Tucson and South Arizona

Introduction:

Where? : The largest southern Arizona city, located on I10 hwy less than 2 hr drive south of Phoenix.

Google Map Link


 

What? : Tucson friendly vibe is different than Phoenix, it has a large university (UoA), a smaller and more intimate downtown and it is a good basecamp for visiting all southern Arizona has to offer.

 

When? : Prefer not at summertime when temperatures are very hot.

 

Due note 1: We spend here 2 nights and went to the city downtown to eat so I can’t really say a lot about the city itself.

 

Due note 2: I must admit I never visit any of the museum Tucson has to offer so I can’t really recommend/dis (Arizona State Museum, few Art Museums, Transportation Museum, Pima Air & Space Museum and few others).

 

My thoughts: As tourist I prefer Tucson on Phoenix; the city has good vibe and many attractions nearby and at southern Arizona. I will recommend to staying the city for few days and each day travel to a different attraction.

 

The visit:

On the way to/from Tucson you can plan the following stops:


Biosphere 2:

Interesting place that try to have long term habitat of isolated biosphere experiments.

See dedicated blog.

 

Picacho Peak State Park:

Nice state park located on hwy I10 mid-way to Tucson. A desert cactus landscape surrounding a high rocky hill, there is a trail that is climbing all the way to the top of the cliff with good all-around view. This is recommended park to visit if you are planning to do the hike, but it is not a must if you do not have the time.

 

West of Tucson:

Saguaro National Park West:

The giant saguaro cactus is one of the symbols of the American west desert. These majestic plants, found in relatively small area, are protected by Saguaro National Park.

The Park has two separate sections and I recommend the west section. It may be smaller in size and with shorter hikes but has a lot of large cactus and I think better sunrise/sunset viewing.

 

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum:

An open zoo, large botanical garden, natural history museum that was founded in 1952. Located west of Tucson, on N. Kinney road. It has two miles walking paths where you discover the desert landscape. It is one of the most visited attractions in Southern Arizona so my advice, come early.

Although I visited this place 22 years ago, I still remember this as an excellent visit and kids friendly. I do not know how it is today but from reviews it kept its high level.

https://www.desertmuseum.org/

 

Old Tucson:

Movie set used in several Westerns now functioning as a family theme park with live entertainment.

Kovid19: Close to the public

https://oldtucson.com/

 

East of Tucson:

Saguaro National Park East:

The eastern larger section of the Saguaro National Park. Has an 8 miles loop drive and a many more hiking options compare to the west park section.

 

Santa Catalina Natural Area & Mt Lemmon:

The road climbs this high mountain range, Mt Lemmon top is more than 9,000f high. Many viewing stops along the winding road and few hiking & camping options.

 

Sabino and Bear Canyon:

Located northeast of the city center. Both has deep canyons a stream of water that forms seasonal pools and waterfalls, were on the mountain slopes above there are Saguaro cactus. While Sabino canyon is with more water and more popular in Bear Canyon you can find the Seven Falls section.

 

South East day trip out of Tucson:

Pima Air & Space Museum:

The Pima Air & Space Museum, located south from Tucson, is one of the world's largest non-government funded aerospace museums. The museum features a display of nearly 300 aircraft including Blackbird.

Kovid19: Open to the public, need face masks

https://pimaair.org/

 

309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group:

The largest military airplane graveyard located not far from the Pima Air & Space Museum. Not sure you can visit this place or have a good location for picture taking (is it allowed?).


 

Colossal Cave Mountain Park:

A half-mile long, 40 min, guided tour will take you into this large cave. You’ll learn about the Cave’s history, its legends (like train robbers and ghosts), and its unique geology. As you descend approximately six stories deep (363 stair steps) you’ll see some amazing cave formations including stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone.

Kovid19: Open to the public, need face masks

https://colossalcave.com/

 

Tombstone:

From the tourist brochures: The spirits of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Clanton Brothers live on in the authentic old west town of Tombstone, home of Boothill Graveyard, the Birdcage Theatre, and the O.K. Corral.

My view: although his is real well preserved wild-west town this is mainly a large “tourist trap”, really nice to be here with kids (see the midday shooting show) and if you really like such thing…

https://tombstoneweb.com/

https://www.visitarizona.com/places/cities/tombstone/

 

Chiricahua National Monument:

located deep at the south east section of Arizona you will find Chiricahua National Monument park, with its unusual standing rock formations, very nice hiking trail options an native American history.

https://www.nps.gov/chir/index.htm


 

South of Tucson:

Not far from Tucson south on hwy 19 you can find the following attractions:


Mission San Xavier del Bac:

This is famous old mission just outside Tucson. The church, which is still fully functional and active today, was opened in 1797, which makes it the oldest European structure in the state. The front is impressive and there are baroque architecture elements and painted artwork.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission_San_Xavier_del_Bac

 

Asarco Mineral Discovery Center ((520) 625-7513):

Located 20-minutes south of Tucson, AMDC has an exhibit center, few huge mining trucks and may also offer a bus tours at the nearby Mission Mine; an active open-pit copper mine.

Kovid19: looks like it is close to the public for now

http://www.asarco.com/about-us/our-locations__trashed/asarco-mineral-discovery-center/exhibit-center/


 

Titan Missile Museum:

This real historic Titan II missile site is all that remains of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert across the United States from 1963 to 1987. There is guided tour that will take you inside and the self-guided topside tour outside.

Kovid19: Open to the public, need face masks

https://titanmissilemuseum.org/

 

Kitt Peak National Observatory:

The Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) is a United States astronomical observatory located on Kitt Peak of the Quinlan Mountains 55 mile west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona. It is one of the largest gatherings of astronomical instruments in the northern hemisphere.

Kovid19: looks like it is close to the public for now

https://www.noao.edu/kpno/

 

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