When I mention visiting Tucson, you might not think that there are many things to do in Tucson for travelers. In fact, Tucson’s one of the most underrated areas in America, and rarely gets the attention it deserves.
Heavily influenced by the desert region, the area’s an outdoor mecca for nature lovers.
Or maybe you fancy yourself a foodie? Then Tucson’s the city for you. The thriving food scene has such distinct eats that its been distinguished by UNESCO as a City of Gastronomy.
You can free yourself in Tucson, create your own experience and explore without boundaries, or relax and recharge in one of the city’s many spas.
But let me take you on a journey, a journey around Arizona’s 2nd largest city’s. And if you stick with me, you’ll soon discover that Tucson’s stuffed to the brim with epic things to do, see, and taste.
Let’s look at the top 10 things to do in Tucson; these adventures will feed your soul and ignite your wanderlust.
10 epic Things to do in Tucson
Explore Saguaro National Park
Photo Courtesy of Visit Tucson
Saguaro National Park is named after the thousands of saguaro cacti that cover the landscape. These cactus are rare in the United States and can grow up to 40 feet tall. These are the large cactus you’ve seen in virtually every western movie ever and are a symbol of the west.
Saguaro National Park comprises over 90,000 acres and encompasses so much that it’s actually broken into two parts. There’s the Rincon Mountain District, which is the closest section to Tucson. And the Tucson Mountain District.
Hiking trails – of all skill levels and lengths – are interwoven throughout the park, making it unforgettable outdoor mecca around Tucson.
A word of warning; there’s severe heat in the summer, and park authorities recommend not attempting prolonged hikes during this time of year. Be safe, and come prepared.
Campsites are also available across various segments of the park, which gives you the freedom to roam wherever you want.
If you’re seeking the archetypal landscape of the west, then Saguaro’s tough to beat. And the parks distinguished as one of the best places in the United States.
Wander the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Credit Rhonda Spencer
Perhaps, the most popular thing to do in Tucson, this isn’t your run of the mill museum. In fact, museum isn’t the right word, as the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum encompasses over 98 acres. Across grounds an aquarium, art gallery, history museum, zoo, and botanical garden.
For aspiring artists out there, the gallery hosts art and photography classes. The zoo, historical museum, and aquarium act as great learning tools for the family.
However, the real star of the show are the walking trails, hummingbird aviary, and the wildlife exhibits.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum cultivated a deep love of the Sonoran Desert that will stick with you long after you fly home.
Eat Your Weight in Mexican Food
Feed your soul on some of the best Mexican cuisine in the American west. Tucson’s a culinary hotspot that deserves more praise.
Let’s look at what makes Tucson’s gastronomy stand out from the rest of America.
First, you have the unique desert ingredients; like cholla buds, tepary beans, white Sonoran wheat, chiltepins, and prickly pear syrup. However, for me, what elevates the cuisine are the spices and salsa. And what happens when you add in the imaginative presentations, and attention to details. Well, let’s just say that Tucson’s Mexican cuisine’s unbeatable anywhere else in the nation.
A fun adventure for foodies is to hop in the car and head to South 12th Avenue. From here, devour your way through the Best 23 miles of Mexican food in America.
Eat Your Weight in Mexican Food
Credit Pete Gregoire
Saddle up partner, grab your cowpokes, and get ready to spend a day in one of the wildest theme parks in America.
For avid fans of westerns, Old Tucson’s a one-of-kind theme park that you can’t miss. The park has a range of daily performances like stunt and comedy shows and even musicals.
Kids love the fun attractions and excursions. There are antique automobiles to drive, train rides through the desert, the iron door mine adventure, and panning for gold – just to name a few.
Old Tucson also features hiking trails, horseback and stagecoach rides, a movie museum, shooting gallery, and even a wild west escape room.
The Old Tucson Movie Studios sits on the western edge of Saguaro National Park, so you can knock both off your “things to do in Tucson list” in one fell swoop.
Visiting Old Tucson’s Movie Studios is to step out of the real world and into the realm of the wild west.
Sabino Canyon, another outdoor mecca that travelers shouldn’t miss, offers sweeping vistas of rollercoaster mountains, deep canyons, and long, well-worn trails. Not to mention during certain times of the year, swimming holes, and cascading waterfalls.
