Things To Do In Florence, Az

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Restored Silver King Hotel: Florence, AZ

Restored Silver King Hotel: Florence, AZ

Here are our recommendations for Things To Do In Florence, Arizona including: dining, lodging, plus some interesting history.
Florence is a historic Western town about 70 miles NE of Tucson via Route 79, the old highway between Tucson and Phoenix that saw heavy use before the Interstate was built. Now Rt. 79 is just a pleasant back road.
In 2009, True West Magazine named Florence #4 on its Top 10 True West Towns. A year later, Florence jumped to #2.

Restored Brunenkant's City Bakery now houses the Florence Chamber of Commerce.

Restored Brunenkant’s City Bakery now houses the Florence Chamber of Commerce.

This high ranking is because Florence has preserved so many of its original buildings, such as the Old Courthouse and the partially restored Silver King Hotel.
Visitor Center, McFarland State Park & The Old Courthouse
A good place to start your visit to Florence is the Visitor Center located at McFarland State Park in the Historic District. Florence has over 140 historic buildings exhibiting architectural styles from the early Territorial Period to the 1950’s.
At the Visitor Center you can get the device you need for a self-guided audio tour that will take you around a 1.4 mile loop that highlights the most significant buildings in the Historic District. If you don’t require the audio version, you can download the walking tour map HERE.
Florence Visitor Center, 24 W. Ruggles Street, Downtown Florence
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday – Saturday
Phone: (520)868-4496, toll free 1-866-977-4496
www.azstateparks.com
Museum
If you are coming from Tucson (North on Rt. 79), you’ll come to the Museum before you get to the Visitor Center. As the starting point for exploring historic Florence, this works well.
The Pinal County Historical Museum is at the corner of Gressinger & Main Streets. Driving through town on the main highway, you can’t miss it. This is a small, but worthwhile museum recounting the lives of early settlers in these parts. It’s also headquarters for the Pinal County (Florence) Historical Society.
A Hangman's Noose at the Florence History MuseumHangman Nooses
One asset Florence has that you don’t find in most communities is a State Prison. And one of the more unusual, some might say gruesome, exhibits at this museum is the actual hangman nooses used in executions, along with the photographs of the condemned.
For you fans of Old West silent movies, the Museum also has a Tom Mix collection. Why? In part because the famous cowboy star was killed just down the road. A monument marks the site.
When we were there in early 2012, they had a splendid display of furniture made from saguaro cacti. Very unique and beautiful craftsmanship. When we return, I want to find out how to contact the artisan who made them and see about having one made for our casita.
Tuesday through Saturdays 11-4
Sundays 12-4  Closed Mondays and major holidays.
Open from Sept 1 to July 15.
Speaking of the State Prison, they have a store at the prison wherein you can purchase items made by inmates. I intend to check it out next time we’re in the area.

North of Florence

Monument Atop Poston Butte Near Florence, AZ.

Monument Atop Poston Butte Near Florence, AZ.

Poston Butte & Troon Golf
Just northwest of Florence is Poston Butte. Charles Poston was a western pioneer, explorer, politician, journalist, and expert at Indian affairs. He is regarded as the “Father of Arizona” because of his role in convincing Abraham Lincoln to create the territory of Arizona in 1863. He was the first delegate from Arizona Territory to the U.S. Congress.

Poston Butte Golf Club

Poston Butte Golf Club near Florence.

Charles discovered an Apache ruin on a hilltop near Florence. Poston imagined the tower ruin of the Apache structure as a temple where Indians once conducted ceremonies. In tribute he dedicated his personal wealth in 1878 to constructing a pathway leading to a resurrected fire temple known as “Poston’s Butte”.  Poston is buried atop this little mountain.
Poston Butte Golf Club is a fine new course. It’s managed by Troon Golf, which means it’s First Rate. However, don’t assume that it’s easy to find. We could find no one in Florence who knew where this golf course is and there are zero signs leading to it.
For the record, from Florence, take Hunt Hwy east from Rt. 79 several miles past Poston Butte to Felix and turn right. From here there are some directional signs.

