Editor's note: Tucson Guide's "65 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.
Bisbee Visitor Center
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
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
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.
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
Perhaps Tucson’s most notable or, should we say, most easily noted, landmark is “A” Mountain. Rising just west of downtown, the peak has witnessed the history and growth of the city. Stjukson, meaning “spring at the foot of the black mountain,” was the name of the original Native American settlement in the shelter of the peak. The US Army named the mountain Sentinel Peak for its strategic importance. Since 1916, U of A freshmen have made a yearly tradition of painting the namesake letter “A.” You can drive to the top of the peak to enjoy a panoramic view of the city. Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., 8 a.m–6 p.m. Phone 520-791-5909.
AGUA CALIENTE PARK
Some call it “Tucson’s best-kept secret.” Pima County manages this park, which was once part of a ranch and later a mineral-hot-springs retreat. At this natural habitat, the public can enjoy acres of large trees, shaded picnic areas, several ponds, and beautiful views of the mountains, as well as an art gallery and nature shop in the restored main ranch house. Open 7 a.m.–sunset, the Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente (“hot water”) Regional Park is on the far northeast side of town at 12325 E. Roger Rd. Phone 520-749-3718.
Whether you’re after English teapots, quilts, glass, or period furniture, antiquing in Tucson has its surprises and rewards. With reasonable prices and a wide variety of shops, Tucson’s antique market has everything from collectibles to true antiques. Stop by Morning Star Traders & Antiques (2020 E. Speedway Blvd., 520-881-2112), 22nd Street Antique Mall (5302 E. 22nd St., (520-514-5262), 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, mountain lions, scorpions, rattlesnakes, roadrunners, quail, 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. Call 520-883-2702 or visit desertmuseum.org for hours of operation.
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 Sonoran Glass School (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.
What better activity for a bibliophile than browsing through Tucson’s independent bookstores? The Book Stop (214 N. 4th Ave., 520-326-6661) has thousands of quality used and out-of-print copies, while Bookmans Entertainment Exchange (1930 E. Grant Rd., 520-325-5767; 3733 W. Ina Rd., 520-579-0303; and 6230 E. Speedway Blvd., 520-748-9555) offers a veritable warehouse of used books, magazines, video games, movies, software, and CDs. Antigone Books (411 N. 4th Ave., 520-792-3715) boasts an impressive collection of books by local writers, as well as humorous greeting cards and calendars. Clues Unlimited (3154 E. Ft. Lowell Rd., 520-326-8533) is dedicated almost solely to mysteries, while Mostly Books (6208 E. Speedway Blvd., 520-571-0110) carries everything from audio books and biographies to mysteries and travelogues.
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.
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.
Do ballroom dances, sizzling salsa, or elegant waltzes get your toes tapping? Get your fill of ballroom bliss right here in Tucson. Tucson Dance Academy (2850 W. Ina Rd., Ste. 100, 520-744-6882) hosts dance lessons and community dances for hoofers of all levels of experience. Or check out Shall We Dance (4101 E. Grant Rd., 520-327-7895), which offers instruction in West and East Coast swing and Argentine tango, as well as classics such as mambo, foxtrot, cha-cha, and merengue. American Dance’s (6336 N. Oracle Rd., Ste. 318, 520-219-9556) introductory course gives dancers the opportunity to try a little of everything, from ballroom and Latin to swing and country.
“Land of the standing-up rocks,” home to Geronimo and Cochise—the Chiricahuas have had a long and distinguished list of tenants. Chiricahua National Monument, known for its incredible volcanic rock formations, has more than 20 campsites and 22-plus miles of hiking and horseback-riding trails. While there, you might even spot the elegant trogon (a parrotlike bird). Located 36 miles southeast of Willcox on AZ Hwy. 186. Phone 520-824-3560. While you’re in the area, be sure to visit Portal Reserve, Echo Canyon, and, in the nearby Dragoon Mountains, Cochise Stronghold.
