Sightseeing in Tucson

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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.

1013 East University Boulevard
Tucson,
AZ
US

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.

949 E 2nd St
Tucson,
AZ
US

The International Wildlife Museum is a nonprofit institution that works to support various worldwide conservation efforts. More than 400 living and taxidermy-sustained species, plus illuminating exhibits and habitat re-creations, wow crowds of mammal fans and reptile skeptics alike. Visit the Scaly, Not Slimy! reptile exhibit with a significant other to bask in the romantic aura of the naturally top-hatted debonair tortoise, or pick up a family membership to get a year of unlimited museum access, two complimentary guest passes, and discounts on everything from museum programs to items in the gift shop.

4800 W Gates Pass Rd
Tucson,
AZ
US

Membership in the Reid Park Zoological Society grants you and your family (two named adults and any children under the age of 18) full access to the zoo for an entire year (open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas). Being a card-carrying member opens up numerous doors, behind which lie benefit after benefit, and sometimes tigers. From June through August, you'll get early-morning entry to the zoo grounds—a calm, crowd-free time to view feedings and animal care firsthand, as well as a chance to lick and groom one's own fur in peace. The "Zoo & You" newsletter will arrive quarterly in your mailbox, keeping readers up to date on all zoo-related happenings. You'll also receive advance notice, discounts, and VIP entry to all after-hours events. If travel plans are in the cards, use your family membership as a veritable Jedi mind trick to receive discounts of 50% to 100% off at 165 different zoos and aquariums throughout the United States. Concerned number-noshers and pachyderm pals should also note that this membership donation is completely tax deductible, and that a portion of the donation will support the construction of Expedition Tanzania, the new, expanded elephant habitat set to open in the fall of 2011.

1100 S Randolph Way
Tucson,
AZ
US

Tohono Chul Park is an oasis of botanical gardens where guests can learn about the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert. With a double dose of general admission, two friends or inseparable enemies get a whole day to enjoy debating philosophy with saguaros and jackrabbits while wandering along scenic trails, exploring beautiful gardens, and viewing art exhibits that represent the Southwest’s nature and culture. Discover closely guarded ecological secrets during tours such as the Walk in the Park, pal around with non-poisonous snakes and lizards in the Reptile Ramble, or release an inner child from your knapsack while listening to traditional tales during Stories in the Garden for Children.

7366 N Paseo Del Norte
Tucson,
AZ
US

A diverse array of evocative and provocative pieces adorn the hallowed halls at the Tucson Museum of Art, which has served up a sensory feast to art-hungry hominids for more than 85 years. Armed with a year-long membership, budding art archivists can light their Blackberry torches to explore the museum's cavernous archives of current and permanent exhibitions, eventually discovering the wormhole that thrusts them forward to upcoming exhibitions. More than 1,900 works representing approximately 2,000 years of pre-Columbian art populate the Art of Latin America collection, including some galleries hosted in the historic Stevens/Duffield House, and the Art of the American West collection showcases expressions of the regional landscape and cultures. Perched atop the former Presidio of San Agustín del Tucson, the museum complex includes access to five restored historic homes donned in distinct styles that span centuries of architecture, décor, and La-Z-Boy upholstery.

140 N Main Ave
Tucson,
AZ
US