Here are our recommendations for the best Things To Do In Tucson, plus a very brief history & links to the best Tucson Dining & Annual Events. IF you are looking for recommendations for Day Trips around Tucson, here is a link to what to do if you have 1-2, 3-4 or more days in the Tucson area.
In addition to the Main Menu above, you can use the Metropolitan Tucson Hot Spots Map below to navigate to places of interest around the City. Just place your cursor over any hot spot. An Options Balloon will pop up. Click on the option of your choice.
Metropolitan Tucson has about a million residents, but the population increases dramatically between December and March when Snow Birds fly south to enjoy our pleasant winter. Tucson loves Snow Birds. We have a thriving tourist industry and some fine resorts & golf courses.
Things To Do
There is so much to do in Tucson. Here are some of the best.
Mt. Lemmon & Sky Center. Take the scenic drive to the top of Mt. Lemmon. Hike during the day and spend an evening at Sky Center observing the universe as few have ever seen it. In the winter, you can ski at Ski Valley. Or go to a similar program at Kitt Peak at night. The Sun telescope is open during the day.
Museums. Enjoy our many fine museums: the Mini Time Machine, Museum of Miniatures; the Tucson Museum of Art & Historic Block; the Franklin Automobile Museum; the Pima Air & Space Museum; and Arizona Historical Society's 3 museums: the Arizona History Museum at University on 2nd St, the Tucson History Museum Downtown on Scott, and the Fort Lowell Museum at Fort Lowell and Craycroft.
History Tour. Take the self-guided walking tour of Historic Downtown Tucson along the Turquoise Trail. You can pick up a brochure at the Presidio del Tucson or download it from the website at tucsonpresidio.com.
Trail Ride at Tanque Verde Ranch Horseback Riding. Stay at one of our favorite ranch resorts and enjoy our magnificent Sonoran Desert scenery on horseback. Hacienda del Sol ; Tanque Verde Ranch; & White Stallion Ranch.
Biking. Tucson is a friendly bicycling city with bike lanes on many major thoroughfares. Take our bike paths along the Santa Cruz & Rillito Rivers. The road over scenic Gates Pass is very popular with bicyclists. However, it has no bike lane and is VERY narrow. Click here for some Tucson Bicycle Routes. For information about The LOOP, an extensive network of bicycle paths around Tucson, click on The LOOP Here.
Hiking. Tucson has hundreds of hiking trails, many of them overlooking the City. Four of our favorites are (1) Sabino Canyon; (2) Bear Canyon Trail to Seven Falls; (3) Kings Canyon (watch for petroglyphs); and Yetman Trail in Tucson Mountain Park. For a list of some of the besting hiking in Tucson and Southern Arizona see our List of Best Hikes here.
Art & Galleries. Four of our favorite art galleries are: DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun on north Swan; Maderas Gallery at Skyline & Campbell; Etherton Gallery downtown and the Tucson Desert Art Museum on the east side.
Performing Arts. Carnival of Illusion; The Arizona Theater Company; The Arizona Opera Company; The Tucson Symphony; The Gaslight Theater. For a more in depth look at the Performing Arts Venues in Tucson visit here.
Gardens. We have two excellent botanical gardens: Tohono Chul Park on Ina just west of Oracle; and Tucson Botanical Gardens on Alvernon just south of Grant. Both have art galleries, live performances, and special events.
Annual Events. Enjoy our many annual events in the City, such as La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros Rodeo & Parade (Feb.); Tucson Gem, Mineral, & Fossil Show - biggest in the world (Feb.); Accenture World Golf Championship (Feb.) Tucson Folk Festival (May); All Souls Procession (Nov.); El Tour de Tucson - huge bicycling event (Nov.); 4th Avenue Street Fairs (Spring & Fall). For more events and current information, please see our Events Calendar.
Dining In Tucson
Southern Arizona has many very good restaurants. Click on our List of the Best Restaurants by type of food served. Most, but not all, are in or near the City.
We also have them listed by area: Central Tucson, etc.
Brief History of Tucson
"Tucson" (Too´ sahn) is an English name derived from the Spanish name of the local Indian village, Tuk- sahn, which came from the Tohono O'odham name Chook'-sahn, meaning "(at the) base of the black (hill)". Tucson is sometimes referred to as "The Old Pueblo" because of our Spanish & Mexican heritage.
Archeologists have found substantial evidence that the Tucson area, particularly along the Santa Cruz River, has experienced human habitation for the past 12,000 years: first Paleo-Indians; then the Ho-ho-kam' (300-1400 CE); then the Tohono O'odham; then the Spanish. Father Kino established the magnificent Mission San Xavier del Bac just south of Downtown in 1692.
What is now Southern Arizona was once New Spain. When Mexico won its independence from Spain, Southern Arizona became the northern portion of Sonora, Mexico. Then, in 1854, the United States purchased this region from Mexico in what became known as the Gadsden Purchase.
For a brief period in 1861-62, Tucson was the western capitol of the Confederacy. Between 1867 and 1877, Tucson was the capitol of Arizona Territory. In 1880, the Southern Pacific Railroad steamed into this dusty little pueblo and changed everything.
Most places have 4 seasons. We have five: winter, fall, and spring, plus a dry and a wet summer season. Daytime temperature highs range from the 60's in winter to 100+ in the summers. Typically, nighttime temperatures are about 30 degrees less than daytime highs. Spring & fall temperatures range from perfect to glorious.
Our wet summer is called Monsoon Season: July - September. Monsoon clouds can drop 3 inches of rain in 30 minutes; making a lot of roads impassable and our usually dry stream & river beds rushing torrents.
We mention the weather because when considering Things To Do, one should take it into consideration. For example, any outdoor activity, such as hiking, is best enjoyed in the more temperate months. Hiking in 105 degree summer heat is not recommended and that goes double for hiking near a stream or river bed in Monsoon Season.