Arizona or better known as the Grand Canyon State is one of the places everyone must visit at least once in their life. The state’s natural parks and overall appeal make it a haven for travelers and tourists alike. Of course, it will be hard to explore the entire state in one visit so it would be best to simply pick out one of the amazing cities under its borders. If you are looking for that next great adventure to go to, then you must check out Tucson, Arizona. The Old Pueblo, as many would call it, is one of the best cities you could visit in Arizona. Although it may not have the Grand Canyon within its vicinity, it has a lot of other things to offer instead.
- 1 Tucson, Arizona History
- 2 How To Get To Tucson, Arizona?
- 3 What Is The Climate In Tucson, Arizona?
- 4 When Is The Best Time To Visit Tucson, Arizona?
- 5 Unusual Tucson Activities
- 5.1 Feel like a movie cast in Old Tucson
- 5.2 See Tucson from above in Balloon Tours
- 5.3 Visit a pharmacy museum
- 5.4 Pan for gold
- 5.5 Eat exotic foods
Tucson, Arizona History
It is unclear but historians believed that the area now considered as Tucson was first inhabited by the Paleo-Indians roughly 12,000 years ago. The excavated prehistoric pieces found in the Santa Cruz River points to the earliest inhabitants in Tucson. For centuries, the land remained untouched and quiet.
In 1692, Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco King became one of the first recorded foreigners to visit Tucson. He landed on the Santa Cruz River valley and he helped establish the Mission San Xavier del Bac. More Spanish settlements were built in the following centuries. During this same period, there were numerous battles between the Spanish and the Apaches. After a while, a small town was named Tucson and it became a part of the state of Sonoro right after Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821.
Tucson became a part of the American territory during the Mexican-American War between 1846-1848. It was acquired under the leadership of Philip St. George Cooke and the Mormon Battalion. It did not have a solid economy during its early years as a part of the U.S. but it was one of the vital routes used during the Gold Rush in 1849.
Tucson then became the western capital of the Confederate Arizona Territory from 1861 to 1862. Then from 1867 to 1877, it became the capital of the new Arizona Territory. It was officially incorporated as a part of Arizona in 1877 making it the oldest incorporated city in the Grand Canyon State.
Over the next years, the city of Arizona began taking shape. One of the major landmarks built during the late 1800s was the University of Arizona in 1885. It was started as a land-grant college located between Tucson and Fort Lowell.
The city began to fully grow by the 1900s. By 1910, it had a population of over 13,000. Then by 1920, the population boomed to 20,000. Now, it remains as one of the most populated cities in Arizona. It has also become the county seat of Primo County and it is also one of the top tourist attractions in the state.
We’re sure you’re itching to get to the city of Tucson but before anything else, check out this quick guide of things you should know before getting to Tucson.
How To Get To Tucson, Arizona?
If you are coming from other parts of Arizona then getting to Tucson should be easy as pie. There are various public transits that could get you to the Primo Country and Tucson in just a few hours. You can enjoy the scenes in Arizona while you are at it. However, if you want to avoid traffic, we suggest driving to it instead.
If you are coming from outside Arizona or are from other parts of the world, you can directly get to the city through its two major airports. There is the Tucson International Airport near Drexel Heights. There is also the Ryan Airfield which just a few kilometers away from Tucson International Airport. From these airports, you can simply book a cab to get to your next destination.
What Is The Climate In Tucson, Arizona?
Like most parts of Arizona, the weather can get a bit punishing and dry in Tucson. The city has a desert climate with two seasons which are a hot summer and a mild winter. During the summer, daytime temperatures could reach up to over 100 °F (38 °C) and overnight temperatures between 66 and 85 °F (19 and 29 °C). Make sure to bring a lot of sunscreen and some shade as it could get hoot during the summer.
On the other hands, winters are pretty tame in Tucson. Snow does fall in the city but it comes by very rarely. Daytime highs range between 64 and 75 °F (18 and 24 °C), with overnight lows between 30 and 44 °F (−1 and 7 °C). There is not much to worry about during the winter season as the weather is pretty bearable.
If you want to know when the perfect time is to visit Tucson depending on the weather, then you should visit between April to
When Is The Best Time To Visit Tucson, Arizona?
Now we are getting to the good stuff. Generally, you want to avoid the winter season as this is the busiest time of the year for Tucson. However, you could bag great deals in hotels during this period. If you want to avoid high rates, then you must avoid the summer season as hotels jack up their prices to accommodate the tourists escaping from the heat.
Spring from April to May is the sweet spot for traveling in tourism. Aside from the good weather, there are a few local activities you shouldn’t miss out on. Some of the best events include the Spring Fling, the Arizona International Film Festival, the Tucson Folk Festival, Fiesta de Garibaldi and the University of Arizona Commencement. Hotel deals are fairly reasonable during this time as well.
