Located on the University of Arizona’s campus, the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium opens the eyes of all ages to the scientific wonders of our planet, solar system, and universe. The center houses a mineral collection that dates back to 1892, and now holds more than 26,000 specimens including meteorites and minerals from Arizona, Mexico, and elsewhere in the world. They also feature exhibits such as an exploration of Arizona’s Sky Islands—mountains that rise above the desert basins and shelter myriad plants, birds, and animals. Other exhibits include Mars: Up Close and Personal, which features a scale model of the red planet’s surface.
High above the Sonoran desert, on the Tohono O'odham Reservation, the Kitt Peak National Observatory keeps track of the night sky with the world's largest collection of independent telescopes. Throughout the day, guides lead tours of three of the behemoths, including the world's largest solar telescope and a historic gazing dome built in 1973 to broadcast the moon explorers’ games of golf. On those chilly desert evenings, visitors can take part in the nightly observing program and view distant planets and far-off galaxies through 20- and 16-inch telescopes. Reservations are recommended; the program is quite popular and stars tend to shyly hide behind comets around large groups.
As they enter the massive brick building, visitors pass the Watercarrier, a curved bronze statue that lends a first glimpse at a staggering collection of ancient and modern Native American works. Established in 1893, the Arizona State Museum celebrates and records Southwest Indian cultural history with more than 3 million objects, including a collection electrified with more than 25,000 pieces of woven basketry, more than 300,000 catalogued archaeological artifacts, 500,000 photographic negatives and original prints, 90,000 volumes of rare titles, 6,000 maps, 1,500 feet of archival documents, and more than 1,000 sound recordings. The collection forays out onto the museum floor in exhibitions such as Ancient Architecture of the Southwest, where striking photographs frame some of the crumbling archaeological ruins of 1,000-year-old cliff dwellings set against a rugged desert landscape while tastefully photoshopping out the ancient satellite dishes. The Pottery Project spans 2,000 years of Native ceramics with more than 20,000 whole pieces and a lab for hands-on pottery testing. Using artifacts, life-size dioramas, and film, Paths of Life explores the history and contemporary lifeways of ten Native cultures, including those of the Yaqui, O?odham, Apache, Navajo, and Hopi.
Museum staff further engage visitors in events that range from talks with museum curators and Native artisans to learning expeditions, which invite guests to tag along with museum and university archaeologists to survey nearby sites, immersing them in the scientific dig experience nearly as effectively as watching Indiana Jones with your nose to the screen. Educational outreach for public-school and university students immerses them in camps and workshops. At the Native Goods museum store, visitors browse a stock of books alongside basketry, jewelry, carvings, and textiles crafted by artists from Yaqui, Hopi, and other nations.
There’s little left in Tucson to suggest that back in the mid-19th-century the city served as the Southwest’s hub for highway robbers. But it's a fact that the area hosted a string of stagecoach holdups and served as the starting point for Wyatt Earp’s infamous vendetta ride. At the Arizona History Museum, relics stand testament to this harrowed past, including an original Concord stagecoach, not unlike those whose occupants were forced to surrender their valuables to roadside brigands. The museum doesn’t only explore infamy, though; it illuminates all the forces that took part in Tucson’s transition from Paleo-Indian hunting ground to Spanish colonial outpost to the commercial center it is today. Exhibits cover this vast span of time creatively, including a full-size replica of an underground mine that provides a glimpse into early-20th-century working conditions, hands-on exhibits that recall the day-to-day lives of Native Americans, and archaeology displays that detail the surrounding environment's history over the past 4,000 years.
Pedal power pushes passengers through Tucson after they step into one of University Pedi-Cabs' open-air rides. The three-wheeled pedicabs, which seat up to three people and one driver, ferry riders around town as they survey historic sites and embark on pub crawls, sparing the pollution belched from the smokestacks found on all limousines.
Inspired by The Amazing Race, CityScape Adventures—held across the United States—entangle race participants in webs of 12 puzzles and challenges in citywide races to the finish line. Participants compete in teams of two, using their wits, teamwork, and underground network of mutant-turtle spies to complete the tasks given at the start of the race. The 12 challenges take the form of puzzles, riddles, and clues that guide treasure hunters to a specific location within the city, where each team must complete a special task using only their cleverness and muscles. Players can also use the Internet, and the winning team is usually the one that best leverages its resources. The first team to successfully complete all tasks and vault over the finish line will receive a prize and assembly line of high-fives.