Updated June 2018, So, What Fun things are there to do in Tucson when it is Hot Hot in the Summer? Read on.
Summer is here in Southern Arizona. The thermometer says so. The snowbirds have left for cooler regions, shops have closed up for the off season or downsized, and we who live here year 'round search for entertaining things to do, especially with the kids, that won't result in heat stroke.
Here is a list of fun things you and your family can do to cool off or stay cool. No surprise that most involve water, air conditioning, or higher elevation.
- 1. Museums
- 2. Sabino Canyon
- 3. Roper Lake
- 4. Patagonia Lake
- 5. Parker Canyon Lake
- 6. Public Pools In and Near Tucson
- 7. Matinees
- 8. The Loft
- 9. Fox Tucson Theatre
- 10. The Historic Rialto Theatre
- 11. Mt. Lemmon
- 12. Caves
- 13. Desert Museum
- 14. Earth Camp
- 15. Titan Missile Museum
- 16. Bisbee
- 17. Kitt Peak - Daytime
- 18. Kitt Peak - Night Time
- 19. Madera Canyon
- 20. Chiricahua Mountains
- 21. Ramsey Canyon
- 22. International Wildlife Museum
They offer much to learn and appreciate about our art, history, and cultural heritage. And it's cool in there. Tucson & the rest of Baja Arizona have many excellent museums. There are many different types of museums to amuse the whole family. Visit the Asarco Mineral Discovery Center and on Saturday's you can take a tour of the mine! The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures is a special place. See our Museum page for more ideas.
2. Sabino Canyon
Cool off in Sabino Creek. Hike in the early morning or late afternoon. There are several interesting trails here for hikers of all abilities. See the map at the Visitor Center. The Visitor Center also has many fine exhibits about the Canyon.
Note: the creek may not have much water in it during our dry summer months. But come the monsoons, the water will rise. Just be cautious of heavy rains in the mountains above and the resulting possibility of flash floods. Very dangerous!
Get an introduction to this natural treasure from our original video here. No restaurant at Sabino Canyon. Bring lots of water and a picnic.
3. Roper Lake
Go fishing, camping and swimming at Roper Lake State Park near Safford. Visit the official Website here. Rent a cabin if you like air conditioning.
4. Patagonia Lake
Take a boat out on Patagonia Lake State Park and do a little fishing for the dinner table. Available for rent are canoes and row boats at the marina. Or, with certain restrictions (no cruise ships or submarines), you can bring your own boat. For more information visit the website here.
Near Patagonia there are many things to do. For instance, there are ghost towns not too far away, such as Duquesne, Kentucky Camp, and Washington Camp.
And the wineries of Sonoita and Elgin are fairly close. Canelo Hills Vineyards is now Flying Leap Vineyards.
But whatever else you do around Patagonia, do dine at our favorite pizza parlor, the famous Velvet Elvis.
5. Parker Canyon Lake
Rent a row boat or kayak at Parker Canyon Lake. At 5400' elevation, it's a lot cooler up here than on the desert floor. See our review here. For more information visit the Parker Canyon Lake website here. See our Slideshow of Parker Canyon Lake here.
6. Public Pools In and Near Tucson
Pima County has many swimming pools and splash pools. Click HERE.
Most pools open from Memorial Day Weekend until school begins.
Take in a matinee at one of the many modern movie theaters in town. Click here for a list of theaters.
8. The Loft
Enjoy a cult classic or documentary film at The Loft. Visit the Loft Website for a complete schedule.
9. Fox Tucson Theatre
See a movie classic or a live performance at the Fox. There are some movie matinee's this summer. Visit The Fox Website for a calendar.
10. The Historic Rialto Theatre
The Historic Rialto Theater has plenty of summer offerings for the young and young-at-heart.
11. Mt. Lemmon
There is plenty to do in the cool heights of Mt. Lemmon. Camping, hiking, and of course stargazing through a large telescope at the Sky Center at the top. View the article about our visit to the Sky Center here. Make a reservation.
