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.
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.
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
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.
Tucson's "boneyard" has served as a backdrop in numerous videos and movies. If you've missed its cinematic appearances, now might be the time to see it in person. Acres of planes and helicopters laid to rest by the government can be viewed from Kolb Rd., south of Broadway Blvd., and retired planes are also on the list of things to see on the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base tour. Call the Pima Air & Space Museum at 520-574-0462 for tour schedules.
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), Copper Country Antique Mall (5055 E. Speedway Blvd., 520-326-0167), or Darlene Morris Antiques (2940 N. Swan Rd. #128, 520-322-9050).
Calling all bargain hunters! Two local "thrift-anistas" are on the lookout for daily deals, free or low-cost activities, dining discounts, and more. From complimentary admission at local attractions and historic sites to 2-for-1 restaurant deals, find something that interests you at tucsononthecheap.com.
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.
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).
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).
Ah, a day at the races—but the only horses here are running under bright, streaking metal hoods at Tucson Speedway, 2 miles south of I-10 off the Houghton Rd. exit. This 3/8-mile asphalt oval (near Pima County Fairgrounds) hosts races and special events throughout the year. Call 520-762-1600 or visit tucsonspeedway.com. Keep your motor runnin' at Southwestern International Raceway, also near Pima County Fairgrounds. This drag-racing track is open year-round and promises a good time and some fast action. Phone 520-762-9700 or visit raceswir.com. Take the wheel at Inde Motorsports Ranch in Willcox, 80 miles east of Tucson. For $1,200 per day, driving professionals will teach you how to maneuver around this 21-turn road course. Call 520-384-0796 or see indemotorsports.com.
The mountain country of southeastern Arizona can keep the backpacker happily busy for a lifetime. The Catalinas, the Santa Ritas, the Rincons, the Santa Teresas, the Tumacacoris, the Huachucas, the Pinaleños, the Chiricahuas—are all virtually in Tucson's backyard. You can find trail and topographic maps at local stores, including Summit Hut (5045 E. Speedway Blvd., 520-325-1554, and 7745 N. Oracle Rd., 520-888-1000) and Tucson Map and Flag Center (3239 N. 1st Ave., 520-887-4234).
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 (3146 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.
BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON
Strange things happen when there's a full moon, and Glow, at the town of Oracle, 35 miles north of Tucson, is no exception. Illuminated sculpture, light projections, installations, and live entertainment—including fire dancing—make up the surreal, abstract nighttime experience. Don glow-in-the-dark clothing and carry a flashlight or glow stick during this event Sept. 19 and 26 and Oct. 17 and 24 from 7 to 11 p.m. at Triangle L Ranch. Drive north on Oracle Rd., which turns into AZ Hwy. 77, and pass the turnoff to the town of Oracle. Take the next left onto Rockcliff Blvd. and look for parking signs. See trianglelranch.com or call 520-623-6732.
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.
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.
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., 520-886-9203), Sabino Artisan Chocolates (10110 N. Oracle Rd., Ste. 140, 520-989-0466), Chocolate Iguana on 4th (500 N. 4th Ave., 520-798-1211), and Chocoláte (134 Tombstone Canyon Rd., Bisbee, 520-432-3011).
COFFEES & TEAS
Nothing is better on a chilly winter evening than a leisurely cup of coffee or tea—or on a winter morning or afternoon, for that matter. Indulge in any of the following wonderful cafés and tearooms: Savaya Coffee Market, Bentley's House of Coffee & Tea, Coffee X Change, Cup Café, Ike's Coffee & Tea, Chocolate Iguana on Fourth, Epic Cafe, Canyon Café (at Loews Ventana Canyon), Tohono Chul, Chantilly Tea Room, Arizona Inn, and more. These spots also serve excellent food and desserts. Check out our "Desert Dining Guide" for more ideas.
DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW
Even Tucson offers a "white Christmas" this holiday season. Every Fri. and Sat. from Nov. 27 through Dec. 19, 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.
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. 7–8—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 $33 or $49 per meal at restaurants statewide. That's enough to make your head spin...and whet your appetite. During Arizona Restaurant Week, held Sept. 18–27, 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.
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.
DERBY OR DIE
Tough women dominate at the Tucson Roller Derby as teams like the Furious Truckstop Waitresses take on the Copper Queens in this full-contact sport. Matches are held at Bookman's Event Center (5120 S. Julian Dr., near I-10 and Irvington Road) on Sat. evenings Sept.–May. But don't miss a host of other events featuring one of the best leagues in the nation, including monthly charity flat-track bouts and the annual Wheelie awards. Check out tucsonrollerderby.com or call 520-390-1454 for more information and a schedule of events.
