An Insider’s Guide to Tuscon, AZ

Guide to Tuscon Arizona
December 19 2018

More than half a million people call the city of Tucson, Arizona home. This desert city is the perfect southwestern destination when you’re on the hunt for unique sites, great food, and budget-friendly entertainment. Tucson has been the backdrop for hundreds of movies and television productions, but it also boasts “350 days of sunshine!”  This sunny city offers milder temperatures from Mid-fall (October) and into early spring (April), but when summer hits Arizona, the thermostat gets serious—the average temps in Tucson for June and July hit 99 degrees! In Tucson, though, both hot and cold converge–from spicy foods to cool and cold caves–and no matter if the temps rise or fall, there’s still sites to explore, new food to taste and lots of fun to enjoy! So what are the must-see sites and scenes in Tucson? Here’s your insider guide to Tuscon, AZ.

Museums

Every city has its own unique museums. And Tucson is home to several must-see sites. Whether you want to gaze upon art, learn more about the state’s history or check out tiny treasures of miniature displays, there is a museum that will make your Tucson visit top-notch. Admission prices vary, so plan your budget accordingly.

International Wildlife Museum

Check out more than 400 different species in dioramas of their natural habitats at this museum, which focuses on wildlife appreciation and education. Hands-on exhibits add to the exploration.  Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for kids (ages 4 to 12). Discount admission also is available for seniors and military.

Pima Air & Space Museum

This is the ideal museum for the aircraft enthusiast. Check out exhibits featuring a variety of aircraft on display and take a guided tour of the 80-acre site. You also can visit the “Aircraft Boneyard,” but reservations must be made 10 business days in advance. Admission prices range from $10 (kids 5 to 12) to $16.50 for adults. Two-day tickets also are available, and discount admissions also are provided for seniors, Pima County residents and groups (more than 20 individuals).

Tucson Museum of Art & Historic Block

The Tucson Museum of Art & Historic Block features art collections spanning numerous continents, influences and time periods. Different events also are held throughout the year, including a Holiday Artisans Market in November. Admission prices range from $12 for adults to $7 for students (with a valid ID). Kids under age 12 (and veterans and museum members, too!) receive free admission, and seniors also receive discounted admission.

Arizona History Museum

This museum is a must-see for families with a desire to learn more about this Arizona’s rich history. This museum also houses artifacts from Geronimo and Wyatt Earp, and visitors also can view firearms and Spanish Colonial silver. Kids and adults also can explore a mining tunnel and an exhibit (hands-on!) of 1870’s Tucson. Admission prices range from $10 for adults to $4 for kids 7-17.  Younger children, veterans and Arizona Historical Society members receive free admission. Adult students also receive a discount.

The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures

Looking for a unique museum? Check out the vast collection of miniatures that are on display at the Tucson Museum of Miniatures. So what types of tiny treasures will you find here? The museum’s “Enchanted Realm” features fairy castles, woodland friends…and even teeny tiny witches! There also are antique and historical miniatures. You also can view tiny treasures from different countries. The standard admission price is $9 per person, but seniors, children and military members receive discounted admission. Children who are 3 years old or younger receive free admission.

Get Outdoors!

Tucson is a prime destination for hiking and exploring the outdoors. There are numerous parks, trails and outdoor retreats that are perfect for families. However, some of the trails areas are better suited for more experienced hikers. When you want to hit the trails, climb a mountain or just enjoy the outdoors, here are the best locations in Tucson.

Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Explore the cave via a guided tour. Or just hit the trails for a bike ride or a hike. This popular destination also features a petting zoo and butterfly exhibit that the kids will love! Admission prices are $18 for adults, $9 for those ages 5 to 12. Military members and their children receive discount admission, and younger children (4 and under) get in for free.

Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch

Ostriches are too cute! Visit these tall birds at the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch (located outside of Tucson in Picacho). Visitors also can feed deer, Nigerian Dwarf Goats, ducks and more! The ranch also features Stingray Bay, an interactive stingray exhibit! Visit all the animals and be sure to snap lots of photos! There are two packages available for visitors priced at $10 and $13. Kids younger than 6, though, get free admission (although feed costs extra).

