Whether it’s outdoor fun or cultural and educational activities your family is into, there are lots of things to see and do in Tucson. It’s a laid-back city with a vibrant history, surrounded by breathtaking scenery. And in this economy, it’s a truly low-cost vacation for the entire family.
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Courtesy of Toyota I had the chance to explore some of the best places to go while you’re in town, and I guarantee the kids will love it! Whether it’s nature and outdoor activities, exploring the Wild West, or cultural diversions you crave, Tucson has something to offer for everyone.
FUN OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES Saguaro National Park A must see for any visit are those giant saguaro cactuses native to this part of the Southwest. The park is split into two sides, east and west of the city. The Western part is lower in elevation with a denser cactus forest. There are lots of parking spots along the way for you to get out and look around or even take a hike. It’s also on the way to the Desert Museum and Old Tucson, which makes it a great day trip.
The Eastern section rises to over 8,000 feet and includes over 128 miles of trails. It’s less traveled than the west side of the park which makes it a great place to hike or just relax without having to deal with the crowds. And if you’re into spelunking, Colossal Cave Mountain Park is close by. Here a guide explains the cave’s history, legends, and geology while you get to see beautiful cave formations like stalactites and stalagmites, and even bats!
Mt. Lemmon Yes, there’s a mountain too! Mt. Lemmon gets about 57 inches of snow of year so you can ski—in the desert! To get there, take the Catalina Highway and witness breathtaking views of the city below. It’s a great place to escape the summer heat if you come during that time. While I was there I took the ski lift, which gives you fantastic views of the surrounding area.
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MUSEUMS FOR ALL AGES Children’s Museum The museum has created an environment where kids and adults can play and explore through hands-on activities. The exhibits cover a wide range of fun interactive content from science and technology, to health and public safety. New at the museum are The Art Studio, a space for kids and their families to expand their imaginations, and Wee World for kids to play and grow. The museum is designed for younger kids up to age 10. I guarantee they will have a blast here and so will you!
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum The Desert Museum is not your traditional museum. Most of its content is outdoors and alive, showcasing the Sonoran Desert region. It’s a combination of zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium. You get to see desert animals, plants, geology, climate and native cultures presented in their natural environment. The kids will definitely not be disappointed.
The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures These are not your typical doll-houses. The museum is dedicated to all who participate in the world of miniatures through education, creation and enjoyment. It’s a magical experience of elaborate displays that transport you back in time. Each exhibit is a diorama hand-crafted by artisans reproducing a particular era, location and setting. The kids will especially love the room highlighting fairy tales and fantasies.
EXPERIENCE THE WILD, WILD WEST Old Tucson You can experience the Old West just 15 minutes from Tucson. When you pass through the gates you are transported back to a time when gunslingers ruled the Old West. Take a stroll down the street and learn about the dangers of a cross-country trip by stagecoach. Cross the road and witness life as the sheriff of a Wild West town. And turn the corner to learn the customs of Native peoples in the Native Village. Old Tucson is always a crowd pleaser.
DON’T FORGET TO VISIT DOWNTOWN TUCSON Downtown is the historic and cultural heart of the Old Pueblo. Newly revitalized, its full of unique shops, fantastic restaurants and exciting nightlife. The Hotel Congress, across from the train depot, is an icon in the city and serves great food too. Within walking distance is the Tucson Museum of Art and the nearby historic districts. Best of all, the downtown area is compact and easy to walk around to enjoy and explore.
GETTING AROUND Tucson is a sprawling, spread out city so most of the time you will need a car if you want to really see everything. It has a great bus system and is also cycle friendly with bike paths throughout. And with the opening of the new trolley system downtown this summer, it will be even easier to get around.
As part of the Toyota Sienna Diaries, I was able to see the area in a 2014 Sienna Limited minivan moms will love and dads will be sneaking out to take for a spin as well. It’s compact design didn’t prepare me for the amount of room inside. Whether you’ve got a load of kids to drive around or are hauling lots of stuff, this vehicle is great.
Being used to driving a compact car I wasn’t sure how simple it would be to maneuver. Aided by side sensors and a back-up camera, I soon realized how easy it is to navigate. It’s fuel efficiency at 21 mpg (average: 18 city/25 highway) is definitely a plus driving through heavy city traffic every day, especially with gas prices as high as they are.
It’s loaded with so many great features which I’ll be sharing with you from the road. I’ll keep you posted as I discover more on my trip through the great Southwest!
Editor’s Note: This article is being featured as part of the Toyota Sienna Diaries.
Disclaimer: Toyota is providing the author with a vehicle for 3 months as part of the #SiennaDiaries. All opinions relating to the vehicle are his own.