52 Things to Do

Editor’s note: Tucson Guide’s “52 Things to Do” are listed in no particular order. All information given here was accurate at press time. You may want to phone for confirmation prior to visiting these attractions.

Featured Places

Desert Diamond Casinos & Ent.

You can bet on fun at Tucson and Sahuarita's Desert Diamond Casino. From slots and blackjack to bingo and poker, this place offers games galore. Gambling not your thing? A nightclub, restaurants, and a hotel are other offerings on the table. Owned and operated by the Tohono O'odham Nation, Desert Diamond Casino's two locations are conveniently located within an easy drive of Tucson.

Casino Del Sol/ Casino of the Sun

Slot machines and table games at Casino Del Sol create high energy, and the entertainment options multiply from there. People-watch at the elevated bar in the middle of all the action. Get dressed up for dinner and a show. Or make it an overnighter and luxuriate at the spa. 

Bisbee 1000 The Great Stair Climb

Forget the StairMaster--get outside and power through a challenging run up and around the mile-high town of Bisbee during this endurance-testing 5k race, Bisbee 1000 The Great Stair Climb, on the third Saturday of October. What began as an effort to save Bisbee's 1,000 historic steps has turned into a unique trek through the former mining community. There's also an Ice Man Competition--participants must carry 10-pound blocks of ice up 155 stairs with antique tongs--plus serenading musicians, arts & crafts booths, merchant discounts, and more.

O.K. Corral Gunfight Site

O.K. Corral Gunfight Site, located southeast of Tucson in Tombstone, is home to what is generally regarded as the most famous gunfight in the history of the American Old West. The fight took place on October 26, 1881, between Doc Holliday, the Earp Brothers, McLaurays, and Clantons, and has since come to represent a time in American history when the frontier was an open range for outlaws roaming the vast West.

Mini Time Machine Museum

Experience a wonderful charm-filled world at the Mini Time Machine Museum, a fantastical museum in midtown Tucson. Discover intricate details in the more than 275 miniature houses and room boxes--all part of the museum founder's extraordinary 30-year collection. For adults and kids alike, this museum offers a unique experience--the only one of its kind in the Southwest.

Queen Mine Tours

Experience cooler temperatures as you delve below ground and become a miner for a day in Bisbee's 47-degree caves, 90 miles southeast of Tucson. The Queen Mine Tour--a fun, safe, and authentic mining tour--offers five trips daily (each are 75 minutes long), and reservations are recommended.

Bisbee Visitor Center

Nestled 90 miles southeast of Tucson, Bisbee combines a laid-back atmosphere with old-world charm. Visitors to this former mining town savor Bisbee's unique allure--a blend of creativity (check out the art galleries), friendliness (converse with locals in Brewery Gulch), romance (stay at a quaint B&B or historic hotel), and annual events (like the Bisbee 1000 stair climb)--in the intriguing Mule Mountains.

TOHONO CHUL

Named “One of the Great Botanical Gardens of the World” by Travel + Leisure, Tohono Chul is nestled in 49 acres of lush desert. You’ll discover nature paths, gardens, art galleries, shops, and a tasty meal at the Garden Bistro. 8 a.m.–5 p.m. 7 366 N. Paseo del Norte, 520-742-6455, tohonochul.org

VISUALIZE THE SOUTHWEST THROUGH ART

The Tucson Desert Art Museum presents thought-provoking exhibits that explore the art and history of the Southwest and surrounding areas. The museum features a world-class collection of Navajo and Hopi weavings, as well as pottery, baskets, silver work, and other arts of the region. The panoramic Western landscape is portrayed in classic and contemporary paintings, photography, and digital media. Discover how Southwestern tradition and terrain have influenced many threads of contemporary art, including film, photography and op art. The museum showcases national traveling exhibitions, and produces original exhibits and events to survey a wide range of powerful artwork. The museum’s Four Corners Gallery offers original paintings and sculptures for purchase, as well as authentic Native American jewelry, pottery, books, and gifts. Visit us on the east side, at 7000 E. Tanque Verde Rd., just west of Udall Park, and on the web at www.tucsondart.org. For information on group tours and events, call 520-202-3888.