Old Tucson

Explore the old ways of the Wild West in the city of Old Tucson, this may be our most historical stop in our guide to Tuscon, AZ. Enjoy stunt shows, BBQ, antique car rides, a carousel, or hop on the train for a ride through this old town city. In Old Tucson, you are truly stepping into the movies, because this city was the site for hundreds of movie and television productions. Operation times may change through the year, so visit the site before you plan to visit.

Tucson Botanical Garden

Explore the flowers, trees and plants at the Tucson Botanical Garden. Exhibits include a Backyard Bird Garden, a Pollinator Garden, a miniature garden railway, a children’s area and more. Stroll at your leisure and take in all the beauty or choose a guided tour. Admission is $15 for adults, $8 for kids (4-17) and discounted admission for seniors, military and students. Garden members and younger children (3 and under) are free!

Seven Falls

Hike Seven Falls and see the seven waterfalls that dot the area. According to Arizona Hiker’s Guide, the difficulty level of this hike is considered moderate. However, the trail is NOT pet-friendly, so do not bring your furry friend! The total hike is more than eight miles, and the price is $5 per day.

Tumamoc Hill

Get your heart pumping! According to Tucsontopia, Tumamoc Hill is quite a hit of cardio. What makes this hike so major? Tucsontopia states that while the path is only a mile and a half, it slopes 600 feet. So get your climb on! The best part? It’s completely free!

The Taste of Tucson

After all those museums and hikes, you’ll need to re-energize with some great local food. So where do you go when you want your taste buds to be oh so happy in Tucson? Here are the top-rated restaurants that won’t drain your bank account.

Tucson Tamale Company

Rated as one of the city’s best low-cost dining spots by TripAdvisor, Tucson Tamale Company specializes in–you guessed it—tamales! And for $7.89 for a two-tamale meal (two sides plus a salsa bar…yummm!), you can’t really go wrong! The restaurant also offers burritos, quesadillas, nachos and more! Want to feed the family? Order the family platter for $29.99.

Poco & Mom’s

Breakfast burritos, tacos, nachos, enchiladas tortilla soup…the menu goes on and on. Maybe this is the reason why the restaurant’s tagline reads: “It’s hard not to be addicted to this place.” Yes, you can even order cheeseburgers and sandwiches…in case the kids are in mood for the old standards.

Boca Tacos

Looking for gourmet tacos that are a little different from the rest? Try Boca Tacos. The Poached Egg taco features ribeye steak and it’s less than $5. Want something from the sea? Try an octopus taco! Yes, there’s even dessert…and spirits, too!

Pin-Up Pastries Street Kitchen & Desserts

When you want sweet and decadent, you need a place that specializes in dessert. Pin-Up Pastries offers cupcakes, cookies, brownies, sundaes, and so much more! The only problem? Choosing one sweet treat! Pin-Up won Tucson’s Best Dessert Favorite in 2018 and 2015. And, yes, they also have a food truck!

Tucson is a family-friendly destination that offers many options for entertainment, outdoor exploration and, of course, food! While admission prices vary for museums, if you choose one or two of these destinations, you can still stay on budget. Tucson also is one of the best places to go for those who love hiking. This city is home to many parks and trails, although difficulty level varies. Be sure to research trails to find the one that is perfect for your family—some may be too difficult for kids.  

However, there are many outdoor exploration sites that are kid-friendly. Visit the botanical garden, explore a cave, feed the ostriches or go back in the past at the Wild West of Old Tucson. When you’ve run out all that energy, head to a local eatery to discover all the tastes of Tucson. Of course, you should delve into all the flavors of the southwest! But don’t forget dessert! Whether you choose baked goods, ice cream or maybe even something unique, there is something decadent to satiate every sweet tooth! While the temperatures may vary between seasons, the fun never stops in Tucson. This is, after all, a city that offers sunshine 350 days out of the year. So get happy, embrace the sun, the weather and the fun that is the city of Tucson. We hope you enjoyed our guide to Tuscon, AZ, and we hope you have a great time on your trip!