There are dozens of fun things to do in Tucson with kids. And most are not very expensive. For a list of things to do in Tucson on a more general or adult level begin by seeing our Things to do in Tucson page. Visit our Calendar Page and search for “Kids” under FIND EVENTS for specific events for kids in your area. For a list of Family Things to do when it’s HOT, visit here. We also have a list of Summer Classes for Kids here. Check out our FREE Things to do with Kids this Summer (2014) here.
- When They Were Young
- 1. The Desert Museum
- 2. Mini-Time Machine: Museum of Miniatures
- 3. Sabino Canyon
- 4. Tombstone
- 5. Rocks & Ropes
- 6. Learning About Guns
- 7. Off Road Adventures
- 8. Southern Arizona Attractions
- 9. Tucson’s Children’s Museum
- As They Became Teenagers
- 10. Golf
- 11. Trap & Skeet
- 12. Horseback Riding
- 13. Historical Museums
- 14. Hike Mt. Lemmon
- 15. Observing the Night Sky
- 16. Learning at the Science Centers
- 17. Visit Historical Sites and Reenactments
- 18. Learn to appreciate the Arts.
- 19. Visit the Reid Park Zoo
- 20. Hands on Learning Programs.
- 21. International Wildlife Museum
- More Things to do with Kids!
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 two 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.
Most people think of miniatures as quaint dollhouses or tea sets for little girls. The Mini-Time Machine: Museum of Miniatures is a WHOLE lot more. The excellent exhibits are fine art, exquisite craftsmanship, architecture, mechanical engineering, and history combined with magic and wonder.
This museum is not only for young children, but also for their parents and grandparents as well. We have visited the “Mini” with our grandchildren and their great-grandfather. All were captivated by the fascinating displays and the stories behind them. As you move from one display to the next, you “travel” to distant lands and bygone eras.
The “Mini” has classes and workshops. It’s a great place to visit in the summer because it’s indoors and air conditioned. Highly recommended!
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 historic district, 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 & Ropes hosts outings to cliffs such as Mt. Lemmon as well.
6. 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.
7. Off Road Adventures
When we first moved here, we rented ATV’s and the kids rode around for hours. What great fun they had.
You can take your kids on ATV Tours. Apache ATV Tours & Arizona ATV Tours have been recommended to us by several of our guests.
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.
8. 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, Kartchner 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.
Book Of Fun
The Southern Arizona Attractions Alliance sells their Passport 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.
There is a wonderful site that focuses on smaller children and what there is to do TODAY. The proprietor, I hear, is a mother of three small girls. Visit TucsonTopia.com.
Visit here for more adult or whole family Things to do In Tucson.
This popular attraction is more a fun learning center than a typical museum. Lots of hands-on activities, such as arts & crafts.
Clever exhibits, most of which are interactive.
Totally appropriate for young children from toddlers to 9 or 10-years-of-age. Read more about the Tucson Children’s Museum here.
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.
11. 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.
12. Horseback Riding
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.
Two other recommended stables are: White Stallion Ranch on the West side; Tanque Verde Ranch on the East side.
Bandit Outfitters at Colossal Cave Mountain Park.
If you have access to a pool, swimming will keep kids occupied for hours.
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.
13. 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.
14. Hike Mt. Lemmon
or for more ideas visit our page on Hiking in Southern Arizona.
15. Observing the Night Sky
16. Learning at the Science Centers
such as the Civil War Re-enactment every year at Picacho Peak State Park.
18. Learn to appreciate the Arts.
19. Visit the Reid Park Zoo
20. 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. Summer Programs for Kids ages 5-13 are offered weekly throughout the summer.
- The Romero House may be offering Pottery Classes for youth especially in summer.
- Visit the Gadsden-Pacific Toy Train Museum open every other Sunday.
- Culture Crafts for Kids at the Arizona State museum every Saturday. Free for children.
We had been in Tucson for a decade, and only recently did we venture to the International Wildlife Museum. We had affectionately called it the “Dead Animal Museum” for years, with the knowledge that every animal in this museum was dead and / or stuffed. (Taxidermied). These stuffed animals have been donated for 25 years and some are over 100 years old. Reportedly, one of the animals once belonged to Theodore Roosevelt.
Anyway, We were hot one Sunday, and not willing to venture very far, so VOILA.. There we went.
1. Bring your own food. They have a great lunchroom but no real food to speak of. This is also a great place to celebrate a birthday party.
2. There are live animals there, besides humans. I think they are giant hissing cockroaches.
3. It is VERY cool inside and you can easily spend 2 hours there taking in all the exhibits, which are, by the way, artfully done as well as educational for kids and adults.
4. The also have a small theater that shows wildlife films. Fascinating!
This is really a wonderful museum. Modern; focusing on conservation; well thought out.
To check out our International Wildlife Museum slideshow, CLICK HERE!
Still waiting on Our next big adventure: A Hot Air Balloon Ride.