The Best of Tucson, Arizona

Overlooking Tucson Arizona
Overlooking Tucson, Arizona from "A" Mountain

I can see why settlers first setup camp here in Tucson. With mountains on all sides and the Sonoran Desert pumping dry heat across the valley, I wouldn’t want to keep going either.

Tucson is the second largest city in Arizona behind Phoenix and has a population of more than 1 million people, which includes roughly 50,000 students and employees at the University of Arizona.

When I first arrived in Arizona to begin my wild west adventure I wasn’t familiar with anything to do or see in Tucson, but was pleasantly surprised to find “The Old Pueblo” has a ton of cool stuff going for itself.

While I didn’t have a chance to experience everything Tucson has to offer, I made a list of all the stuff I want to do when I return to Arizona, so I figured I’d share it with you…

Best Attractions around Tucson

  • Mt Lemmon – This was the #1 thing everybody told me to do. Mt Lemmon is the Southern most ski slope in the USA and provides Tucsonians with an epic outdoor playground all year round for hiking, camping and skiing.
  • “A” Mountain – The photo above was taken from “A” mountain just outside downtown Tucson. A short drive up the mountain will reward you with some amazing views of Tucson and the incredible mountains and Sonoran Desert that surround the city limits.
  • University of Arizona – This is also one of my favorite places to site see. Like “A” Mountain, the University provides some impressive scenery worth checking out. The campus itself is beautiful, but it’s the sun-kissed coeds that make this a must see while in Tucson.
  • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum – I know what you’re thinking, the sound of a “desert museum” sounds super lame, but turns out it’s a pretty kick-ass place, complete with world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden. Plus, it’s where a ton of old Western movies were filmed.
  • Tucson Airplane Graveyard (aka Airplane Boneyard) – If you’re a military or aviation nut you gotta checkout the Airplane boneyard near the Tucson airport. It’s a 15 minute drive from downtown tucson and is where they keep a ton of surplus and retired aircrafts from all branches of military because of Tucson’s ideal climate.
  • Roller Coaster Road – The name explains it all. It’s a wild ride outside town where people get their amusement park fix by whipping up and down this residential road.
  • Hike to Seven Falls – The hike to Seven Falls is a popular trek for many Tucsonians because, according to Sierra Club, even though the hike is in the hot lower elevations, It’s also great in the brutal Arizona summer because hikers can cool off in the pools at Seven Falls. I didn’t have the opportunity to make it up, but this looks and sounds like a great day trip.
  • Golf – Arizona’s weather makes Tuscon a golfers paradise any time of year. Although I didn’t have a chance to hit the links on my last visit, I marked 3 different courses worthy of 18 just driving around the city. Tuscon is definitely home to some of the best golf courses Arizona.

Best Food and Nightlife in Tucson:

  • Mexican Restaurants – You can’t come this close to the Mexican border without trying the best Mexican Restaurants in Tucson. They’re cheap, traditional and delicious… what more can you ask for?
  • Dirtbag’s – My buddy from Arizona told me that  It’s a cool hangout for University of Arizona upperclassman and a great gameday spot if you can’t get tickets to whatever game you’re watching. He suggested, to try a pitcher of Sicilian Whores.
  • Bison Witches – Located on the popular 4th ave near the University, Bison Witches offers up some of the best sandwiches and soup/breadbowls in Tucson. I went down during the NBA playoffs and had a great pastrami sandwich and a few cold ones. It’s a solid spot.
  • Frog n Firkin – I drove by the Frog n Firkin on University Ave a few times while working close to campus and the big outdoor patio was always packed with college students eating, drinking and enjoying the cool mist and fans that keep everybody chill.
  • Club Congress – Located on the ground floor of Tucson’s historic Hotel Congress (where John Dillinger was captured), Club Congress offers electric mix of rock and pop acts and plays host to several popular theme nights. The club also hosts tons of free live shows on their patio.
  • Rialto Theatre – Built in conjunction with Hotel Congress in 1919, the Rialto Theatre sits right across the street and is Tucson’s most famous performance theater and concert venue. It was was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003 and continues to be Tucson’s premier live music venue.

Best Excursions from Tucson:

  • Tombstone – Take the hour drive from downtown Tucson and you’re teleported back to the time when Wyatt Earp and company ruled the west. Tombstone was one of the last wide-open boomtowns in the American Old West and a hot spot for silver bullion back in the day. Today, they reenact the historic Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and keep the town setup in its traditional “wild west” vibe.
  • The Grand Canyon – On your way to Walley World you have to stop for some photos at one of America’s most popular attractions, which is a 6 hour drive from Tucson.
  • Havasupai Falls – Located just outside the Grand Canyon National Park on the Havasupai Reservation are some of the best hiking trails and most incredible waterfalls in the United States. There are month-long waiting lists for campsites around Havasupai Falls, but I’ve been told it’s well worth the wait.
  • Border Jumping – Think of it like a big game of capture the flag… good luck.

I’m hoping to come back through Arizona sometime soon to check off everything on my list so if you know of any other good stuff to do and see in Tucson, leave a comment below!

My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!

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