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Best things to do in Tucson, AZ

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Imagine stepping into a world where every corner has a story, where past and present blend harmoniously. Tucson, Arizona is alive with vibrant culture, breathtaking scenery, and a friendly atmosphere. It’s a place of adventure and relaxation, where the arts thrive and history is honored. Whether you’re a tourist, investor, or homebuyer, Tucson offers endless possibilities for a fresh start. Explore the best things to do in Tucson, AZ and discover the essence of this extraordinary city.

From the majestic saguaro cacti that’s a prominent symbol of the landscape of Tucson and the surrounding Sonoran Desert region, to abundant opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, rock climbing, and birdwatching, Tucson awaits.

From archaeological sites, historic neighborhoods, and Spanish colonial missions providing insights into the past, to shopping, dining, and people-watch along Fourth Avenue, known for its eclectic mix of boutiques, vintage shops, cafes, and street art, Tucson is ready to thrill and delight you.

Discover all these and more in Arizona’s second largest city (population: 547,000), the destination of choice for 5.8 million visitors in 2021-2022.


San Xavier del Bac

The San Xavier del Bac Mission in Tucson, AZ was founded in 1700 and is a National Historic Site

Tucson’s cultural scene is a lively mix of history, art, and community involvement, offering some of the finest attractions and best things to do in Tucson, AZ. Here, tales of the past that shaped the present community remain major draws. These cultural touchstones reflect Tucson’s unique identity and value, which stem from its diverse cultural heritage, connection to the desert landscape, strong sense of community, artistic expression, outdoor lifestyle, and spirit of innovation. These elements come together to create a dynamic and inclusive city with a distinct character and ethos.

  • Mission San Xavier del Bac. Often referred to as the “White Dove of the Desert,” this National Historic Site harks back to the region’s Spanish colonial past. The stunning architecture and ongoing preservation make it a must-visit for anyone interested in the intersection of history, art, and religion.
  • The Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block. Here, visitors can explore a wide range of art, from ancient to contemporary, with a particular focus on the art of the Southwest. The museum’s historic block also offers a glimpse into 19th-century life in Tucson.
  • Tucson International Mariachi Conference. This event celebrates mariachi music and baile folklórico, showcasing some of the country’s most talented musicians and dancers. It’s a testament to Tucson’s rich Mexican-American heritage and a vibrant expression of cultural pride.
  • Murals and street art. The city’s streets showcase an array of murals, from vibrant local wildlife to social commentaries, transforming neighborhoods into open-air galleries.
  • Live performances. Iconic venues like the Rialto Theatre and Fox Tucson Theatre host a mix of concerts, comedy, and theater, spotlighting both local and international acts.
  • Art galleries and museums. Explore the colorful offerings of Philabaum Glass Gallery & Studio and the adobe charm of DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun. Madaras Gallery and Yun Gee Park Gallery & Atelier add to the city’s artistic allure. Don’t miss the Tucson Open Studio Tours, where visitors can engage with local artists. Experience the Tucson Museum of Art’s diverse collections, showcasing Western, contemporary, and Latin American masterpieces alongside local talent. In Tucson, art is not just observed but celebrated in every form.
  • Film and cinema: The Loft Cinema offers an alternative cinematic experience with indie, documentary, and foreign films, making it a hub for film lovers.

Every facet of Tucson’s art, culture, and entertainment scene speaks to the city’s diversity and vibrant range and count as among the best things to do in Tucson, AZ.


As the first US city to be named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2015, Tucson fits the global body’s criteria: the use of gastronomy as a driver for economic, social, and cultural development, while also promoting sustainable practices and fostering cultural exchange and creativity in the culinary arts.


As the first US city to be named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2015, Tucson fits the global body’s criteria: the use of gastronomy as a driver for economic, social, and cultural development, while also promoting sustainable practices and fostering cultural exchange and creativity in the culinary arts.