South of Florence

St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery near Florence, AZ

St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery near Florence, AZ

St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery
The monastery is about 12 miles south of Florence off of Rt. 79. About 40 monks live here. They welcome all visitors who may view the chapels and walk the grounds, as long as they are modestly dressed. Men are asked to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Women are expected to wear long skirts (well below the knee), long-sleeved blouses, and scarves. Everyone is asked to wear socks, especially when wearing open toe shoes. Upon entering the monastery, all visitors are asked to stop at the gate house.
Directions from Tucson
Taking Rt. 79 North, after mile marker 123, keep your eyes open for Paisano Drive on your right. Turn right on Paisano Drive. Follow it all the way to the end, where it turns left. This unmarked road is St. Joseph’s Way, and it will take you to the monastery’s parking lot.

4784 N. St. Joseph’s Way
Hours: 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Daily
Admission: Free
Phone: (520)868-3188, www.stanthonysmonastery.org

Patio Dining at the L&B Inn Mexican Restaurant next to the History Museum.

Patio Dining at the L&B Inn Mexican Restaurant next to the History Museum.

Dining
After visiting the Museum, you can cross Gressinger Street to the L&B Inn that serves good Mexican food. If the weather is favorable, we suggest you take a patio table.

LodgingRancho Sonora has an inn, casitas, and an adjacent RV Park. Looks like a really nice place. Will check it out next time we’re near Florence.

Casa Grande Ruins: 1889

Casa Grande Ruins: 1889

West of Florence
About 10 miles west of Florence on Rt. 287 is the town of Coolidge. Not much to see in Coolidge, except one of the finest examples of prehistoric Arizona: Casa Grande Ruins. For our article on this fascinating place, click HERE.

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Book Early for our First Santa Cruz River Valley Tour

Mission Tumacacori

Southern Arizona Guide Presents The Santa Cruz River Valley Tour Join us Wednesday, November 12, 2014 for a pleasant day trip through the Santa Cruz River Valley and discover its rich history, cultural heritage, unique landscape, and distinctive foods. Your guide for the day will be Jim Gressinger, travel writer, photographer, … Continue reading

Historic Downtown Tucson: A Collection of Picture Postcards

Tucson, Arizona: 2013.

As a “city”, Tucson really came into its own in the first decade of the 20th century, even though the city was legally incorporated in 1877. It never amounted to anything of importance until the Southern Pacific Railroad arrived in 1880. The railroad connected Tucson to the outside world. It brought hardware, lumber, and fresh produce at affordable prices. Even today, you can see how the architecture of the city changed after the arrival of the railroad. 

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Tucson Attractions: The Ones Few People Know About!

83_Cave-Creek-Canyon_640

Locals 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 … Continue reading

The New Desert Museum Aquarium

Boy Watching Seahorses

On a clear Sunday morning in early February, Neighbor Roy, Ms. Karen, & I arrived at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for our 2nd Behind The Scenes tour, this time of the new Warden Aquarium. Lacey was our guide for our group of 8, including two little boys who looked to be about 4 and 6 [...]

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Slideshow: Things to Do and See in Southern Arizona

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This slideshow will introduce you to some of the sights and scenes from Southern Arizona and stories about those places. Clicking on a slide that interests you will transport you to a story about a destination or adventure.

