Tucson cannot be compared to the rest of Arizona. Less than 100 km from the Mexican border, you will find an ancient but vibrant city full of history that breathes the atmosphere of Mexico rather than a large American city. Arizona’s second-largest city is a veritable culinary and cultural oasis in the middle of the Sonara Desert. Visiting Tucson by car or RV is also possible. Check out our Best of Arizona car tour, Arizona – New Mexico Campervan tour or a Fly Drive Phoenix / Scottsdale. Prefer an entire tour through Western America? Then view the overview of all tours through West America.
Year-round, more than 7 million travelers vacation in Tucson, Arizona and are enchanted by the laid-back culture, rich history, pristine nature and pure flavors of this special region. See you in Tucson!
History of Tucson Arizona
Where the banks of the Santa Cruz River meet 5 different mountain ranges, there was once an ancient village called Chukshon (‘at the foot of the black mountain’) by the local Tohono O’Odham Indians. Early in the eighteenth century, the first Spaniards arrived here, led by Eusebio Francisco Kino (father Kino), who founded several missions along the Santa Cruz River, including Tumacácori, San Xavier del Bac and San Cosme y Damián de Tucson.
The Spanish settlers encountered resistance from various Indian tribes who had inhabited this area for 3,000 years and so moved their regional fort (‘presidio’) from Tubac to Tucson and named it Presidio San Augustin del Tucson. In the years that followed, the settlement grew into an important stop on the Camino Real, an important trade route that ran from Mexico City to San Juan Pueblo in New Mexico .
According to acronymmonster, Tucson became part of Mexico in 1821 and remained so until the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848 when the Americans officially bought the city from Mexico. For a long time it remained a small border town where Spanish remained the main language and Mexican silver was more popular than US dollars. But thanks to the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1880l, Tucson experienced a growth spurt. It became a large city in no time and the population increased fivefold.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the old center was given new life and old buildings were restored everywhere. Today, downtown Tucson is a bustling place where you can still find traces of its colonial past everywhere in and around the city: in the centuries-old churches and other impressive structures from that era, as well as in the art, culture and local cuisine that Tucson has recently become known as. title of UNESO city of gastronomy because the flavors here are at least 4000 years old.
Best time to travel to Tucson Arizona
The best time to visit Tucson is March through November. Tucson has a warm and dry desert climate and it can get quite hot. When summer really breaks through, the thermometer regularly taps temperatures above 40 degrees. The average temperature in summer is about 35 degrees Celsius. In spring and autumn, temperatures with averages of around 25 degrees are perfect for going out and doing many activities. So this is definitely something to keep in mind if you plan to visit Tucson.
14 Attractions in Tucson Arizona
Are you planning a trip to Tucson, Arizona? We are happy to share 14 tips with you for an unforgettable trip.
1.Pima Air and Space Museum
At one of America’s largest air and space museums, you’ll find a staggering collection of historic aircraft including 3 halls of World War II flying legends, an old JFK-era Air Force One jet, the world’s smallest biplane, and other aerospace and aerospace memorabilia.
The Pima Air and Space Museum, located a stone’s throw from Tucson (15 min drive) is the perfect playground for curious aviation enthusiasts who want to learn all about the fascinating world of aviation then and now. Take the time to see everything in this huge museum you need some time.
2. Saguaro National Park
Just imagine: The silhouette of a Saguaro (pronounced Sah-Wah-ro) cactus towers over the desert skyline, silhouetted against the Tucson Mountains as the lights of Tucson sparkle in the distance. It looks like a scene from an old western, but you can experience this for yourself during a sunset in Saguaro National Park.
The park is about a 20-minute drive from Tucson and gets its name from the giant cacti that can grow up to 15 meters high and 200 years old. The Saguaro can only be spotted in this part of Arizona and the park is home to some of the oldest and rarest specimens in their natural habitat.
There are several trails and hundreds of miles of trails in the park. Some of the most popular trails include the paved Cactus Forest Drive that takes you on a discovery tour of the eastern, quieter part (Rincon Mountain District) and the adventurous unpaved Scenic Bajada Loop that runs through the western part of the park (The Tucson Mountain District). runs. It is a bit busier here, which has everything to do with the fact that you have the most cacti here. You will find several beautiful viewpoints along the routes. You can camp in a number of places.
The best time to visit Saguaro National Park is from mid-May to early June. The saguaros are in full bloom during this period. Are you coming in the summer? Then come in the morning or evening because it can get quite hot here. Do you plan to walk a lot in the park? Then come between October and April.
3. Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
Attention nature lovers! During a visit to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum you will discover the surprisingly diverse flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert. The museum, which is actually a zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, art gallery and history museum in one, is completely dedicated to everything that grows and flourishes in the desert. Javalinos, rare cacti, yuccas, prairie dogs, felines and hummingbirds accompany you on a walking tour through the park.
Visit the museum accompanied by a (free) guide or wander around at your own pace.
Picturesque Bisbee is probably one of the nicest old mining towns in the United States. Bisbee is a funky town with plenty of creative activity and a local population that consists of a mix of cowboys, hippies, artists, and other creative people. You will find plenty of galleries, charming eateries, various specialty shops and unique furniture shops run by colorful characters. Do you like vintage and antique stuff? Then you can indulge yourself here.
