Tucson, AZ, is a beautiful city with a thriving culture and diverse population.
Native American and Mexican cultures helped form Tucson and are involved in the culture today. The historic district in Tucson has buildings that date back to the late 1800s. You can see old adobe buildings and marvel at how long they’ve stood in Tucson. Take a moment to look at the architecture and how people built these structures in the past.
You can walk to many places in Tucson. If you want a break from the car, park and start to explore the local shops, museums and restaurants.
Tucson offers more than other cities in the U.S. It’s in the desert and is close to canyons, which can be a fun destination for an outing in the wilderness. There are also mountains and nature trails for hiking and cycling.
The city’s natural beauty, historical roots and flourishing culture make Tucson an ideal place to live.
What Can I Do in Tucson?
Tucson always has something to see, whether it’s a breathtaking nature spot to visit, a museum to learn about history or a high-energy festival. Every second Saturday of the month, downtown Tucson has live music and lots of delicious food for everyone to enjoy. Local artists display their works and everyone in the community comes together to celebrate Tucson.
There are activities for people of all ages in Tucson. Whether you’re looking for family-friendly fun or adults-only nightlife, you’ll be able to find something exciting and fun.
Trails, parks and nature are a major part of life in Tucson. Take advantage of the surrounding natural beauty by checking out these places:
- Tohono Chul. This beautiful botanical garden is in the desert. It has nature paths and many gardens to stroll through. Art galleries and shopping are two other attractions at Tohono Chul.
- “A” Mountain. This landmark is special to the University of Arizona students. You can enjoy the view of the city from “A” Mountain’s peak.
- Queen Mine Tours. Need a break from the sun? Visit the Queen Mine Tours southeast of Tucson and cool off as you tour the caves and learn about the mines.
- Lakes. Roosevelt, Canyon, the Apache Lakes and Patagonia Lake State Park are all great places to relax and spend the day in the water.
- Plant Walks. The University of Arizona Visitors Center has routes you can follow to see the vast collection of plants from all over the world.
- Biosphere 2. The University of Arizona has the largest research center that explores the future of life on Earth. They test water movement, have a rainforest, marshes, savannahs and many other biome types. They use these environments to question and discover life on our planet.
- Kitt Peak. This observatory is about 7,000 feet in elevation. You can take telescope tours and participate in stargazing programs.
- Reid Park Rose Garden. The best time of year to visit the rose garden is between March and May. This garden has lush rose bushes of all kinds of bright colors.
- Splash Pad at Brandi Fenton Memorial Park. This free spot has an array of water features to stay refreshed. Water buckets, fountains and hoses make this a fun place for kids to play and cool off.
- Catalina State Park. Enjoy the view of the Santa Catalina Mountains and see the natural canyons and rock formations.
- Gates Pass. When you drive up to Gates Pass, you’ll be able to see a beautiful view of Tucson and Saguaro National Park.
- The Paths of Life: American Indians of the Southwest. The Arizona State Museum looks at modern cultures of natives.
- Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch. Looking for something different? You can hand feed the ostriches, lorikeets and miniature donkeys at this ranch. There are even weekend Monster Truck Tours where you can learn more about ostriches and the desert.
- Sanctuary Peak. This peaceful spot in the desert is a quiet place to meditate and appreciate nature.
- Arizona Trail. This park includes more than 800 miles of trails and will take you through national forests and the beautiful places of Arizona. You can walk, cycle and even ride horses.
- El Tiradito Wishing Shrine. This shrine stands in memory for a legend about a crime of passion that supposedly happened in the 1870s. There are varying accounts of the story, but it was essentially a love triangle that led to a man’s murder. You can leave a candle in his memory and make a wish to the man’s ghost. As the legend goes, if your candle stays lit all night, your wish will come true.
Museums, Art and History
So many different cultures come together in Tucson. Artists showcase their heritage and the museums preserve the area’s history. Check out places like:
- The Mini Time Machine Museum. Located in midtown Tucson, this museum has three galleries: History, Enchanted Realm and Exploring the World. The vast collection of tiny houses and creative themes make for an enjoyable afternoon.
- Tucson Desert Art Museum. Art and history entwine at the Tucson Desert Art Museum, where they show the southwest culture in Navajo and Hopi art and showcase the landscape in many forms of media. You can purchase Authentic Native American works here.
- Children’s Museum Tucson and Oro Valley. This place is great to inspire young kids with interactive exhibitions that teach them about STEM and art. Oro Valley is specialized for kids ages five and under. There are tactile exhibits they can touch and learn about through sensory details.
- Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block. This museum exhibit has modern art that’s Latin American, Asian, Western and Native American — they showcase the myriad of cultures that mix in Tucson. It’s one of the largest art collections in the region.
- Amerind Foundation Museum. Native American art and archeological materials are what make this museum interesting and informative. This museum is an hour east of Tucson, but the drive is worth it because of the remarkable natural rock formations of Texas Canyon.
