Tucson is the second-largest city in Arizona, filled with rich history, beautiful desert landscapes, and friendly residents. Attractions include nature areas, museums, historic sites, and botanical gardens. Many Tucson vacation rentals offer gorgeous views of the Santa Catalina mountains and surrounding foothills. If you’re planning a trip to Tucson, look forward to plenty of activities to do and sights to see.
1. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is ranked as one of the top 10 museums in the United States, making it a great place to visit with family or on a solo trip.The museum houses an aquarium, art gallery, and over 21 acres of desert habitats with over 200 wild animal species.
2. Old Tucson Studios
If anyone in your travel group enjoys a good old Western movie, a visit to Old Tucson Studios is definitely in order. Tour the grounds and stand in the very spots where John Wayne filmed three Westerns, then head over to the costume area and take a look at the original clothing worn on shows such as “Little House on the Prairie” and “Bonanza.”
3. Reid Park Zoo
For a fun day outdoors mingling with big cats and other exotic animals, head over to the Reid Park Zoo. From lions and zebras to meerkats and poison dart frogs, many loving animals call the zoo home. Stroll the grounds and visit the animals, then stop by the snack shop for a sweet churro or freshly popped popcorn.
4. Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson
Visit the Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson to spend a day in peaceful reflection. The beautiful gardens feature five separate areas: the Zen Contemplation Garden, the Dry River Garden, the Stone and Gravel Garden, the Courtyard Garden, and the Strolling Pond Garden. Walk through the gardens and take in the beautiful scenery, and bring your camera to capture some unforgettable shots.
5. Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures
The Mini Time Museum of Miniatures is one of Tucson’s most popular attractions, thanks to its founder’s love of small things. Take a trip back in time when you browse the extensive collection of miniature dolls, tiny old-fashioned furnishings, beautiful small-scale displays, and over 300 miniature artifacts, then purchase a tiny memento as a souvenir.
6. Tucson Botanical Gardens
For a day filled with magical butterflies and gorgeous scenery, visit the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Sign up for a tour with an experienced docent and learn all about the butterflies and plant life in the gardens, or visit on your own and take a self-guided walk through the grounds.
7. Seven Falls
If you’re in the mood for a little recreation, head over to Seven Falls on the Sabino Canyon Trailhead. The five-mile out and back trail is suitable for all skill levels, making it a great place for a family hike or a walk with your dog. As you walk along the trails, stop at the beautiful waterfalls that flow into breathtaking pools. Dip your toes in to cool off, or simply take in the amazing views.
8. Trail Dust Town
For some down-home fun in the Wild West, head over to Trail Dust Town. One of Tucson’s most beloved attractions, this Western-themed park has everything from gold panning to haunted houses, as well as some of the tastiest food around. Pan for gold in Gabby’s Gulch, do a little target shooting in the Rifle Saloon, learn some magic tricks at the Magic Shop, then refuel at Pinnacle Peak, Tucson’s original cowboy steakhouse.
9. International Wildlife Museum
Learn about wildlife throughout the world at Tucson’s International Wildlife Museum. Exhibits include animal statues made entirely of recycled buttons, fossils, insect displays, and sensory safaris for visually impaired individuals.
10. Rillito River Park
For a bit of outdoor fun, pack a picnic and enjoy an outdoor meal at Rillito River Park. Set up a blanket in the grass and take in the views of the river, then get a little exercise by walking the quiet paths along the river.
11. Brandi Fenton Memorial Park
Brandi Fenton Memorial Park is a great place to spend the day; this beautiful outdoor space has a little of everything. If you’ve got kids, visit the park and relax while they play on the splash pad or massive playground. Take advantage of the equestrian area to do a little horseback riding along the surrounding trails.
12. El Tiradito
Enjoy a piece of Tucson history with a visit to El Tiradito. Located in the Old Barrio area of Downtown Tucson, this religious shrine is dedicated to local folk hero Juan Oliveras, a ranch hand who died in the name of love. Visit the brick building and check out the candles, love letters, and written prayers that decorate the crumbling bricks.
13. Museum of the Horse Soldier
The Museum of the Horse Soldier is dedicated to the horse-mounted services of the United States. Sign up for a guided tour for an in-depth, interactive lesson about the soldiers in American history for the past 200 years, or take a self-guided walk through the museum to check out memorabilia, uniforms, awards, flags, and other historic artifacts.
14. Fort Lowell
Fort Lowell is a historic U.S. Army post that sits along the outskirts of Tucson and serves as a popular tourist destination today. Before 1873, when the post was active, the area was home to the Hohokam, and small shards of ancient pottery can still be found on the grounds today. Take a road trip from your vacation rental to the edge of town and visit the fort, and take pictures of the building that’s still standing after 140 years.
15. Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum
Learn about the famed Tucson Rodeo Parade with a trip to this museum. Check out the re-created area of 1900s Tucson, and spend some time in Tucson’s very first airport hangar. If you’re visiting in February, you can purchase grandstand tickets and check out the parade yourself.
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