Points of Interest
Whether you are visiting Tucson, or you live here in Tucson, there are a lot of things to do. Here is a breakdown of the top points of interest in Tucson, AZ.
Sonoran Desert Museum
2021 N Kinney Rd, Tucson, AZ 85743
The Sonoran Desert Museum is located on 96 acres on Tucson's West side in the Tucson Mountains. The museum is mainly outdoors, so plan accordingly.
It is a living museum which means that visitors can explore the desert environment and observe native wildlife and plant species in their natural habitat.
Exhibits include desert animals such as coyotes, javelinas, pronghorn, birds of prey, and reptiles. Other exhibits show a wide variety of desert plants such as cacti and succulents.
They offer educational programs, guided tours, and interactive exhibits to help visitors learn about the unique biodiversity and natural history in the region. The museum also hosts special events and programs throughout the year such as stargazing and wildlife observation.
Reid Park Zoo
3400 E Zoo Ct
Tucson, AZ 85716
The Reid Park Zoo is located at the Gene C Reid Park in Central Tucson. The zoo opened in 1967 and features a diverse collection of animals including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Some of the notable species you can encounter include lions, giraffes, elephants, zebras, anteaters. And not to mention the main peacocks that room the zoo freely.
The zoo is divided into several habitats designed to mimic the natural environment of the animals. These exhibits include the African Savannah, The South American Loop, The adaption Zone, and the Expedition Tanzania Elephant Habitat.
The Reid Park Zoo also participates in various Species Survival Programs (SSPs) to breed and protect endangered species.
The zoo offers a range of educational programs such as behind the scene tours, animal encounters, and wildlife workshops.
Throughout the year, Reid Park Zoo hosts special events such as Zoo Lights, Boo at the Zoo, and Brew at the Zoo.
San Xavier del Bac Mission
1950 W San Xavier Rd, Tucson, AZ 85746
The San Xavier del Bac Mission is an historic Spanish Catholic Mission located in the Santa Cruz Valley just South of Tucson. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
It is one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in the US and considered a masterpiece of baroque architecture. It comes Spanish Baroque architecture with Moorish influences featuring intricate carvings, domes, and frescoes. The Distinctive white façade gave it the nickname “White Dove of the Desert”
Founded by Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit Missionary, in 1692. The current church building is actually the third church that was build on the site, which was constructed in the late 18th century. The complex includes a church, a convent, a cemetery, a courtyard, and a museum.
Unlike may historic missions, San Xavier del Bac remains an active parish church in the Diocese of Tucson.
Pima Air & Space Museum
6000 E Valencia Rd, Tucson, AZ 85756
The Pima Air & Space Museum is one of the largest non-government-funded aerospace museums in the world. It was founded in 1976 and is situated on an 80-acre campus adjacent to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
The Museum houses more than 350 aircrafts including military, civilian, and experimental aircraft. The collection ranges from early biplanes to modern military jets and retired Air Force One planes. The Space Gallery displays space-related artifacts, including rocket engines, space suits, and models of spacecraft used in various space missions.
The museum offers educational programs for all ages. These programs include guided tours, lectures, and special events aimed at teaching visitors about the history and science of aviation and space. The museum also offers bus tours of the nearby Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Boneyard where retired military aircraft are stored.
The Boneyard is the largest and most well-known aircraft boneyard in the world. It houses a vast inventory of retired aircraft from different eras, including bombers, fighters, cargo planes, reconnaissance aircraft, and more. The arid climate of Tucson, with its low humidity and minimal precipitation, is ideal for preserving aircraft. Some aircraft stored at Davis-Monthan are not permanently retired but placed in a state of preservation. This allows them to be brought back into service if necessary, especially during times of increased demand or conflicts. The boneyard also serves as a valuable source of spare parts for active military aircraft.
Tucson Botanical Gardens
2150 N Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ 85712
The Tucson Botanical Gardens sits on 5.5 acres in the Heart of Tucson. It was open in 1964 by Opened in 1964 by horticulturists and philanthropist Harrison G Yocum. The gardens were recently named #4 Best Botanical Garden in the US by USA Today.
The gardens feature a wide variety of plant collections. It’s main attraction is the Cactus and Succulent Garden. Other collections include a Butterfly Garden, Herb Garden, Children’s garden, and native plants garden.
There is always something to see at the Tucson Botanical Gardens but there are specific times of the year when certain plants or flowers are in bloom. The Butterfly Magic exhibit takes place during the fall and winter months.
The gardens also host special events and exhibits throughout the year including art exhibits, plant sales, and themed garden displays that highlight different aspects of the natural world.