SANTA THERESA TILE WORKS

Wander through Tucson’s Historic Warehouse Arts District and let Santa Theresa Tile Works’ colorful, handmade tile inspire the creativity in you! Whether you craft a mosaic plaque, table, or backsplash in our cozy showroom, take one of our many workshops, or learn to make tile from scratch—you will amaze yourself! Prefer to keep your hands clean? Collaborate with one of our experienced and talented tile artists and design a custom-made piece for your home or business. Any way you tile it, it’s sure to be fun, memorable, and amazing! A truly authentic Tucson arts experience! 440 N. 6th Ave., 520-623-1856, santatheresatileworks.com

ROOSTER COGBURN OSTRICH RANCH

The Darndest Place You’ll Ever Visit! Voted one of the best roadside attractions in America. Hand feed the ostrich, lorikeets, and miniature donkeys, see the new bunny and stingray exhibits, and more. On weekends and holidays, take a Monster Truck Tour and learn about the desert and ostrich, plus have 4-wheelin’ and ostrich fishin’ fun. Affordable fun for all ages! On I-10 and exit 219 at Picacho Peak. roostercogburn.com or call 520-466-3658.

ALL A TWITTER!

Each feathered friend in Shane Fero’s lamp-worked blown-glass bird series at Philabaum Glass Gallery & Studio exudes vibrant colors and character. His whimsical surface design on the birds evokes the special metaphysical and spiritual quality of his work. Additionally, each lively piece captures the fun that Shane has with his subjects. Birdwatching has never been more artistic! 711 S. 6th Ave., 520-884-7404, philabaumglass.com

“A” MOUNTAIN

Tucson’s most notable, or should we say most easily noted, landmark is “A” Mountain. Since 1916, U of A freshmen have made a yearly tradition of painting the letter “A.” Drive to the top of the peak to enjoy a view of the city.

MAKE THEM SMILE!

Experience the joy of play-based learning at Children’s Museum Tucson and Oro Valley! Downtown, fi 13 rooms with fun, interactive STEM- and art-based exhibits. In Oro Valley, specially sized for kids 0–5, experience tactile and sensory exhibits that encourage exploration. Always something new! Downtown: 200 S. 6th Ave., 520-792-9985. Oro Valley: 11015 N. Oracle Rd., 520-297-8004, childrensmuseumtucson.org

THE MINI TIME MACHINE MUSEUM OF MINIATURES

Adventures await you this summer at The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures—with more than 10,000 square feet of air-conditioned exhibit space, showcasing antique and contemporary miniatures sure to delight all ages. Check our website for information on summer camps, Bob Murphy’s Railroad Town and our Tinker Workshops. Open Tues.–Sat. 9 a.m.–4 p.m. and Sun. noon–4 p.m. 4455 E. Camp Lowell Dr., 520881-0606, theminitimemachine.org

SAILING

Though few and far between, Arizona’s lakes are warm-weather retreats. Sail at Roosevelt, Canyon, or Apache Lakes near Phoenix, or try speedboating at Patagonia Lake State Park.

PLANT WALKS

The U of A campus boasts a collection of plants from all over the world. The Visitors Center, at Euclid Ave. and University Blvd., has maps directing you to the highlights.

MUST-SEE WONDER!

Come experience The University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 and see why it was named by Time Life Books as one of the 50 must-see wonders of the world! Visitors from all over the world journey here to explore Earth’s largest research center dedicated to researching future life on our planet. Bio 2 makes big ideas happen, like the massive mountain hill slopes of the “Landscape Evolution Observatory” experiment, which explores water movement. Bio 2 is a transforming— not conforming—21st-century innovation center with behind-the-scenes tours that will inspire all visitors. Highlights of the tour include an intro movie, multi-media exhibits, and access to see all of Biosphere 2, which is a reflection of Biosphere 1 at a size of more than 3 football  fields—in essence, a mini-world! Beneath 6,500 panes of glass live a rainforest, coastal fog desert, marsh, savannah, million-gallon ocean, and much more. It’s a remarkable place for discovery and imagination. Located at a cool elevation of almost 4,000 feet at the base of Tucson’s Santa Catalina Mountains, just north of Tucson on Oracle Rd./AZ Hwy. 77 at mile marker 96.5. Guided tours daily. Information: 520-838-6200, biosphere2.org.

