Wow, this is one tough category! There are just too many things to see and do in Tucson to narrow it down to a web page, but we'll try.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

2021 N Kinney Rd., Tucson, AZ 85743 Phone:(520) 883-1380

ASDM desert gardens

Part of the ASDM Gardens

The one place to go if you have a short time in Tucson, and want to learn as much as you can about the area. ASDM is not really a museum per se, but a botanical garden, zoo, and museum all rolled into one. One of the best things about it is that it highlights the local area. Normally, when you visit zoos or botanical gardens, you see flora and fauna from places far away. Not here! Instead, ASDM focuses on the Sonoran desert, in which it is located. To get there, just follow Speedway Boulevard west out of town over Gates Pass (not recommended for trailers or large vehicles) 'til you come to a T-intersection. Take a right, and ASDM will be about three miles up and on your left.

Recent Alert! The hummingbird aviary at ASDM has reopened! And it's better than ever, with 17 birds across seven species in the enclosure, including one of the largest, the Magnificent hummingbird. Measuring about five inches in length, these hummingbirds are the size of a house finch. Be sure to check these guys out.

Our recommendations: In the summer, make sure to visit ASDM on Saturday nights (generally starting in June) when it's open until 10pm, but get there before before 6pm so you have a chance to see the javalina and coyotes on the desert upland trail. Other attractions in the summer include stargazing; one of the local astronomy clubs brings out a number of telescopes, sights them in on Jupiter, Saturn, or another interesting astronomical body, and lets patrons view to their hearts content. The stargazing takes place in the amphitheater, the darkest spot on the grounds, so when you're not looking through the scopes, you can spend your time picking out constellations. If you don't know any constellations, ask!

If you're visiting in winter, you can see the raptor free flight demonstrations at 10:30 and 1:30. Where else do you get the chance to have a hawk swoop just inches from your cranium? The last time we visited the free flight exhibit, they had a roadrunner, a barn owl, and four Harris' hawks. After the demonstrations, one of the trainers bring either the owl or a hawk right up to the fence so everyone gets a good view.

We've been in Tucson for over four years now, and we still head out to ASDM at least once a month. (If you see us, be sure to say "Hi!")

Valley of the Moon

2544 E. Allen Rd., Tucson, AZ 85716, Phone: 323-1331

This is truly a piece of Tucson that you just shouldn't miss.  The Valley of the Moon owes its existence to one man, George Legler who, in 1932, started providing free Fantasy Fairy tours of his property. Built entirely by one man, the landscape is covered in stone and cement grottos, small houses, benches, and large toadstools, providing the visitor the chance to enjoy these wonderful creations. With the basic philosophy of "Happiness is Given, not Sold," George led thousands of Tucsonans through his land of enchantment, all the while inspiring children with his simple (but not simplistic) views on life. In one area, the children were allowed to select a penny 'for luck' from a small pile in a niche. But if they took more than one, their greed would cancel out the luck, bringing the potential of misfortune. Those who left pennies received the most luck of all, for they had learned the importance of giving. With simple honest homilies like this, the Valley of the Moon became famous -- even showing up in Life magazine. But, as with many personal dreams, the Valley of the Moon faded as George grew older.

All was not lost, however, for in 1971, a group of Catalina High School students rediscovered The Valley of the Moon, along with George Legler who was now 86. Soon forming the Valley of the Moon Restoration Society, they succeeded in getting it placed on the Arizona and National Lists of Historic Places. Eleven years later, George Legler was presented with the Tucson Outstanding Citizen Award for his creation and dedication to providing free enchantment to Tucson children.

Today the Valley of the Moon is still going, but it can use your help and encouragement. This can be as simple as joining the volunteers for one of their special events (the Halloween Ruin Tour is excellent), or joining the George Phar Legler Society. If you can't do either of those, you can spread a bit of George's philosophy.

Signal Hill

Petroglyphs! Out in the middle of the desert surrounded by giant saguaros! And easy to get to, too! How's that for an unbeatable combination? Just take a trip out to the western portion of Saguaro National Park, only a few miles north of ASDM (see directions above). Stop in the Red Hills visitor center to see the slide show, ask one of the helpful rangers for directions to Signal Hill (it's just off the gravel road that loops through a portion of the Saguaro National Park ), and above all, take your time. It's not a race to see who can see the park the fastest, instead it's an opportunity to see the treasures of the desert, such as a horned lizard, a rattlesnake, a coyote, or possibly some javelina!

