What Is There To Do In Tucson This Weekend – Nestled in a flat valley surrounded by mountains and cactus fields, Arizona’s second largest city skillfully blends Native American, Spanish, Mexican and English traditions. This unique blend of nature and history makes Tucson perfect for budget travelers—there’s plenty to see and do without breaking the bank. Instead, immerse yourself in unique neighborhoods filled with Southwestern flair and explore unique landscapes filled with cacti, colorful desert flora, and spectacular wildlife.
If you’re looking for free things to do in Tucson, here are the top ten places to start (plus five affordable places that aren’t totally free).
What Is There To Do In Tucson This Weekend
Visitors to the Mission San Xavier del Bac à Tucson can visit the museum for free for 45 minutes © Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images
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The mission’s dazzling white tower rises above the dusty desert floor eight miles south of Tucson, a charming structure that casts an otherworldly light on the surrounding scrubby landscape. The current building, called the “Dove of the Desert”, was built in 1700 and combines Moorish, Byzantine and Mexican Renaissance styles. Carefully restored in the 1990s with the help of Vatican experts, Javier del Bac remains a religious practice and is one of the best-preserved and most beautiful Spanish Missionaries in the country.
A small museum explains the history of the mission and its construction. Free 45-minute guided tours (4 to 10 a.m. daily, Mon.-Sat.) add useful information. Visit the website for travel times. Native Americans sell fried bread, jewelry, and crafts in the parking lot.
CCP is known for its ever-changing and high-quality exhibitions. It also manages the archives of Ansel Adams, the most revered landscape photographer in American history, and occasionally exhibits his work.
Tucson’s wall-to-wall mosaic of nearly 7,000 faces is a simple but powerful testament to the diversity of the city’s population. The Tucson Portrait Project is located in the subway, under the railroad tracks on 4th Avenue. Or you can view the panels online.
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The Crow Gallery in Old Elyson Grove Market is one of the many attractions of the Barrio Histórico © Alamy Stock Photo
This compact neighborhood was an important business district in the late 19th century and was bordered by I-10, Stone Avenue, Cushing Street and 17th Street. Today, the barrio hosts trendy shops and galleries in brightly colored, photo-worthy wooden houses. Don’t miss El Tiradito when you come here. Located in Tucson’s Barrio Historico, the shrine to the 19th-century man who was said to have been killed by his father-in-law while in love with his mother-in-law still offers offerings to anyone who remembers his lost relative.
For a small city, Tucson has an impressive art museum. It has a large and respected collection of American, Latin American, and contemporary art, and a permanent display of pre-Columbian artifacts will awaken your inner Indiana Jones. The special exhibits are varied and interesting, there is a wonderful gift shop, and the neighborhood around the building is full of interesting historic buildings. The museum is open until 8:00 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month, and admission is free from 5:00 p.m.
Located in the historic Southern Pacific Railroad station on Toole Avenue, the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum is perfect for families with children who are train fans. There are statues of “Doc” Holliday and Wyatt Earp, who sent Frank Stillwell near the site to avenge the 1882 attack on the OK Coral in Tombstone, Arizona. There’s also Southern Pacific Locomotive #1673, a classic steam locomotive that originally connected the far west Tucson towns of New Orleans to Portland, Oregon, and the Amtrak trains that are still in use today.
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This 3-mile hike is a paved trail with moderate elevation gain and spectacular views of the city surrounded by wildflowers in the spring. It is also open from 4:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., thanks to Tumamoc Hill, owned by the University of Arizona. When you leave, please park in the streets along Anklam Road, not in the St. Mary’s Hospital car park or in front of nearby medical offices, as doctors and patients need these spaces. Bathroom facilities are limited and water bottles can be refilled on site.
Second Saturday is a free, family-friendly music festival held, you guessed it, every second Saturday of the month in downtown Tucson from Tour Avenue and Congress west to Church Avenue and Congress. There are musicians, walkers, street performers and more.
