The Tucson Area

Things to do in The Tucson Area

Guided tours at the Biosphere 2 give families an insider view into the world’s largest glass-enclosed environmental lab—with wilderness zones ranging from lower savanna to tropical, as well as a million-gallon “ocean” viewed from a 40-foot cliff.

Once a fort that marked the northern frontier of New Spain, the 150-year-old Old Town Artisans houses a cluster of charming shops (although the turquoise-jewelry quotient is a little high). The best part: sitting in the courtyard with a prickly-pear margarita.

The property features a zoo, natural history museum, and botanical garden all in one venue.

One of the world’s largest telescopes sits atop Mount Hopkins. Amateur astronomers can check out the scaled-down models at the visitors’ center, 10 miles below.

Tour the stunning Mission San Xavier del Bac, also known as the White Dove of the Desert; it’s often cited as the finest intact example of Mission architecture in the Southwest.

Hike the sprawling preserve of mature saguaro stands (found only in the Sonoran Desert). Go to the west side to see petroglyphs left by the Hohokam Indians.

The University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography houses a blue-chip collection of more than 2,225 photographers, including Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, and W. Eugene Smith; it’s also got a great museum store.

The museum offers tours of the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where thousands of old aircraft are mothballed.

Budding astronomers will like Kitt Peak National Observatory, about an hour out of Tucson, with the largest collection of optical research telescopes in the world (call about nighttime sky viewing).

Jet-setters' way station

Biking Tubac’s 13-mile-long Elephant Head Trail, which starts near the top of Madera Canyon, can be a little hair-raising (the steep pitch means you’ll pick up some serious speed).