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.
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.
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.
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
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
TUCSON DESERT ART MUSEUM AND FOUR CORNERS GALLERY
The Storytellers Stories woven in wool, painted on canvas, cast in silver and turquoise, fired in clay: TDART unfolds the stories of the great Southwest through art. The museum's world-class Navajo textile collection whispers ancient legends, entwined in wool. Master painters Maynard Dixon, Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt, Ed Mell, and Arturo Chávez evoke the fabled allure of land and sky. Discover the lore of Mesoamerican sculpture, Navajo sand painting, and early cartography. The museum often presents special events to share the saga of the Southwest through all forms of creative media. Contemporary Southwestern artists continue the tradition, setting their stories in paint, pottery, precious metal, and stones. Help sustain our art heritage at the museum's Four Corners Gallery; gallery sales support the non-profit museum. The Tucson Desert Art Museum and Four Corners Gallery is located at 7000 E. Tanque Verde Rd. Hours are Wed.–Sun., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Visit us on the web at www.tucsondart.com and find us on Facebook.
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
Splash in to SEALIFE Arizona and come nose-to-nose with thousands of sea creatures! From the humble sea star to the majestic stingray, every step will reveal something new. To get any closer you would have to get wet! SEA LIFE Arizona is located at Arizona Mills Mall in Tempe. 480-478-7600, visitsealife.com/Arizona
ROOSTER COGBURN OSTRICH RANCH
Voted one of the best roadside attractions in America. Feed the ostrich, deer, miniature donkeys, goats, and lorikeets and see all our new exhibits. On weekends, Monster Truck Tours show you ostrich, the desert, 4-wheelin' adventures, and ostrich fishin'. Affordable fun for all ages! Located on I-10 and exit 219 at Picacho Peak. Visit us online for hours at roostercogburn.com or call 520-466-3658.
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 sure to delight all ages. Drop the kids off for a few hours at clubHOUSE, our weekday, summer afternoon program beginning in June. Kids will play games and create something to take home. Check the website or call for details. Open Tues.–Sat. 9 a.m.–4 p.m. and Sun. noon–4 p.m. 4455 E. Camp Lowell Dr., 520-881-0606
PIMA COUNTY FAIR
The Pima County Fair, April 16– 26, is one of Tucson's oldest and largest annual events with nearly 250,000 visitors! Cost for admission is only $8, and fairgoers can enjoy concerts, motorized events, interactive exhibits, bull riding, animal attractions, and car shows, plus equestrian events....all included in 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 corn dogs, funnel cakes, fried ice cream, and curly fries! Join the Pima County Fair social network for discounts, contests, and meet-and-greet opportunities! 520-762-FAIR, pimacountyfair.com
ICES & CREAMS
Tucson summers demand the occasional relief of a frozen confection. Sample sherbets, gelato, snow cones, frozen yogurts, and milkshakes at the many malls, shops, and restaurants in the area, and don't forget the shaved-ice cones, called raspados, in dozens of flavors from roadside vendors in Tucson's barrios. Just be sure to savor the delicious frozen treats before they melt all over your hand!
Close to 7,000 feet in elevation, Kitt Peak offers a cool summer getaway. Open daily 9 a.m.–4 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, by preregistration, run nightly except July 15–Aug. 31 due to monsoons. Info at noao.edu, 520-318-8726.
The U of A campus boasts a collection of plants from all over the world. Download maps directing you to the highlights or schedule a tour at arboretum.arizona.edu.
Tucson's most notable, or should we say most easily noted, landmark is "A" Mountain. Since 1916, U of A freshmen paint the letter "A" yearly. Enjoy a view of the city from the top.
CHOCOLATE IGUANA ON 4TH
Come visit Tucson's most unique family owned café, Chocolate Iguana on 4th (500 N. 4th Ave., 520-798-1211). You'll love our gourmet salads and sandwiches, made-from-scratch scones and pastries, sinfully delicious desserts, and jars of candy from around the world.
TAKE IT OUTSIDE
Warm nights, sunsets, starry skies—these are some things that keep residents here yearround. Enjoy dusky moments at Gates Pass, "A" Mountain, Mt. Lemmon, and more.
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 BIKE TOURS
From October through May, hop on a bicycle and cruise the historic barrios at an easy, relaxed pace. Ride your steel horse to where Wyatt Earp avenged his brother's death, then admire a sprawling street mural. Experience history, culture, and variety. Get rolling and pedal the Old Pueblo! 520-488-4446, TucsonBikeTours.com
BEST ART MUSEUM
Named "Best Art Museum" 12 years in a row by Tucson Weekly, the Tucson Museum of Art connects art to life by inspiring discovery, creativity, and cultural understanding through meaningful and engaging experiences. Showcasing exhibitions from internationally renowned artists and works from the Southwest region, view awe-inspiring modern and contemporary art, art of the American West, and Latin American art. The museum also features educational and participatory programs for the community and visitors from around the world. With an award-winning café, children's creative space, and more than 100 events per year, the Tucson Museum of Art is the premiere arts organization in Southern Arizona. tucsonmuseumofart.org
Come experience The University of Arizona's Biosphere 2 and see why it was named by Time Life Books as one of the 50 must-see wonders of the world! Visitors from all over the world journey here to explore Earth's largest research center dedicated to researching future life on our planet. Bio 2 makes big ideas happen, like the just-completed massive mountain hill slopes of the new "Landscape Evolution Observatory" experiment, which explores water movement. Bio 2 is a transforming— not conforming—21st-century innovation center with behind-the-scenes tours that will inspire all visitors. Highlights of the tour include an intro movie, multi-media exhibits, and access to see all of Biosphere 2, which is a reflection of Biosphere 1 at a size of more than 3 football fields—in essence, a mini-world! Beneath 6,500 panes of glass live a rainforest, coastal fog desert, marsh, savannah, million-gallon ocean, and much more. It's a remarkable place for discovery and imagination. Located at a cool elevation of almost 4,000 feet at the base of Tucson's Santa Catalina Mountains, just north of Tucson on Oracle Rd./AZ Hwy. 77 at mile marker 96.5. Guided tours daily. Information: 520-838-6200, biosphere2.org.