CHOC & AWE
Belgian bittersweet truffles, homemade butter-almond toffee, Western-motif molded chocolates, yuppie sticks, monsoon apples, and pecan buds—all your refined-sugar fantasies come true in Tucson and Southern Arizona’s candy stores, including Chocolate Depot (6541 E. Tanque Verde Rd., Ste. 38, 520-886-9203), Mt. Lemmon General Store & Gift Shop (12856 N. Sabino Canyon Pkwy., 520-576-1468), Chocolate Iguana on 4th (500 N. 4th Ave., 520-798-1211), and Chocoláte (134 Tombstone Canyon Rd., Bisbee, 520-255-4226).
DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW
Even Tucson offers a “white Christmas” this holiday season. Every Fri. and Sat. from Nov. 25 through Dec. 17, 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 520-299-3566 or visit laencantadashoppingcenter.com for more information.
DAY OF THE DEAD
Tucsonans citywide celebrate Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday that pays tribute to ancestors and late loved ones, Oct. 31–Nov. 2. Enjoy music, dancing, colorful altars, skeleton figurines, festive community gatherings, and the always festive All Souls Procession—this year on Nov. 6—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.).
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.
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 (520-886-9428, thegaslighttheatre.com) campy, original melodramas: Frankenstein Sept. 2–Nov. 3 and Elf’d Nov. 17–Jan. 1. If you’d rather have musical revues and concerts with your meal, head to the new Gaslight Theatre Music Hall (520-529-1000, gaslightmusichall.com). Pizza and ice cream, among other treats, are sold at the theaters. Reservations and advance payment are required. On Fri. and Sat. nights, enjoy a 3-course dinner paired with the interactive Murder at the Vampire’s Wedding at Mystery Dinner Theater (520-624-0172, tucsondinnertheater.com) or Murder at the Magic Show at sister property The Mystery & Magic Dinner Theater Playhouse at the Five Palms (520-861-4800, mysterydinner.theater). Reservations required. Call ahead for showtimes and directions.
EL TOUR DE TUCSON
This annual event, which began in 1983, takes place on the Sat. before Thanksgiving (Nov. 19 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 11-mile, 5-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.
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. 24–Oct. 30, 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).
FIND YOUR STYLE
Tucson is rich with boutiques carrying unique pieces like Afghan clutches, Oaxacan barro necklaces, and an array of chic handcrafted outfits. To see the selection yourself and spend an afternoon finding your own local and homemade style, head into Bon Boutique (520-795-2272, bon-boutique.com), MAST (520-495-5920, ilovemast.com), Clique (520-232-9458, cliquetucson.com), or Loop Jean Company (520-219-9785, loopjeancompany.com) and shop ’til you drop.
Tucson has been called a “mini-mecca” for the arts, and many nationally and internationally known artists call it home. Galleries at the northeast and southwest corners of Campbell Ave. and Skyline Dr. hold ArtWalks every Thurs., with extended hours and occasional artist demonstrations, music, food, and wine tastings. On the first Thurs. of each month, Main Gate Square, just west of the university, displays works by local artists. Merchants host wine tastings, and community members perform live shows. Log on to tucsonpimaartscouncil.org for a year-round schedule of art-themed events throughout the city.
Explore scientific wonders found only in Southern Arizona. From native plants and animals at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, to stargazing with The University of Arizona’s Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, you can explore a wealth of scientific discoveries. Don’t miss cave exploration at Kartchner Caverns, too, and Biosphere 2’s climate zones beneath the dome. Visit seetucson.org.
Locals have always cherished the historical significance of Tucson, and in the past few years the National Register of Historic Places has added 8 downtown sites to its list. These historically significant properties—most of which stand along Congress St.—include the Rialto Building and Rialto Theatre (300–320 E. Congress St. and 318 E. Congress St., respectively), Hotel Congress (311 E. Congress St.), the First Hittinger Block (116 E. Congress St.), and The Fox Tucson Theatre (17 W. Congress St.). Also added to the list are the Valley National Bank Building (27 S. Stone Ave.), Arizona Hotel (35 N. 6th Ave.), and Coronado Hotel (402 E. 9th St.). For a detailed downtown map and a copy of the Tucson Official Travel Guide, stop by the Tucson Visitor Center at 100 S. Church Ave.
