1. Hike up Tumanoc Hill
Tumanoc Hill Rd., , 85745
The most iconic experience you can have in Tucson is challenging yourself to the steep climb up Tumanoc Hill. While the trek is not that long at just 1.5 miles, it's one steep journey. Nevertheless, the views are fabulous the whole way up without any trees to block the mesmerizing mountain views.
Once you arrive at the 2800 foot summit, relax and take in the enchanting beauty of the desert. You earned a break after that 700 foot climb! Get out here early to beat both the crowds and heat! Afterwards treat yourself to tasty breakfast tacos at Seis, conveniently located just a few miles away.
2. Visit Saguaro National park
3693 S. Old Spanish Trail, , 85370
As Tucson is home to the country's largest cacti species, you will definitely want to do some desert exploring while you are out here. Saguaro National Park is a great place for new visitors to get acquainted with the Sonoran Desert. With 2 great visitor's center and a variety of easy nature trails, this is a great place to start your desert journey.
This national Park is split into 2 sections, and your admission ticket includes entry to both within a 7 day period. As they are both quite different, you will want to try to plan a different day to explore each section.
The Western (Tucson Mountain district) features more cacti, while the Eastern (Rincon district) features more amazing mountain vistas. The paved Cactus Forest drive in the Eastern entrance is pretty incredible.
Over 25 species of beautiful exotic cacti can be explored within the park. Bobcats, glia monsters, and javelina are regularly sighted. Visiting during the early morning hours will increase your odds of seeing any wildlife. Always keep your distance! Also drink plenty of water, visit early before the heat hits, and never get too close to any cactus!
3. Explore the Mini Time Museum of Miniatures
4455 E Camp Lowell Drive, , 85712
If you love seeking out oddball attractions, then you will definitely want to add the most unique Mini Time Museum of Miniatures to your Tucson bucket list. This eclectic museum features over 500 modern and antique dollhouses. The oldest piece in the collection dates back to 1742.
All of the miniatures on display are very creative and the attention to detail is quite astonishing. It's hard to imagine the dedication that went into creating some of these pieces!
Also be on the lookout for special events including Halloween and Christmas exhibits.
4. See a show at the Fox Theater
17 W Congress Street, , 85701
The historic Fox Theater, which opened in 1930, is one of the most gorgeous theaters in the US. The atmosphere is amazing and there is not a bad seat in the house.
In addition to hosting events throughout the year, this theater frequently screens old movies. It's such a memorable experience to see an old classic on the big screen as it was meant to be seen. Check the lineup for Halloween and Christmas special screenings.
As a bonus, the theater is located downtown, so you can walk to a number of local restaurants and shops before or after your show.
5. Take a tram tour up Sabino Canyon
5700 N Sabino Canyon Rd., , 85750
A longtime favorite of both locals and tourists, Sabino Canyon is truly a desert wonderland. From diverse cacti, to exotic wildlife, to colorful wildflowers, to exciting hiking trails, there's just so much to explore here. Sabino is a hiker's dream destination with miles of trails and even a rare desert waterfall.
If you are up for adventure, consider the adventurous trek to Seven Falls (pretty difficult, but rewarding). Or, explore an easier nature trail with interpretative signs to guide you along. Another option is to hike the paved 3.5 mile tram route. Alternatively, you can kick back and relax while the tram does all the work. Today, you can enjoy an emission-free electric shuttle up beautiful Sabino Canyon.
Hiking, relaxing on a narrated tram tour, picnicking - no matter how you choose to explore Sabino Canyon, you are bound to leave with great memories and even better pictures.
6. Take a beautiful hike at Catalina State Park
11570 N Oracle Rd, , 85737
Located just outside of Tucson in the quiet suburb of Oro Valley lies Catalina State Park. This is a gorgeous under visited gem which offers a diverse range of hiking trails for every fitness level.
Not only will you get to see a variety of cacti species here including plenty of enchanting Saguaro, but you will also get to take in incredible vistas of the Catalina mountain range. The best options here is the moderate 2 mile long Canyon Loop Trail. It's long enough to enable you to explore the beauty of the Sonoran desert, but short enough to squeeze in an early morning adventure (before it gets too hot) almost anytime of the year.
7. Ride along the Rillito River Path
4200 N. Campbell Ave., , 85712
This flat, fast bike path features incredible views of the mountains and can be accessed via multiple trailheads around the city. The path is 12 miles long, paved, and almost entirely flat, so perfect for a long run or bike ride. There are few better places to exercise in the city.
Get out there early before the heat hits and drink plenty of water! Rillito River Park is a nice starting point. Be sure to check out the farmer's market before/after your ride!
8. Drive up the Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway
Catalina Hwy, , 85619
The Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway, an incredible 27 mile long drive which travels up to a unique high altitude pine covered "Sky Island," begins just outside of Tucson. The scenery changes drastically on the drive, varying from rolling hills dotted with thousands of Saguaro cacti, to towering pine trees. This is easily one of the most visually appealing and exciting drives in the Southwest.
As the altitude at Mt. Lemmon sits at 8000 ft, and the temps are 20-30 degrees cooler, this is understandably a popular escape on a hot summer day in the desert. Once you arrive at the top (nearly 1.5-2 hours later), you can enjoy a range of activities including a scenic chairlift ride at the ski resort, hiking trails, picnicking, and even a handful of seasonal restaurants.
9. Hike the Hidden Canyon trail
3800 W Starr Pass Blvd, , 85745
Hidden it is, this gorgeous gem of a trail is located behind the JW Marriott Starr Pass resort, and thus, sees little traffic. Regardless of whether or not you are staying at this resort, it's worth a trek over here to enjoy this picturesque hiking trail.
Clocking in at just 2 miles, yet featuring some of the area's best mountain vistas, this is easily the best bang-for-your-buck hike in the city. Plus, it's super easy to get to and located nearby many other notable attractions including Mercado San Agustin, a local dining & shopping destination featuring an attractive old world style courtyard.
10. Enjoy brunch at Mercado San Agustin
100 South Avenida del Convento, , 85745
This popular local market features a number of independent restaurants and shops with a central open air courtyard. The beautiful old world vibe, outdoor seating, and diverse range of eateries makes this the best place in the city to enjoy a leisurely weekend brunch before any outdoor activities.
The highlight here is Seis Tacos, an amazing local cafe which serves the best breakfast tacos and burritos anywhere. Also treat yourself to a coffee from Presta, one of the best roasters in the city. There is no better way to prepare yourself for a hike or bike ride in the desert than a relaxing meal at the Mercado to fuel up.