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Exploring Tucson Arizona – Places to See and Things to do in Tucson AZ

Exploring Tucson Arizona is where I spent the early days of my nomad life and long-term road trip around the USA and Canada. Having spent seven weeks in Tucson I can highly recommend this Southern Arizona city for a vacation or nomad home for any roadtripping location independent travelers. There are so many things to do in and around Tucson Arizona.

It seems Tucson has it all – great hiking, biking, rock climbing, golfing, beautiful architecture, museums, active art and music scene, along with excellent co-working spaces. So far Tucson is the only US city designated by UNESCO as a City of Gastronomy so you know you can enjoy some exceptional meals in Tucson. In addition there are gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, and friendly folks in Tucson.

Your Guide to Tucson Arizona:
1. Best time to visit Tucson
2. Where to stay in Tucson
3. Best hiking in Tucson
4. Best day trips from Tucson
5. Art and history museums in Tucson
6. Murals and mosaics around Tucson
7. Parks, gardens, and fun events in Tucson
8. Food and drink recommendations in Tucson


Travel guide |Things to do in Tucson Arizona | Tips and best places to stay and what to see in Tucson | Southwest USA road trip


Surprisingly Tucson is not (yet) a major tech-hub in the South. Perhaps when Austin TX real estate prices get crazy like Silicon Valley the startups will flock to Tucson AZ as an alternate locale with a great vibe, superb cuisine, and a cool music scene.


Pink cactus bloom at Tucson Botanical Gardens

Pink cactus bloom at Tucson Botanical Gardens


Best time to visit Tucson

While the best time to visit Tucson depends on what you are looking for and what your travel budget will allow, here is some information to help you decide when you should plan your trip to Tucson.

Shoulder season in Tucson

Because shoulder season is when the weather is still pleasant, but not as many visitors and prices are lower for accommodation. Also, tourist sights and restaurants are not as busy during shoulder season. Try visiting Tucson shoulder season in April to May for springtime shoulder season or September to October for an autumn adventure.

High season in Tucson

High season for visiting Tucson is from November through March and the prices for accommodation will be more expensive than shoulder season.


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Best time to see cactus bloom in Tucson

In order to see the most variety of blooms aim for an April trip to Tucson. Of course the blooms depend on the weather so each year can vary by a few weeks so check the weather forecast to help guide your decision on when to visit Tucson.

Be aware that Saguaro usually bloom later, from around mid-May to mid-June. Did you know…

  • Saguaros usually do not get blooms until around age 35
  • When fully grown a Saguaro cactus could weigh over 6 tons.
  • Average life of a Saguaro cactus is 150 – 175 years, with some reaching the ripe old age of 200.

Mountains and water - hiking in Tucson AZ Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon – beautiful views and wonderful hiking trails

Summer and winter temperatures in Tucson

If you LOVE hot weather then summer is the time to visit Tucson. Tucson has hot HOT summers. If traveling to Tucson in summer and you want to relax by the pool, dine on some delicious southwest cuisine,  and enjoy spa treatments try out the JW Marrriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa – one of the top rated hotels in Tucson Arizona.

How hot does it get in Tucson? In June and July the average high is around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. December and January are the coolest months in Tucson, with average highs around 65 degrees and average lows around 39 degrees Fahrenheit.


Saguaro cactus with mountain views at Sabino Canyon

Saguaro cactus with mountain views at Sabino Canyon


If you prefer more moderate temperatures I recommend planning your trip to Tucson AZ in the late autumn, winter, or early spring.

For fall trips to Tucson AZ I recommend September, October, November. Temperatures will gradually decrease through the autumn (basically Sept 90’s, Oct 80’s, and Nov 70’s) October and November bring the most pleasant weather for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, golfing, and rock climbing around Tucson.

Where to stay in Tucson

Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort – a favorite hotel for visitors to Tucson

JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort – luxurious resort 7 miles from Tucson with 3 golf courses, 3 outdoor swimming pools, hot tubs, spa, 4 dining options

Best Western InnSuites Tucson Foothills Hotel & Suites – located in the foothills of the Catalina mountains, free shuttle to the airport

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Best hiking in Tucson

  • Sabino Canyon – absolutely my favorite place to hike in Tucson because WATER! I loved the 7 Falls hike at Sabino Canyon. Speaking of water, bring plenty with you when you go hiking in Tucson.
  • Saguaro National Park in 2 parts – there is an East and a West park – the Saguaro cactus are amazing to see up close. Did you know that the Saguaro cactus do not get branches (arms) until they are around 60 years old?! It may take up to 100 years before some Saguaro grow arms!
  • Mt Lemmon – hiking, skiing, and the scenic drive (or bike ride if you are up to it!) to the top make Mt Lemmon a favorite of many Tucsonans. The summit elevation is over 9,000 feet.