At the U of A, the Arizona State Museum (520-621-6302) exhibits pottery and other artifacts, and presents important facts about the ways of life of prehistoric and modern Native Americans. The nearby Arizona History Museum (949 E. 2nd St., 520-628-5774), established when Arizona was a territory, features period rooms, the Mining Hall mine-shaft replica, Geronimo’s belongings, and hands-on exhibits. The Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum (5 Copper Queen Plaza, Bisbee, 520-432-7071) has a permanent interactive exhibit on the underground and open-pit copper mining that began in Bisbee in the early 1880s. Learn about the history of Tucson’s Jewish community at the Jewish History Museum (564 S. Stone Ave., 520-670-9073). Located inside the first synagogue building in Arizona, the museum hosts exhibits, talks, and programming for all faiths.
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. 4–6 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).
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.
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 filming locations. 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.
MAIN GATE SQUARE
Searching for some U of A gear—a hat, T-shirt, or maybe a pair of Wildcat flip-flops? Find collegiate gear and much more at this bustling hub of university students, faculty, visitors, early risers, and night owls who gather at the many coffee shops, restaurants, and pubs after a day of shopping (or studying). Located within walking distance of the museums, sports facilities, and attractions on campus, Main Gate Square (on University Blvd. between Park and Euclid Aves.) features everything from banking and BBQ to salons, chic clothing, specialty stores, and even a hotel.
MAKE YOUR ESCAPE
Imagine being locked in a room with your family, friends, and a mystery to solve. At Escape Room Tucson (3542 N. Geronimo Ave., 520-887-2583, escaperoomtucson.com), that’s exactly what you can expect. After the door is closed, participants must work together and use only the items in the room to solve the puzzle and escape within 60 minutes. With four different experiences to choose from—including an eerie alien investigation or the ultimate hangover—each room evokes its own personality and difficulty level. Make sure to call ahead and schedule your adventure in advance for proper puzzle preparation.
MEET ME AT MAYNARDS
Get lost downtown with 200 new friends during this weekly 2–4-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. Call 520-294-2624 or see sanxaviermission.org for more information and a mass schedule.
Drive the former Tucson-to-Casa Grande highway, along the historic Miracle Mile District—replete with a fine collection of illuminated, vintage neon signs. Be sure to stop at Monterey Court Studio Galleries and Café (505 W. Miracle Mile, at 14th Ave.), a 1930s motor court renovated into eclectic galleries and shops. Dine at the café and enjoy live music on the courtyard stage every weekend.
MT. LEMMON RISING
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. Summer-haven, a quaint village near the top and a longtime Tucson favorite, suffered severe fire damage in the 2003 Aspen Wildfire but is almost completely rebuilt. A little farther up the mountain lies Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley, the site of many outdoor festivals and the closest ski slope to the Old Pueblo. Occasional snowstorms may limit access temporarily. Call 520-576-1400 or see skithelemmon.com before planning your trip.
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 The New Westward: Trains, Planes, and Automobiles that Move the Modern West, on display Oct. 15–Feb. 12. 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. And while you’re there, be sure to visit the John K. Goodman Pavilion of Western Art. Phone 520-624-2333. And don’t miss Café à la C’Art (520-628-8533) for something to snack on.
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 Madama Butterfly Jan. 28–29.
Here’s a great way to get quickly orientated 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.
NO PASSPORT REQUIRED
Travel to the Far East, Latin America, Europe, and beyond at The Lost Barrio, an enclave of international and regional shops tucked in former warehouses along Park Ave., just south of Broadway Blvd. and The University of Arizona. It’s a perfect place for holiday decor—from tin ornaments and pewter candleholders to luminarias and nativity scenes—and furniture and accessories you’ll want to ship home, such as stone Buddhas, hand-painted Mongolian chests, and refurbished antiques from 18th- and 19th-century Europe.
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 tours for your group. Contact Southwest Odyssey Tours (505-672-8840, 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. 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 inventor of the chimichanga—and more. It’s a great area for shopping and sightseeing.
REID PARK ZOO
If you see a young giraffe learning to run across an open field; a grizzly bear going for a swim; or ostriches, cranes, and other birds sharing an African grassland with gazelle, 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. The South American exhibit, for example, houses jaguars, bears, and capybaras. Don’t miss the zebras, tigers, lions, and new 7-acre elephant exhibit, too. Located in Reid Park off 22nd St., between Alvernon Way and Country Club Rd. Open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Special-event hours and admission fees vary. Call 520-791-4022 or visit tucsonzoo.org.
