Explore Tucson, Arizona
Tucson—is the largest city in southern Arizona and the second largest next to Arizona’s state capital, Phoenix. Tucson is located southeast of Phoenix and north of the US Mexico border. The city is well known for its magnificent sceneries, surrounded by beautiful mountains and desert landscapes. Located in central Tucson is the well known University of Arizona, home of the Wildcats. Residents pride themselves on UofA sports, painting the town with red white and blue and showing their undying support and loyalty.
Tucson is surrounded by 5 mountain ranges, the Santa Catalina Mountains, Rincon Mountains, Tucson Mountains, Santa Rita Mountains and the Tortolita Mountains. The high point of the Santa Catalina Mountains is 9,157-foot (2,791 m) Mount Lemmon, the southernmost ski destination in the continental U.S., while the Tucson Mountains include 4,687-foot (1,429 m) Wasson Peak. The highest point in the area is Mount Wrightson, found in the Santa Rita Mountains at 9,453 feet (2,881 m) above sea level. Tucson is bordered on all sides by natural areas, including Coronado National Forest, Catalina State Park, Ironwood Forest National Monument, and Saguaro National Park. Tucson’s weather is superb, averaging about 350 sunny days a year. Its warm, dry air and relative low humidity is ideal for year-round recreation. Although day time temperatures are high, it drops when the sun goes down leaving evenings cooler and comfortable. Typically between June and September, monsoon season makes it way to Tucson. Monsoon weather varies, with thunder and lightning, strong winds, and rain coming down hard, sometimes traveling almost parallel. There are significant floods during the seasonal rains since the city is located on the Santa Cruz River, formerly a perennial river but now a dry river bed.
Tucson is a popular destination for many “snowbirds” wanting to get away from their winters and spend it in warmer locales. Tucson offers one-of-a-kind experiences for visitors interested in outdoor adventure and nature, heritage and culture, arts and attractions, golf, and original Southwest-inspired dining. Visit Tucson and see what the city has to offer, from a variety of activities such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, exploring caves, astronomy, bird watching and many more.
The area of Tucson is known to have been inhabited as far back as 12,000 years ago, first visited by the Paleo-Indians. Evidence of agricultural settlements along the Santa Cruz River have been found dating from ca 1000 B.C. Tucson is one of the oldest continually inhabited areas in North America. Before Spanish missionaries and soldiers arrived in the late 1600s, Hohokam Indians lived and farmed there for 4,000 years. Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino visited the Santa Cruz River valley in 1692, and founded the Mission San Xavier del Bac about 7 miles upstream from the site of the settlement of Tucson in 1700. The Spanish established a fort on August 20, 1775 and the town officially came to be called “Tucson.” Tucson became a part of Mexico after Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821. Following the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, Tucson became a part of the United States of America, although the American military did not formally take over control of the community until March 1856. From August 1861, until mid-1862, Tucson was the capital of the Confederate Arizona Territory. Until 1863, Tucson and all of Arizona was part of New Mexico Territory. And in 1877, it was incorporated as a city in Arizona.
Tucson was developed on a grid plan starting in the late 19th century with the city center at Stone Avenue and Broadway Boulevard. Initially, this intersection was at one point the geographic center of Tucson, but that center has since shifted as the city expanded east due to non development of the west because of the Tucson Mountains.
Tucson boasts the best of both worlds…the progress and innovation of a metropolitan community and the friendly, caring atmosphere of a small town. Tucson’s rich cultural heritage centers around a unique blend of Native American, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo-American influences. Blessed with the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert, Tucsonans embrace a rare lifestyle and are committed to preserving that.
- Founded in 1885, University of Arizona was the first university in the state of Arizona.
- More than 100 years ago, the Santa Cruz River flowed nearly year-round through Tucson.
- Actor Stephen Baldwin owns and lives on a ranch in Tucson.
- Hollywood producer, Jerry Bruckheimer graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in psychology.
- Infamous bank robber, John Dillinger and most of his crew was caught in Tucson.
- Tucson is the 32nd largest city in the United States with population over 1 million.
- Tucson is the native land of the rare, giant saguaro cactus.
- If you are a citizen of Arizona, never refuse a person a glass of water, because it is illegal to do so.
- If you cut down a cactus, you may face 25 years of imprisonment.
Things To Do
Sabino Canyon-Visit this desert oasis located in the Coronado National Forest and home to the spectacular desert landscapes and abundant wildlife. On the east side of Tucson, experience the beauty of one of the most unique Southwestern desert canyons. For those individuals who would like a guided tour, Sabino Canyon offers narrated, educational tours into the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Tours are available for the Sabino Canyon Trail and Bear Canyon Trail. For the outdoor, physical, adventurous types, take a hike or bike ride on the many trails offered. Seven Falls, one of the popular trail heads is about 5 miles one way and takes about an hour and half to reach the very top. Depending on the weather conditions, it could take a minimum of 3 hours to reach the top by foot. As the winter season comes to an end, and the weather warms up, snow from Mount Lemmon melts creating fresh springs atop where many take a dip in after reaching the top. It is suggested to bring water and snacks. Be careful though, during dry weather conditions, most of the footing is very stable but when water is present, it can be more challenging. It is also suggested to wear appropriate hiking attire. Be patient, take your time and enjoy the scenery as many people soak up the tranquility of the peaceful nature. Sabino Canyon trails range from easy to challenging and the best part is, hiking can be done year round depending on how cold or hot you like it. The trails are most crowded just after winter heading into spring and after summer heading into fall.
