Exploring Tucson Arizona – Places to See and Things to Do

Exploring Tucson Arizona and all the cool things to do is how I spent the early days of my nomad life and long-term solo 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.

 

Things to do in Tucson Arizona - travel guide and trip planning

 

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Why visit Tucson?

First of all there is a ton of things to do! 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.

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.

 

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Best time to visit Tucson

While the best time to visit 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

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

 

Click here for the latest prices and hotel deals now

 

Best time to see cactus blooms

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

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 for late autumn, winter, or early spring.

 

Winter escape to Tucson Arizona

 

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 in Tucson. Biking, golfing, and rock climbing are also popular activities 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

Check here for the latest prices and special deals for accommodation

 

 

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.

READ: Hiking in Tucson Arizona – best hiking trails for solo travelers

Best day trips from Tucson

 

Colorful art and tile bench at Tahono Chul in Tucson AZ

Colorful art and tiles at Tahono Chul

 

Art and history museums

 

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Murals and mosaics

If you love finding cool murals in a city then you will love Tucson! Exploring the public art is one of my favorite things to do in a new city and I enjoyed finding most of these by chance, either driving or walking around these neighborhoods of Tucson.

 

Ferruginous Hawk in Tucson AZ

Tucson Desert Museum – Ferruginous Hawk

 

Parks, gardens, and fun events

  • Sunrises & sunsets – gorgeous sunrises and amazing sunsets
  • Tucson Botanical Garden – 2150 N Alvernon Way
  • Tohono Chul Park – 7366 N Paseo Del Norte
  • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum – 2021 N Kinney Rd
  • 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 – 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

 

Sunset over the Catalina mountains in Tucson AZ

Super gorgeous sunsets are a regular thing in Arizona

 

Food and drink recommendations

 

Cafe Poca Cosa serves excellent Mexican cuisine

Cafe Poca Cosa serves excellent Mexican cuisine

 

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.

Enjoy your trip to Tucson Arizona and all the wonderful things to do!


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Tucson Arizona Travel Guide - things to do and see in Tucson, where to stay, eat, shopTucson Arizona Travel Guide - where to eat, play, and stay in Tucson

 

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 4 of living a nomadic life, roadtripping around the USA and Canada and writing about her experiences. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

8 Replies

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  1. Sandra says:

    Wow! I’ve been dying to visit Arizona. The sights are amazing and there’s just so much to explore.

    • Arizona is amazing! I need to get back again, there really is so much to see and do in Arizona. I’m in Louisiana now but feeling the wanderlust for desert and mountains!

  2. Ruth says:

    I spent one week in Tucson about two years ago and had a fabulous time. I enjoyed the food in particular. We took a food tour and visited several restaurants. Coming from California, I found Tucson very affordable!

  3. budget jan says:

    You have a comprehensive post on Tucson here with lovely photos. Thanks for linking up with Travel Photo Thursday.

  4. As a transplanted Tucson native, I loved this post! It’s always great to see my hometown through other’s eyes, and the Old Pueblo always does us proud – everybody seems to love it. You have some great things to do and see, and there’s so much more! Every time I read a post about Tucson, I can’t wait to get back. Thanks for sharing your insights!

    • Hey Rob, thank you for your comment! While I’m roaming around I often ask myself “what if I lived here full-time?” and Tucson is definitely one of the places I could live in full time. Fond memories, and I do want to return to Tucson!

      Cheers,
      Susan

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