Map of the Counties In Southern Arizona thumbnail
Saguaro National Park Visitors Center thumbnail
El Presidio deTucson thumbnail
Introduction to Tombstone today thumbnail
Tombstone's Historic Bird Cage Theatre thumbnail
Tombstone, The Town Too Tough to Die thumbnail
Bandit Outfitters at Colossal Cave Mountain Park thumbnail
Sabino Canyon Waterfall thumbnail
Tohono Chul Cactus Bloom thumbnail
Summer Tanager in Ramsey Canyon thumbnail
Dr Jay's Walking Tour  thumbnail
Wildflowers in the Tucson Mountains thumbnail
Desert Museum Harris's Hawk thumbnail
Signal Hill Petroglyph thumbnail
The Artists Co-op in Arivaca thumbnail
Bisbee, AZ thumbnail
Broad-billed Hummingbird: Ramsey Canyon thumbnail
Ski Valley  Mt. Lemmon thumbnail
Titan II Missile Museum thumbnail
La Posta Quemada Ranch thumbnail
DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun thumbnail
Kitt Peak Observatories thumbnail
Horsehead Nebula thumbnail
Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures thumbnail
Mission San Xavier del Bac thumbnail
Mission Tumacacori thumbnail
Old Tucson Reenactment thumbnail
Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge thumbnail
Allen Street, Tombstone Arizona circa 1880 thumbnail
Arizona Historical Society thumbnail
The Road to Mt. Lemmon thumbnail
The Ghost Town of Ruby, Arizona thumbnail
Map of the Counties In Southern Arizona
Saguaro National Park Visitors Center
Presidio San Agustin deTucson
Introduction to Tombstone Today
Tombstone's Hstoric Bird Cage Theatre circa 1936.
Tombstone, The Town Too Tough to Die
Bandit Outfitters at Colossal Cave Mountain Park
Sabino Canyon Waterfall
Tohono Chul Cactus Bloom
Summer Tanager in Ramsey Canyon
Dr Jay's Walking Tour
Wildflowers in the Tucson Mountains
Desert Museum Harris's Hawk
Signal Hill Petroglyph
The Artists Co-op in Arivaca
Bisbee, Arizona
Broad-billed Hummingbird: Ramsey Canyon
Ski Valley Mt. Lemmon
Titan II Missile Museum
La Posta Quemada Ranch
DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun
Kitt Peak Observatories
Horsehead Nebula
Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures
Mission San Xavier del Bac
Mission Tumacacori
Old Tucson Reenactment
Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge
Allen Street, Tombstone Arizona circa 1880
Arizona Historical Society
The Road to Mt. Lemmon
The Ghost Town of Ruby, Arizona

Visitors Center: Saguaro National Park West on a rare rainy day.

Located a few miles past the Desert Museum, the Visitors Center is the place to go for useful and interesting information about our Sonoran Desert, maps to back roads and hiking trails, and many good books on related subjects.

A Spanish Soldado at El Presidio de Tucson

Our historic Spanish fort in the downtown Tucson historic district is open to the public and periodically features reenactments, including canon fire. To learn more, please see our video.

Introduction to Tombstone Today

You can have a lot of fun in Tombstone. If you visit its shops, historic saloons, and many attractions, you'll meet a lot of friendly people, many of whom look like they just stepped out of the 1880's and into the present. Enjoy!

Tombstone's Historic Bird Cage Theatre circa 1936.

The Bird Cage is living history. A raucous saloon & gambling hall in the 1880's, where ladies of negotiable affection plied their ancient trade among the more successful miners and gamblers. Please see our video and meet Bird Cage Billie. Then take the worthwhile $10 tour.

Tombstone, The Town Too Tough to Die.

Depression-era photographs of Tombstone reveal the hard times. "The Town Too Tough To Die" almost did. Today, it's tourism, not silver, that keeps our Wild West history alive. Be sure to view our several videos about Tombstone and its legendary characters, such as Virgil Earp and Tom McLaury. Then visit Tombstone's Historic District. Don't miss the Courthouse Museum on Toughnut Street or the Bird Cage Theater on Allen Street, or the office of the Tombstone Epitaph on 5th Street.

Bandit Outfitters at Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Another great day trip from Tucson. Here you can trail ride through magnificent scenery plus host special events, such as weddings, corporate gatherings, & family reunions with an Old West theme.

A Waterfall In Sabino Canyon

Hiking Sabino Canyon is one of Tucson's most delightful day trips. Take the tram (cash only), get off & on at the various stops along the way. Hike adjacent Bear Canyon to Seven Falls were you can cool off in the pools at the base of the falls. Picnics here are highly recommended. And yes, these are two of our four grandchildren: Morgan (left) and Jon.

Tohono Chul Park: a night-blooming cereus.

Tohono Chul Park, one of our favorite places in Tucson, is home to a wide variety of night-bloomers. You can learn a lot about this beautiful place by viewing our video.

Summer Tanager in Ramsey Canyon

Courtesy of Liz Sockness, Ramsey Canyon Visitor Center. Like Madera Canyon to the west, Ramsey Canyon is a birdwatcher's paradise.

Dr Jay's Walking Tour

We highly recommend Dr. Jay's Walking Tour of Tombstone. On the Tour, which lasts about an hour, you will learn why the facts surrounding this fabled Old West town are far more interesting than the legends.

Wildflowers in the Tucson Mountains

In the Spring, we get fields of wildflowers if the Rain God has been generous the previous Fall. Arivaca & Picacho Peak are particularly known for their carpets of color. This photograph was taken just up the street from our home in the foothills of the Tucson Mountains.

