Things to Do in Tucson

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While some may venture out for vacation elsewhere nearby, they certainly don’t have to, as Tucson has its own form of attractions. There are an abundance of outdoor activities, including the Chuck Huckelberry Loop and El Tour de Tucson — the state’s longest and largest bicycling event. And with more than 310 sunny days why not spend some down time outside?

The Loop spans unincorporated Pima County, Tucson, South Tucson, Oro Valley and Marana, connecting parks, trails, bike paths, restaurants and several other attractions. The Loop is ideal for all, whether you travel on foot, bike, skates or even horseback.

Moreover, Tucson is THE place to be for all cyclists. In fact, the city has been named as one of the top-five municipalities in the nation for bicycling by City Ratings. Tucson was bestowed with this honor thanks to its ridership, bike trails, community and network for cyclists, safety and education and bike share programs, as well as bike infrastructure and improvements.

Looking for a family-friendly outing or a date night spot? Downtown Tucson is the place to be and explore. The bustling downtown scene offers an abundance of activities, businesses, delicious restaurants, the arts and nightlife. Best of all, the Tucson Streetcar gets passengers to and from downtown’s four unique districts.

Taking place each February, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is known as the largest, oldest and most prestigious event of its kind in the world. The event is fun and educational, so it’s a great place for kids to explore their curiosity.

La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros, which also takes place in February, brings the best in rodeo to Tucson from all over the world. Watch bull riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling, tie down and team roping, to name a few. A parade, a junior rodeo, dancing and activities for children await.

Tucson International Mariachi Conference, staged in April, has been celebrating this form of music for over 30 years. The event offers activities such as mariachi and folklorico workshops, a student showcase, a vocal competition, a concert and galleries.

Literary enthusiasts flock to the metro area each year for the annual Tucson Festival of Books. Held in March at the University of Arizona, more than 350 authors partake in workshops, panels and presentations. Best-selling, teen, children and emerging authors come together to share their stories and raise awareness for the importance of literacy.

Tucson Meet Yourself is a folklife festival that brings to town more than 600 artists, musicians, dancers and tradition bearers, as well as cultural food vendors. Guests revel in the entertainment while learning and embracing everyday life of ethnic communities of the region.

Music lovers flock to downtown Tucson on the second Saturday of each month. Why? For the 2nd Saturdays series. Taking place along Congress Street and Scott Avenue, the events draw a crowd with local vendors, food trucks and musicians. In addition, each month offers something new from restaurants and retailers.

Aside from festivals and annual events, the metro area is also home to numerous attractions appropriate for all ages and interests.

Mission San Xavier Del Bac is the oldest European structure in Arizona still intact. The mission is open to the public for tours of the courtyard and its corridors.

Dedicated to research and understanding of global scientific concerns, Biosphere 2 offers tours daily. Time Life Books named the site as one of the “50 Must-See Wonders of the World.” The Under the Glass tour takes guests through a tropical rainforest, an ocean overlook and several other explorations during the 3-acre trek.

View the beauty of the cosmos at Kitt Peak National Observatory. The facility offers daytime guided tours and several stargazing programs during the evenings.

Tucson is also home to many museums, boasting a variety of topics and artifacts. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Pima Air & Space Museum, Titan Missile Museum and Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block are all stops locals and visitors should make.

One of the most unique attractions in Tucson is the Davis-Monthan Air Force Boneyard, which just happens to be the largest aircraft boneyard in the world and the only one open to the public for guided tour bus excursions.

Explore the Wild West at Old Tucson studios. Guests enjoy live stunt shows, vintage rides for children, authentic Southwest barbecue, live entertainment and musicals. History and film buffs enjoy roaming the same streets made famous by John Wayne, Steve Martin and Elizabeth Taylor. Old Tucson was the backdrop of more than 400 flicks and commercials.

With tours that take place daily throughout the year, Colossal Cave Mountain Park takes guests along a half-mile trail filled with gorgeous formations. Individuals learn about the cave’s history, geology and legends.

Located in the tranquil Coronado National Forest, Sabino Canyon is one of the desert’s biggest attractions. Explore this natural desert oasis, which is home to breathtaking landscapes and abundant wildlife. See alligators, zebras, bears, lions, giraffes, a variety of birds, tigers and many other species at the Reid Park Zoo. Aside from its animals, the zoo hosts many events year-round, such as Brew at the Zoo, Summer Safari Friday Nights and Little Critters Workshop, and Zoo Lights.

Art, science, culture and history link together Tucson Botanical Gardens through breathtaking plants and nature. Events and exhibits make the garden a must-visit attraction year-round for children, adults and even man’s best friend.

Foodies have found their match in Tucson. The locale has been designated as a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World City of Gastronomy, making Tucson the first municipality in America to receive this honor. Various factors contributed to Tucson getting the nod, such as the city’s agricultural heritage and thriving culinary scene. As a Creative City of Gastronomy, Tucson strives to increase access to healthy foods, improve sustainable local food production and distribution, as well as expand job opportunities in the food industry, just to name a few measures.

Those who enjoy performing arts have many venues from which to choose, including Arizona Theatre Co., UA Presents, Broadway in Tucson and Fox Tucson Theatre. The Arizona Theatre Co. offers an impressive lineup of productions, educational programs and learning opportunities in the summer. UA Presents hosts well-acclaimed musicians, orchestra performances and ballet, as well as provides numerous educational endeavors, such as concerts and workshops at local schools. The historic Fox Tucson Theatre, known as the Crown Jewel of Tucson, hosts events such as concerts, film fests, bodybuilding competitions and pet theater.

By Sarah Lancaster