Tucson Attractions

Tucson is located in southern Arizona, 60 miles north of the Mexican border. It’s the 33rd largest city in the United States, and Tucson is Spanish for “at the base of the black hill,” referring to its location near an extinct volcano. Tucson is serviced by major highways which makes it easy for tourists to visit major attractions nearby. Visitors should pack accordingly for a visit to Tucson where average temperatures are above 100 degrees from April through October.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

1950 W San Xavier Rd, Tucson, AZ 85746

Enjoy the architectural detail of Mission San Xavier del Bac; the breathtaking scenery and natural beauty of the mountains; the history and heritage of the Presidio district; the stately cacti in Saguaro National Park; the wet cave system in Kartchner Caverns State Park. Then venture out to view the traditional and contemporary works at the Tucson Art Museum and aeronautical history at the Pima Air & Space Museum.

The history of San Xavier del Bac dates back centuries. Father Eusebio Kino, an Italian missionary, made the first visit to the southern Arizona village of Wa:k — the “village of water” — in 1692. It was one of the largest villages of the Tohono O’odham people, with a population of 800 people.

Santa Catalina mountains

Tucson’s climate varies from the warmth of the 2,400-foot high desert basin to the cool breezes and ski areas of the 9,100-foot elevation of the forests of the Santa Catalina mountains. The City’s dry desert air and winter sunshine make it a popular destination and winter resort. The City is home to the University of Arizona and to Davis Monthan Air force Base. Industries include electronics and missile production.

The Santa Catalina Mountains’ central peak, ascending over 6,000 feet above Tucson and providing relief from the heat of the summer. The summit is accessible via a scenic, winding road that travels through several climate zones, ranging from the Sonoran Desert to cool pine forests.

Sonoran Desert Museum

2021 N Kinney Rd, Tucson, AZ 85743

The Sonoran Desert Museum combines a world-renowned zoo, a natural history museum and a cactus garden depicting the most colorful and diverse of Arizona’s deserts. Explore the museum’s hummingbird aviary, then hike among bighorn sheep while delighting in observing jumping cholla cactus and Western whiptail lizards.

The Arizona – Sonora Desert Museum is the first place we suggest newcomers go, and both adults and children enjoy this completely unique destination. It’s big and mostly outside, so bring your hiking boots.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

2150 N Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ 85712

After a day at the museums, it’s time to relax in the Tucson Botanical Gardens, where you can drift away in a dreamy butterfly garden and meditate among Mexican gold poppies and owl clover wildflowers.

The Tucson Botanical Gardens, located on the Porter property, was named one of the “Top 10 North American Gardens Worth Traveling For” by the Canadian Garden Council.

Mature trees, expertly fostered foliage, specialty gardens, and a magical butterfly exhibit with over 400 butterflies from 11 countries are among the distinguishing features.

Colossal Cave Mountain Park

16721 E Old Spanish Trail, Vail, AZ 85641

Spend some time underground in cool Colossal Cave amid stalactites and stalagmites; marvel at the peaks and valleys on a hike through Sabino Canyon; and summarize the highlights of your natural journey at the famous Biosphere 2, a seven million foot airtight, glass replica of Earth’s environment. Don’t miss Tucson’s trademark blazing sunset streaked with turquoise and pink, and the perfect follow-up: an evening of star-gazing at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Colossal Cave Mountain Park, hidden high in the southern Arizona mountains, is a destination for the adventurous at heart, with its endless Sonoran Desert vistas, rich history, and authentic Wild West vibe.

During an hour-long tour of the cave’s stalactites, stalagmites, and other unique formations, we learned that while Colossal Cave is similar to Kartchner Caverns in many ways, the two caverns also have significant differences. For one thing, water continues to flow into Kartchner Caverns, implying that the cave’s rock formations are growing. Although Colossal Cave no longer has flowing water, it is not technically a “dead” cave — a small amount of monsoon runoff trickled into the cave this summer, the first time in 12 years, according to our guide.

The Arts  Downtown Tucson

Downtown is the center of Tucson’s arts community. Browse through dozens of galleries, explore the museum, catch a show or indie film and see the public art scattered throughout the area. For example, the Tucson Museum of Art & Historic Block has a notable permanent collection including pre-Columbian, Hispanic, Western, Asian and contemporary art, as well as 10-12 changing exhibitions annually. The neighboring Historic Block features five restored homes of Historic El Presidio District.

Tucson Events

Good news travels fast! Several of the city’s longtime annual events draw international audiences. La Fiesta de los Vaqueros is recognized as the largest outdoor mid-winter rodeo in America, and the Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase of Tucson is eagerly anticipated by thousands of rock hounds, jewelers and others who buy, sell and exhibit at the largest event of its kind in the world. Another local favorite, the Tucson International Mariachi Conference, attracts devoted students and fans of this lively musical genre.

Congress Street Tucson

Congress Street is the hub of Downtown’s nightlife, with clubs, galleries, eclectic shops, and historic theatres. Congress has been the retail and entertainment center since the late 1800’s. So named because Arizona’s early territorial legislature, or “congress” — located in Tucson from 1864-1877 — did its real business in the saloons on the street, which was then known as “Calle de la Alegria”, or “Street of Mirth”.

Tucson El Presidio Historic District

The El Presidio neighborhood encompasses the area around the original walled presidio. Downtown Tucson was founded in 1775, when Hugo O’Conor, an Irish mercenary working for the Spanish army, declared that the area including Tucson’s present City Hall was suitable for establishing a permanent military presence. Within the next few years an adobe fortress was constructed, 600 feet long on each side, and for the next several years Tucson was truly a walled city, with citizens living inside the walls, under the protection of the army of New Spain.

Shopping in Tucson

Finding a memento of your trip to Tucson can be just as much fun as being here. Serious shoppers will delight in the broad inventory of practical and whimsical gift items to be found at many homegrown specialty shops and major national retailers. Numerous smaller shopping opportunities are scattered in and around town—offering an inventory of things Southwestern, from museum-quality Native American textiles and jewelry to Mexican folk crafts and cowboy memorabilia. On a larger scale, explore four enclosed major malls , featuring hundreds of well-known stores and restaurants at convenient in-town locations.

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