CONNECTING ART TO LIFE

The Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block is Southern Arizona’s premier art museum with exhibitions of contemporary, modern, Latin American, Asian, Western, and Native American art. With six current exhibitions spanning fourteen gallery spaces, TMA is home to one of the largest collections of art in the region. Additionally, the museum’s unique brutalist architecture is artistic in and of itself. The museum’s campus features the Historic Block, four historic adobe buildings and a Mission Revival home, as well as the award-winning Café à la C’Art and the extraordinary museum store. 140 N. Main St., tucsonmuseumofart.org, 520-624-2333

CHOCOLATE IGUANA ON 4TH

Come visit Tucson’s most unique family-owned café, Chocolate Iguana on 4th (500 N. 4th Ave., 520-798-1211). You’ll love our gourmet salads and sandwiches, made-from-scratch scones and pastries, sinfully delicious desserts, and jars of candy from around the world.

MEANDER THE TURQUOISE TRAIL

Head downtown to explore Tucson’s historic landmarks on this self-guided walking tour. Download the map at tucsonpresidio.com.

POETRY CENTER

The nationally acclaimed University of Arizona’s Poetry Center has more than 60,000 books, periodicals, and audio/video recordings in its exhilarating home at 1508 E. Helen St.

ORGAN PIPE CACTUS NATIONAL MONUMENT

This takes some driving—168 miles of it—but it’s worth it. Take AZ Hwy. 86 west to the tiny town of Why. Turn left on AZ Hwy. 85 to get to the monument headquarters. When you get to Organ Pipe, drive or hike through the 516.7-square-mile preserve of rare cacti.

MEXICAN FOOD

Carne asada, tortillas, chiles rellenos—the tastes are as good as the names, some with spicy, tears-to-your-eyes flavor. There are literally dozens of places to find these authentic eats.

MONSOONS

Late-summer rainstorms are glorious. Cloud-gaze throughout the day, then relish their power as they dump buckets of rain—cooling the air and creating spectacular sunsets.

JIM CLICK HALL OF CHAMPIONS

Find tributes to all U of A athletic teams, including the national champion 2012 men’s baseball team and the 2007 women’s softball team. Open Mon.–Sat.

AMERIND FOUNDATION

The Amerind Foundation Museum contains a fine collection of archaeological and ethnographic materials, with an art gallery featuring works by Native American artists. Located an hour east of Tucson, in the spectacular rock formations of Texas Canyon. Open 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Tues.–Sun. Phone 520-586-3666 or visit amerind.org.

KITT PEAK

Close to 7,000 feet in elevation, Kitt Peak offers a cool summer getaway. Open daily 9 a.m.– 3:45 p.m., the observatory is the world’s largest. Daily telescope tours; visitor center with exhibits and gift shop. 15–20° cooler temps await you. Stargazing programs run nightly but are closed July 15–Aug. 31 due to monsoons. noao.edu/kpvc, 520-318-8726

REID PARK ROSE GARDEN

Hundreds of rosebushes have brought this garden national acclaim. Stop and smell the roses during the peak season from Mar. to May at the park just north of 22nd St. between Alvernon Way and Country Club Rd.

WET ’N’ WILD

The free Splash Park at Brandi Fenton Memorial Park (3482 E. River Rd.) features a large concrete pad with water buckets, hoses, fountains, and other water features to beat the heat.

ST. AUGUSTINE

Built in 1896, the cathedral is reminiscent of European church architecture. Every Sun. the clergy conduct mass accompanied by live mariachi music. 192 S. Stone Ave.

GATES PASS

A winding uphill drive west on Speedway Blvd. brings you, at its apex, to Gates Pass—and panoramic views of Tucson to the east and Saguaro National Park to the west.

LINGERING EVENINGS OUTDOORS

Warm nights, stirring sunsets, dark starry skies—we don’t advertise it, but these are some of the things that keep residents in Tucson year-round. Enjoy dusky moments at Gates Pass, “A” Mountain, the Santa Catalina foothills—or explore and find your own spot.

GOLD PANNING

Do it just like the original gold diggers—dry washing, kneeling in running streambeds, or digging with a pick and shovel. See desert-gold-diggers.org for organized outings.

ICES & CREAMS

Tucson summers demand the occasional relief of a frozen confection. Sample sherbets, gelato, frozen yogurts, milkshakes, and raspados at local shops to beat the heat.

SUNDAY BRUNCH

When Sunday rolls around, pamper yourself with brunch at a world-class resort or fine restaurant, with ice carvings, fresh-squeezed juice, smoked salmon, make-your-own omelettes, Belgian waffles, and much more. Check our “Desert Dining Guide” for an excellent selection.

RATTLESNAKE BRIDGE

With shiny fangs and a winding tail, a huge diamondback rattlesnake serves as a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Broadway Blvd. at the Barraza-Aviation Pkwy., just east of downtown Tucson. A hollow stomach serves as the covered bridge— another Tucson success in combining public art with city-improvement projects.

