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12 Unique Things to do in Tucson That Every Local Should Know About

From stunning natural wonders to rich cultural heritage, Tucson is full of surprises and unique experiences that make it a truly special place to call home. In this article, we’ll explore 12 unique things to do in Tucson that locals should not miss. Whether you’re a new local renting an apartment in the city or a long-time resident who owns a home in Tucson, it’s time to take a break from your routine and rediscover the best of this city in the sun.

view of tucson at sunset

1. Be amazed by The Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab

The Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab is a world-renowned facility dedicated to the manufacture of large telescopes mirrors for astronomical observation. This facility is special in that it uses a spinning cast process to create mirrors, which results in a smoother surface and higher accuracy compared to traditional polishing techniques.

Visiting the Mirror Lab is not a traditional tourist attraction, but it may be of interest to those who are fascinated by astronomy and the technology used in the field. The lab offers limited tours to the public, giving visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the mirror-making process and the state-of-the-art technology used. The lab’s mirrors are used in some of the world’s largest telescopes, making it a unique destination for anyone interested in the intersection of science and technology.

2. Catch a show at The Loft Cinema

Everyone living in Tucson needs to catch a shower at the independent theater, The Loft Cinema. It is a unique venue that offers a diverse selection of independent, foreign, and classic films, as well as special events, screenings, and educational programs.

The Loft Cinema is known for its comfortable and intimate atmosphere, with cozy seating, a full bar and concession stand, and state-of-the-art sound and projection systems. The theater is dedicated to showcasing a wide range of films, from classic and beloved favorites to contemporary and cutting-edge indie releases.

hotel congress hotel sign in tucson arizona

3. Have a staycation at Hotel Congress

This historic hotel is located in the heart of downtown Tucson, and has a rich history that dates back to the 1920s. From its Art Deco inspired lobby to its vintage guest rooms, Hotel Congress is a true representation of Tucson’s eclectic and charming character. The hotel is also home to Club Congress, one of the city’s most popular music venues, as well as a restaurant and a coffee shop. Whether you’re looking to catch a show, enjoy a meal, or simply relax and take in the unique atmosphere, Hotel Congress is a perfect destination for a fun and memorable stay in Tucson. So, why not spend a night at this historic gem and rediscover the vibrant spirit of this city in the sun?

4. Discover the wonders of our planet at the Biosphere 2

Located in Oracle, Arizona, approximately 45 minutes north of Tucson, Biosphere 2 is a closed-system research project originally built in the 1990s to study the interconnectedness of Earth’s ecosystems. It has since been used for a variety of scientific research and educational purposes, and visitors can now take guided tours of the facility to learn about its history and the cutting-edge research that has taken place within its walls. 

The facility features multiple ecosystems under one roof, including a rainforest, ocean, desert, and savanna, making it one of the largest closed ecosystems in the world. Biosphere 2 provides a unique experience for anyone interested in environmental science, sustainability, and the future of our planet.

backstage performers at fox theatres in tucson

5. Have a night out at The Fox Theatre

The Fox Theatre is a historic venue located in Tucson, Arizona, known for its stunning Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture and its diverse programming, including live music, theater productions, and special events.

Watching a show at the Fox Theatre is a unique experience because of its rich history and beautiful setting. The theater was originally built in 1930 and has been fully restored, preserving its original charm and character while updating it with modern amenities. The theater’s intimate setting and excellent acoustics provide a truly immersive and engaging experience.

6. Hike Tumamoc Hill for a sweat-breaking adventure

The Tumamoc Hill hike is not for the faint of heart, as it is a steep and strenuous climb, but the views from the top are well worth the effort. Along the way, hikers will pass through unique desert landscapes and encounter a variety of cacti, shrubs, and other native plants. At the top, the summit offers panoramic views of Tucson and the surrounding mountains, making it a popular spot for sunset and sunrise views.