Titan Missile Museum
1580 W Duval Mine Rd
Green Valley, AZ 85614
Take a glimpse into the cold war era and the United State’s nuclear deterrence strategy. This museum is one of the few remaining Titan II missile silos that were operational during the cold war.
The Titan II missile program was a part of the United State’s strategy to maintain a nuclear deterrent during the Cold War. These Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were designed to carry nuclear warheads and were kept on high alert to deter potential adversaries, primarily the Soviet Union. The Titan II missile was one of the most powerful ICBMs ever built.
The Titan Missile Museum is the only publicly accessible Titan II missile silo in the United States. It has been preserved as a National Historic Landmark to educate visitors about the history of the Cold War.
The museum offers guided tours that lead you deep underground into the former missile silo. The tour takes you through the control room, missile launch duct, and the massive Titan Missile itself. The museum also offers educational programs and workshops focused on science, technology, engineering, and history, with an emphasis on nuclear technology.
Children's Museum Tucson
200 S 6th Ave
Tucson, AZ 85701
If you are looking for a place to run the kids around Tucson's Children Museum Downtown is a great choice. They have interactive exhibits and activities for all ages.
Each room at the Children's Museum is themed. They have an Electricity Room, a Wee room for kids under 5, a physics room, a Sonoran Desert Room, a Train room, a grocery store room, and an arts & crafts room. Most of the museum is indoors, but there are a few activities to do outside. Making this a great option when the weather is not ideal.
Valley of the Moon
2544 E Allen Rd
Tucson, AZ 85716
The Valley of the Moon is a rather unique historical landmark in Tucson. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘Zoo for People” due to its fantastical, fairy-tale-like design. It was originally intended as an outdoor theater and fairy-tale village.
It was created by George Phar Legler, a spiritualist and writer, in the 1920s. The idea of building a magical, otherworldly place that could bring joy and wonder to people of all ages. The site is designed to resemble a fantasy world with winding paths, lush gardens, whimsical structures, and hidden surprises. It features intricate mosaics, sculptures, and painted scenes that evoke a sense of wonder and enchantment. Visiting the Valley of the Moon is like stepping into a storybook world filled with creativity and imagination.
Arizona State Museum
1013 E University Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85721
Located of the University of Arizona Campus, The Arizona State Museum is an institution dedicated to the preservation, research, and exhibition of the cultural heritage of the American Southwest. It is one of the oldest and largest anthropology museums in the United States. Founded in 1893 as part of the University of Arizona
The museum’s mission is to collect, preserve, research, and exhibit archaeological and ethnographic materials from the American Southwest and Northern Mexico. It focuses on the indigenous cultures of the region. The Museum has vast collections of artifacts, including pottery, textiles, basketry, jewelery, and tools
Old Tucson Studios
201 Kinney Rd
Tucson, AZ 85735
Old Tucson Studios is designed to replicate the atmosphere of an authentic 19th-century Wild West town. It features saloons, gunfights, stagecoach rides, and other experiences that allow visitors to step back in time and immerse themselves in the Old West.
Old Tucson Studios was originally built in 1939 by Columbia Pictures for the movie "Arizona" and was originally known as "Arizona Sonora Movie Ranch." Over the years, it became a popular location for shooting Westerns and other films due to its authentic Old West-style buildings and desert landscapes.
Many famous Western movies and television series were filmed at Old Tucson Studios, including classics like "Rio Bravo" (1959), "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" (1957), "Little House on the Prairie," and "Bonanza."
Old Tucson Studios opened as a theme park in 1960. Visitors can explore the Wild West-themed town, which includes various attractions, live shows, and entertainment options that showcase the Old West's history and culture.
The studio park hosts special events throughout the year, including Western-themed festivals, reenactments, and live performances.
Flandrau Science Center Planetarium
1601 E University Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85721
The Flandrau Science Center was established in 1975 and named in honor of Dr. Peter A. Flandrau, a prominent astronomer and supporter of science education. The center's mission is to inspire and educate people of all ages about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through interactive exhibits, educational programs, and planetarium shows.
Flandrau Science Center features a variety of interactive exhibits related to astronomy, geology, minerals, and natural history. Visitors can explore hands-on displays, learn about Earth's geological processes, and even touch real meteorites.
The planetarium at Flandrau offers immersive astronomy experiences. It features a domed theater where visitors can watch stunning, full-dome digital presentations about the night sky, celestial phenomena, and space exploration.
Flandrau Science Center often hosts astronomy-themed programs and events, including stargazing nights, lectures by guest astronomers, and special astronomy exhibitions.