The truth is that Tucson, Arizona is a pleasant place to visit all year round but of course, we as travelers understand that it’s vital to know when the best rates are for hotels and flights when it comes to visiting somewhere far off. We’ve also based our best time to visit on when it would be perfect to enjoy the activities we’ve lined up. During this season, you won’t have to worry about getting stuck in long lines and endless queues.
With these in mind, let us now look at some of the amazing and unusual things you can do in Tucson.
Unusual Tucson Activities
Tucson is known for its beautiful desert. And if you are to travel to Tucson, Arizona, it’s indeed one of the top places to visit. Here, you can fill your eyes with some of the most beautiful landscapes and sceneries that Arizona has to offer. There are also desert hike activities available for visitors who want some outdoor adventure.
However, Tucson is more than that. This city still has a lot more activities and sceneries to offer that are waiting to be explored. If you’re tired of hiking activities and if you want to see more of Tucson, here are some of the unusual things to do in Tucson, Arizona. With these activities, we’re sure that you’ll have a good time.
1Feel like a movie cast in Old Tucson
Remember Spaghetti Western films? Everyone has had the fantasy to become a cowboy from the old west at least once in their lives and that’s because of these old movies set in the Old West. For those of you who like me, are big fans of the genre, then you don’t have to look any further than Tucson, Arizona as in here, you’ll find a place where you can relive your wildest dreams of becoming a wild wild west cowboy.
In Tucson, Arizona, you will feel as if you’re a part of a movie. This is because of the city’s Old Tucson which was built as a filming location for the movie, “Arizona,” in 1939. Since then, it’s been used for more than 300 movies and series. Here, you can get to see and feel what the old West is like and even relive your favorite scene from television westerns with its amazing setup as you tour the place. You can get to see live performances and stunt shows as well.
In addition to that, you can also enjoy rides and other games as the place also doubles as a theme park. You can drive an antique car (no driver’s license required), test your shooting skills, ride a zip line, and so much more. There’s a lot of activities for everyone. Even kids will love it here.
It’s the perfect treat for you family and it’s the chance to introduce Spaghetti Western films to your kids as well. Do take note that if you visit here during the summer season, you’ll be in for blazing temperatures. Be sure to wear cool clothes and always pack a water bottle with you.
2See Tucson from above in Balloon Tours
If you want more adrenaline, signing up for aerial tours at Fleur de Tucson Balloon Tours is one of the unique things to do in Tucson that you shouldn’t miss. In this tour, you will hop on a colorful hot air balloon and fly 500 to 2,500 feet above the National Park West and Tucson Mountains. Here, you can get to see the place in a different view as you hear the history of hot air ballooning. See spectacular panoramic views of the area and even spot foxes, javelina, bobcats, deers, and other wildlife.
For a more dramatic view, you can take the tour at sunrise and fill your eyes with the magnificent views. The best part of the tour is that you’ll be treated with a delicious continental brunch and complimentary champagne after your landing. In addition to that, you can take home some amazing digital photos of your adventure.
While this may seem like a fairly calm and soothing experience, do keep in mind that you are going over a thousand feet into the air! If you think you can handle it or if you think you have a fear of heights, then try to remain calm and trust us as we say that you’ll be able to enjoy the view through and through. Personally, we aren’t big fans of high places but we enjoyed this trip nonetheless.
This part of the trip is best reserved for couples as nothing beats a romantic view while a cool breeze goes over your bodies. You can bring kids along too but just make sure they aren’t too rowdy. You wouldn’t want the balloon’s carriage to get too shaky.
3Visit a pharmacy museum
We know what you’re thinking, “this sounds like a very odd attraction.” That statement is true through and through but we’re sure you’ll be able to enjoy this place despite its oddness. This is not only a dive into the history of pharmacy, but this is also a complete learning experience for you and your family.
Archeological, arts, and history museums are the types of museums that we often visit. But have you been to a pharmacy museum? Tucson has one and visiting it is one of the unusual things to do in Tucson that you should add to your travel itinerary.
Tucked in the University of Arizona, the History of Pharmacy Museum houses a massive collection of items from drugstores all over Arizona from the 19th and 20th century. Some of the highlights here are collections form the Upjohn Pharmacy in Disneyland and a full-scale replica of a 19th-20th-century drugstore. There’s even a jar of a chewed gum of the notorious gangster, John Dillinger.
4Pan for gold
Now once again, let’s head back into the wild west. We aren’t going to gun it down with cowboys this time. We are, however, going to pan for gold like they did during the gold rush. This is just one of the many unique activities you can try out in the Grand Canyon State and it is perhaps one of things that makes Arizona “grand.”
Panning for gold is also one of the unusual things to do in Tucson if you’re a tourist. Tucson has several areas that re said to contain gold. So why not try your luck? Who knows, you might go home with some extra cash. If you want to try it out, Tucson has several tours waiting for you. The Desert Gold Diggers Club is one of the tour organizers that you can contact.
