A variety of attractions that will appeal to nature buffs, science-lovers, history enthusiasts...and a whole lot more!
Southern Arizona is crossed by 393 miles of Interstate 10, one of the most popular interstate freeways in the USA. Noted for its mild winters, I-10 remains a popular east-to-west route across the entire country even when roads in other parts of the United States are coping with snow, sleet, and slippery ice deposits. In fact, you'll NEVER see Arizona's stretch of I-10 closed for snow!
If you're one of the many cross-country travelers who's looking for some things to do along your fun road trip...or if you're a "Snow Bird" who'll be staying in Arizona for a month or longer...or if you're a Phoenix resident looking for a weekend getaway...then you'll find some of southern AZ's top tourist attractions listed on this page. These are some of the most popular places to visit...and you'll hopefully after reading through this page, you'll get a better idea of the attractions that our family and our readers have most enjoyed in & around the Tucson area.
What's to do in Tucson? How about...
Amazing scientific attractions!
BIOSPHERE 2: A museum is generally where items sit on a shelf. But at the Biosphere 2 complex, you'll walk through areas which were actually the working & living quarters for scientists attempting to create a fully closed-system, sustainable environment. Is humankind ready to settle the Moon now? Well, not yet...but thanks to the advancements made at Biosphere 2, we're lots closer! Nobody lives sealed inside the Biosphere domes any more, but research continues on here to this very day. You'll tour the facilities in groups, view exhibits on related topics, and be able to ask your tour guide any questions that you might have.
In the slideshow, you're viewing pictures of Old Tucson Studios western town replica, which is actually a working movie studio! If the slides have stopped running by the time you reach this point, simply refresh the page to start it going again.
OLD TUCSON STUDIOS: It's difficult to classify Old Tucson. You could classify it as a museum of the old west. But, as a working movie studio (both past AND present,) it's more lively than a traditional museum. And, if you wanted to call it an "amusement park," well then, you could...because there are some rides and shows that both children and adults can enjoy. The highlight...and "don't miss" attraction...of Old Tucson is its movie studio tour, which will leave you amazed at modern filming techniques, plus fill you in on the various movies and television shows which have been filmed here.
Old Tucson is a large...and mostly outdoor...facility. Yet, it's year-round, with shops and restaurants providing oases of cool air-conditioned comfort during the summer time. It holds a crowd, and believe it or not, it's an attraction that actually works BETTER with more people in attendance. (The park's audience-participation events are more enthusiastic with a crowd that actively cheers and comments.) But one way or the other, you'll certainly feel like you've been immersed in the feeling of what it must have felt like to live in the southwestern USA 150 years ago!
The Old Tucson Studios address is 201 S Kinney Rd, Tucson, AZ 85735; phone number is (520) 578-1269. Here's a Google map to Old Tucson to help you plan your route. Fortunately, this popular attraction is marked with signs from both I-10 (exit Speedway) and I-19 (exit Ajo Way.) For prices, hours and a complete list of attraceiont, pleas see the OldTucson.com website.
TOMBSTONE: This town is the stuff of legends, and you'd have to be a pretty tough cookie not to succumb to your inner cowpoke here. You can stroll down wooden sidewalks like the old-time residents did; shop in mercantile stores that look like they stepped out of a history book; or view a famous...and very real...shoot-out site at the OK Corral. The town is admission-free, and you'll only pay for certain private attractions, the food you eat and the merchandise you buy. When you get back home, one of your first thoughts will surely be to enjoy viewing one of the several commercial movies that have been made about Tombstone!
One must-visit spot in Tombstone is the original 1882 courthouse. It's actually a state park now...and is officially called the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park. This is where you can view authentic artifacts from Tombstone's silver mining heyday, see displays on various related topics, and pose your questions to someone who can answer them.