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.
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 $45; discounts available. Phone 520-615-5299 or visit carnivalofillusion.com.
EL TOUR DE TUCSON
This annual event, which began in 1983, takes place on the Sat. before Thanksgiving (Nov. 21 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. See it Nov. 21–Mar. 20 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. Plus, don't miss the feature film, multimedia displays, bookstore, and café. 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. 26–27 to Oct. 24–25, 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.
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 (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.
FINGER ROCK TRAIL
When you look north from just about anywhere in Tucson, you can see a spire-shaped rock that looks like a pointing finger. Known as "Finger Rock" because of its shape, it extends from what resembles a closed fist. You reach the trailhead by driving to the north end of Alvernon Way from Skyline Dr. (east of the fork at Sunrise Dr.). The climb is 4.5 miles long, and steep—some say the most difficult hike in Tucson. Make sure to bring plenty of water.
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.
At the U of A, the Arizona State Museum (520-621-6302) exhibits pottery and 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, 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. 6–8 in downtown Tucson at the Tucson Convention Center.
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.
All dressed up with no place to go? Try Southern Arizona's many antidotes—musicals, comedies, dramas, Broadway hits, and more. This winter see Gene Kelly: The Legacy Jan. 30–31 at the Invisible Theatre (520-882-9721). Live Theatre Workshop (520-327-4242) offers Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!), a madcap romp through the holiday season, Nov. 19–Dec. 27. And Arizona Theatre Company (520-622-2823) presents Murder for Two Nov. 29–Dec. 20.
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, take a coat or a jacket. Take I-19 south of Tucson to the Continental Rd. (exit 63) turnoff, just south of Green Valley. See friendsofmaderacanyon.org.
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.
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 Western Heroes of Pulp Fiction: Dime Novel to Pop Culture on display Oct. 24–Feb. 14. 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.
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. Tooley's Café offers healthy, Southwest-style breakfast and lunch options.
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.
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. This eye-catching structure, designed by artist Simon Donovan, won an award from the Federal Highway Administration as one of the nation's best road projects. 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 grizzly 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. The South American exhibit has 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.
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 5:30–10:30 p.m. through Nov. and 2–7 p.m. Dec.–Mar. on the 2nd Sat. of each month along Congress St. Call 520-339-1744 or see 2ndsaturdaysdowntown.com.
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. 12. Bend Santa's ear next to the restored 1900s locomotive parked trackside. He'll be there from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with other holiday-themed activities, including a movie screening. Call 520-623-2223 or see tucsonhistoricdepot.org.
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.
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.
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 (800-441-5867) 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 11 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.
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 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. 17. 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.
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).
Looking for a classier alternative to bar hopping? Sip some vinos created right here in Tucson at Bear Track Winery (520-975-0050) 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.
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. Open Tues.–Sat. 9 a.m.–4 p.m.; Sun. noon–4 p.m. Admission is $9, $8 for seniors and military, $6 for children ages 4–17, and free for children 3 and younger. 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 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 Allen 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 first Friday of every month during Friday Nightfall on Tubac Road, 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 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 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 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 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 2015–16 season features nearly 20 different performances, including The Phantom of the Opera Oct. 21–Nov. 1, Shen Wei Dance Arts Nov. 22, Joshua Redman & The Bad Plus Dec. 4, Monterey Jazz Festival Jan. 17, and The Book of Mormon Feb. 16–21. 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 (520-529-1025 or 520-403-8547, fleurdetucson.net).
WALK THE PRESIDIO 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, Armory Park, the Pima County Courthouse, and Fox Tucson Theatre. A turquoise-colored line keeps walkers on track, while plaques along the way provide historical information. Pick up a free Presidio Trail map at the Tucson Visitor Center, 100 S. Church Ave., or call 520-624-1817 for more information.
WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
View snapshots of Tucson's history as you walk through the Fourth Avenue underpass and into downtown. The Tucson Portrait Project consists of mosaic panels featuring 6,000 black-and-white photographs—a cross section of Tucsonans displayed on 4-by-4-inch tiles. In 2008, local designers Gary Patch and Darren Clark spent 6 months snapping shots of people at various community events. Visit tucsonportraitproject.com.