The Tucson Museum of Art is part of this modest neighborhood bounded by W 6th St, W Alameda St, N Stone Ave and Granada Ave and surrounded by the remains of an original Spanish fort and upscale Snob Hollow. It is one of the oldest permanent settlements in North America: Fort St. Augustine, Tucson, Spain, dates to 1775, but the fort itself was built on the Hohokam site between 700 and 900 AD.
Budget travelers will be happy that in addition to Tucson’s free attractions, there are more affordable attractions. For just a few dollars, you can get into the city’s best art galleries, state parks, national forests, and more. We’ve also included the best almost free attractions.
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Since 1950, DeGrazia’s Sunshine Gallery has honored the art of the area and the work of artist Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia. The gallery features six permanent paintings depicting historical events and local culture in the Southwest region, as well as rotating exhibits of de Grazia’s own prolific work. Not only is the artwork worth seeing, but the environment is clean. De Grazia built the Gallery in the Sun on 10 hectares at the foot of Santa Catalina. Its classic adobe facade is surrounded by native plants and blends in with the landscape, built with the help of local aborigines. Admission is $8.00 for adults, $5.00 for ages 12-18, and free for children under 12.
Located in the Santa Catalina Mountains northeast of Tucson, this state park is one of the city’s most popular playgrounds, with day activities, camping, and plenty of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. The 0.75-mile Romeo Ruins Interpretive Trail gives you the chance to learn more about the Hohokams who lived here 500 years ago. Here’s another few miles of walking that’s easy to squeeze into even a short trip to Tucson. Park admission is $7.00 per vehicle and $3 per person or bicyclist.
Parents rave about the Tucson Children’s Museum, which features an array of fun, hands-on exhibits ranging from a discovery garden to veterinary medicine and pet anthropology. Admission is $3 on the 3rd of every month.
Sabino Canyon is a lush, beautiful, and shady mini-canyon worth visiting on a clear day. Sabino Canyon Trail Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tour ($10 adult/child) Departs every half hour from the Visitor Center in the main parking lot, 45-minute, 9-stop tour, access to boardwalk and picnic area by the river. It’s best in the afternoon when the sun plays hide and seek on the canyon walls. To visit Sabino Canyon, you need a Coronado Recreation Pass, which costs $8 per day, $10 per week, or $40 per year.
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Ros) is a hallmark of the American Southwest, and a cactus army of majestic ribbed sentinels guards this desert playground. Or rather, a playground: The park is divided into an east and west section, about 30 miles from Tucson. Both sections—the Rincon Mountains to the east and the Tucson Mountains to the west—are full of trails and desert vegetation; If you only visit one, make it the Great Western Half. Saguaro National Park weekly passes are $25.00 per vehicle.
The 2,781-square-mile national forest includes the Santa Catalina and Rincon mountains north of Tucson. Mount Rincon is a popular hike on this small ridge with panoramic views from its 8,482-foot summit, but it’s a 16-mile round trip. Even better is the scenic drive along Mount Lemmon Highway, the only paved road to the top of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Madeira Canyon is popular with bird watchers, and in the winter, Coronado National Forest is the southernmost ski area in the continental United States. Admission is $8 per car per day or $10 per week.
Built in the 1950s in the current building, the university’s impressive museum showcases 500 years of European and American creativity. The permanent collection includes Rodin, Matisse, Picasso and Pollock. Admission is $8 for adults, $6.50 for seniors and free for children.
Lonely Planet’s Tobias Macera (left) and Jay Ver Hooven share 50 great trips in 30 countries (from New Zealand to Peru), plus another 150 recommended for Tucson Premium Outlets.
Amazing Things To Do In Saguaro National Park (+ Photos)
Nabi El Jefe walks on the couch on the first floor of the Cat Lounge, 3025 N. Campbell Ave.
Frank Jude Bocchio (left), Robert Mitchell (center) and Vicki Mills meditate in a class called Mind Lab
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