Visitors will find delicious evidence of this status in:

  • Sonoran hotdogs. A local favorite, these bacon-wrapped hotdogs are served in bolillo-style buns and topped with beans, onions, tomatoes, and various sauces, embodying Tucson’s street food culture.
  • El Charro Café. As the oldest Mexican restaurant continuously operated by the same family, it offers authentic dishes like carne seca in a historic setting.
  • Mission Garden: A living museum showcasing Sonoran Desert-adapted heritage crops, visitors can sample the region’s agricultural history.
  • Tucson Tamale Company: Their gourmet tamales blends traditional recipes with innovative fillings, highlighting the city’s culinary creativity.
  • Feast: The restaurant features a menu that changes with what’s in season. Feast exemplifies Tucson’s commitment to local ingredients and inventive cuisine.
  • Barrio Bread: An artisan bakery renowned for using locally sourced heritage grains, symbolizing Tucson’s sustainable food movement.


Biosphere 2

Biosphere 2 in Tucson, AZ aimed to replicate Earth’s ecosystems for scientific experiments related to ecology and sustainability

Visiting Tucson’s historic landmarks offers a journey through the city’s rich heritage and evolution. Each site narrates Tucson’s diverse past, providing a distinctive backdrop for learning and deepening appreciation for the region’s history.

  • Presidio San Agustín del Tucson Museum: Marks Tucson’s original founding site, offering insights into life on the Spanish frontier.
  • The Sosa-Carrillo House: A historic adobe home now a cultural center celebrating Tucson’s Mexican-American heritage.
  • Fort Lowell Museum: Chronicles military life during the Apache Wars, spotlighting a pivotal period in the Southwest’s history.
  • Biosphere 2. Constructed in the 1980s, it has been used for research and educational programs, including a two-year closed-system experiment in 1991. Today it is owned and operated by the University of Arizona, which conducts ongoing research at the facility and offers tours to the public.


Happy family

Discover a treasure trove of fun the whole family will enjoy. From exploring a zoo in the middle of a desert, to being awed by the celestial wonders showcased in a planetarium, to hopping on rides at a movie-studio-turned theme park, there’s always something to keep the young and old alike engaged and entertained. Here are some of the best things to do in Tucson, AZ that the whole family will enjoy.

  • Children’s Museum Tucson.  Packed with interactive exhibits, this museum sparks curiosity in young minds through play-based learning, from exploring technology in Techtopia to imaginative play in WeeWorld.
  • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. This outdoor museum blends a zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, and aquarium, showcasing the Sonoran Desert’s diversity.  It’s a place for close encounters with native wildlife and hands-on learning.
  • Reid Park Zoo. Compact yet comprehensive, it features themed zones like the African Savannah and offers workshops and events guaranteed to please young and old alike.
  • Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium. Situated at the University of Arizona, it offers engaging exhibits on science and space, with a planetarium to take  families on a cosmic journey.
  • Tohono Chul Park.  Families can enjoy themed gardens, art exhibits, and wildlife viewing in a beautiful desert setting.
  • Old Tucson. A movie studio turned theme park, it offers a taste of the Wild West with stunt shows, fun activities, and a look at a classic movie set.


man hiking

Tucson’s is an amazing playground for outdoor fans. Choose your favorite activity or discover new ones against a backdrop of unique natural beauty, from the iconic saguaro cacti to rugged mountain peaks. Experience the exhilaration of mountain biking through rugged terrain or the serenity of birdwatching in a lush desert oasis. With its diverse ecosystem and year-round sunshine, Tucson beckons visitors to explore and embrace the beauty of the great outdoors.

  • Hiking. Trails in Saguaro National Park traverse dense saguaro forests and desert,  offering stunning views and wildlife encounters. Popular trails include Hugh Norris and Tanque Verde Ridge.
  • Mountain biking. Renowned for its trails, Tucson caters to all levels with routes like the 50-Year Trail and Fantasy Island, known for its scenic beauty and challenging terrain.
  • Rock climbing. Tucson’s natural rock formations, especially around Mount Lemmon, provide climbers of all skill levels with over 1,000 routes amidst the Coronado National Forest.
  • Birdwatching. The region’s varied ecosystems, such as Madera Canyon and San Pedro River Valley, are hotspots for birding, attracting hundreds of species, including rare and migratory birds.


arizona flag with ball

Tucson’s passion for sports is evident in its enthusiastic support for college athletics and participation in local sporting events. As a spectator or participant, choose the sport you support.