DISCOVER THE UNIVERSE
Graham County is home to the educational Discovery Park in Safford and Mount Graham International Observatory sitting high atop Mount Graham. Expand your knowledge about the sun, the moon, and the stars then explore the pristine natural surroundings for hiking, birding, and more. 888-837-1841, VisitGrahamCounty.com
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.
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 a cool 47°. 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.
This little village's claim to fame is revealed by its name. Just below the summit of 9,157-ft. Mt. Lemmon, Summerhaven offers cool mountain air, mountain streams, views, and the sound of gently rustling leaves. Picnic, hike, bike, ride the ski lift, eat homemade fudge, or savor delicious desserts at the Cookie Cabin. Follow Catalina Hwy. north through Coronado National Forest. ARIZONA'S SALSA TRAIL Graham County is home to some of the best Mexican food in the state and the annual SalsaFest in Safford Town Square in September— home grown fun for everyone! The Salsa Trail offers great food, friendly people, and more than four million acres of public land. 888-837-1841, salsatrail.com
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!
AGUA CALIENTE PARK
Some call this park "Tucson's best-kept secret." Picnic on the shores of several ponds, then visit the art gallery and nature shop. Open 7 a.m.–sunset, the Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente ("hot water") Regional Park is at 12325 E. Roger Rd.
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.
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 onsite 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.
THE ARIZONA TRAIL
Imagine the sights you'll see on this epic journey throughout the Grand Canyon State. 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.
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.–Fri.
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.
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 ROSE GARDEN
Hundreds of rosebushes have brought this garden national acclaim. The park is between Alvernon Way and Country Club Rd., just north of 22nd St. Roses bloom Mar.–May.
Explore the scientific wonders found only in Southern Arizona. See native plants and animals on display then go spelunking under the sunsoaked desert. seetucson.org
Local "thrift-anistas" are always on the lookout for daily deals. From low-cost admission to local attractions to 2-for-1 restaurant deals, save some cash at tucsononthecheap.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. See 2ndsaturdays downtown.com for events.
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.
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—just look down and follow the turquise line painted on downtown's sidewalks. Pick up a free map at the Visit Tucson's Visitor Center, 100 S. Church Ave., or download it at tucsonpresidio.com.
When Sunday rolls around, pamper yourself with brunch at a world-class resort or fine restaurant, with ice carvings, fresh-squeezed juice, smoked salmon, makeyour- own omelettes, Belgian waffles, and much more. Check our "Desert Dining Guide" for an excellent selection.
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
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 a comprehensive listing of courses.
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!
The nationally acclaimed University of Arizona Poetry Center has more than 60,000 books, periodicals, and audio/video recordings in its exhilarating home at 1508 E. Helen St.
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 north of Tucson on Oracle Rd., this park offers the best views of the canyons, cliffs, domes, and spires on the north side of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Walk the Romero Ruin Interpretive Trail to the archaeological site of an ancient Hohokam village. Special events happen at the park yearround, such as bird walks, guided hikes, and concerts. Camping, biking, and hiking are available. Phone 520-628-5798.
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.
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.
A winding uphill drive west on Speedway Blvd. brings you, at its apex, to Gates Pass—and panoramic views of Tucson to the east and Saguaro National Park to the west.
An exhibit at the Arizona State Museum, Paths of Life: American Indians of the Southwest, takes a look at contemporary native cultures. 520-621-6302, statemuseum.arizona.edu
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.
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 library, featuring postal history and Civil War books, is open 8 a.m.–3 p.m. Mon.–Fri. Phone 520-623-6652 or see postalhistoryfoundation.org.
Late- summer rainstorms are glorious. Cloud-gaze throughout the day, then relish their power as they dump buckets of rain—cooling the air and creating spectacular sunsets.
COOL STATE PARKS
It's no secret that Tucson's summers are hot, but what isn't as well known is that there are ways to escape the heat while exploring fascinating state parks. View incredible stalagmites and stalactites deep underground at Kartchner Caverns State Park, where it's a comfortable 72 degrees year-round. Splash around in the refreshing water at Patagonia Lake State Park, where you can boat, fish, or swim, or head up to higher elevations at Catalina State Park where the temperatures plummet as you ascend. Call 520-586-2283 or visit azstateparks.com for more information.