A Desert Museum Docent with Male Harris's Hawk.

At the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum many docents help visitors understand our weird plants and exotic critters. Don't miss the Free Flight Program when you visit. Their raptors and other birds fly just over your head. Be quick with your camera. On our Guide you will find several original Desert Museum videos.

Signal Hill Petroglyphs by John Ashley.

There are many petroglyphs located around our desert & mountains. Perhaps the easiest to find & admire are atop Signal Hill in the Saguaro National Park West.

Artists Co-op in Arivaca

Arivaca is a small village 20-some miles west of I-19 at Amado. Things not to miss when you visit: Buenas Aires National Wildlife Refuge, La Gitana Cantina, the Artists Co-Op, & Sweat Peas Cafe'.

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee was a highly productive copper mining town about a half hour south of Tombstone. Now it's home to old hippies, bikers, and artists. It's shops & galleries are definitely worth visiting. Stay overnight in one of the many historic B&B's, hotels, and inns. There are also many good places to dine. Our recommendations you will find in Main Menu > Reviews.

Broad-billed Hummingbird in Ramsey Canyon

Liz Sockness runs the bookstore at Ramsey Canyon Preserve. We have several of her nature photos in the Guide. Ramsey Canyon near Sierra Vista is a wild and beautiful place to hike. Not many places in the world like this left.

Ski Valley near the top of Mt. Lemmon

Sky Valley is the southern-most ski area in North America. If you go in seasons other than winter, take the chair lift to the rim. The ski trails are full of wildflowers. From the top you can see the whole valley far below.

Titan II Missile Museum

The Titan II is one of the best-kept secrets in Southern Arizona. Few local even know about it. Highly recommended! Please see our video, then go to their website to get current hours of guided tours. I have directed hundreds of people to this incredible place. Every one has thanked me and said, in effect, "I had no idea".

La Posta Quemada Ranch at Colossal Cave Mountain Park.

There are several parts to Colossal Cave Mountain Park. First, there is the cave and a worthwhile guided tour. Second, there is the ranch at the bottom of the mountain that has museums and other historical features. Third, at the ranch you will find Bandit Outfitters and the riding stables. A great place to take the kids and only about 25 miles east of Tucson. Also a fine place to picnic.

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

One of our finest art museums, the DeGrazia exhibits the original art of Ted DeGrazia in a totally unique facility he designed and built with the help of his Native American friends.

Kitt Peak Observatories

Kitt Peak is about an hour southwest of Tucson. Their night observation program allows visitors to see the heavens as never before. Please watch our Kitt Peak video for more information.

Horsehead Nebula (Cloud)

Southern Arizona is home to many fine observatories. Public stargazing programs are available at both Kitt Peak (see our video) and Sky Center atop Mt. Lemmon. Both programs are excellent.

Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures

The Museum of Miniatures is a state-of-the-art facility that houses many fine collections of miniatures with historical themes. The detailed craftsmanship of these miniatures and excellent presentation makes the Mini-Time Machine a worthy visit for children and adults.

Mission San Xavier del Bac a few miles south of Downtown Tucson.

Founded in 1692 by Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino, Mission San Xavier is located a few minutes south of downtown Tucson on the Tohono O'odham reservation. For a visual of the extraordinary, and recently restored interior, see our video. Everyone who comes to Southern Arizona should visit San Xavier (San HAA-vee-air).

Tumacacori National Historical Park

Fifty minutes south of Tucson, the Mission Tumacacori was founded in 1691 by Jesuit Father Eusebio Francisco Kino. It was declared a National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908.

Just another wild gunfight in the streets of Old Tucson. Oddly, the good guys always win.

Hundreds of movies, TV shows, and commercials have been shot at Old Tucson. Only a few miles from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, old Tucson is a great place to bring the kids for a day in the life of the Old West. Adults will find this "Western" town both fun and educational as well.

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

Adjacent to the little town of Arivaca, BANWR is paradise for those who like to watch rare birds and other elusive critters.

Allen Street, Tombstone Arizona circa 1800. Photo courtesy GooseFlat Graphics.

The City of Tombstone was founded in 1879 by Ed Schieffelin, an extraordinarily successful miner. A year later, it had about a thousand residents. Six years later, Tombstone had become a major city with about 14,000 residents. Today, the population is about 1,600, most of whom are dedicated to keeping the Old West alive.