Tombstone is located on Arizona's SR 80, 24 miles southeast of Benson, Arizona (which is where you will exit from Interstate 10.) To get a good idea of where you'll be heading, here's a Google map of Tombstone, Arizona. Naturally, you'll want to zoom IN using the satellite view to see the town's details, then zoom OUT to see the road northwards towards Benson & I-10. For details about the individual attractions you may enjoy in Tombstone, here's the Tombstone Chamber of Commerce website, as well as a privately owned website about Tombstone attractions that can help you plan what you want to see.
And, for information about the town's courthouse, here's the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park's page from the Arizona State Parks website.
Things to do in Tucson? How about...
Amazing natural wonders?
COLOSSAL CAVE: Colossal Cave isn't exactly colossal...or so it seems to the modern traveler who has been to other caverns and cave systems. But, the price is decent, it's a member of the Tucson Attractions Pass, it's child-friendly, and has interesting guides. Be sure to see it before the more astounding Kartchner Caverns...where you'll pay a larger entry fee, but see a grander display. Camping and trail rides are available at this park, plus special Ladder Tours of the cave delight the adventuresome. The Colossal Cave address is 16721 E Old Spanish Trail,
Vail, AZ 85641; phone (520) 647-7275. Here's a Google map to the Colossal Cave Mountain Park just east of Tucson. For further information, here's the Colossal Cave official website.
KARTCHNER CAVERNS: The Kartchner Caverns opened to the public only very recently...1999! As one of the latest cave systems in the world to open to tours, Kartchner Caverns benefits from the latest technology to preserve the wet and still-forming cave from damage (while still letting humans enjoy it.) That means, there are two sides to this coin: you will enjoy spectacular formations that appear pristine. Visitors are highly impressed...even awed by the magnificence of the caverns. The down sides are several: The Kartchner Caverns Park is highly popular and you'll generally need an advance reservation; no cameras are permitted, nor anything that is seen as a threat to the cave; and young children are generally seen to be threats & are carefully eyed throughout. Kids under age 7 aren't even allowed on one of the 2 tours; and babies/toddlers are difficult to contend with here. No snacks, juices, bottles, strollers, etc are allowed. For those with young kids, the more child-friendly Colossal Cave is recommended.
Older children & adults generally love the caverns, however. There are two different seasons of the year at Kartchner Caverns: mid-October to mid-April, when 2 different tours are offered; and mid-April to mid-October, when only 1 tour is offered. You can reserve a spot online or over the phone. If you'll be touring mid-week, there's a chance that walk-up spaces will be available. But on weekends & holidays, that chance is slim. How far in advance should you get your tickets? For weekdays during a non-holiday period, 24 hours ahead of time is often enough, and 48 hours ahead is usually plenty. (You may not use the internet to get same-day tickets, however; you must telephone the park for them.) For weekends and holidays, you'll find slim pickin's of tour times even 1 week in advance...so 2 or more weeks ahead is better. You can find out more about the caves & make your reservations on the Kartchner Caverns State Park website.Note for campers: Kartchner Caverns SP has camping facilities which, like the cave & the visitor's center, are modern and nice. Separate reservations need to be made for the campground; you'll be able to make those reservations online at the park's camping reservations page.
The Kartchner Caverns location: Kartchner Caverns has only a mailing address (no street address,) but it isn't difficult to find as long as you take the correct exit from Interstate 10. Take I-10's exit number 302 (just west of Benson, AZ) and head straight south on SR 90 to the caverns...about 9 miles. The park's entrance is plainly marked from AZ Route 90. Here's a Google map to the Kartchner Caverns in southern Arizona. (While you're in the area, another popular tourist attraction...the town of Tombstone...is in the same general vicinity. Please see the "Tombstone" listing above on this page for a map to that attraction.)
Fun things to do in Tucson? How about...
Fascinating animals and rare desert plants?
In the slideshow, you're viewing pictures of the Reid Park Zoo animals. You may refresh this page to re-start the slides ff the show has stopped by the time you reach this point on the page.
