Tucson, with its stately Saguaro cacti and desert landscape, is also situated close to a number of great day trip destinations. While hiking is an obvious choice, Tucson also has many other day trip options. And if you tire of the desert landscape, Tucson also offers a number of man-made lakes, historic attractions, and small artsy towns.
University of Arizona Biosphere 2
This self-sustaining, enclosed colonization is used for scientific research. Now open to the public for visits and tours, the Biosphere 2 offers a place for UA scientists to research and study. Many experiments include exploring the consequences of global climate change. The 3.14-acre facility includes all different types of ecosystems including tropical rainforest, grasslands, wetlands, oceans, and deserts.
Kitt Peak National Observatory
If you love looking at the stars, then you must visit the Kitt Peak National Observatory. The observatory sits at 6,880 feet of elevation in the Quinlan Mountains on Tohono O’odham Nation land in the Sonoran Desert. With the world’s largest collection of optical telescopes, the observatory is outfitted for advanced observation programs. Guided tours are available throughout the day, as well as nightly observations.
Vineyard Tours & Wine Tastings
With dozens of wineries and vineyards, the southern Tucson region has earned recognition and awards internationally. The Sonoita/Elgin Wine Trail will lead visitors and locals to all the best wineries and vineyards. East of Tucson, the Willcox Wine Trail maps out another dozen vineyards and wineries dotting the area from Zarpara Vineyard to the Pillsbury Wine Company.
Founded in 1877, Tombstone became the silver-mining hub, survived two wide-spread fires, and hosted the infamous shootout of Wyat Earp and Doc Holliday in the 1880s. The well-preserved buildings speak to times gone by, and the town boasts the oldest continuously published paper in Arizona. While stopping in Tombstone, be sure to visit the Bird Cage Theatre, Boothill Graveyard, and the Old Tombstone Western Town.
Military fort turned artsy town, Tubac was originally established in 1752 by the Spanish as a military outpost. Today, it’s the home of dozens of galleries that feature all types of art. The Tubac Center for the Arts also highlights regional and national art. With different festivals throughout the year, Tubac offers a range of activities, and it’s also home to the Tubac Presidio State Historical Park, which is the original site of the 18th century fort and an underground archaeological exhibit.
Kartchner Caverns State Park
Hosting the longest stalactites in the world, the Kartchner Caverns boasts an amazing chain of underground caves. While extensive, the Kartchner Caverns were only just discovered in 1974 and only open to the public in the 1980s. Strict conservation efforts have helped to ensure that the caverns remain as they were before discovery. The caverns offer guided tours daily for all ages.
This ghost town may be one of the many that are near Tucson, but it is unique because it is one of the most well-preserved ghost towns. It offers more ruins to explore than any other abandoned town. Like most ghost towns, Ruby originally was the site of many profitable mines — including gold, silver, zinc, and copper — in the 1900s before fortunes changed and the mines declined in the 1930s. The town was the site of two double murders in both 1920 and 1921, further intensifying the ghost stories.
Chiricahua National Monument
In the southeastern part of Arizona, Chiricahua National Monument is set in a protected area that is very remote. The park is particularly famous for it’s balancing rocks — literal boulders balancing precariously on top of each other. While they are a natural phenomenon, the huge stone columns truly appear to have been hand carved.
Whether you’re local to Tucson or visiting the city, there are many day trips that individuals can choose from for a weekend.
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