Sabino shows the sheer size and grandeur of the landscape surrounding the Tucson area. It’s a nature lovers hotspot that contains a wide variety of flora, fauna, and wildlife.
Who should visit Sabino Canyon? Well, anyone interested in the great outdoors, hiking, or epic landscapes. And another one of the top ten places to visit in Tucson.
Mission San Xavier del Bac
Photo by Pete Gregoire
As far as sightseeing around Tucson, it’s hard to beat Mission San Xavier del Bac. Also known as “White Dove of the Desert,” this mission dates back to 1770 when a group of Spanish Jesuits began construction on this historic mission, using money borrowed from a local rancher.
The elegant buildings contain a rustic charm, yet elegant design. In one way, it embodies the spirit of the west, and the mission acts as a superb example of Spanish Colonial architecture in America.
Mission San Xavier del Bac, which sits just south of downtown Tucson, welcomes everyone, whether you’re religious or not. The mission is free, but donations are welcome.
The stylish architecture makes this one place not to miss when traveling in Tucson, and one of the best places to travel to in the US..
St. Augustine Cathedral
Photo Courtesy of Visit Tucson
While we are on the subject matter of churches, there’s one more in Tucson that intrepid travelers won’t want to miss.
Built-in the late 1800s, St. Augustine Cathedral illustrates the elegance of Mexican Baroque architecture. The parish is a noteworthy site for its soaring, finely detailed towers; simple, yet opulent exterior, and ramped floors that gives every churchgoer a view of the alter.
It’s amazing to think that this cathedral started out as a humble two-room house, and over time has been revamped into the wondrous cathedral we see today.
Tohono Chul Park
Credit Rhonda Spencer
Head to Oro Valley – just outside Tucson – to explore Tohono Chul Park, a botanical garden, cultural museum, and nature preserve. Their biggest claim to fame is the botanical gardens. They are known around Tucson for the verdant and diverse flora and fauna. The landscape is peppered with dozens of species of birds. As well as other lovely wildlife like butterflies and the seemingly odd Gila monsters.
Sprawling out over the rest of the 49 acres, you’ll discover epic desert scenery, panoramic views of the Santa Catalina mountain ridges, and learn about the marvels of the Sonoran Desert region.
And if I could sum up Tohono Chul Park in one word, it would be biodiversity.
Colossal Cave Mountain Park
For those who wish to experience one of the best caves in the United States, should head to Colossal Cave Mountain Park.
This park, 30 minutes outside of downtown Tucson, is one of the largest dry caverns in the country. (They haven’t even explored the entire cavern).
There are miles of constricted pathways aligned with stalactites, and stalagmites having otherworldly forms.
Local legends say treasure from a stagecoach robbery is still stashed away in the cave, hidden, and lost to time. But with the vastness of the cave, will we ever find out (This caves are much bigger than the ones in Halong Bay Vietnam)?
Colossal Cave Mountain Park, almost as big as Waitomo Glowworm Caves, is much more than just the cave. Along the 2,400 acre ground, there are hiking and horse trails—camping and butterfly gardens. You could easily spend two days exploring the park and only see a fraction of what it has to offer travelers, like the Seattle Beaches offers..
Larger than life, this is one thing to do in Tucson that’s perfect for adventure travelers, like me, or family travel on a budget.
Pima Air & Space Museum
Credit Robert Glynn
For our last thing to do in Tucson, let’s talk about one of the world’s largest aerospace museums. The Pima has close to 350 aircraft sprawling across 80 acres and 6 hangars. The museum takes you through the history of aircraft, as well as the history of aerospace in the United States.
The Pima Air & Space Museum’s open 7 days a week, from 9 -5 and a great addition to any things to do in Tucson list.
These are 10 of the best things to do in Tucson. However, the city has endless adventures, restaurants, and food to uncover. It’s a city that welcomes you in, lets you explore without boundaries; or just lets you sit back, unplug, relax, and recharge.
Whatever you’re looking for out of a holiday, well, you can find it in Tucson. And it’s become one of my favorite places in the country. And if you are planning heading more south to Mexico. First find out is Mexico City Safe. And help protect yourself.
“This post was sponsored by Visit Tucson. All opinions are my own.”