7010 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85710
The Gaslight Theatre was founded in 1977 by Tony Terry and Tom Benson. Originally, it was a small coffeehouse-style venue that featured live music and comedy. Over the years, it evolved into a theater specializing in melodramas, musicals, and other live performances.
The Gaslight Theatre is best known for its melodramas, which are typically humorous plays that involve exaggerated characters, a clear distinction between heroes and villains, and plenty of audience participation. These melodramas often include elements of slapstick comedy, puns, and physical humor. In addition to melodramas, the Gaslight Theatre also hosts musical performances, including Broadway-style shows and revues.
The Theatre is a family-friendly venue, and its shows are suitable for all ages. The theater aims to provide a wholesome and enjoyable experience for families and groups.
The Gaslight Theatre offers a unique dinner theater experience. Guests can enjoy a meal before or during the show, which typically includes classic American comfort food like burgers, sandwiches, and pizza.
Due to its popularity, it's a good idea to make reservations in advance if you plan to attend a show at the Gaslight Theatre, especially during peak seasons or for special events.
DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun Museum
6300 N Swan Rd, Tucson, AZ 85718
Ted DeGrazia (1909-1982) was an American artist known for his distinctive style and colorful depictions of the American Southwest. He gained fame for his portrayals of Native American and Mexican cultures, as well as the natural beauty of the Arizona desert.
The DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun Museum was established by Ted DeGrazia himself in 1965. It was initially a small building, but DeGrazia continued to expand the museum and its grounds over the years. The museum houses a vast collection of Ted DeGrazia's artwork, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and jewelry. One of the most iconic features of the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun is the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Ted DeGrazia designed and built this unique chapel, which features his distinctive artistic style.
32540 S Biosphere Rd, Oracle, AZ 85739
The primary goal of Biosphere 2 was to create a self-sustaining, closed ecological system, where the plants, animals, and humans inside could support each other without external inputs. This was intended to simulate a possible future space colony or provide insights into how life might be sustained in space.
Biosphere 2 was constructed between 1987 and 1991. It consists of a massive, airtight glass and steel structure covering an area of approximately 3.14 acres (1.27 hectares). Inside this structure are multiple biomes, including a rainforest, desert, savannah, marsh, and ocean. There are also living quarters for a team of researchers who were sealed inside the facility.
The first mission, Biosphere 2 Mission 1, began in 1991 when eight scientists (four men and four women) sealed themselves inside the structure for a period of two years. They conducted research on various ecological processes and sustainability. A second mission, Mission 2, took place from March to September 1994 with a different crew.
The Biosphere 2 project faced numerous challenges during its missions, including difficulties with food production, oxygen levels, and interpersonal conflicts among the inhabitants. These challenges led to concerns about the scientific validity of the experiment.
It continues to be used for research, education, and public outreach, with ongoing experiments related to climate change, ecology, and sustainable living.
Horse Racing at Rillito Park
4502 N 1st Ave
Tucson, AZ 85719
Horse racing at Rillito Park is a popular and historic tradition in Tucson, Arizona. Rillito Park Race Track is one of the oldest and most iconic venues for horse racing in the southwestern United States. Rillito Park Race Track opened in 1943. It was originally established as a way to boost the local economy during World War II and quickly became a beloved institution in Tucson.
Rillito Park typically hosts a racing season during the winter months, starting in January or February and running through March or April. They hosts various types of horse racing events during its season, including Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing. The Race Track features a dirt track that is approximately one mile in circumference. It is known for its picturesque setting, nestled against the Catalina Mountains, providing a stunning backdrop for racing events.
Over the years, Rillito Park has established several traditions that add to its charm. These may include hat contests, tailgating parties, and other special events that celebrate the racing culture.
Like many horse racing tracks, Rillito Park offers pari-mutuel betting, where spectators can place bets on the horses they believe will win, place, or show in various races.
St. Augustine Cathedral
192 S Stone Ave
Tucson, AZ 85701
The original adobe church on this site was constructed in 1776, making it one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Arizona. The current Gothic Revival-style cathedral was built between 1896 and 1897.
The cathedral's architecture is notable for its Gothic design, characterized by pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and decorative stained glass windows. The exterior features a striking facade with two spires and intricate detailing.
Augustine Cathedral is known for its beautiful stained glass windows, some of which depict scenes from the life of Saint Augustine of Hippo, the patron saint of the cathedral.
As the mother church of the Diocese of Tucson, St. Augustine Cathedral is the central place of worship for the Catholic community in the region. It hosts important religious ceremonies, including ordinations, confirmations, and other liturgical events.