9 Fun Family-Friendly Things To Do in Tucson

picture of Tuscon Arizona highway

Take a Road Trip to Tucson

Tucson, which is located in Arizona in the Sonoran Desert, offers plenty of places to explore. It's a destination that lends itself to family-friendly travel or to couples or small groups. 

Tucson History Lesson

Tucson historians can tell you that people have been settled in the area for more than 10,000 years. Tucson grew around Sentinel Peak, which was first inhabited by Hohokam Native Americans. The Spanish arrived in the area in the late 1600's. Tucson's birthdate is considered to be in August of 1775, which is when the Spanish explorers built a fort called Presidio San Agustin del Tucson. That fort no longer stands, although there is a small collection of adobe structures located there. It was eventually purchased by a local businessman as a combination home and for his business location.

Mexican and European immigrants settled in the Tucson area but it was still relatively inaccessible until 1880, when the Southern Pacific Railroad connected Tucson to the rest of the world.

9 Places to Visit in the Tucson area

  • Part of the Saguaro National Park is located on the outskirts of Tucson. You'll learn about these giant cactus plants and have plenty of opportunity to hike, drive, and explore.
  • One of the highlights of Tucson is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Its botanical garden is world-famous, but it also offers a zoo, a natural history museum, and even an aquarium! You can visit their website (link above) or follow the museum on Instagram for information. Don't miss the Raptor Free Flight demonstration!
  • Old Tucson is a theme park that is on the site of a former western movie set.
  • If you like to see taxidermy take time to stop at the International Wildlife Museum, which houses dioramas that show more than 400 species of insects, mammals and birds from around the globe.
  • If you love plants be sure to stop at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, which is found on the site of an historical property formerly called the Porter Property. You'll be treated to a butterfly garden there, October through May, which also showcases orchids.  There's more for garden lovers in Tucson at the Tohono Chul gardens. 
  • Drive out to Sabino Canyon, which is a part of the Coronado National Forest. Sabino Canyon tours offers a narrated, educational 45-minute, 3.8 mile tour into the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. There's plenty of exploring and hiking in the canyon, too.
  • Next up is the world's largest airplane boneyard, the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. It's the boneyard for all excess military and government airplanes. You can also visit the Pima Air and Space Museum, where you'll find President John F Kennedy's Air Force One. 
  • If you want still more about planes and space make a visit to Tucson's Titan Missile Museum. You'll visit the last of the 54 Titan missile sites that stayed on alert across the United States until 1987. 
  • There are many cactus nurseries in the Tucson area and most are open to visitors. One of them is Bach's Cactus Nursery, which has been in business for more than 40 years. For a listing of other local cactus nurseries browse "cactus nurseries Tucson."
photo of Tuscon Arizona mountains

Places to stay, eat, and shop in Tucson

Sleep here

You don't want to miss staying a few nights at the Miraval Resort and Spa, located near Tucson in the Catalina Mountains. Contact us for reservations to this wonderful resort you'll never forget. The property sits on 400 acres and is perfect for a secluded getaway for couples or for a family group. Besides the spa, Miraval offers personal development activities.

Another lodging option is the historical Hotel Congress, located in downtown Tucson's historical area. Restaurants, concerts, and shopping are nearby. The hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its history includes a stay by John Dillinger back in the 1930's. Contact us for reservations.

You might also consider staying at the well-known Canyon Ranch Spa located in Tucson. Canyon Ranch offers many services for well being and personal development. Please contact us for reservations (sue@travelchangeslife.com).

Eat Here

Locals recommend the beautiful Vivace Restaurant, home to delicious Northern Italian dishes and a part of the Tuscon scene since 1993. You'll find it on Campbell Avenue. Reservations recommended, especially during the winter months.

If you're in Tucson around Christmas time you can get reservations for the Christmas High Tea at Lowe's Ventana Canyon Inn. This is also another option for lodging any time of year.

The historical area of Tucson is filled with local restaurants, take a stroll and you'll find plenty of places to eat.

Shop Here

Take a drive to nearby Tombstone, Arizona for shopping and eating. Tombstone was one of the last boomtowns in the American West and offers plenty of sightseeing and shopping.

You might also drive out to Brisbee, about an hour out from Tucson, which is an arts district. For local sites drive the backroads and stop along the way. Brisbee offers many multi-colored buildings and art studios to explore. Find more about what's there in this Travel Awaits article.

Almost every museum and botanical garden has a small shop where you can often find unique items as souvenirs of your trip to Tucson, Arizona.

More Travel Information

Get weekly travel tips and honest, expert advice by leaving your name and email here. You can also contact me about travel to Tucson at suepainter.com/travelnews.

Related article: 10 Travel Tips That Keep You Sane

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