Best day trips from Tucson

  • Mission San Xavier del Bac – 20 minute drive from Tucson
  • Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory – 60 minute drive from Tucson
  • Kitt Peak National Observatory – located 56 miles southwest of Tucson. Special note to non-citizens of USA from the Kitt Peak Visitor Center website: “Although the Visitor Center is open to all, the US Government requires passports for visitors from other countries when driving through the Border Control check point on Arizona State Route 86. Please be sure you bring your passport with you.”
  • Tubac – 45 minute drive from Tucson
  • Tombstone – 75 minute drive from Tucson
  • Bisbee – 90 minute drive from Tucson
  • Colossal Cave Mountain Park – 30 to 40 minute drive from Tucson
  • Kartchner Caverns State Park – 45 minute drive from Tucson
  • Nogales Mexico – day trip to Mexico for lunch! Just remember to bring your passport. 75 minute drive from Tucson plus time at the border crossing


Colorful art and tile bench at Tahono Chul in Tucson AZ

Colorful art and tiles at Tahono Chul


Art and history museums in Tucson


Crosses at Limberlost mural Tucson AZ

Crosses at Limberlost mural Tucson AZ


Murals and mosaics around Tucson


Ferruginous Hawk in Tucson AZ

Tucson Desert Museum – Ferruginous Hawk


Parks, gardens, and fun events in Tucson

  • Sunrises & sunsets – gorgeous sunrises and amazing sunsets in Tucson
  • Tucson Botanical Garden – 2150 N Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ
  • Tohono Chul Park – 7366 N Paseo Del Norte, Tucson, AZ
  • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum – 2021 N Kinney Rd, Tucson, AZ
  • All Souls Procession – annually around the first weekend in November – check their website calendar for details on events and All Souls Procession information
  • Rialto Theatre – 318 E Congress St, Tucson, AZ – an excellent concert venue and performance theatre. I was fortunate to see Ozomatli in 2015 at the Rialto – check out Rialto Theatre website for current entertainment events in Tucson


Sunset over the Catalina mountains in Tucson AZ

Super gorgeous sunsets are a regular thing in Tucson


Food and drink recommendations in Tucson AZ

  • Tohono Chul Bistro – 7366 N Paseo Del Norte, Tucson, AZ lovely outdoor patio or enjoy the decor indoors. Especially enjoyed the Prickly Pear lemonade and the chocolate raspberry dessert
  • Le Rendez-Vouz – Excellent menu and good selection of wine at this French bistro. I liked this restaurant for solo lunches, good selection of small plates. 3844 E Fort Lowell Rd, Tucson, AZ
  • Café Poca Cosa – Mexican cuisine – the menu changes twice daily at this upscale restaurant 110 E Pennington St, Tucson, AZ
  • Mr An’s Teppan Yaki and Sushi – 6091 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ
  • Cup Café at Congress Hotel – 311 E Congress St, Tucson, AZ 85701
  • Zayna Mediterranean – 4122 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ


Cafe Poca Cosa restaurant Tucson AZ

Cafe Poca Cosa restaurant Tucson AZ


Downtown Bars

  • Good Oak Bar – happy hour with tasty bar food
  • Street Taco and Beer Co. – tacos and beer the necessities of life :)
  • R Bar – an alley bar with DJ’s – open to the public and anyone attending Rialto events
  • Owl’s Club – whiskey, wine, and spirits – you will be set
  • Tap & Bottle – craft beer selection and some wine for non beer drinking folks

Warning about overstaying your parking meter downtown

While dining in downtown Tucson I parked my car a few blocks away at a metered parking spot. Having enjoyed an exquisite dinner and a glass of wine I decided to walk to the Pima County Courthouse and wander around downtown.

Losing track of the time, as one does while exploring a new city, after eating a delicious meal, and sipping yummy wine, I forgot about the parking meter’s appetite.

As a result I received the most expensive parking ticket of my life. If you would like a $64 parking ticket, go ahead and ignore the hungry parking meter. Otherwise, feed the beast, so that you can enjoy your dinner and wine and a stroll around downtown Tucson.

Enjoy your trip to Tucson Arizona

5 useful things for your Tucson trip

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About the Author

Susan Moore’s first solo travel experience was traveling around SE Asia for 7 months in 1993. It was life changing and extraordinary. Currently Susan is living a nomadic life, working and roadtripping around the USA and Canada. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook
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