Stargazing—Just south of Tucson on the Tohono O’odham Reservation, is the Kitt Peak National Observatory which has the world’s largest collection of optical telescopes. Kitt Peak is home to twenty-four optical and two radio telescopes representing eight astronomical research institutions. The Kitt Peak experience is like no other. On a clear night’s sky in Arizona, the stars are already shining bright but take a peek through these optical telescopes and you’ll be mesmerized. The Kitt Peak National Observatory Visitor Center is open to the public daily from 9am to 4pm with the exceptions of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Guided tours are available and offered daily between select hours. For special programs available, click here.
Stroll through a safari—Tucson’s Reid Park Zoo, founded in 1965 with a collection of birds, prairie dogs, farm animals and a few squirrel monkeys, has expanded to a 17-acre campus that houses hundreds of animals in naturalistic exhibits. The zoo hosts nearly 500,000 visitors annually and is great place for kids of all ages to explore, learn and have fun. The zoo offers a variety of educational programs for all ages making learning wildly fun. Zoo members attend the zoo FREE all year long. For zoo hours and pricing, click here.
University of Arizona—take a stroll through Arizona’s first ever built university, founded in 1885. The main campus sits on 380 acres in central Tucson. There are 179 buildings on the main campus. Many of the early buildings were designed by Tucson’s very own, prominent architect, Roy Place. It was Place’s use of red brick that set the tone for the red brick facades that are a basic and ever-present part of nearly all UofA buildings including many of the Tucson built homes. The campus is roughly divided into quadrants. The north and south sides of campus are delineated by a grassy expanse called the Mall, which stretches from Old Main eastward to the campus’ eastern border at Campbell Avenue. The west and east sides of campus are separated roughly by Highland Avenue and the Student Union Memorial Center. Tucson’s city comes alive when there are UofA games. Students, alumni, staff, residents and many visitors show their spirit and support of the Arizona Wildcats.
Tanque Verde Ranch— Since 1868, Tanque Verde Ranch has been reviving the spirit of the Old West by providing guests with luxurious accommodations, authentic dining, unparalleled amenities, and an abundance of activities. Located on 60,000 acres of Tucson’s breathtaking desert landscape, Tanque Verde Ranch is nestled among the natural beauty of the Rincon Mountains, between the Saguaro National Park and the Coronado National Forest. Offering horseback riding lessons, trail rides, hiking, mountain biking, tennis, swimming, fishing, supervised kids programs, La Sonora Spa, and much more, the Ranch has something for everyone.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum—is a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden, all in one place. Exhibits re-create the natural landscape of the Sonoran Desert Region so realistically you find yourself eye-to-eye with mountain lions, prairie dogs, Gila monster and more. Within the Museum grounds, you will see more than 300 animal species and 1,200 kinds of plants. There are almost 2 miles of paths traversing 21 acres of beautiful desert. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum’s mission is to inspire people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering love, appreciation, and understanding of the Sonoran Desert. The museum is located at 2021 North Kinney Road. Click here for map. For museum hours and rates, click here.
Pima Air and Space Museum—Tucson’s is home to one of the largest aviation museums in the world and the largest non-government funded aviation Museum in the United States. The museum maintains a collection of more than 300 aircraft and spacecraft from around the globe, many of which are rare and one-of-a-kind and also includes more than 125,000 artifacts. Many of the aircraft on display can be touched by visitors because there are no barriers around them. Part of the museum’s collection includes President John F Kennedy’s Air Force One and presidential aircraft used by presidents Nixon and Johnson. Walk among the giants of aviation heritage, including military, commercial and civil aviation. www.pimaair.org
La Encantada—Visit this more recent development on the North side of Tucson. La Encantada is an elegant refuge for the region’s best shopping and dining. Gracious courtyards, sweeping staircases and magnificent Spanish-style architecture frame a singular experience. You’ll find a variety of fashion stores, a selection of fine dining to fit every mood and specialty stores. Just pass the time and enjoy the walk around La Encantada, located at 2905 E Skyline Drive. Click here for map.
Breakers Water Park— After a hot day of sightseeing, cool off in this huge water park at the outskirts of Tucson. Tucson may not have its own ocean but the special attraction here is the wave pool, holding 1.3 miliion gallons of water, this is as close to the ocean as it can get. People of all ages can also enjoy the super water slides and tube slides. And just the right size for the little ones is the Captain Kidd’s Surfari. For more information, visit their website here.
Top 10 Restaurants
- El Charro Café
- Wild Flower Grill
- Café Poca Cosa
- Vivace Fine Italian
- Sullivan’s Steakhouse
- Kingfisher Bar & Grill
- Janos Restaurant
- Old Pueblo Grill Restaurant
- Miguels Restaurant
- North Restaurant
- Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse
- Oregano’s Pizza