Rodeo Drive, 42nd St., the Loop—every town has its own particular street or roadway that defines the city. In Tucson, it has to be River Rd. The gently winding east-west route takes you from one end of the city to the other; many of the plants and trees along the way are identified by signs legible from your vehicle. With the mountains on one side and the city panorama on the other, it’s a wonderful introduction to the spirit of Tucson.
2ND SATURDAYS DOWNTOWN
It’s a shopping trip, an art walk, a night of entertainment, and a Tucson happening that celebrates the vibrancy and quirkiness of life in the Old Pueblo. Stores, galleries, theaters, and restaurants open their doors; and street vendors, artisans, performers, and musicians pop up on almost every corner. It happens 5–10:30 p.m. through Nov. and 2–8 p.m. Dec.–Mar. on the 2nd Sat. of each month along Congress St. Call 520-339-1744 or see 2ndsaturdaysdowntown.com.
Enjoy narrated tours through the place where mammoths roamed, ancient Hohokam people made irrigation dams, pony soldiers discovered swimming holes, and the Civilian Conservation Corps built bridges and cut hiking trails. Trams run daily, with multiple stops, including one at the trailhead of a lovely 5.2-mile round-trip hike to Seven Falls. Evening shuttles run (by reservation) just before each full moon Apr.–June and Sept.–Nov. When there’s water in the creek, a round-trip trail from the lower portion takes you up to cool, clear pools. Swim, laze, or play lizard on the rocks. Be sure to stop by the visitors center located on N. Sabino Canyon Rd. Fees for parking and the tram. Phone ahead for tram schedules and stops at 520-749-2861. For reservations, call 520-749-2327.
The jolly ol’ man himself makes a scheduled stop at the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum at the historic train depot in downtown Tucson on Dec. 17. Bend Santa’s ear next to the restored 1900s locomotive parked trackside. He’ll be there from 12 to 5 p.m. along with holiday-themed activities, including a movie screening. Call 520-623-2223 or see tucsonhistoricdepot.org.
If your life is too rooted in the practical and mundane, skydiving centers around Tucson are ready to show you how exciting it can be to plunge through the air after stepping out of an airplane soaring as high as 13,000 feet above the earth. Several diving options are available, including tandem, accelerated free-fall, and static-line jumps. All centers have certified instructors and require an initial training session. Phone Desert Skydiving Center (623-691-0440) or Skydive Arizona (877-313-JUMP). SkyVenture Arizona (888-BODY-FLY) offers classes for adults and children (ages 3 and up), who free-fall in an indoor skydiving-simulation tunnel.
SOME LIKE IT HOT
For authentic Mexican food, beautiful scenery, and some of the hottest salsa in the Southwest, follow the fiery flavors of Arizona’s Salsa Trail. Beginning in Safford, about 11⁄2 hours east of Tucson, the trail has stops at 12 family-run restaurants, a country store, and a tortilla factory in 8 small towns along US Hwy. 70 (also known as the Old West Highway). In Sept., SalsaFest hosts salsa-making competitions, food demos, and a daring jalapeño-eating contest. Think you can handle the heat? See salsatrail.com for a map and directions, or call 888-837-1841 before heading out.
ST. AUGUSTINE CATHEDRAL
Built in 1896 and refurbished in 1968, the cathedral’s high interior, tall narrow windows, and sweeping dome of wooden slats are reminiscent of European church architecture. The exterior is a wonderful sight at dawn, dusk, or night. Every Sun. at 8 a.m. the clergy conduct mass in Spanish accompanied by live mariachi music. Visitors of all faiths are welcome. Located at 192 S. Stone Ave., 520-623-6351.
STEP IT UP
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. 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. 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. It’s always held on the 3rd Sat. in Oct.—this year on Oct. 15. 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 shops, 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 Sonoran Glass School (520-884-7814), or create your own tile mosaics at Santa Theresa Tile Works (520-623-1856). For a free program geared toward kids ages 6–12, 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.