El Tiradito

El Tiridito (Local wishing shrine).

El Tiradito

Here's a little-known shrine that is worth visiting (it happens to be on S. Main St., just south of the restaurant El Minuto), and has an interesting history. Unfortunately, most of the history is kind of sketchy, with several versions floating about. Most involve a love triangle, suicide, and someone being buried here in unconsecrated ground in the 1870s. The belief is that if one lights a candle at the shrine and it burns all night, one's prayers will be answered. It is a well frequented shrine, so please show some respect while you're here (I know most readers will, but unfortunately, there are always one or two in a crowd).

Gates Pass

Said to be the best place in Tucson to view the sunset. Just head west on Speedway Blvd. Keep going, that's right, just before you get to the top of Gates Pass, there'll be a turn off for a parking area, with an overlook facing west over a valley of saguaros. Get here a about a half hour before sunset and you might find a parking space in the lot, otherwise you'll need to find some parking nearby (of which there is very little) and walk. We happen to think that the best time to go is during the monsoon season. While the temperatures are higher, the addition of storm clouds makes for a more dramatic sunset.

San Xavier del Bac

½ mile west of Interstate 19 at 1950 W. San Xavier Rd. Phone: 294-2624.

Probably the easiest way to get here is take Interstate 10 south from downtown, take the Interstate 19 exit to San Xavier Rd, and head west. Note that the Mission is on the San Xavier reservation, a separate nation. Also, note that this is an active church. (If you're not sure what these notes are meant to imply, don't go.)

San Xavier Mission is probably the best example of mission architecture in the United States still extant. In the late 1600s, Father Kino established a church near this sight, and the current Mission was started in the 1780s and completed in the late 1790s. Often called "The White Dove of the Desert," it recently underwent an extensive restoration of both the interior and exterior, and brightly stands out against the desert sky. The façade is wonderful with its intricate carvings. Make sure to spot the cat and mouse in the corbels. Legend has it that if the cat ever catches the mouse, the world will end.

The interior has extensive frescoes, carvings, and statuary. In one of the coves of the cruciform layout, lies a statue of San Xavier to which the faithful append milagros (small icons that represent their particular affliction) as part of seeking a cure. Also, be sure to stop in at the small museum next door, and view the courtyard out back.

And, drop a donation in one of the collection locations to do your part in keeping this White Dove alive and well.

Reid Park Zoo

1100 Randolph Way. Phone: 791-4022

Giraffe at Reid Park Zoo

Giraffes at the Zoo

Tucson is not really known for a zoo, but it does have a very nice one just south of downtown. While not in the same class as some of the large zoos in the country, this zoo is the perfect size for children. Small enough to get around in a couple of hours, yet large enough to have a polar bear, rhinoceros, and two tigers, it has quite a respectable collection. Not only that, the Tucson zoo has one of the best records for breeding giraffes, giant anteaters (the symbol of the zoo), and species of birds that have not bred in captivity elsewhere in the world. All this for a couple of dollars (entrance fee for adults is $4); how can you go wrong? Located in the Reid Park, on 22 nd Street about a mile or three west of Swan road, so it's easy to get to, too!

As regular readers know, we used plead the need for improvements at the zoo gift shop. No longer, with recent renovations to the zoo entrance and shop, they seem to have a much better selection of both fun and educational items. Well done!

Tohono Chul Park

7366 N. Paseo del Norte. Phone: 575-8468

Located in one of the fastest-growing areas of Tucson, the northwest side, this park provides a much needed respite from all the hustle and bustle in the area. Covering 76 acres, on the corner of Paseo del Norte and Ina Road, Tohono Chul lives up to its name (it means desert corner, in the language of the native Tohono O'odom) showing off the beauty of the desert, with stands of wildflowers and other desert plants. This is also one of the few places where you can reliably see wonderful displays of wildflowers in the spring. They make sure to have portions of the gardens fenced off (preventing munching by lagomorphs) and irrigate regularly. These gardens will give you some idea what the desert can look like in the spring, if there is sufficient rain during the winter season.

Tohono Chul has just finished up a some major renovation.  We happened to be out there for 'Park at Dark,' and must remark that Tohono Chul is looking better than ever.  A sampling of the improvements include: A desert discovery and education center, a brand new, much larger, greenhouse, better parking, and better trails. All keeping the traditional look of the desert. Our hats are off to everyone involved. Well done!

Mount Lemmon

ALERT: As everyone by now knows, there was a large forest fire a while back (summer 2003), however, we can report that the road up Mt. Lemmon is open and operating, and Summerhaven is rebuilding.

