Tucson Attractions: The Ones Few People Know About!

downtown tucson overviewLocals are generally familiar with our major Tucson and Southern Arizona attractions, such as our fantastic Desert Museum & the beautiful gardens of Tohono Chul Park. You can find the ones we recommend under “Attractions” in the Main Menu.

However, very few locals know about or have been to the hundreds of hidden treasures that we have discovered over the past couple of years.

These gems are relatively unknown places and/or events that we have enjoyed and think you will too. All of these Tucson Attractions are within a 3-hour drive from Downtown and most are much closer.

This slideshow is merely a sampling of all the great attractions that you will find in these pages. Click on any image in the slideshow and it will take you more information about it.


Every March, Civil War reenactors set up camp at Picacho Peak State Park about an hour north of Tucson.

We like the campsite & picnic areas atop Mt. Graham best. Two in particular stand out.

Riggs Flat Lake in the background is a fine place for picnics and camping.

Not sure we have ever seen a more beautiful campground than Soldiers. Signs here suggest you should be aware of bears. Certainly the bears will be aware of you.

Demonstrations. Reenactments. Pageantry. And ...

... plenty of action!

We particularly like the 3 ghost towns along the Ghost Town Trail east of Tombstone. And Ruby, of course.

The Gleeson jail is one of many buildings here that are still standing in one form or another. Click on the image and find out what's inside.

Tina Miller owned Gleeson in 2013. She put it up for sale for $65,000. But the sign did not indicate if the price included the ghosts.

Ruby is our best preserved ghost town.

Ruby is south of Arivaca about 12 miles. For a small fee you can spend the day exploring, having a picnic down by the pond, or even camp overnight.

We spent a delightful weekend with another couple hiking in Aravaipa Canyon. We never saw anyone else. VERY few people know about the comfortable two-bedroom cabin owned by the Nature Conservancy that you can rent at the east end of the canyon. Delightful!!!

Fort Bowie was where the Apache Wars started with Cochise. The Wars ended here 25 years later with the final surrender of Geronimo.

Boating, fishing, birding, hiking, picnicking, camping, stargazing, guided nature tours. And a fine place to stay cool in the summer. What's not to like?

The Mission Mine Complex and the Mineral Discovery Center are about a 20 minute drive south of Downtown Tucson. The tour is about an hour and, combined with the Discovery Center, most enlightening. Great for kids and adults.

As festivals go, we have two favorites. First, Tucson Folk Festival happens every May. More than a hundred great performances. Thousands of happy attendees. A foot-stomping; hand-clapping good time.

Second, Anza Day Festival happens every October. It starts with mass in the ruins of the church at Mission Tumacácori ...

... and proceeds to the Presidio de Tubac where the picnic & party starts when Anza and his mounted soldiers arrive. When you find out what Señor Juan Batista de Anza accomplished, you will be amazed!

Best Halloween happens at Colossal Cave. They give you one candle and send you down into the pitch black cave. The deeper you go, the scarier it gets.

As parades go, we have two favorites. Both happen every October. First, All Souls Procession winds through Downtown Tucson. It's a strange but delightful celebration of the Dearly Departed.

Second, Helldorado Days Parade in Tombstone is just a flat out HOOT!

It's LOUD!


And wacky! Great fun!!!

Southern Arizona has many fine picnic areas. These four are our favorites.

Sheriff John Slaughter was one tough dude. Read his story here: John Slaughter:Meanest Little Good Guy

Texas Canyon is one of our most scenic areas. Moreover, this picnic area is only a short walk to one of our finest museums, the Amerind.

If you think Texas Canyon is a scenic picnic area, the one at Signal Hill in Saguaro National Park-West will knock your socks off.

What could be better than enjoying a deli sandwich and a glass of wine among thousand-year-old petroglyphs?

Art on wheels. Magnificent classic car restorations. Our Franklin Museum video will help you to understand what it was like driving such automobiles on Arizona roads in the early days.

There is so much archeology to enjoy at Casa Grande National Monument that you will need a couple of hours. Do take a guided tour.

Then drive 15 minutes east to take the walking tour of historic Florence and don't miss their small, but fine museum at the corner of Main & Gressinger Streets.

There are several Nature Preserves in Southern Arizona. These two we are particularly fond of: Muleshoe Ranch & Ramsey Canyon.

The Nature Conservancy's Preserves host hundreds of bird species. You might want to check out our feature: Best Birding Hot Spots. Just click on this image.

Ramsey Canyon is unlike any other place in Southern Arizona. Visit the bookstore, then take a hike. You'll quickly see why we love this place.

And if you're there on a weekend, and have reservations, you can enjoy a fine performance at the Arizona Folklore Preserve.

Southern Arizona has so many scenic areas, but two are our favorites. First, Chiricahua National Monument has the "Wonderland of Rocks" and a fine campground in Bonita Canyon. Stop at the Ranger Station for orientation to this beautiful place. Do take the guided tour of Faraway Ranch.

Our other top favorite is anywhere in the San Pedro River National Conservation Area. This is a birders paradise. Lots of history here too.

Sharon Stone, Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Clint Eastwood and many others made Western movies here.

Frank Brown knew them all, and has some seriously interesting stories to tell on his tour of Mescal. Call Old Tucson for tour reservations: 520) 883-0100.

There are so very many beautiful scenic drives in Southern Arizona, but here are 3 we think are tops ... starting with Gates Pass to Saguaro National Park - West and Signal Hill Picnic Area.

The back road from Sonoita to the rear entrance of Fort Hauchuca is a wonderful Sunday drive ... especially if you're on a Harley or Gold Wing.

The drive from Portal through Cave Creek Canyon and over the mountain to Chiricahua National Monument is spectacular.

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