Looking for a classier alternative to bar hopping? Sip some vinos created right here in Tucson at Bear Track Winery (520-269-0178) or sample wines from around the world—all without needing your passport—at CataVinos (520-323-3063). Make a day trip out of wine tasting and fill your glass in the tasting rooms scattered throughout Sonoita and Elgin. Popular stops include Kief-Joshua Vineyards (520-455-5582), Charron Vineyards (520-762-8585), Sonoita Vineyards (520-455-5893), and Wilhelm Family Vineyards (520-455-9291). To get there, drive east on I-10, then head south on AZ Hwy. 83 to AZ Hwy. 82.
What better way to get to know a place than tasting its food? Come hungry and get a taste of Tucson with Tucson Food Tours. On this walking tour of six local restaurants in Tucson’s vibrant downtown, guides will point out architectural highlights, cultural sites, and unique shops along the way. Tours must be booked at least 48 hours in advance and tickets sell out quickly. Phone 520-477-7YUM or visit foodtourstucson.com to schedule your foodie outing.
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 Toys (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 into some of the town’s quaint shops and galleries, including The Shady Lady’s Closet for Western attire and Arlene’s Gallery for Native American jewelry and pottery. 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.
TRAIL DUST TOWN
This collection of shops and eateries is a little slice of the 19th-century West, with boardwalks, an old-fashioned town square lit by the glow of authentic gas streetlamps, shaded park benches, and a gazebo in the middle of it all. Enjoy all this as well as the Dragoon Street Wild, Wild West Stunt Shows. You’ll also find the vintage Allan Herschell Fiesta del Presidio Carousel—the oldest operational carousel in the city. You’ll be able to ride the Trail Dust Town Railroad (a replica of the 1863 C. P. Huntington narrow-gauge train), visit the Museum of the Horse Soldier, pan for gold at Gabby’s Gulch, and grab a cowboy dinner at Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse. At 6541 E. Tanque Verde Rd., near the Grant Rd. intersection. Phone 520-296-4551 or see traildusttown.com.
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). On the second Friday of every month during Twilight on Tubac, enjoy an evening visiting unique galleries and shops open late with the accompaniment of live music. 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 MOUNTAIN PARK
More than 22,000 acres of lush Sonoran Desert and mountains, offering astounding sunsets, numerous hiking and equestrian trails, mountain biking, and picnic areas, lie just 14 miles west of town in Tucson Mountain Park. The park is also a first-rate camping and RV destination, with spaces available on a first-come, first-served basis. The park is home to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Old Tucson, and the popular Gates Pass overlook. Phone 520-724-5000.
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 specialize in regionally inspired dishes that not only make your mouth water but also put your mind at ease, because Tucson Originals give back to the community that inspires them. Tucson Originals help define the flavor of Tucson, with such restaurants as Brother John’s Beer, Bourbon & BBQ (1801 N. Stone Ave., 520-664-5225), The Oink Café (7131 E. Broadway Blvd., 520-296-6465), Tavolino (2890 E. Skyline Dr., 520-531-1913), and Ghini’s French Caffe (1803 E. Prince Rd., 520-326-9095). 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 2016–17 season features 30 different performances, including Chaka Khan Oct. 14, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra Nov. 2, The Sound of Music Nov. 29–Dec. 4, Dirty Dancing Jan. 24–29, and The Peking Acrobats Feb. 12. Visit uapresents.org or call 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, such as Southern Arizona Balloon Excursions (520-624-3599, tucsoncomefly.com), Tucson Balloon Rides (520-235-5355, tucsonballoonrides.com), or Fleur De Tucson Balloon Tours (520-403-8547, fleurdetucson.net).
ZIP IT UP
Get your adrenaline pumping and soar through the Sonoran Desert with Arizona Zipline Adventures (35406 S. Mt. Lemmon Rd., 520-308-9350, ziparizona.com) in nearby Oracle. Nestled in the Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona’s longest eco zip line tour offers 5 zip lines ranging in length from 300 to 1,500 feet so participants can view the desert from a number of perspectives. Light hiking between the spans lets visitors see the beautiful landscape up-close.