View our Mt. Lemmon video. Then take the scenic drive up the mountain for some chili and pie at the Iron Door Restaurant across from the chair lifts at Ski Valley. If the lifts are running you can take them to the top of the ridge that overlooks Metropolitan Tucson. Or try out the newer Sawmill Run restaurant in Summerhaven. We've dined there a couple of times to mixed reviews.
Descend into a cool cave. Visit Colossal Cave Mountain Park or Kartchner Caverns State Park.
• Check out the Good Enough Mine in Tombstone.
• Go underground at Kartchner Caverns.
• We hear that the Coronado National Monument has a cave worth exploring.
13. Desert Museum
Visit the Desert Museum after the sundown for Summer Saturday Evenings. Check the schedule of events here.
14. Earth Camp
Find camps for kids here at the Desert Museum's Earth Camp page. There are 2 overnights for Middle school scheduled in June and an extended camp for high school students in late June, early July.
15. Titan Missile Museum
The Titan II Missile Museum tour will warm you up then drop you into the cool underground silo where the mightly missile still stands at attention.
Discover the fascinating local history of the Cold War, check out our video here. Then visit the official website here for Special Tours, including Moonlight Madness tour, the Top to Bottom tour of all 8 levels and an overnight stay.
It's a trek for a day, but a tour of the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum and Copper Queen Mine will keep you cool. And at 5500 ft. elevation, the Bisbee's great out-of-doors is considerably cooler than Tucson's . For a taste of the adventures before you head out, see our page on Bisbee.
And if you're going to stay overnight, which we recommend, check out the reviews in our Bisbee Lodging section.
17. Kitt Peak - Daytime
Head up to Kitt Peak for a daytime picnic. Bring your own food. There is no restaurant here. At 7,000 ft elevation, temperatures on Kitt Peak are typically 15-20 cooler than the valley floor. Day tour information can be found here including a 10 am tour of the solar telescope. The Day use area closes at 4 pm, but if you have tickets and are so inclined you can ...
18. Kitt Peak - Night Time
... remain at Kitt Peak for a cool evening of astronomical wonders during their Night Observation Program. See our video on Kitt Peak, then visit the website here for more information. There are Youth Group overnights available as well.
19. Madera Canyon
Madera Canyon is great for a hike, a picnic and serious bird watching. Who knows, you may even see an elusive Coati, like this one we photographed at Bonita Canyon in the Chiricahuas last April.
20. Chiricahua Mountains
Roughly two hours east of Tucson, the Chiricahua Mountains are one of our favorite places in Baja Arizona. This was once home to Chief Cochise and his band of Chiricahua Apaches.
On the west side of the mountains is Chiricahua National Monument with its camping and picnicking area along Bonita Creek and, at the top, the strangely beautiful place named "Wonderland of Rocks". Great hiking here! And at 7,000 ft. elevation, relatively cool in the summer. If you go, be sure to get a tour of Faraway Ranch. Tour schedules are at the Visitor Center.
On the east side of the mountains is Cave Creek were you can camp and hike or stay in a cabin or a room at Portal Peak Lodge. You can read about our road trip out that way by clicking here. Stay at one of the Coronado National Forest Cabins in Portal or rent the Walker House in Portal.
21. Ramsey Canyon
Ramsey Canyon Preserve is near Sierra Vista. It is owned by the Nature Conservancy. Near the top of the canyon use to be a mining camp. You can still see the remnants. On the way is one of the finest hikes in all of Baja Arizona.
This is a beautiful, cool forested area with a year 'round stream and amazing plant & wildlife diversity, including 15 species of hummingbirds and dozens of other bird species, such as the rare elegant trogon. Here you will also find bears, deer, and other wild critters. Bring your camera.
22. International Wildlife Museum
We have been in Tucson for more than a decade now, 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.
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.
2. There are live animals there, besides humans. I think they are giant hissing cockroaches and a tarantula.
3. It is VERY cool inside and you can easily spend 3 hours there taking in all the exhibits, which are, by the way, artfully done as well as educational for the kids.
This is really a wonderful museum. Modern; focusing on conservation; well thought out.