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What Not to Miss with 24 Hours in Tucson

BY: Lisa Ladehoff | Jul 13, 2015
What Not to Miss with 24 Hours in Tucson

Tucson is called the City of Sunshine, so it’s appropriate that any list of things to do in Tucson will go beyond the indoors, offering tourists and locals alike the opportunity to explore the splendor and culture of the Santa River valley. The city’s museums, botanical gardens, and lively food-and-drink scene are only a fraction of what it has to offer. Here are some top picks for Tucson activities to try on a 24-hour whirl of the city.

Grab Breakfast

One of Tucson’s most beloved breakfast institutions, Blue Willow has a simple and satisfying breakfast menu that includes a handful of Southwest-inspired plates. Try the Blue Willow Special, a scramble with chicken, green chilies, tomatoes, tortilla strips, cheddar, salsa, and a dollop of sour cream.

Soak Up Some A.M. Sunshine

Head to Tohono Chul Park, which Travel + Leisure named one of the best botanical gardens in the country, to explore 49 acres of lush desert landscapes. Walk along winding paths or hike one of the trails, experiencing little wonders of the Sonoran Desert that reach beyond just plants and wildlife. The park also aims to enrich visitors with glimpses into local art and culture—it’s home to galleries and other indoor spaces to host local artists and events. There’s even a café, where you can hang out on the patio with cocktails or grab a bite to eat.

Take the Kids to See Miniatures

As alluded to in the name, the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures is a museum dedicated solely to tiny things. Head indoors for a couple hours to explore its many scenes, including adorable storytelling dioramas inspired by fairy tales.

Swim in a Creek

Head to Sabino Canyon to take a tram along the mountain foothills or the trailhead of Seven Falls, a 2.6-mile hike from the end of the Bear Canyon Trail tram line. Near the falls, visitors will find cool, clear pools to wade in and giant rocks on which to sun themselves.

Head to a Throwback Happy Hour

For a taste of midcentury kitsch, head to Kon Tiki, a tropical-themed bar that originally opened back in 1963 and maintains much of its original splendor. Sip on classic tiki cocktails such as an original mai tai or banana daiquiri, or go all-in with one of the giant scorpion bowls, made using a closely guarded secret recipe. As a souvenir, check the menu to find out if the elaborate drinkware piece holding your cocktail is among the ones available for purchase.

Enjoy Cool Summer Nights

On Saturdays in the summertime, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum hosts themed events that range from full-moon festivals to astronomy nights, where visitors of all ages can explore the night sky. Throughout the rest of the year, the museum offers art classes, which have been voted by locals as a consistent favorite.

Snack on Late-Night Slices

At Empire Pizza & Pub, hungry diners can enjoy New York–style pies and slices until 3 a.m. Thursday–Saturday. Specialty slices change daily.