You might have already heard of Tucson, Arizona if you love summer and the sun.
Tucson is the second-largest city in Arizona. It is a vacation spot for many.
Well, why not?
The city has 350 days of sunshine all year. And because of the excellent weather, the city can provide its visitors with various activities.
We often overlook Tucson in favor of the more famous city, Phoenix.
Phoenix is in the southernmost part of the state, a few miles away from the Mexican border. However, you will easily find Tucson teemed with activities perfect for history buffs when you visit. There are also activities for those who love culture as much as I do.
Aside from these, Tucson has delicious food for food lovers. And finally, the city has enough places where you can engage in outdoor activities all year round.
You can go for hikes or laze away at a park while waiting for sunset.
You can tailgate at the University of Arizona and witness a football game.
Or you can take your family to one of the city’s famous waterparks.
Stuff your face with enough food to last you a lifetime. And as the day ends, wash everything down with your favorite drink in one of the city’s many pubs.
Aside from these, there are galleries, gardens, and beautiful resorts. The atmosphere is just right. It never feels crowded.
It is for a good reason why people love Tucson.
And because I love Tucson as much as I love you, let me give you 12 of the city’s major highlights that you should visit.
List of Contents
1. Old Tucson
When visiting Old Tucson, the phrase “Out with the old” may not be appropriate.
Old Tucson is one of the unique parks in the U.S.
While the park may not be popular with most tourists, it still provides guests a unique experience.
When you visit, the park gives you the feeling of being in an Old West town.
Old Tucson recreates images of gunslingers. There are also saloons from way out in the back.
Let me give you a brief background.
Old Tucson used to be a set where they film classic western movies. One such notable film is Rio Bravo and Gunfight.
It would be fun to play – pretend when you come to visit.
And even if this lifestyle is already obsolete, you can still live a life in the Old West by visiting the park.
2. Reid Park Zoo
Right at the heart of Tucson is a gem that you should visit.
The Reid Park Zoo welcomes about 500,000 visitors each year. And the significant number of visitors is for a good reason.
The location of the zoo is perfect.
One can soak in the warm desert weather while exploring and getting to know some of the friendliest and furriest animals in the world.
There are elephants that you can find here. You can also check out and meet the iguanas during your visit.
In summary, the zoo houses more than 500 types of animals.
There are also special events once in a while. And if you feel like it, you can even spend your birthday here.
3. Sentinel Peak
Located in the Southwestern part of Tucson is Sentinel Peak.
People always thought that Sentinel Peak resulted from a dormant volcano’s doing. The reason is that the land that surrounds the peak is volcanic. The ground also dates back to about 20 million years.
Coming over, you could have a wide array of options in terms of activities.
The most popular activities here are trekking and hiking. Once up there, the highlight is the scenic view over Tucson Valley. Aside from the Tucson Valley, you will also get to see the rest of Tucson, the sight of which is breathtaking.
4. Mini Time Machine of Miniatures
As per the name itself, it seems like it is full of letter M’s.
The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures is a fun destination in Tucson.
From the name of the place itself, the museum houses little pieces. The museum opened in the 1930s and survived a war, several presidents, and more.
Over the years, the museum earned a reputation as one of the must-see places in Tucson.
The pieces that you see here are small. Although small, the heart of the operation is bigger. You can see how the artists made each piece of the display.
Looking at the pieces, you can easily see the artists’ love and adoration for the work. As the years pass by, there are newer pieces that come in.
These newer pieces find their places beside the older ones.
Looking at the pieces, you cannot help but admire the details of the displays. Everything is impressive and will surely enchant anyone, especially those who can appreciate good artistry and craftwork.
The museum has many galleries. However, my favorites are The Enchanted Realm and the History Gallery.
This tourist attraction provides guests with a unique experience while visiting Tucson. You should come and see me when you are in town.
5. Cathedral of Saint Augustine
Sitting right smack at Stone Avenue is the Cathedral of Saint Augustine.
The structure is a Roman Catholic church.
The church can seat about 1,000 worshippers. However, the church is different from the others with its sloped floors.
The sloped floors are because it should provide the entire church of worshippers a clear view of the altar. Because of the slope, you can easily see the crucifix from Pamplona in Spain.
Aside from the crucifix, other notable relics are also inside the church.
The stonework with the coat of arms of Pope Pius XI sits beside carvings of indigenous plants you can only find in the Arizona Desert region.
6. Tohono Chul Park
Translated to the English language, Tohono Chul means Desert Corner.
Tohono Chul Park was from the indigenous people of Arizona – the Tohono O’odham.
The park has an onsite museum. The museum focuses on environmental stewardship. It also aims to teach the public about the Sonoran Desert Region.
