Coming from someone who was born and raised in the Dirty T, it’s easy to take for granted everything that this place has to offer if you’ve grown up with it for 20 years. I’ll admit, it’s hard to find things to do here when you reach that awkward stage in your life where you’re no longer a kid who can be entertained by the simplest things, but you’re still not old enough to drive to explore this city on your own. However, once you reach driving age and more especially college age, it’s easier to find fun things to do in this desert gem.
Just 60 miles north of the US-Mexico border sits a community of rich cultural heritage which centers around Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American influences. Situated in the middle of five mountain ranges, us Tucsonans are blessed with a climate of 360 sunny days a year. The 520 is an outdoors enthusiasts paradise (when it’s not summer time with temperatures of 110 degrees). Whether its most commonly hiking, year-round swimming, or biking, there’s a recreational activity for everyone if they choose. As for biking, El Tour De Tucson is a bicycling event known internationally and while it’s super cool to be the home of such a well-known event, native Tucsonans know what a struggle it is to get anywhere in the city on that specific day.
Below are a few of my favorite places to head to when going out and about in the Old Pueblo:
Downtown Tucson and Fourth Avenue: According to The City Of Tucson, “Tucson was referred to as a “mini-mecca for the arts” by The Wall Street Journal and in 2009 was ranked #20 of the Top 25 Arts Destinations (big-cities category) by American Style Magazine.” In Downtown Tucson and its’ neighboring area Fourth Avenue, you’ll find that this reference holds true with the myriad paintings and sculptures you’ll see around. Both Downtown and Fourth Ave hold amazing restaurants, cute cafes, colorful surroundings, and several historical sites. For those 21 and up, these two areas are staple spots for going out.
The University of Arizona: Tucson, being home to the University of Arizona, is the stomping grounds for all die hard wildcat fans. It’s impossible to leave your house and not see at least one person sporting some U of A gear while out and about. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student at the University or not; everyone that lives here is just as enthusiastic and supportive about UA sports as the next person. Tailgating during football season or attending basketball games at McKale Center, you’ll find kids of 10 years in age, 21 year old drunk ass college students, and the crazy 50 year old alumni all coming together at these events. Don’t even think about wearing anything Arizona State here in Tucson… whether people know you or not, the typical Tucsonan won’t hesitate to chirp at you to go back to Phoenix where you belong.
Tumamoc Hill: 3.1 miles round trip on a paved hill makes this the perfect workout for anyone. Many choose to walk and the more physically fit attempt to run. What starts out as pretty mild slope soon becomes steep about halfway to the top. The views of the city at the top of the hill though make whatever exhaustion you may feel at the end worth it. * Fun fact: “Since this hike is on university property it is one of the only hikes in the Tucson Mountain Range that permits night hiking, making this the perfect hike for sunrise/sunset watching.”
Mt. Lemmon: As you drive the Catalina Highway up Mount Lemmon, you leave behind the heat, desert, and cacti of Tucson and in it’s place you find yourself surrounded by forest trees, pine cones, and much cooler temperatures. Here you’ll discover off-the-path campsites, well traveled hiking trails, and unbelievable views of the mountain and city below. Go for lunch at the Cookie Cabin in the small town of Summerhaven sitting at the top of the mountain or if you’re looking for some adventure, make a trip to Mount Lemmon Ski Valley in winter to shred some powder on the slopes. In the winter when the snow falls, it’s common for weekends to be packed with Tucsonans sledding and making snowmen. If you feel like fishing or hanging by water, stop by Rose Canyon lake. Mt. Lemmon is the perfect getaway, whether it be for a single day or overnight.
These are just a few of the more popular and exciting places to spend your time here in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to the above are Sabino Canyon (Seven Falls) and Catalina State Park (Romero Pools) for hiking and Sentinel Peak (A Mountain) for even more amazing views of the city. Stopping by Old Tucson or one of our museums such as the Wildlife Museum or Sonoran Desert Museum are also fun things to do on one of your free days. Tucson has more to do and more beauty to see than we think– we just need to put in the effort to discover it.
*cover image credit: forbes.com