OK. So you came to Tucson in June attracted by all those bargain rates at the posh resorts. I can't blame you; after all, who could resist a $300 a day room for only 60 bucks or so. Now it's three days into your stay and you've learned why those rooms are 60 bucks a night. It's hot. Very hot. And there isn't a cloud in the sky. Before you go stir crazy from being cooped up in your air conditioned room, may I suggest a trip up Mt. Lemmon? Thirty minutes up the mountain means thirty degrees cooler. Ah, this is more like it. Temperatures in the 70s, a cool breeze blowing, hiking trails abound, actual shade from towering pines, and restaurants at the ski lift and in the little town of Summerhaven. All combined to make a delightful day. So how do I get there? Easy, just head east on Grant Road, turn left onto Tanque Verde Road, and watch for the Catalina Highway (also a left). Now if you're going, remember that it's free if you drive all the way to Summerhaven without stopping along the way, but a five dollar usage fee applies if you plan to avail yourself of the scenic pullouts, hiking trails, picnic areas, etc. Cheap for a day's respite from the baking desert floor.

Sabino Canyon

Water in the desert? I thought the deserts were dry, baking expanses of nothing but sand. If you thought that, visit Sabino Canyon and think again. Here you'll find water flowing year round, swimming holes, hiking trails, huge oaks and cottonwoods, even a narrated tram ride into the canyon. With all this, Sabino Canyon is crowded, but I'll let you in on a secret. It's really only crowded along the three-mile paved roadway, and there is a little-used hiking trail that parallels it for much of the way, allowing one to see the beauty of the canyon without having to hear cellphones ringing, children whining, or the Loudandstupid family discussing whether the cardinal they've just chased off might have been a roadrunner. Location: Right near Sunrise and Sabino Canyon, and there is a five dollar parking fee.

Hiking Trails

Hiking trails abound here in the Tucson area! These range from the easy to trails for the SERIOUS hiker. Well, we're not that serious about hiking, but we can list a couple of good ones: The Finger Rock trail, easy to get to, but one hard trail. This trail can be found at the northern end of Alvernon Way (N.B. You'll need to go up Campbell Ave, or Swan Rd. to Skyline and cut over to Alvernon, as Alvernon Way doesn't go through in all places).

If you're looking for a slightly easier trail, then maybe the Pima Canyon trail is more your speed. The first three miles can be classed as moderate, and yet it provides some excellent views. To top it off, after about three miles you will come to a granite outcropping with a series of obvious metates, i.e., depressions left from grinding of grains and mesquite beans by prehistoric Native Americans. Cool, huh? So how do you get there? Easy, just follow 1st Ave. north. It turns into Christie Dr. at Skyline, and from there just follow the signs off Christie.

Looking for something even easier? Look no further than Saguaro National Park East. It has plenty of easy, short hikes, many on fairly level ground, and of course Saguaro East is easy to get to, head out east on Speedway and follow the signs!


On Wednesday, June 11, 2003, the Arizona Daily Star did an article on small museums in the Tucson area, and, while we haven't actually been to many of these, we think that this is the type of thing that helps make Tucson, well, Tucson. You can be sure that we'll be checking these out in the near future, so expect to see full reports right here on these pages. Thus, without further ado, we present a listing museums that you won't find elsewhere:

The Arizona Historical Society / Southern Arizona Division

949 E. Second Street, Phone: (520) 628-5774

This place is a real gem, actually gems, since there are small divisions all over town, and they do an outstanding job of setting up exhibits. In the Walks section, we have mentioned the branch on Stone Ave., and the main museum on 2nd by the University of Arizona. They also have an excellent research library full of local history. Under their purview, as well, are the Sosa-Carrillo-Frémont House near the Tucson Convention Center, and the Ft. Lowell Museum.

History of Pharmacy Museum

1703 E Mabel St., Phone: 626-1427

Well, we haven't been here, but if it is like the other museums that are run by the University of Arizona, it'll be good.

Postal History Museum

920 N. First Ave., Phone: 623-6652
Hours: Monday-Friday, 9am-3pm

If you take the Local Couple's University Walk, this can be one of your stops. With free tours Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 9 and 11, this is worth a stop in. Here you can see a complete Post Office store front from the Naco, AZ, post office, learn a little postal history, or even do some serious research (they have information about every post office that existed in Arizona).

Also, you can purchase stamps, or mail packages, both without the long waits at the larger Post Offices in town. Make sure to keep that a secret.

