardens in the heart of the hustle and bustle of the Old Pueblo, but Yume Japanese Gardens (2130 N. Alvernon Way, 520-332-2928, tucsonjapanesegardens.org) hides just off the beaten path. Between October and May, explore the five distinct gardens-such as the Zen-inspired stone and gravel and the strolling pond gardens-all designed to express the traditional visions of the tranquil Japanese culture.
SEE THE LIGHTS OF TUCSON
Drive north on Campbell Ave. and, when you reach Skyline/Sunrise Dr., look south. The glittering lights dusted across the valley reveal the cosmopolitan glow of this once-sleepy desert pueblo.
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.
Southern Arizona is an astronomer's delight and home to some of the most prestigious observatories in the world. Kitt Peak National Observatory has yielded numerous major astronomical discoveries and has the world's largest on-site collection of optical telescopes. Phone 520-318-8000 or see noao.edu. For another starlight adventure, visit Starizona, an astronomy-focused store that hosts free star parties Fri. and Sat. nights. Call 520-292-5010 or go to starizona.com. Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter's SkyNights provide viewings through the largest public telescope in the state, on the summit of Mt. Lemmon. Call 520-626-8122 or log on to skycenter.arizona.edu. UA Science: Flandrau, on campus, is open 7 days a week and offers planetarium shows, hands-on exhibits, a mineral museum, and telescope viewing Thurs.-Sat. Phone 520-621-STAR or visit flandrau.org. For star parties and guided tours of the night sky, look up from Spencer's Observatory. Call 520-578-6085 or go to spencersobservatory.com to reserve your spot under the stars.
STEP IT UP
Forget 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. What began as an effort to save Bisbee's 1,000 historic steps has turned into a unique trek through the former mining community south of Tucson, complete with serenading musicians, arts & crafts booths, merchant discounts, and more. It's always held on the 3rd Sat. in Oct.-this year on Oct. 18. See bisbee1000.org for a map, registration details,Forget 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. What began as an effort to save Bisbee's 1,000 historic steps has turned into a unique trek through the former mining community south of Tucson, complete with serenading musicians, arts & crafts booths, merchant discounts, and more. It's always held on the 3rd Sat. in Oct.-this year on Oct. 18. See bisbee1000.org for a map, registration details, and other information.
STROLL FOURTH AVENUE
Called Tucson's "most eclectic shopping district," the avenue has numerous boutiques, galleries, restaurants, cafés, jewelry stores, furniture stores, and more. Adding to its charm, the historic shopping and dining district hosts free entertainment at various stops along the avenue on the 2nd Sat. of each month. In spring and winter, don't miss the Fourth Avenue Street Fair, with more than 400 artisans plus food and live entertainment. Phone 520-624-5004 or check out fourthavenue.org.
SUMMON YOUR INNER PAINTBRUSH
Let your artistic side flourish. Stop by The Drawing Studio (520-620-0947) for a class in drawing, painting, or printmaking. Try your hand at glassmaking at classes offered by The Sonoran Glass Art Academy (520-884-7814), or create your own tile mosaics at Santa Theresa Tile Works (520-623-1856). For a free program geared toward kids, go to Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block's (520-624-2333) Picture This! Art for Families on the first Sun. of each month.
Sunsets are spectacular; sunrises are for meditative moods. Watch the Santa Catalinas as the first rays of light begin to play across the peaks and canyons. Turn away and look back a few minutes later and the whole scene will have changed-subtly, but beautifully. A good sunrise will set you up for the whole day.
Indulge at local patisseries that whip up decadent desserts in dozens of fanciful flavors. Try Sugar Sweet Bakery's (18 S. Eastbourne Ave.) original creations, including oatmeal-blueberry cookies and Strawberry Jam cake. You can also grab a sweet treat on the road or have them delivered to your door from Trucking Good Cupcakes (track the truck on Twitter, @TruckingGood, or call 520-329-4411).
TEE IT UP
Tucson and Southern Arizona boast a wealth of fine golf courses. See azgolfguides.com for a free copy of the Tucson Golf Guide, which includes comprehensive course listings.
Let Caitlin, The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures' wee resident fairy, guide you through the wonders of this fantastical place. Discover intricate details in the more than 160 miniature houses and room boxes-all part of the museum founder's extraordinary 30-year collection. See one of the oldest miniature homes in the US, from circa 1775; a haunted house filled with witches and misdeeds; a kid-centric area filled with enchanting collectibles; and much more. To celebrate its fifth anniversary this year, admission is free throughout the month of September. Located at 4455 E. Camp Lowell Dr., 520-881-0606, theminitimemachine.org.