SEE THE LIGHTS OF TUCSON

Drive north on Campbell Ave. and, when you reach Skyline Dr., look south. The lights dusted across the valley reveal the cosmopolitan glow of this desert pueblo.

NATIVE PATHS

The Paths of Life: American Indians of the Southwest exhibit at the Arizona State Museum takes an innovative look at contemporary native cultures. 520-621-6302, statemuseum.arizona.edu.

BIKER’S DELIGHT

Dedicated to promoting positive bicycle use, Bicycle Inter-Community Art & Salvage (BICAS) creates and sells items made out of old bike parts, assists with repairs, and offers classes. Don’t miss the reconditioned used bikes for sale. 44 W. 6th St., 520-628-7950, bicas.org

WESTERN BOOTS

Tucson probably offers more leather goods than any place you’ve visited. Belts, billfolds, purses, cowboy hats, and—most of all—boots. Tucson is the place to find it all!

TUBAC

Situated 45 miles south of Tucson, Tubac was once the site of a Spanish presidio. Today it offers golf, restaurants, lodging, art galleries, and more. 520-398-2704, tubacaz.com

2ND SATURDAYS DOWNTOWN

It’s a shopping trip, an art walk, and a night of entertainment that celebrates the vibrancy of Tucson. 520-225-9019, 2ndsaturdaysdowntown.com.

SANCTUARY COVE

The All Creeds Brotherhood created an outdoor retreat and meditation spot in the desert on the outskirts of town. To get there, go north on Silverbell Rd. to Coachline Rd. Turn left, then make a right on Pima Farms Rd. until it comes to a dead end at Scenic Dr.; turn left and go about 1⁄4 mile to the sanctuary. Look for a gate on the right. Open from dawn until dusk. See sanctuarycove.org or call 520-744-2375.

SUMMERHAVEN

This little village’s claim to fame is revealed by its name. Just below the summit of 9,157-ft. Mt. Lemmon, Summerhaven offers cool mountain air, mountain streams, views, and the sound of gently rustling leaves. Picnic, hike, bike, ride the ski lift, eat homemade fudge, or savor delicious desserts at the Cookie Cabin. Follow Catalina Hwy. north through Coronado National Forest.

SOME LIKE IT HOT

For authentic Mexican food, beautiful scenery, and the hottest salsa, follow the fiery flavors of Arizona’s Salsa Trail. The trail stops at restaurants, a chile company, and a tortilla factory. Think you can handle the heat? 888-837-1841, salsatrail.com

CATALINA STATE PARK

Just north of Tucson on Oracle Rd., this park offers the best views of the canyons, cliffs, domes, and spires on the north side of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Walk the Romero Ruin Interpretive Trail to the archaeological site of an ancient Hohokam village. Camping, biking, and hiking are available. Phone 520-628-5798.

SUNRISE

Watch the Santa Catalinas as the first rays of light begin to play across the peaks and canyons. Turn away and look back a few minutes later, and the whole scene will have changed.

EL TIRADITO WISHING SHRINE

A love triangle, broken hearts, and a crime of passion are all pieces of the intriguing legend behind this shrine. 400 S. Main Ave. (at Cushing St.)

AGUA CALIENTE PARK

Some call this park “Tucson’s best-kept secret.” Picnic on the shores of several ponds, then visit the art gallery and nature shop. Open 7 a.m.–sunset, the Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente (“hot water”) Regional Park is at 12325 E. Roger Rd.

THE ARIZONA TRAIL

Imagine the sights you’ll see on this epic journey throughout the Grand Canyon State. Hike, bike, horseback ride, or cross-country ski on 800 miles of interconnecting trails through the Coronado, Tonto, Kaibab, and Coconino National Forests, from the border of Mexico to Utah. For maps and detailed information, phone the Arizona Trail Association at 602-252-4794, or visit aztrail.org.

TAKE FLIGHT

One of the largest collections of historic aircraft in the US is at the Pima Air & Space Museum, 6000 E. Valencia Rd. Its Space Gallery offers a historical look at space travel, while several hangars house memorabilia, airplanes, and exhibits. More than 275 aircraft are on display, inside and out. Take a tour of Tucson’s “boneyard” to see acres of planes and helicopters laid to rest by the government, and retired planes are also on the list of things to see on the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base tour. Phone 520-574-0462.