Whether you call Tucson home or you’re just planning a visit, the Old Pueblo is home to some truly unique experiences that are perfect for families. These are activities you won’t find anywhere else, which is what makes Tucson such an amazing place.
It’s not cookie-cutter, nor is it packed with familiar activities you can find anywhere. So young or old, local or tourist, these are just a few of the fantastic attractions you can check out in Tucson. And, of course, when you’re done, you’re always able to swing by a local eegee’s. After all, you’ll probably be hungry after a long day of fun.
This is one of those visits that is truly unique and can’t be replicated anywhere else. Biosphere 2 (Earth is Biosphere 1) is located just outside of Tucson, yet it’s operated by the University of Arizona. It officially opened back in 1991, and upon driving up to the campus you’ll feel like you’re approaching the scene out of a science fiction movie.
Photo Credit: University of Arizona Biosphere 2
The original plan for Biosphere 2 was to demonstrate the ability to engineer any living environment on another planet (which is a major reason why the Arizona desert was selected). There are different biological biomes within the Biosphere, replicating various kinds of ecosystems.
From a rainforest and mangrove wetlands to a fog desert and coral reef, you’ll be amazed at what all is inside Biosphere 2. It’s one of the many items you can put on your “things to do today” checklist. And, if you’re feeling like a bit of throw-back goofy entertainment, you can always watch the 1996 Pauly Shore comedy Bio-Dome.
For most locals, it will always be known as Pinnacle Peak, but the Pistoleros Wild West Show is something to behold. It’s an entire Wild West boardwalk town, built right in the middle of the city. You can walk in and grab a drink in the saloon, you can visit one of the many little shops, and you can stop in for dinner while catching a show (or just stop in for dinner). The entire setup feels like you’re walking around a smaller prop movie set, and yet there’s no denying just how fun of an experience it is.
The location has been a Tucson staple since 1997, and while there’s been a slight name change, all of the charm remains the same. It’s also one of the better spots in Tucson to grab a steak as well.
If you’re looking for dinner and a show, but you want something that’s a little more adult than what’s found at the Pistoleros Wild West Show, the Gaslight Theatre on the east side of town is a local favorite. Every few months, a new show is put on, and often the shows are spoofs of popular movies. Whether it’s a goofy take on Star Wars or a retrofitting of a Steve Martin movie, it’s a fun time for the family, all with food and drink options.
There is also one of the best 50’s diners just outside the theater, not to mention a few beer houses sharing the parking lot, so if you’d like to grab something else to eat or drink before or after the show, you do have options. And, of course, a neighborhood eegee’s is never far away.
Nothing gets more Tucson than Old Town. When you visit you’ll be walking onto an actual movie set. Back in the 1950s, just about any Western movie or TV show was filmed right here in Old Town.
While the Western isn’t as popular as it once was, a number of more recent movies have been filmed here, including The Quick and the Dead (with Sharon Stone, Russell Crowe, and Gene Hackman), Tombstone (Kurt Russell), and The Three Amigos (Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Chevy Chase).
There are plenty of activities to take part in while visiting Old Town, not to mention it hosts a number of festivals and events throughout the year.
There are dozens of amazing hiking destinations here in Tucson. It’s truly one of the best hiking spots in the country. The most popular is Mt Lemmon. The drive itself to the peak is well worth it, even if you simply grab yourself some eegee’s, drive up the mountain, eat, and then drive back down. The views are that worth it. There are hiking trails throughout the drive, and the small town of Winterhaven is a nice stopping point to grab a coffee, fetch a souvenir, or to grab a slice of pizza.
This is a fantastic location to explore the wonders of the Sonora Desert in a more controlled environment. You won’t have to worry about wandering off of trails or not being around water while at the museum.
You’ll also be able to learn about the many wild animals that call the region home. Depending on the time of year you visit, there are hawk and birds of prey demonstrations, which is a great photo opportunity for you and the kids. How often do you get to see some of the largest birds of prey in the world fly and land nearby?
You know the saguaro cactus? The ones that look like they have an arm growing out on each side? They are famously included in most Western movies. However, these kinds of cactus only grow in the Sonoran desert, which is here in the southern half of Arizona as well as into neighboring Mexico. So if you ever see a movie that says it’s in New Mexico or Texas and it has these cacti, they obviously filmed the scene in Arizona.
Arizona is home to some of the most beautiful national parks in the country. Saguaro National Park doesn’t get the same attention as the Grand Canyon or the Painted Desert, but it’s still well worth a visit. It’s open year round and great for hiking as well. Just make sure to bring comfortable shoes and plenty of water.
Whether you’re looking to fuel up for an afternoon hike, or you’re starving following that visit to the Biosphere, nothing beats hunger while in Tucson like a visit to one of the many local eegee’s restaurants.
If you’re a local you likely already know just how filling a grinder and ranch fries can be. And if you’re visiting, why not give this Tucson original a try? The only downside is you’ll find yourself craving a frozen eegee and one of the delicious sandwiches when back home. Like the rest of the city, eegee’s has something for everyone.