The City of Tucson
The “Old Pueblo,” as Tucson is affectionately known, is the second-largest city
in the state, and the economic and cultural hub of southern Arizona. Tucson is
home to the University of Arizona, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and scores of
museums, galleries, shops and fine restaurants. For a taste of city life, head
up the road to Tucson.
Pima Air and Space Museum
If you are an aviation buff, you will want to take in the internationally known
Pima Air and Space Museum. Covering 60 acres, the museum has more than 250
aircraft on display, including aircraft from pre-World War I days to the
present. Open daily, 9 am to 5 pm. For more information call 520-618-4835. From
the museum you can also catch a tour of the Aerospace Maintenance and
Regeneration Center (AMARC) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Tours of this
fascinating military aircraft storage area are available Monday through Friday,
except federal holidays.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Located just west of Tucson, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is one of the
glories of southern Arizona. The non-profit museum was founded in 1944 by
William Carr who, with the help of conservationist, magazine editor and
philanthropist Arthur Pack, began in modest circumstances what was to become the 21 acre complex of animal and plant exhibits, walking trails and educational
facilities we know today. The Desert Museum is mostly a walking experience (the
entire park is wheel-chair-friendly) with lots of stops along the way to listen
to nature talks, or see the Raptor Flight exhibit (don’t miss this!), visit the
extensive zoo or watch the Javelinas. There are two excellent restaurants in the
park, as well as a snack bar, and lots of places to sit and take in the
atmosphere of the Sonoran desert. For more information call 520-883-1380.
Old Tucson Studios
In 1939 Columbia Pictures filmed the classic western movie “Arizona”, starring
William Holden and Jean Arthur, on the site of what is now known as Old Tucson
Studios. Since then more than 350 movies and TV shows have been filmed there,
including Rio Bravo, Mclintock!, El Dorado and Rio Lobo starring John Wayne. The
park is just west of Tucson (close to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, see
above) and is open daily from 10 am to 3 pm. For more information call 520-883-0100.
Saguaro National Monument
Saguaro National Monument consists of two districts, Saguaro West and Saguaro
East. The two areas, separated by the city of Tucson, are about 25 miles apart.
Taken together, Saguaro West—and the much larger Saguaro East—preserve 83,576
acres of the life and landscape of the Sonoran Desert, including the park’s
namesake, the saguaro cactus. Both districts have a number of picnic areas and
wonderful visitor centers with books, brochures, maps, trail and drive guides as
well as slide show presentations.
Tucson Mountain District (Saguaro National Park West)
The West District (close to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, see above)
features a 6 mile trek, known as the Bajada Loop Drive, which wends its way
through dense saguaro forests set against the backdrop of the rugged Tucson
Mountains. Half-day guided hikes, nature walks and talks are offered, mostly
from December through April.
Rincon Mountain District (Saguaro National Park East)
The East District features a unique 8 miles long, paved one-way road. Cactus
Forest Drive winds through the heart of an extensive saguaro forest, and offers
a close and leisurely look at a variety of Sonoran desert life. Ranger-guided
walks and other park activities are offered during the winter months. For more
information call 520 733-5153
High above Tucson, in the Santa Catalina Mountains (at 9,157 feet above sea
level), stands Mount Lemon, the southernmost ski area in the United States. If
you’re in the mood for aspens, pines and fir trees (and much cooler temperatures
in the summer), take the Catalina Highway to Summerhaven or the Mt. Lemon Ski
Enjoy a tram ride through spectacular Sabino Canyon in the Catalina foothills.
Passengers are allowed to debark at one of the many stops along the way, and
board again after a hike or swim or picture-taking expedition. Be sure to take
in the visitor center. A delightful and easy excursion from Green Valley. There
are fees for the tram and parking. For more information call 520-749-2861
About 30 minutes north of Tucson stands the 31-acre glass and steel prototype
for space colonization, Biosphere II. Enjoy the coral reef, rain forest,
savannah, marsh and million-gallon ocean, all under one roof. Tours are offered
daily from 9 am to 4 pm. Fees apply. For more information call 520-621-4800.