If you're not doing the walk, there's ample free parking right behind the building, thereby eliminating any excuses you may have for not checking this out.

Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute (SASI)

7798 W Gates Pass Rd., Phone: 883-3945
Hours: 9-3, 4th Saturday of each month (except December)

AmblypygidaIf you like creepy-crawlies, then you'll love this place. Here creepy-crawlies abound. Where else can you have the chance to see scorpions (four kinds), giant desert centipedes (these are the creepiest), and honey-pot ant colonies? Well, probably a few other places, but here you can have your own personal tour.

After much procrastination, we finally headed out for a look around. Arriving in the late morning, we were greeted and given a personal tour of the place, complete with plenty of time to check out the "bugs" (both live and mounted).  Giant hairy scorpions, bark scorpions, striped-tail scorpions, and a new (to us) tiny scorpion, supersticionus.Also, the aforementioned giant centipedes, tarantulas, and hissing cockroaches.

While it may seem odd to some people, we thought that the tour was excellent, we learned a bit more about the invertebrate world around us, and just had a great time. We highly recommend a stop in.

University of Arizona Herbarium

113 Shantz Building, Phone: 621-7243

We didn't even know this existed. For shame, since we have both fallen in love with the plants of the Southwest, and that's the UofA Herbarium speciality.

Old West Movie Poster Museum

The Flamingo Hotel
1300 N. Stone Ave., Phone: 770-1910

Personally, this hotel shows off the best neon signage in Tucson. No kidding, for that alone, it is worth a trip down Stone Ave. near sunset. And now we learn that they have an extensive collection of movie memorablia, too. Well, we're on it.

Afro-American Heritage Museum

1830 S. Park Ave., Phone: 792-9484

Again, we haven't been here. In fact, we didn't even know it existed until the Arizona Daily Star article, but it looks as though we have another option to replace a lazy afternoon.

The Farmworkers Hall of Fame

The Project PPEP Office,
802 E. 46th St., Phone: 622-3553

For all that they do, farmworkers get too little notice. So this might be worth checking out.

Tucson Police Department Exhibit

270 S. Stone Ave., Phone:

We have stopped here on one of our many trips downtown. And it wasn't covered in the AZ Daily Star article. A small, well done exhibit on the the history and efforts of the Tucson Police Department, including one of their most famous cases: the capture of John Dillinger.

Museum of the Horse Soldier

Train Dust Town
6541 E. Tanque Verde Rd., Phone: 296-4551

U.S. Calvery artifacts and memorabilia await those who venture here. It might be perfect for those seeking a bit of history about the Old West.


Well, so you're a seasoned traveler and want to see something a little bit different? Check these out: How 'bout the Tom Mix memorial (as featured in Roadside America )? Or the Lumberjack at Glenn and Stone (a.k.a. Glenn Stone the ax murderer)? Or the liquor store that has an armored vehicle out front? Each of these is a Tucson landmark in its own way.

Directions? Well, the Tom Mix memorial is out on US89. Take Oracle Road north to Oracle Junction, turn left onto 89, and head out about 15 miles. The memorial and parking will be on the left. In case you're wondering how ol' Tom came a cropper out here, we can tell you this. Apparently he was driving between Tucson and Phoenix when his car went over a washed-out bridge into a wash. It stopped, but the suitcase in the back didn't, and Tom was hit in the back of the head by a piece of high speed luggage. If you don't believe it, feel free to peruse the news reports from that time.

Liquor store

The liquor store with the tank is on north 1 st Avenue. I forget the exact cross street, but it's south of Ft. Lowell and north of Speedway. However, there's only one tank along that stretch of road, so it's not as if you'll be confused.

Glenn Stone

Glenn Stone's face

And the Lumberjack at Glenn and Stone? Why, he's on the corner of Glenn and Stone. During the Christmas season, he sometimes carries a candy cane instead of his trusty axe.

Note the small fence around his feet. There's no way that'll keep Glenn Stone hemmed in. Actually, since this photo was taken, the fence has been reinforced. But, it's not any taller.

Don't forget to check out the dinosaur McDonalds (don't eat there, the food is, well, like McDonalds' food) at the intersection of Grant Road and Tanque Verde. You can't miss him, standing a good twenty feet tall, with glowing red eyes, and, depending on the season, sporting bunny ears and an Easter basket, or a ghostly white sheet for Halloween, or .... We always check for the Dinosaur when we're on that side of town.