In addition to its challenging hike, Tumamoc Hill is also an important historical and cultural site, with evidence of human occupation dating back thousands of years. The hill was once an important spiritual site for the native Tohono O’odham people, and remains an important cultural and natural resource today.

7. Visit The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures

As its name suggests, the museum is dedicated to miniatures and showcases a collection of intricate and detailed miniature rooms, dioramas, and vignettes, representing different periods and cultures from around the world.

The miniatures on display range in scale from one-sixth to one-twelfth, and some are even smaller. Each piece is handcrafted and features meticulous attention to detail, including miniature furniture, fixtures, and other accessories. Visiting the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures is a unique experience that offers a glimpse into a miniature world filled with incredible detail and artistry. 

view of night sky at kitt peak observatory

8. Gaze into the stars at the Kitt Peak National Observatory

Kitt Peak National Observatory, located about 56 miles southwest of Tucson, , is one of the largest astronomical observatories in the world. Kitt Peak houses multiple telescopes, including the largest collection of optical telescopes in the world, allowing astronomers to study the stars, galaxies, and other celestial objects in great detail. The observatory offers day and nighttime tours to the public, giving visitors the opportunity to learn about the telescopes, the science being conducted there, and the history of the observatory.

One of the highlights of a visit to Kitt Peak is the opportunity to observe the night sky through one of the telescopes, a truly unforgettable experience. The observatory’s location on a mountaintop, away from city lights, allows for incredibly dark skies and stunning views of the stars. Kitt Peak National Observatory is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in astronomy and the wonders of the universe.

9. Witness the Campbell Avenue bat colony soar

Visiting the Campbell Avenue bat colony in Tucson is an incredible and awe-inspiring experience. Home to hundreds of thousands of Mexican Free-tailed bats, it is one of the largest urban bat colonies in the United States. Every summer evening, just before sunset, the colony can be seen emerging from under the bridge at Campbell and River, creating a spectacular show of bats taking flight into the sky, which attracts hundreds of visitors. These bats likely migrate from Mexico in April and return to Mexico in October. These bats are protected by Arizona law, so they should be viewed from a distance.

wild west studios with two men on set

10. Relive the Wild West at Old Tucson Studios

Old Tucson Studios is a movie studio and theme park located in Tucson, Arizona. Old Tucson Studios was originally built in 1939 as a movie studio for Western films and has since been used as a filming location for hundreds of Westerns, as well as other films and television shows. The studio and its surrounding grounds have been transformed into a Western-themed park, complete with recreated Western-style buildings, saloons, and storefronts, as well as live-action shows, reenactments, and attractions.

11. Discover the magic of Tucson’s Valley of the Moon

Valley of the Moon is a whimsical and enchanting desert park located in Tucson, Arizona. It is a place where visitors can escape the hustle and bustle of the city and immerse themselves in the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. The park is made up of a series of enchanting rock formations, whimsical sculptures, and pathways that wind through the scenic desert landscape. Visitors can explore the park on their own, or join guided tours that provide additional information about the history and significance of the site.

12. Be awed at the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

The DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, located in Tucson, Arizona, is a unique and stunning art museum that showcases the work of renowned artist and architect, Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia. The museum is nestled in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains and is surrounded by breathtaking desert landscapes. The gallery is made up of several buildings, including a main gallery, a chapel, and artist studios, all of which were designed and built by DeGrazia himself.

The museum features a vast collection of DeGrazia’s work, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and photographs, that showcase his unique style and vision. Visitors can also see original sketches and studies, as well as personal items and artifacts that provide insight into the life and work of the artist.


Learn more about Tucson:

12 Things to Know Before Moving to Tucson, Arizona

The Best-Kept Hidden Gems in Tucson According to Locals

7 Tucson Outdoor Activities to Try When the Temps Drop

Is Tucson a Good Place to Live? 10 Pros and Cons to Consider

Saving for a House? 10 Free Things to Do in Tucson

9 Coffee Shops in Tucson That Locals Love

12 Must-Try Tucson Restaurants: Where the Tucson Locals Eat

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