In one of our videos, Julia Arriola, curator of the Arizona Historical Society, talks about some of her excellent exhibits, including Geronimo's rifle and why Geronimo became the "worst Indian who ever lived".

Road To Mount Lemmon

Mr. Woodry's camouflage-yellow Corvette Z06 is parked beneath hoodoos on Catalina Highway, a delightfully narrow, winding road for a high-powered sports car. Finest car I've ever driven. Massively powerful, incredibly fast, but hold the road with amazing precision.

Dr. Clare Zhang (Oriental Medicine) with 10-year-old son Daniel.

Dr. Clare, and several others went with me to do an on-camera interview with Howard Frederick, one of the owners of Ruby. Between a morning tour of Arivaca and photographing the ruins of Ruby in the afternoon, it was a delightful day trip from Tucson.

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Carnival of Illusion – Amazing!

Carnival of Illusion Roland Sarlot & Susan Eyed

For some time, Ms. Karen and I had been wanting to see Roland Sarlot’s and Susan Eyed’s Carnival of Illusion. I had read so many rave reviews about their performance that, if the show lived up to the hype, I wanted to add it to our Things To Do In Tucson Section of our website

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Tohono Chul Map

Tohono Chul Park: Spring Wildflowers.

Tohono Chul is a peaceful garden oasis in the midst of city and suburb. You can stroll along winding paths through several different types of gardens with hundreds of native plant species, as well as many birds, including hummers.

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Pima Air and Space Museum Map

Pima Air and Space Museum

Here is the history of manned flight. Pima Air and Space Museum has over 300 historic aircraft on exhibit, including the Blackbird, a 1950’s design that still holds the speed record for coast to coast flight: imagine going from New York to Los Angeles in one hour.

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Mt. Lemmon Map

mt lemmon snow

Mt. Lemmon is a recreational paradise in the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Coronado National Forest. It is 9,157 feet (2,791 m) above sea-level, and receives approximately 180 inches of snow annually. A perfect place for skiing in the winter or camping in the summer, it also has observatories that you can view through a telescope, winter or summer. Other activities are hiking, biking and hanging out to cool off in the summer.

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San Xavier del Bac Map

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Mission San Xavier del Bac is about 15 minutes south of downtown Tucson. It is the finest example of Spanish mission architecture anywhere. It was built in the late 18th century and is today both an important piece of Baja Arizona history and an active Roman Catholic church serving the Tohono O’odham people.

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Halloween Howl: Descent Into A Frightening Underworld!

Halloween Howl

Last Halloween (2013), Neighbor Roy & I descended into the underworld of Colossal Cave to witness both adults and young children get frightened out of their wits. They call this adventure “Halloween Howl”.  At the entrance, the nice folks at Colossal Cave gave their brave (or foolish) guests a candle … Continue reading

Raptor Free Flight Begins A New Season!

Owl at Raptor Free Flight at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The Raptor Free Flight Program at our Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is the most extraordinary bird of prey exhibition in the United States! The new season begins this Saturday October 18, 2014 and continues through April 5, 2015. Shows are daily at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. October and November are … Continue reading

Rex Allen Days 2014: A Slideshow!

Rex Allen Days Rodeo Queen

Ms. Karen & I enjoyed the 63rd Annual Rex Allen Days at Willcox last Saturday (October 4, 2014). They had a lot of activities going on, but we only got to the parade in the morning, with Grand Marshall Guy Atchley, and the professional rodeo that afternoon. Unlike metropolitan Tucson, … Continue reading

26th Annual Patagonia Fall Festival

Glen-Powell-Art-011

The Best Not-So-Little Art and Music Festival in SE Arizona – Oct. 10, 11, 12 Experience the 26th Annual Patagonia Fall Festival This Weekend! Get ready for three great days of live music, entertainment and over 100 fine arts, crafts and diverse food booths in Patagonia as this quaint, historic … Continue reading

Autumn Fest 2014 To Celebrate Apache Culture

Apache Brothers

AMERIND AUTUMN FEST 2014 CELEBRATES APACHE CULTURE The Amerind Museum is one of Southern Arizona Guide’s favorite attractions. It is located in beautiful Texas Canyon and will hold its Annual Autumn Fest October 18, 2014. The day-long event will celebrate the culture of the Apache Native people with food, family … Continue reading