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san xavier del bac mission Tucson
San Xavier del Bac Mission, the oldest continually used building in Arizona.

8 Reasons Tucson is Gonna Get You

Often dismissed as a college town with snow birds, Tucson has amazing history and culture to share. Fabulous historical sites, stunning landscapes and delicious food coupled with amazing winter weather makes this a perfect getaway to shed the winter blues.

1. Learn about Spanish Mission life at Tumacacori

As the first mission site and one of the oldest buildings in Arizona, the Tumacacori National Historical Park is surprisingly well preserved. Just a 30-minute drive south of Tucson, fabulous Park Rangers and a kid friendly scavenger hunt really engaged our kids in learning about the relationship between Spanish missionaries and Native Americans. With farming and construction techniques on display and the de Anza Trail along the Santa Cruz River, this place is one of the neatest cultural sites to check out in Arizona. $10 admission for adult and under 16 is free.

Tumacacori NHP in Tucson
We learned so much at Tumacacori National Historical Park.

2. Venture to Tubac for great food and art

While the mission ruins in Tubac pale in comparison to Tumacacori, the food at Elvira’s Restaurant is worth the exit. Accentuated by eclectic décor, the menu is overflowing with delicious flavors like authentic moles and slurpable tequilas. After filling up with adventure fuel, take a stroll through the unique art galleries in town. From metal sculptures and paintings to repurposed rubbish, the residents of Tubac definitely put some flair in the landscape.

Beautiful Elvira’s restaurant.

3. Descend into a Cold War Titan Missile Silo

Built in the 1960s to ensure “mutual destruction” during the Cold War, the Titan Missile Museum remains the only one of eight commissioned in the Tucson area in touring condition. Re-enacting the protocols to enter the facility definitely illuminate the gravity that this job entailed. After descending 55 stairs and passing a two-ton door, tour guides make the Cold War come to life with a full demonstration of launch protocols and a stroll down the catwalk to the silo itself. At $12 for kids and $15.50 for adults, the place is the “bomb” to see how close we were to WW3.

titan missile museum in tucson
Kids had a blast learning about the Cold War at the Titan Missile Museum.

4. Marvel at San Xavier del Bac Mission

As the oldest continually used structure in Arizona, the church at San Xavier del Bac is a treasure. Founded a year after Tumacacori by Father Kino, this Catholic mission has served the O’Odham people for over 160 years. Interestingly, many of the statues and ornaments within the church came from Tumacacori when it was abandoned in the mid-1800s. The site is free to visit and definitely worth a stop if in the Tucson area.

interior of san xavier del bac
Breath taking San Xavier del Bac Chapel.

5. Get swept away at Pima Air & Space Museum

Concerned with the loss of historic aircraft after WWII, commanders at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base displayed historic planes along the fence line for the public. While the “boneyard” is still one of my favorite sites in Tucson for it’s overwhelming magnitude, just seeing planes through the fence isn’t really much fun. The acquisition of property south of the base allowed the public to get up close with the planes. And with lots of interactive exhibits and one of the most diverse collections of aircraft in the country, $12 per child and $18.50 per adult is a steal for a day at the Pima Air & Space Museum.

6. Step into the Science Experiment at Biosphere 2

Tucked into the northern side of Mount Lemon, the Biosphere 2 is the world’s grandest experiment in self-sustaining architecture. Fifteen crew over two missions managed the seven distinct ecosystems. While some consider the experiments failures because the scientists didn’t indefinitely thrive, their contributions to the breadth of knowledge about ecosystem development and engineering cannot be understated. For $15 per child and $25 for adults, everyone should checkout this epic experiment!

biosphere 2
World’s Largest Closed Ecosystem Experiment at Biosphere 2 north of Tucson.

7. See how stunning the desert can be Saguaro National Park

Many people, even those who live here, dismiss the Arizona desert as just dirt. But the greater rainfall and elevation in the Tucson area allows the foliage to grow large and luscious. Only found in the Sonoran Desert, the Saguaro population is particularly large and dense in Saguaro National Park. But more stunning to us were the variety and density of desert plants each painting the landscape with their own shade of green and rainbow of blossoms in the spring. $25 allows a carload of people to explore the park for a week (or a 4th Grade pass will get you in for free!).

Saguaro National Park
So many shades of green in Saguaro National Park.

8. Best Mexican Food at Guadalajara Original Grill

This restaurant made our kids LOVE salsa! Our server lovingly included our kids in selecting the ingredients from the cart as she prepared the most delicious table side salsa we’d ever tasted. This attention to freshness goes into everything else at the restaurant too. Hand squeezed lime made a sensational margarita. Hot off the press tortillas provided the perfect envelope for the kids quesadillas. Eternally persuaded by unusual menu items, we raved about each bite of our Molcajetes served in a volcanic rock. Guadalajara Original Grill is definitely our favorite stop whenever we’re in town!

Guadalajara Original Grill Tucson
Guadalajara Original Grill has the best tortillas and salsa.

KOA Resort: Best Campground in Tucson

In order to earn “resort” status with the KOA brand, a place has to be pretty incredible. Of course it has spacious level sites and super helpful staff. But with two resort style pools, four dog runs, playground, club house, basketball and pickleball courts, horseshoes and putting greens you could play for a whole weekend at the Tucson KOA and never leave. Most uniquely, this was the first RV park we’ve encountered an RC track, a favorite of our youngest human:)

Our Favorite Hotel: La Posada Lodge & Casitas

Occasionally, we’ll pop down to Tucson for a quick weekend and we love this spot. Located on the northern side of town, La Posada‘s frontage looks like any other hotel. But the grassy knoll and pool overlooking an abandoned golf course and Tucson valley gives the lodge a fully luxurious feel. With a restaurant on site and quick access to I-10, this spot is an easy choice for a family getaway.

la posada tucson
We loved strolling to dinner and the pool at La Posada.

Missed Connections

What are your favorite things to do in Tucson? Tell us in the comments!


Eternally on the hunt for the science in every adventure.

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