Jump to Contents:
- When They Were Young
- 7. Southern Arizona Attractions
- As They Became Teenagers
Since they were young, our four grandchildren have been visiting us here in Tucson twice a year (Spring or Summer and always Christmas) for a week or three at a time. They are, in descending order of age: Jessie, Colby, Jon & Morgan.
I can’t tell you specifically what fun things you can do with your kids. Depends on age, ability, and interests. But I can tell you what our grandchildren enjoyed over the years.
I asked them what they enjoyed most. Here is their list of favorites. This website has VIDEOS related to almost all of them.
When They Were Young
Strange plants and stranger critters. Young children have a fascination for the strange, the dangerous, and the mysterious. Thus, they were particularly intrigued by rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, and other creepy-crawlies.
They also enjoyed the program called “Live & On The Loose” where they got up close and personal with unique and deadly creatures, such as the Gila Monster and Mexican Beaded Lizard. The staff is particularly good at explaining each animal’s unique characteristics and what to do should they get bit by one.
Also, two other perennial hits at the Desert Museum: (1) the dark, mysterious cave with meandering crawl holes and many underground exhibits, including exotic, stunningly beautiful Arizona minerals; and (2) the Raptor Free Flight Program, where they stood in awe as hawks, falcons, and owls swooped untethered right above their heads. Amazing!
Visit the Desert Museum website.
We generally take the tram to the end (Stop #9), walk down to Stop #7, then make our way to the creek where the kids can play in the stream and pools of water. No matter the season, hiking Sabino Creek and Bear Canyon to Seven Falls is delightful. Sometimes we take a picnic lunch. Great fun! Watch our video on Sabino Canyon and then visit the Website. Note: the tram isn’t expensive, but they only accept cash.
On the weekends and major holidays, Tombstone Vigilantes and other groups recreate the Old West in the middle of Allen Street, complete with 1880′s fashion shows, desperado hangings, and loud, raucous gunfights. Great fun!
The kids particularly enjoyed riding in the stagecoach, lunch at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, and the Old Courthouse – a fine museum that offers a realistic picture of historic Tombstone. For those planning a visit to Tombstone for the first time, we always recommend a Walking Tour with Dr. Jay.
Here they learned the techniques of safe rock climbing before they set out to conquer a hoodoo on the road to Mt. Lemmon. Generally, an hour of climbing walls was all it took to wear them out. But they loved it and always want to go back. The staff at Rocks & Ropes is very good about safety and each child is given thorough instructions before being allowed more than 5 feet off the ground. Rocks and Ropes hosts outings to cliffs such as Mt. Lemmon as well.
5. Learning About Guns
Many an hour was spent shooting tin cans with their BB gun on our property before they were old enough to handle the big guns. I’m not a gun nut. Nor do I support NRA ideology. But I think children should learn gun safety and shooting skills. Thus, I have taken them to Marksman on Prince Road for a five-hour class on firearms and indoor shooting range time with a professional instructor.
6. Off Road Adventures
When we first moved here, we rented ATV’s and the kids rode around for hours. What great fun they had.
They shall remember it fondly for the rest of their lives. Guaranteed! For Off Roading in the Southern Arizona Desert & Mountains, visit the State Park’s Off Highway Vehicle Program page.
7. Southern Arizona Attractions
Over the years, we took the grandkids to many Southern Arizona attractions. Many, but not all charge an admission fee, but discounts are available & the 12 and under children get a very reduced rate.
Many of our local attractions are both interesting to children and educational, such as Colossal Cave Mountain Park, Karchner Caverns State Park, & the Mineral Discovery Center & Mine Tour. Most are less than an hour drive from Tucson, and many are much closer to the City.
The Southern Arizona Attractions Alliance sells their Book of Fun coupon booklet for $18. That gets you more than $400 worth of savings when you visit local attractions. We buy one every year for our guests.
As They Became Teenagers
Everything they liked doing here when younger, they still want to do when they come. But as they grew into their early teen years, we added other activities per their request.
The Municipal Golf Courses are inexpensive and fairly easy – perfect for teaching youngsters the great game they can play for the rest of their lives. If your children are new to the game, give them at least one professional lesson. It will make all the difference in their enjoyment of the game.
One of the first things the boys want to do when they arrive in Tucson for a couple of weeks is to go to the driving range and hit a bucket of balls. And I delight in taking them. Once they get their shots under control (relatively speaking) we make a tee time.
9. Trap & Skeet
Our grandchildren have outgrown their BB gun and tin cans. Now they want a 12 gauge and a fast-moving, unpredictable, clay target. So, we take them to the Tucson Trap & Skeet Club where we rent shotguns ($12) and blast away for an hour or two. This is a fine facility for teenagers. Before they are ever handed a shotgun, the expert staff gives the kids a lesson in gun safety in general and safety procedures on the range in particular. The staff here is great. Strictly safety first.
Southern Arizona has many stables and miles of horse trails. Horseback riding is particularly enjoyable if you are staying at one of our fine dude ranches. Jessie prefers horseback riding to golf. Jon – just the opposite. But we do it all and have a great time together.
Watch our Bandit Outfitters Video.
There’s a water park just north of Tucson called Breakers, but we’ve heard too many complaints from parents who have taken their children there. So we don’t recommend it.
11. Historical Museums
Many fine Southern Arizona historical museums can be found in our Southern Arizona Guide Museums section. For the younger children, the Children’s Museum downtown is ideal. Several museums, such as the AHS Ft. Lowell museum and the Presidio downtown have special events with historical reenactments. These are entertaining and enlightening for adults & children. Check out our Events Calendar for dates/times.
12. Hike Mt. Lemmon
or for more ideas visit our page on Hiking in Southern Arizona.
13. Observing the Night Sky
14. Learning at the Science Centers
14. 5isit Historical Sites and Reenactments
such as the Civil War Re-enactment every year at Picacho Peak State Park.
16. Learn to appreciate the Arts.
17. Visit the Reid Park Zoo
18. Hands on Learning Programs.
Kids Create Family Fun Program at the The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures.
The Tucson Museum of Art offers Free Classes for Kids as well as sponsoring other events.
Pottery Classes for youth at the Romero House.
Visit the Gadsden-Pacific Toy Train Museum open every other Sunday.
19. Swimming and so much more.
Our next big adventure: A Hot Air Balloon Ride.