REID PARK ZOO: Everyone in the family can enjoy the Reid Park Zoo, a mid-sized facility with a good variety of popular zoo animals. The Reid Park Zoo address is 1100 S Randolph Way, Tucson, AZ 85716; phone number is (520) 791-4022. Here's a Google map to the Reid Park Zoo to help you plan your route. And, for complete information about the animal exhibits, hours & prices, here's the Reid Park Zoo website, which will fill you in on all the details.
The ARIZONA SONORA DESERT MUSEUM is an interesting & well-maintained facility showcasing the plants and animals of southern Arizona. Popular with everyone from school kids to "snowbird" seniors, this reasonably priced museum is most popular during the cooler times of the year (since many of its displays are in outdoor areas.) There are also indoor displays featuring high-quality exhibits, as well. The museum's volunteer docents are a special delight. They're stationed near the exhibits...and if you leave with a puzzling question on your mind about the display, then it's surely because you haven't asked one of these fountains of knowledge! The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum's address is 2021 North Kinney Road, Tucson, Arizona 85743; phone number, (520) 883-2702. Here's a Google map to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum to help you find your way. For complete information, here's the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum's website. You might also enjoy viewing our pictures and reading our review of this fine facility on the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum Pictures page of our site.
SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK & TUCSON MOUNTAIN STATE PARK: If you're traveling through Arizona on Interstate 8, I-10 or I-17, you will indeed see some good examples of Saguaro cacti. However, if you would like to spend more "up close and personal" time with these fascinating plants, then visiting the Saguaro National Park (and the Tuscon Mountain Park adjacent to it) is a good way to do that. As you drive towards the visitor's center along the two-lane park roads, you'll get a more intimate feel for the plants...and you'll get to enjoy them at a lower speed limit, too! Hiking trails can get you even closer to these magnificent beauties. Plus, the park's modern visitor's center will be an eye-opening experience if you're interested in discovering fun facts about saguaro cactus plants, and other desert flora and fauna.
Saguaro NP Locations: There are actually 2 different units of the Saguaro National Park, and they're on two different sides of Tucson. We prefer the "Tucson Mountain District" (on the western edge of Tucson) because it's close to Old Tucson Studios, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and the Tucson Mountain County Park, which makes for easy touring of all these facilities. However, the Rincon Mountain District in eastern Tucson is a good place to visit, too. Here's a link to the Saguaro NP website where you can get complete information about hours, fees, and national park passes. And, here's a PDF map of metro Tucson showing the 2 different units of the Saguaro National Park, and their relationships to other tourist attractions in the area. Your park admission fees give you 7 day access to BOTH units, so if you're not short on time, then you don't need to make a choice of "one vs the other" at all. Simply see BOTH!
How to find discounts on Tucson attractions
1.) The Tucson.org website is a good source for visitors to get discounts on many of Tucson's best attractions, hotels and restaurants. Tucson.org is the city's official tourist website. They would like you to stick around their townand see more than one or two sights---so they've made it their business to hunt up good discounts for you!
If you're interested in viewing the complete list of discount coupons that are available, here's a link to the Tucson Deals page of the Tucson.org website. We are not associated with this organization in any way other than to recommend them, so if you have difficulty getting your coupons (or have questions about their advertisers,) please consult Tucson.org directly.
2.) Entertainment Book coupons: If you're just looking to find attraction discounts, the Tucson Attractions Passport MAY be your best bet, since it has coupons for almost every attraction you'll want to visit, especially if you don't have kids along. However, the Entertainment Book, which only costs a little more, is stuffed with restaurant coupons so that you can also enjoy a discount at breakfast, lunch & dinner, too. (Restaurants range from fast food & casual dining to upscale restaurants.) Plus, you'll also find coupons to SOME of the area's major attractions (such as Biosphere 2 & Old Tucson Studios) plus a few of the kid's attractions that aren't included in the Passport. Here's a link to the Entertainment Book website, where you can find out more about their Tucson (and Phoenix) coupon books.