- Santa Theresa Tile Works. These vibrant, handmade tiles are beautiful for mosaics, tables and accent pieces. Santa Thresa Tile Works is in the Historic Warehouse Arts District. Experts can make you a custom tile. You can even learn how to make a tile from scratch.
- Philabaum Glass Gallery & Studio. See the works of talented artists who make colorful, imaginative glassworks. The range of artwork shows individual creativity in the glassworks medium.
- Turquoise Trail. This trail takes you to the historical landmarks in downtown Tucson. It’s a self-guided tour, so you can take as much time at each stop as you want.
- Rattlesnake Bridge. This unique structure is a bridge made to look like a rattlesnake — fangs included.
- O.K. Corral. One of the most infamous locations that solidifies the Old West as a place for outlaws and gunslingers is the O.K. Corral Gunfight Site in Tombstone. This is a bit southeast of Tucson. You can visit the place where the shootout between the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday vs. The Clantons and McLaurys occurred. There are also re-enactments of the shootout.
- Poetry Center. If you’re a book-lover, you’ll love the University of Arizona’s Poetry Center. The extensive collection of books, periodicals and recordings could keep you occupied for months.
- St. Augustine Cathedral. This cathedral built in 1896 shows European architecture. Mass is still conducted every Sunday.
- Pima Air & Space Museum. This museum has a collection of historic U.S. aircraft and a Space Gallery that shows the past of space travel. You can see airplanes, artifacts and other kinds of memorabilia. There’s even a boneyard full of airplanes that the government retired.
If you’re interested in nightlife, try visiting a casino. If games aren’t your forte, you can always enjoy a show. Some favorites include:
- Desert Diamond Casinos & Ent. This casino has slot machines, blackjack and more. There’s also a nightclub and restaurants if you want to get away from the gaming for a while.
- Casino Del Sol. Complete with typical casino games, shows and a spa, the Casino Del Sol can make for a fun and lively weekend.
What Special Events Happen in Tucson?
Tucson has many exciting festivals that get the whole city involved. Some of the best include:
- Cinema La Placita at Tucson Museum of Art. Outdoor movies are an excellent way to spend a summer evening. There’s also beer, wine and food sold at the event.
- The Return of the Mermaids. This event celebrates the monsoon season. People dress up as mermaids and the streets are full of singing and dancing. This is family-friendly and suitable for kids of all ages. The celebration includes a parade, live music and face painting.
- HoCo Fest. Hotel Congress celebrates music on Labor Day weekend. This festival is one of the oldest in Tucson. Music lovers gather to listen to live music, eat good food and discover new artists.
- Salsa, Tequila & Taco Challenge. This event is for adults 21 and older. People flock to sample the local salsa, tequila and tacos. It’s also a competition for the cooks and bartenders to see who has the most popular food and drink. There also fun creations like tequila popsicles and refreshing twists on food like a blueberry-jalapeno salsa.
- Light the Sky Lantern Festival. This festival commemorates loved ones who have passed away. People can come together and light a lantern in memory of their loved one. Others also take this as an opportunity to make a positive change and commit to it.
Where Should I Eat in Tucson?
While festival food is delicious, you should probably get to know a few good restaurants in the city for when you want a sit-down meal.
There’s no better way to start your day than with a great breakfast. In Tucson, you can choose from great breakfast joints like:
- Cup Café in Hotel Congress. A favorite spot for breakfast, the Hotel Congress also does an incredible brunch. It’s vegetarian-friendly and has vegan and gluten free options.
- Prep & Pastry. They offer a variety of breakfast foods that are delicious and will get you ready for the day.
- Beyond Bread. This restaurant is local and bakes handcrafted bread. In addition to the extensive menu, they also have a fully stocked bakery.
- Biscuits Country Café. This breakfast place has specialty pancakes on their menu, along with a variety of traditional breakfast foods.
- Baja Café of Tucson. This restaurant changes its menu frequently to keep things fresh and innovative. They have a little bit of everything from American and Southwestern cuisine.
Soups, sandwiches and salads — oh my! Some of the best lunch spots in Tucson are:
- Wildflower. This restaurant is contemporary and always looking to put a new twist on American Cuisine. Their dishes draw inspiration from European and Asian cultures. The restaurant also offers a large wine selection.
- Tucson Tamale Company. Their family recipe is the cornerstone of this restaurant. This place has traditional and gluten-free tamales.
- El Guero Canelo. Try this restaurant if you’re in the mood for a traditional Mexican dish. The menu is perfect for those days when you just want a taco.
- Cafe Poca Cosa. An upscale urban feel takes this restaurant to the next level. This place also offers Mexican cuisine in a stylish yet casual setting. One aspect that makes this place unique is the menu. It’s written in Spanish on a chalkboard that changes twice every day. The servers bring the chalkboard to each table.
- Feast. This restaurant keeps things new because they change their menu on the first Tuesday of each month. They also tailor it to match the season. Their unique menu has American and International influences.
