Here are our recommendations for Things To Do In Florence AZ including: dining, lodging, attractions; plus some interesting history. A trip to Florence makes an excellent Day Trip.
Florence is an 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.
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.
Just a warning. Every other year, Florence hosts Country Thunder, a 4-day country music festival with all the latest and upcoming Country Western Stars.
Florence Prison Shop
In the AZ State Prison in Florence, they used to have a gift shop where products produced by the prisoners could be purchased. That shop has been closed permanently. However, prison-made items can be purchased at the Visitor Center.
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.
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 to Tom Mix marks the site.
Saguaro Cactus Furniture
When we were there in early 2012 and again in April 2016, they had a splendid display of furniture made from saguaro cactus. 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.
North of Florence
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 Congress and President Abraham Lincoln to create the territory of Arizona in 1863. He was the first delegate from Arizona Territory to the U.S. Congress.
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
The monastery is about 12 miles south of Florence off of Rt. 79. As of 2016, about 50 monks live here. They welcome all visitors who may view the chapels and walk the grounds, as long as they are modestly dressed and well-behaved.
By “well-behaved” they mean be reverently quiet and do NOT take photos of the monks without their expressed permission. And do not use doors that have a sign that reads: Do Not Use This Door or Private, Keep Out.
Men are asked (actually required) 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.
Click on this link for our photo feature of St. Anthony’s Monastery.
Directions to St. Anthony’s 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
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.
Alternatively, Mt. Athos (corner of Ruggle’s Street and Hwy 79) offers American, Italian and Greek foods. When we dined there in April 2016, Ms. Rosemary had a Gyro Sandwich; Neighbor Roy had a Spicy Chicken Gyro; and I had their Piccata: chicken breast sauteed in butter, white wine & capers.
Rosemary said hers was good. Roy declared his Gyro “Excellent”. Both Rosemary and Roy had a bite of my chicken. We all agreed: among the most delicious we have ever tasted. “Outstanding!!!.”
Rancho 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.
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: The ruins at Casa Grande National Monument. For our article on this fascinating place, click here to learn about the Casa Grande Ruins.