Tucson is an exciting and beautiful city in Southern Arizona. It is rich with American history and cultural diversity. The next time you’re in the Tucson area, you should check out these things to do.
1) Tucson Botanical Gardens
The Tucson Botanical Gardens are a five and a half-acre paradise hidden within an urban environment. The gardens were originally founded in 1964 and have undergone many changes since that time. Here, you’ll find sixteen gardens and eleven annually rotating exhibits. You can look forward to specialties like the Zen Garden, Herb Garden, Cactus and Succulent Garden, and the Barrio Garden. One among a list of many special events that you won’t want to miss is the Cox Butterfly & Orchid Pavilion, held October through May. Feast your eyes on beautiful, tropical butterflies from all across the world! Visit nearly anytime to catch a tour, an art exhibit, or a meal at Cafe Botanica. Named Best Secret Garden in America by the Readers Digest, you won’t regret a day spent in this beautiful oasis!
2) Pima Air & Space Museum
The Pima Air & Space Museum opened to the public in 1976 with just forty-eight aircraft on display. Since then, they’ve grown considerably, covering eighty acres and featuring more than 300 aircraft! You’ll find five indoor hangars jam-packed full of interesting exhibits; two of them are dedicated to WWII. The museum is the home of the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame, and also borders Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and AMARG, the largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the world. Nicknamed “The Boneyard” or “Graveyard of Planes,” the only place that can offer you an exclusive bus tour of the 2, 600 acres is the Pima Air & Space Museum. You’re sure to enjoy yourself in this place dedicated to preserving aviation heritage.
3) Fox Tucson Theater
The opening of the Fox Tucson Theater on April 11, 1930, turned out to be a huge event! 3,000 people who had bought tickets in advance partied not only inside the theater, enjoying showings of Chasing Rainbows and Mickey Mouse cartoons, but also clear down the street outside the venue, dancing to live bands, catching free trolley rides, and listening in to a live radio broadcast. The Fox flourished for about 40 years until it was closed and fell into disrepair. Though it sat empty for twenty-five years and was nearly beyond repair, thankfully the Fox Tucson Theater Foundation was able to purchase the theater, and after $13 million worth of renovations, the theater reopened in 2005! Today, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and luckily you can catch one of over 100 various events they host each year.
4) Sentinel Peak
Sentinel Peak was originally named after its main use as a lookout point for the Spanish. Though the peak is 2,987 feet in the air, the base of the mountain, along the Santa Cruz River, was a great place for growing crops. The mountain isn’t an active volcano itself, but you’ll find a lot of twenty to thirty million-year-old volcanic rock here. In 1915, after a University of Arizona football victory, students celebrated by hauling basalt up from the quarry to create a 160 foot tall, whitewashed “A.” Ever since people sometimes refer to Sentinel Peak as “A” Mountain. Make your way up to the peak during the day to take in a city-wide panorama, or bask in the dazzling lights of the city during nighttime viewing.
5) Kitt Peak National Observatory
Kitt Peak National Observatory sits at an elevation of 2,096 feet in the Quinlan Mountains. Part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Kitt Peak boasts the most diverse collection of astronomical instruments in the world. They house twenty-two optical telescopes and two radio telescopes. They have instruments both for viewing the cosmos during the night and also for studying the sun during the day. You can catch tours here daily, or arrive in the afternoon to be a part of the Nightly Observing Program, which stretches from sunset into the dark night of the desert. If you’re an advanced amateur astronomer, be sure to contact them ahead of time for a one-on-one session. And even if you’re only an amateur stargazer, the views of the cosmos that you’ll see in this well-equipped facility are sure to leave you breathless.
6) University of Arizona Museum of Art
The University of Arizona Museum of Art, or UAMA, began as a simple university collection in the 1930s. A donation of 200 lithographs by the Works Projects Administration helped kick start the museum and form its core collections. Today, the museum is proud to house over 6,000 works of art from a variety of mediums, including prints, drawings, paintings, and sculptures. The main focus of the museum is on European and American fine art from the Renaissance to the present day. Spend a day here, and you’ll have the privilege of enjoying collections by Samuel H. Kress, C. Leonard Pfeiffer, Edward J. Gallagher III, and many others.
7) Arizona State Museum
The Arizona State Museum was formed in 1893 and is operated by the University of Arizona. It’s the oldest and largest anthropology museum in the Southwest! The Arizona State Museum encompasses all facets of archeological and paleontological history that the state has to offer. You will find exhibits that explore the people who have lived in the great state of Arizona for as far back as archaeological sites exist. You can learn about the different aspects of the life of different groups of people. For example, you might find yourself being educated on what different peoples wore, what they ate, or how they created their art. The Arizona State Museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, and if you visit here, you’ll be elbow to elbow with curious researchers and scientists from around the world who travel to expand the knowledge in their respective fields.
8) Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park protects the nation’s largest cactus: the Saguaro! Rest assured, though, that you will also see a variety of plant life in the park because it is the home to over twenty-five species of cacti like the barrel, cholla, and prickly pear. The park covers about 91, 442 acres, and is split into two sections: one to the east of Tucson, and the other half to the west, each with their own visitors center. In either park, desert wildlife is abundant. Be sure to keep an eye out for quail, coyotes, jackrabbits, tortoises, rattlesnakes, roadrunners, as well as Gila monsters. Don’t forget to take advantage of the 150 miles of well-maintained hiking trails when you visit!
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