Whether you’re on the hunt for a juicy steak or an exquisite pasta dish, Tucson has tons of restaurants to choose from for a delicious dinner, such as:
- Vivace Restaurant. If you’re looking for an upscale option, then this restaurant is for you. They serve Italian meals and desserts. They also have a seasonal wine list.
- Flying-V Bar & Grill. This is another upscale option located in the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. The menu is made up of fresh, Southwestern food — they even have inside and outside dining options.
- The Grill at Hacienda del Sol. They serve New American Cuisine and a vast wine selection of more than 700 kinds to choose from. This restaurant has beautiful mountain and city views.
- Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. When you’re in the mood for steak, then this is the right place for you. They also offer gluten-free options.
- North Italia. This restaurant has a lot of traditional Italian dishes and drinks that will make you feel like you’re in Italy. They also have a large wine selection.
Safest Tucson Neighborhoods
When you move to a new area, you want to know it’s friendly, community-oriented and safe. Tucson has plenty of these kinds of areas where you’ll feel right at home, like:
- Downtown. Downtown Tucson is home to the University of Arizona. Families and college students live here with a strong sense of school spirit. The community often unites to support the Arizona Wildcats in sporting events.
- Sam Hughes. This area has good schools, a diverse community and architecture from the 1900s. You’ll be close to parks and shops in this pleasant neighborhood.
- Blenman-Elm. Close to Sam Hughes, this neighborhood encourages people to walk and bike to their destinations. This neighborhood also has the historic Arizona Inn, plenty of churches and an elementary school.
- North. As you move north, you go up in the mountains and start to get more scenic, elevated views. The mountains are still close to the city, and many people live there.
- Civano. This neighborhood focuses on environmentally friendly lifestyles. There’s solar power, and people can walk everywhere. The town was designed to strengthen the community, lessen traffic and keep the air clear.
- El Encanto. This area is full of mansions, villas and historic buildings. Palm and eucalyptus trees line the streets and provide beautiful natural scenery.
- El Montevideo. Close to video and the hallmarks of a town, El Montevideo has slightly less expensive housing options. There’s a low crime rate and a strong education system.
What Are the Best Suburbs Around Tucson?
The neighborhoods surrounding Tucson are scenic and keep you close to the community events and activities that come along with living in a city. Some popular suburbs to check out around Tucson are:
- Sahuarita. This suburb has low unemployment and crime rates. The homes are spacious, and properties focus on outdoor living. Sahuarita Lake Park gives residents a place to fish, go for a walk or hang out near water on a hot day.
- Oro Valley. Modern homes, a fresh farmers market and proximity to the Catalina State Park make this area a great place to live.
- Catalina Foothills. If you love the outdoors, you’ll love the Catalina Foothills. The Sabino Canyon has scenic hiking trails, or you could visit the Rillito River Park.
- Green Valley. Close to Desert Meadows Park, Green Valley has plenty of places to stay active. Homes are Mediterranean or ranch style.
- Tanque Verde. Large lots encourage outdoor entertaining and living. You’ll be near Tanque Verde Peak, where you can go mountain climbing and camping, and Agua Caliente Park, where you can go for relaxing walks.
- Corona De Tucson. Another suburb with a low unemployment rate and beautiful Mediterranean style homes, Corona De Tucson has a relatively small population. It’s quieter than other places, but the there’s still an active community and great local shops.
- Marana. Homes in Marana have plenty of space and emphasize outdoor living. Nature-lovers and families can enjoy Tortolita Mountain Park.
- Saddlebrooke. Another small community, Saddlebrooke has a low crime rate and plenty of places to camp, hike and stay active outdoors.
- Catalina. Close to Santa Catalina Natural Area and the Catalina Regional Park, Catalina is a small town where people can enjoy a slower pace and enjoy exploring the surrounding nature.
- Oracle. Another small town, residents in Oracle can enjoy plenty of natural beauty from Santa Catalina Natural Area and Mount Lemmon.
What Are the Crime Prevention Measures in Tucson?
While every city has crime, Tucson has several crime prevention policies in place to keep the city a safe as possible. The official website for the city of Tucson lists crime prevention tips for multiple scenarios that residents might experience. In general, the city follows safety procedures such as:
- Neighborhood Watch. People are encouraged to join the neighborhood watch, a network of neighbors watching out for you and your property. The idea is to create an alert neighborhood to increase safety and to contact authorities to report any suspicious activity. Neighborhood watches have weekly meetings, and a patrol officer will meet with you. There’s also a significant social aspect to a Neighborhood Watch. You meet regularly and are all keeping an eye out for each other. You’ll most likely make friends, and it will strengthen community bonds.
- Getting Arizona Involved in Neighborhoods. Also known as G.A.I.N., police agencies have this annual event to meet and talk about crime prevention. There are discussions on safety concerns, measures currently in place and what could be done to improve neighborhood safety in the future.
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