  • University of Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats’ NCAA Division I games, especially football at Arizona Stadium and basketball at McKale Center, are central to Tucson’s sports culture, drawing large crowds and fostering community pride.
  • El Tour de Tucson. This major annual cycling event attracts participants globally, offering routes for all levels through Tucson’s scenic landscapes.
  • Tucson Marathon.  Known for its picturesque, downhill courses, this event includes a marathon, half-marathon, and relay, attracting runners aiming for personal bests or qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
  • Community sports leagues. Tucson’s active lifestyle is further enriched by community sports leagues in soccer, softball, volleyball, and more, offering residents fun and social ways to stay active and connect.


Day of the dead

Tucson’s calendar brims with events and festivals that reflect the city’s vibrant culture and community spirit, showcasing everything from gemstones to literary arts. Some of the best things to do in Tucson, AZ include the following events:

  • Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase in late January to mid February. This world-renowned event, held annually, draws more than 65,000 collectors and enthusiasts to a spectacular display of gems, minerals, and fossils, which highlights Tucson’s global appeal in geology.
  • Tucson Festival of Books in March. One of the largest book festivals in the US brings authors, readers, and publishers together for a weekend filled with literary activities, including support for literacy initiatives, at the University of Arizona
  • Fourth Avenue Street Fair in March and December. This twice-yearly event turns Fourth Avenue into an even more vibrant marketplace with arts, crafts, food, and live entertainment, celebrating local and national craftsmanship.
  • Tucson Meet Yourself in October. Highlights the region’s cultural diversity with performances, crafts, and food from over 30 ethnic groups, emphasizing Tucson’s rich cultural tapestry.
  • All Souls Procession in November.  A unique event blending celebration and remembrance, this procession honors loved ones who have passed and features a parade that concludes with performances and a ceremonial urn burning.

Man drinking water

To fully immerse yourself in the essence of Tucson and make the most of your visit – or to get a genuine feel for what living in this vibrant city might be like – consider these tips. Each suggestion aims to deepen your connection to Tucson, showcasing its unique culture, hidden gems, and the warm, welcoming spirit of its community.

  1. Visit when it’s cooler. Tucson can get quite hot in the summer months. Consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of fall and spring when the weather is more comfortable for outdoor activities.
  2. Explore beyond the city. While Tucson itself has a lot to offer, consider exploring the surrounding areas like the Sonoran Desert, Saguaro National Park, and nearby mountain ranges like the Santa Catalinas or Rincons for more breathtaking natural beauty and outdoor adventures.
  3. Connect with locals. Strike up conversations with locals at cafes, farmers markets, or community events. Tucsonans are known for their friendliness and may offer valuable insights or recommendations for hidden gems in the city.
  4. Stay hydrated and sun-protected.  Tucson’s desert climate means staying hydrated and sun-protected is essential, especially if you’re spending time outdoors. Carry water with you, wear sunscreen, and consider wearing a hat and lightweight, breathable clothing.
  5. Take advantage of free activities. Look for free or low-cost activities in Tucson, such as hiking in the nearby national parks, attending outdoor concerts or movie screenings, or exploring the city’s many parks and gardens.
  6. Stay flexible. Tucson’s laidback atmosphere encourages spontaneity and exploration. Leave room in your itinerary for unexpected discoveries, whether it’s stumbling upon a hidden gem of a restaurant or a community event.


Just sold in Tucson

Just sold in Tucson, AZ: A 5-bed, 3-bath single-family home with 2,027 square feet of living space

Tucson, Arizona, emerges not merely as a destination but as a vibrant community awaiting newcomers to call it home. Renowned for its stunning landscapes and rich cultural tapestry, Tucson extends an invitation to explore and embrace all that has made it laidback but dynamic, respectful of its past but eager to embrace the future.

We at the Signature Group are experts at fulfilling the specific needs of our real estate clients. From first-time homebuyers to seasoned homeowners searching for their next home, we are  dedicated to ensuring our clients experience nothing but the best service and a process that’s smooth and efficient. We’ve worked with over 800 clients across Tucson and southern Arizona over the past nine years and have become a trusted ally in making real estate dreams come true in the Grand Canyon State.

Embrace the opportunity to transform Tucson from a travel stop to a cherished home. Call 520.333.6864 or send us an email to begin your home buying journey today.

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