Downtown Tucson contains many historic buildings and museums throughout. This neighborhood has a storied history, and below, we have listed our 10 favorite things to see and do in the downtown area of Tucson.
A Tucson mainstay since 1922, El Charro Café is also ‘the nation’s oldest Mexican restaurant.’ Since their opening they have been owned by the same family, and their menu features Northern Mexico-Sonoran style and Tucson-style Mexican cuisine. They have won many awards and were named ‘one of America’s 21 most legendary restaurants’ by Gourmet Magazine. People come from all over to try their food.
El Presidio Park is located in downtown Tucson near the City Hall. The park has a storied history and has been used by the military since 1539. Today the park contains veteran’s memorials and a Battle of the Bulge monument. There is also a small rose garden, and there are some art pieces scattered around the park. The park is the ideal setting for a picnic or large gathering.
The Museum of Contemporary Art was founded in 1996 and features seasonal temporary exhibits. Check out their website to find out what exhibits they will be featuring in upcoming seasons. With so many changing exhibits, it is worth coming back for a second trip. The museum itself is located in an old firehouse, and the interior of the museum is modern.
The Arizona Historical Society Downtown Museum is one of four museums located in Tucson and is sponsored by the Arizona Historical Society. The downtown museum features depictions of early Tucson places, including ‘businesses, homes, drugstores, police and fire departments, and the Romero barbershop.’ Check out their website to see what their current exhibit is.
Come to the Children’s Museum of Tucson for fun and hands on activities for kids of all ages. Over the last four years, all of the exhibits at the museum have been renovated and improved. The focus of the museum is on offering ‘interactive, educational, and outreach programming,’ and two of their newest exhibits are the Gravity Room and the Build It exhibit. On Sundays the museum offers science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics based programming.
The Arizona State Museum is ‘the oldest and largest anthropology museum in the Southwest.’ The museum is located on The University of Arizona’s campus and is dedicated to both research and education. Their collection has more than 25,000 artifacts of American Indian basketry and the largest collection of Southwest Indian pottery. In total, the museum is home to more than three million artifacts.
The Presidio a San Agustin del Tucson was originally built by Spanish soldiers during the 18th century. Later, the fortress was taken over by the United States army and used during the American Indian Wars. The original fortress was dismantled in 1918, but was reconstructed in 2007. The items found during the reconstruction are now on display throughout the museum.
El Tiradito is a unique and popular shrine located in downtown Tucson. The shrine consists of a brick backdrop and a spot for candles. It is said that the man buried at the shrine fell in love with a woman and was killed by her husband. People come from all over to light candles at his grave in order to free his spirit from purgatory.
The International Wildlife Museum features more than 400 different species that are displayed in their natural habitats. The aim of the museum is to ‘increase knowledge and appreciation of the diverse wildlife of the world as well as explaining the role of wildlife management in conservation.’ Kids will love to see the lifelike animals in their natural habitats.
Located in historic downtown Tucson, the Tucson Museum of Art takes up an entire block. They are known for their contemporary art collection, but also have numerous other permanent and traveling exhibits. In addition to their art exhibits, the museum is in charge of five historic properties, which date back to the 1800’s and are both used for tours and other various activities of the museum. For example, the Romero House houses the museum’s ceramics studio and offers studio art classes.