The Coolest Things to See and Do in Tucson, Arizona

The saguaro cactus, native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, makes its mark on the landscape of Saguaro National Park
The saguaro cactus, native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, makes its mark on the landscape of Saguaro National Park | © lucky-photographer / Alamy Stock Photo
Chloe Hanschen

Tucson, Arizona, with its otherworldly, cactus-filled landscape, is the ideal base for an experience of the Sonoran Desert. Here we have compiled a list of our favorite restaurants, wineries, museums and parks that you should check out.

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Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is one of the most popular attractions in all of Arizona. Located across 98 acres (40 hectares), the museum includes a zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, and natural history museum. The museum includes more than 230 species of animals and 12,000 species of plants. The museum is committed to preserving and educating people about the natural history, plants, and animals of the Sonoran Desert. It’s the perfect place to take a closer look at the distinctive specimens of cactus that are scattered across this landscape.

Pima Air Space Museum

Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona, USA

Pima Air & Space Museum is home to one of the largest aviation collections in the country. The museum spans more than 250,000 square feet (23,000 square metres), with more than 350 aircraft on display in six indoor exhibit hangars. The Space Gallery includes a full-size replica of the Apollo 13 capsule, a replica of the X-15 and a lunar rock sample. The museum is also home to the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame, a tribute to the state’s aviators.

Callaghan Vineyards

A chance to sample the award-winning wines of Callaghan Vineyards, located about an hour south of Tucson, is worth the drive. These wines are globally recognized and renowned, and have been served at the White House. The tasting room is open Thursday to Sunday from 11am to 4pm.

Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art was founded in 1997 and features temporary exhibits that change regularly enough that a return trip is always worthwhile. Located in a converted firehouse, the interior of the museum is modern and unique.

Thunder Canyon Brewery

With two locations in Tucson, Thunder Canyon Brewery is well known for its handcrafted beers and home-made food. The brewery has been around since 1997 and is very involved with the local community. Take a tour for an insight into the brewing process (call ahead to make a reservation), try the award-winning Warhead Stout brew and check out weekly specials for great deals.

De Grazia Gallery in the Sun

Author Studio at De Grazia Gallery In The Sun,Tucson, Arizona, United States

Artist Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia established De Grazia Gallery in the Sun in 1950, and today the museum houses many of his most famous works. The gallery consists of six permanent collections of his paintings, which depict famous historical events and the native cultures of the Southwest – he is famous for capturing everyday native American life. The building itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

El Charro Café

Besides being a Tucson mainstay since 1922, El Charro Café is billed as the oldest-established Mexican restaurant still operating in the country. Since its opening it has been owned by the same family, and the menu features Northern Mexico-Sonoran style and Tucson-style Mexican cuisine. It has won many awards, and the restaurant was included in the list of America’s 21 most legendary restaurants by Gourmet Magazine. People come from all over to try the food here.

Arizona State Museum

Arizona State Museum, Tucson, Arizona

Arizona State Museum is the oldest and largest anthropology museum in the Southwest. The museum is located on University of Arizona’s campus and is dedicated to both research and education. It has more than 25,000 examples of American Indian basketry and the largest collection of Southwest Indian pottery. In total, the museum is home to more than 3m catalogued objects.

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park, with more than 150 miles of hiking trails, is divided into two areas – the Tucson Mountain District and the Rincon Mountain District. Try the Valley View Overlook Trail or one of the five picnic areas in the Tucson Mountain District. The Rincon Mountain District also offers a scenic Cactus Forest Loop Drive. The terrain is packed with samples of the nation’s largest cactus, the giant saguaro that gives the park its name.

Kitt Peak National Observatory

Kitt Peak National Observatory, Arizona

Kitt Peak National Observatory has a large array of optical and radio telescopes. The observatory is located on the Kitt Peak of the Quinlan Mountains, and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory employs a team that conducts research at the site. Visitors can learn about what the team is working on at the visitor center.

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