What I like about this park is the background.
Any angle can give you a backdrop of the Santa Catalina Mountains when taking photos.
You can enjoy your time exploring the park or simply staying at the botanical gardens.
7. Arizona History Museum
The Arizona History Society aims to work diligently to give the people an understanding of the Grand Canyon State. The Society also seeks to educate people about the state’s progress over the years.
One of the best projects of the Society is the Arizona History Museum.
At the museum, you would see how Tucson evolved and progressed over the years. It was a flourishing jewel in the past. It is a progressive city of the present.
While inside the museum, you would see several historical contexts.
You can learn about the influence of Spain on the state of Arizona. There are also several items displayed here. Some of the most notable things are owned by famous personalities like Wyatt Earp.
The museum shows how diligent the Society is in preserving historical goods. And these items are the reasons why the museum is one of the best in Tucson.
When visiting, expect to pay an admission fee. But the cost is not that much, so don’t you fret.
8. The Rattlesnake Bridge
Tucson is a city that is rich in public art.
Over the years, the city spent millions of dollars on different projects. However, one of the most notable projects is the Diamondback Bridge, a bridge constructed in the image of a rattlesnake.
The Rattlesnake Bridge aims to mix the local wildlife with a city art project.
The bridge is abstract. But look at it, and you will see that it accurately depicts a rattlesnake.
One end of the bridge looks like a snake’s maw. The support beams serve as the fangs of the reptile.
Covering the bridge is a metal mesh. It forms the snake’s body. The paint of the mesh is also in the exact color and gradient of a real rattlesnake.
The locals were not as welcoming to the rattlesnake bridge in 2002. A certain amount of backlash met the construction of the bridge.
Some say it is garish. Others say it is cheesy.
However, it was the vision of the artist that won eventually.
And up to this day, it stands to help pedestrians cross atop a busy highway.
9. San Xavier del Bac
Located in downtown Tucson, San Xavier del Bac is another tourist destination you should not miss when in Tucson.
It is a Spanish Catholic Mission a few minutes away from the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation.
The name originated from a Christian missionary. The same missionary is famous as a co-founder of the Jesuit Order, Francis Xavier.
The building dates back to the 18th century.
It is also one that people consider the most exemplary Spanish colonial architecture in the country.
Tourists and locals alike flock to this site every day. It is open every day and attracts about 200,000 visitors each year. For most visitors, the site is a pilgrimage.
The Franciscan members of the Christian world still run the site.
As a tourist, you can enjoy the serene and calm atmosphere of the site in one of the oldest European structures in Arizona.
10. Fort Lowell Park
If you enjoyed your time at Old Tucson, you would also love it at Fort Lowell Park.
Like Old Tucson, Fort Lowell is also full of historical facts about Tucson. The most notable of these was information about the Apache Wars.
Fort Lowell is one of the must-see destinations while in Tucson. A visit here will let you glimpse the place’s history. It also enables you to understand what the fighting forces went through at the time.
Aside from the fort, there is also a museum.
Here, you can study the vintage pieces that could add more context to the city’s life in the past.
If you want to learn more about the history of Tucson, the museum is one of the best places to visit.
Admission is free. Fort Lowell is the perfect choice for anyone visiting the city but is mindful of the cash.
Special thanks go to the Arizona Historical Society, which helped build the museum. Because of this organization, today’s people can learn about Tucson’s achievements and its personalities before us.
Fort Lowell will no longer serve its original purpose as a fort. However, its transition from being a fort to being a museum is exceptional.
11. Trail Dust Town
Here is another park that shows you the life of the Wild West from decades ago.
Trail Dust Town is another must-see destination whenever you are in Tucson.
Here, you will witness stunt-heavy shows by the Pistoleros Wild West Show. Also, be sure to ride the CP Huntington Railroad. The experience is nostalgic.
And you know what else you should not miss?
The park has plenty of dining options. And they are all delicious!
12. Old Tucson Studios
If you love the movies, you will surely love Old Tucson Studios.
The destination is a studio that sits next to the Tucson Mountains.
The studio was initially constructed as a location for many famous movies. These movies include Little House on the Prairie, Gunfight, and Arizona.
The studio is a theme park where guests can take a tour. The tour comes with historical explanations and some live-action performances. The performances even include gun fights between stuntmen and women.
All of these attractions in Tucson are intriguing. All of these are beautiful and exciting.
Whether you come and travel during the day or the night, you will surely enjoy it here.
The number of things you can do here only states that you have a wonderful city ahead of you.
There are museums, parks, restaurants, and many more.
Have you been to Tucson before?
Which attraction would you like to include on my list?
Let me know.