The enjoyment starts with the journey there: Via a road trip on US Route 80 you wind through the Arizona Mule Mountains towards Bisbee. Once through the tunnel you will immediately see the brightly colored houses clinging to the mountain side and you will start the descent into the heart of the town.
Do: Have breakfast with the locals at the Bisbee breakfast club and tour the old Bisbee Queen Mine.
5. Tumacácori National Historical Park
Travel back in time at Tumacácori National Historical Park. In the abandoned ruins of the mission church of San José de Tumacácori, which are still in their original state, you can get a good idea of how different cultures and ways of life have been mixed over the centuries. While you’re there: taste the for your eyes traditionally prepared tortillas.
6. Mission San Xavier del Bac
10 miles south of town, on the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation, is the San Xavier Del Bac Mission Church. Nicknamed ‘the white dove of the sonoran desert’, this church bears the religious roots of the Spanish missionaries who originally founded the city. The mission church was built in 1797 in typical Spanish style and is the oldest surviving building from that time. Thousands of visitors still come here every year on foot or on horseback to go on a pilgrimage.
7. A Mountain Tuscon
Also known as Sentinal Peak, “A Mountain” is an iconic landmark west of downtown Tucson that can be seen from miles away. University of Arizona students recreated the university’s logo on the summit in 1916 and the mountain has been called “A Mountain” ever since. The foot of the mountain is the starting point for a beautiful route (hiking, cycling or by car) up to the top. Once at the top (the top is at 883 meters) you can look nice and far and you have a wide view of Tucson and the surrounding mountains.
8. El Barrio Historico
El Barrio Historico is one of Tucson’s best-preserved traditional neighborhoods (barrios). Steeped in history and culture, this part of “The Old Pueblo” was once the thriving hub of Tucson’s social, economic, and cultural life. With restaurants, offices, shops, homes and a mix of cultures, it is still one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city where you can escape the inevitable bustle of a large American city; here the atmosphere of a laidback Mexican village still prevails.
During a walk through El Barrio Historico in downtown Tucson you will walk past beautiful examples of the typical Adobe architecture (casas adobes), admire the work of contemporary street art artists and pass the front doors that are characteristic of the barrio. If you follow the hashtag #tucson you’ve probably seen them: photos of brightly painted front doors and facades that give a beautiful picture of generations of colorful residents who have lived behind these walls and still have to live.
9.Arizona History Museum
Arizona’s unique stories come alive at the Arizona History Museum, where you’ll learn about Arizona’s culture and history. It provides an insight into the tumultuous lives of legendary characters such as Geronimo and Wyatt Earp who played an important role in the birth of America. Visit recreated mining galleries and interactive exhibits to learn about the region’s mining history and everyday life in 19th-century Arizona.
The museum is located right in the beating heart of Tucson and is worth a visit. Especially if you like history and culture.
10.Arizona State Museum
To really understand an area, you have to get to know its past. You can do that at the Arizona State Museum, the oldest and largest anthropological museum in the Southwestern United States. Through various exhibitions about, among other things, artifacts, utensils and archaeological excavations, you will become acquainted with the culture and way of life of the oldest and original inhabitants of Arizona.
11. The University of Arizona Museum of Art
If you can’t get enough of art and culture, you really have to walk in here. At The University of Arizona Museum you will find 7 centuries of art history in one museum. The museum’s permanent collection includes well-known masterpieces by 20th-century American artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Georgia O’Keefe, as well as 15th-century Spanish altarpieces and everything in between. You can experience culture here all year round and be inspired by the interactive exhibitions and changing exhibitions.
12. El Presidio
Follow in the footsteps of Tucson’s founders and take a stroll through the historic Presidio district, where the foundations of Tucson were laid in 1775. As you stroll through America’s oldest inhabited neighborhood, you’ll explore the Tucson of yesteryear and learn how the city has developed over the centuries into the quirky city it is today.
A 2.5-mile walking trail (Turquoise trail) takes you past traces of Spain’s colonial past and past highlights such as Presidio San Agustín del Tucson Museum, a reconstruction of the original Tucson Presidio, Tucson Museum of Art, and Presidio Park. Not to be missed are the iconic street lamps.
Well worth a look: El Charro Café, America’s oldest Mexican restaurant that has been run by the same family since it was founded in 1922.
13.Old Tuscon Studios
West of Tucson is Old Tucson Studios, a theme park annex old film studio where more than 300 well-known westerns, films and series (such as Zorro and Little House on The Prairie) have been recorded. Now it is a mini amusement park where you can experience what it is like to live as a cowboy in the western era. With rides such as a Wild West carousel, stunt shows and true-to-life cowboy battles, you can have fun here with the whole family. Old Tucson Studios closed in 2020 but has recently undergone a complete renovation and will reopen to visitors in October 2022.
14. Saint Augustine’s Cathedral
Saint Augustine’s Cathedral is located in the heart of downtown Tucson. The cathedral is older than the state of Arizona itself and is the Southwest’s second most photographed building. The cathedral’s crown jewel is an at least 600-year-old crucifix from Pamplona. Exuberant celebrations are regularly held here accompanied by Mexican mariachi musicians and white doves.