Surrounded by rubber bugs, squirting eyeballs, ant farms, dolls, books, and science experiments, you'll have trouble controlling yourself-not to mention any children you might bring to Tucson's favorite local toy stores. Visit Yikes (2930 E. Broadway Blvd., 520-320-5669) for novelty and hard-to-find toys. Mildred and Dildred (2905 E. Skyline Dr., Ste. 186, 520-615-6266) emphasizes imaginative play with toys from around the world. And don't miss Kid's Center (1725 N. Swan Rd., 520-322-5437), an intimate store filled with books, games, and educational toys.
About 70 miles southeast of Tucson is the "town too tough to die," where Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp fought the Clantons at the famous OK Corral. Fuel up at Big Nose Kate's Saloon or The Longhorn Restaurant, and pop in to some of the town's quaint shops and galleries, including The Shady Lady's Closet for Western attire and Arlene's for Native American jewelry, pottery, and rugs. Relive the exciting times of the Old West with historical tours, shoot-outs, reenactments, and a walk through Boothill Graveyard. To get to Tombstone, take I-10 east to Benson and head south on AZ Hwy. 80. Phone the Tombstone Office of Tourism/Bird Cage Theatre at 520-457-3421, or the Tombstone Chamber of Commerce at 888-457-3929, or see tombstonechamber.com.
TUBAC & TUMACACORI
Situated 45 miles south of Tucson off I-19, Tubac was once the site of a Spanish presidio established circa 1750. Today, it's the town "where art and history meet," offering prints, pottery, jewelry, batiks, paintings, restaurants, lodging, golf, and the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park (520-398-2252). Drive south to the town of Tumacacori or walk the 4.5-mile Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail to Tumacacori National Historical Park (520-398-2341) to see a Franciscan mission built in the early 1800s and a garden like the one grown by the padres 200 years ago. Contact the Tubac Chamber of Commerce (520-398-2704, tubacaz.com). See our Tubac special section for a broad selection of galleries, restaurants, shops, and activities.
TUCSON DESERT ART MUSEUM
Tucson's newest art museum dedicates 25,000 square feet to the arts and history of the desert Southwest. Learn about the rich roots of the Sonoran Desert through Navajo weaving ceremonies, Hopi artistry, Mesoamerican artifacts, and a world-class selection of Southwestern paintings. The on-site Education Center also offers master artist workshops to open to the public to help us connect to our desert surroundings through art. Located at 7000 E. Tanque Verde Rd. Visit www.tucsondart.com or call 520-202-3888.
Hungry? Why not try something different and head to one of the independently owned restaurants that make up the Tucson Originals? The name says it all. These unique local eateries help define the flavor of Tucson, with such restaurants as The Parish (6453 N. Oracle Rd., 520-797-1233), Jonathan's Cork (6320 E. Tanque Verde Rd., 520-296-1631), Vero Amore (2920 N. Swan Rd., 520-325-4122), and Eclectic Café (7053 E. Tanque Verde Rd., 520-885-2842). Visit tucsonoriginals.com for a complete list of Tucson Originals restaurants.
The University of Arizona's performing arts series brings leading artists from around the world to Tucson's Centennial Hall. The 2014-15 season features nearly 20 different performances, including Jay Leno Oct. 25, An Evening with Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly Oct. 26, A Conversation with Alec Baldwin Nov. 15, Mannheim Steamroller Dec. 27, Zoppé Family Circus Jan. 9-18, and Kodo One Earth Tour: Mystery Feb. 8. Visit uapresents.org or phone 520-621-3341.
UP, UP & AWAY
Some think it's the only way to see the Tucson Basin and surrounding mountain ranges. Local experts say the best balloon season in Tucson is Oct.-Apr., so now's the time to get airborne. Several ballooning companies offer regular opportunities to drift quietly above the saguaros. Phone Southern Arizona Balloon Excursions (520-624-3599, tucsoncomefly.com), Tucson Balloon Rides (520-235-5355, tucsonballoonrides.com), or Fleur De Tucson Balloon Tours (520-529-1025 or 520-403-8547, fleurdetucson.net).
Some of the nation's premier spa getaways are right here in the Old Pueblo, including multiyear winners of Condé Nast Traveler's Best Spa award Canyon Ranch Health Resort (520-749-9000) and Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa (520-825-4000). Both Westward Look Resort's Sonoran Spa (520-917-2467) and the spa at Loews Ventana Canyon (520-299-2020) provide programs to meet individual guests' needs. Nature-inspired spa services are available to guests at Hashani in the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa (520-791-6117), while Red Door Spa at the Westin La Paloma Resort (520-742-7866) pampers its guests with a rejuvenating sauna. Omni Tucson National Resort (520-877-2367) features the Desert Stone massage, and The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Dove Mountain (520-572-3000) offers personalized blends of indigenous aromatherapy oils. Gadabout SalonSpas (520-325-0000) also offers many relaxing options at various locations around town.