This kind of tour isn’t going to be a laid-back activity, though, as it requires you to pan for gold like the original gold diggers’ way – you would have to kneel in running streambeds, dry wash, or dig the ground with a shovel and pick. Also, note that you’ll get exposed to the scorching heat of the sun and the area could contain unmarked mining shafts which, needless to say, is dangerous. Still, it’s going to be a fun activity.
5Eat exotic foods
Tucson is one of the top places in the US where you can get to taste authentic Mexican food. Many tourists and even its local will tell you that its Mexican dishes are a must-try. But if you’re feeling a little brave to go out of your comfort zone, why not try out some exotic foods that you can find in Tucson? While this city doesn’t have its own local exotic dishes, it has restaurants that serve such exotic foods and some are even inspired by other countries’ exotic dishes.
Eating exotic foods may be quite one of the scary and unusual things to do in Tucson but we’re sure that these dishes taste delicious in spite of its appearance and bizarreness. In case you’re curious, here are some of the exotic foods to try out in Tucson and where to find them.
Pig’s Ear (Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket)
Pig’s ear is fatty and extremely rubbery. In spite of its unusual texture, it’s often used as one of the tapas in Spanish cuisine. If you want to get a taste of it, Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket sells it for around $6 per pound. It comes with a soy sauce and some cilantro to add more flavor.
Pig’s ears are best paired with alcoholic drinks in some countries and this dish from Lee Lee Oriental is the same. Take some out to bring to your hotel as a snack as you drink the night away. Don’t mind its texture though as pig’s ears are packed with deep flavors.
Cow’s Tongue and Cheek (Taqueria Pico de Gallo)
Arizona offers several taco tours wherein you’ll visit a number of restaurants and taste the different varieties of tacos. But if you want to experience one of the most unusual things to do in Tucson for a unique and memorable trip, try out the tongue taco. Taqueria Pico de Gallo sells them for $1.25 each. It’s topped with cabbage, cilantro, and delicious green salsa.
They also sell tacos topped with cow’s cheek. Unlike the cow’s tongue, the shredded cheek is much creamier and fattier. It also comes in a cheap price. The thought of having to eat a cow’s tongue and cheek might probably disgust you but once you got over the idea, you’ll completely taste its flavors that are worth talking about.
Just so you wouldn’t be surprised, keep in mind that while it is delicious, pig’s feet can feel a little bit gelatinous. The meat itself is very tender but you’ll get hints of its fatty goodness every once in a while. If you are having issues with eating pig feet, just remember that it is still pork that you are eating.
Pig’s Feet (The Onyx Room)
The Onyx Room is a restaurant in Tucson that offers a regular menu of burgers, ribs, and some daily specials that every foodie will love. But if you’re looking for some unusual things to do in Tucson, they have an exotic dish for you and that is the pig’s feet. For $11.99 dollars, you can enjoy a platter of this along with two side dishes of your choice. Many people like it pickled but The Onyx Room serves it roasted which will make you taste a tasty deep strong peppery flavor.
Frog Curry and Durian Smoothie (Saigon Pho)
Eating a frog curry is also one of the unusual things to do in Tucson and you can find it in Saigon Pho. For $14.99, you can get to taste this exotic food from Vietnam. For starters, at first glance, there’s nothing unusual in this dish; just the usual look of a yellow curry but with frog’s legs that look like skinny chicken drumsticks. Don’t worry, though, it’s delicious and it doesn’t taste unusual. In fact, eating a frog’s legs tastes like you’re just eating chicken.
In addition to the frog curry, the restaurant also serves a smoothie made with the most revered and feared fruit in Southeast Asia, the durian and you can get it for $4. If you don’t know yet, many people consider it as the nastiest fruit due to its smell. It has this distinct and foul fragrance that many Asian Pacific countries usually ban it from office buildings, hotels, subways, and hospitals. For reference, some say that the smell of durian reminds them of old socks, rotten onions, body odor, or a sour, sweaty death.
Don’t be fooled by the odor of the fruit though. Once you get through that initial foul smell, you’ll be able to taste a creamy and tasty smoothie. There’s a reason why this fruit continues to get fans from around the world despite its foul smell.
Even if it’s already mixed with milk and other ingredients, Saigon you’ll still smell the durian’s dreaded odor in Saigon Pho’s durian smoothie. But once you get used to it after a few sips, you’ll start to taste the sweet cream flavor of milk and its fruitiness.
These dishes are greatly inspired by authentic Asian exotic dishes. You’ll be surprised at how exciting these dishes are and once you pass through your initial fears of the unknown, you’ll be able to greatly satisfy your palate. Go ahead, take a dive!
Tucson may be known for its desert and the hiking activities that it can offer but Tucson can offer more than that. If you feel a little braver and want to try the off the beaten path, these unusual things to do in Tucson are some of the activities that you need to try out. If you know more unusual activities to do in Tucson, tell us in the comments below.