Welcome to Tucson, the vibrant city in Arizona that has plenty to offer in just two days. Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, foodie, art enthusiast, or simply looking to relax and recharge, Tucson has something for everyone.
In this itinerary, we’ll guide you through the best things to see and do in Tucson, so you can make the most of your time here. From exploring the natural wonders of Saguaro National Park to discovering the city’s rich history and culture, indulging in local cuisine, and relaxing in scenic gardens, we’ve got you covered.
So, get ready for an unforgettable two-day adventure in Tucson, and let’s get started!
Day 1: Exploring Tucson’s Natural Wonders
When in Tucson, immersing yourself in the city’s natural wonders is a must. Start your day early and head to Saguaro National Park, located just a short drive from downtown Tucson. The park boasts hiking trails of varying difficulty levels, scenic drives, and breathtaking views. Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as temperatures can rise quickly.
|Saguaro National Park offers miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy nature walks to strenuous hikes. The Signal Hill Trail is a popular choice, offering stunning views and ancient petroglyphs.
|Take a scenic drive through the park’s paved Cactus Forest Loop Drive, which offers stunning views of the park’s iconic saguaro cacti. For a longer drive, take the Bajada Loop Drive, a 6-mile unpaved road that offers breathtaking views of the park’s mountains.
|Be sure to stop by the park’s visitor center to learn about the park’s history and wildlife. Don’t miss the park’s iconic Freeman Homestead Trail, which offers a glimpse into the life of early settlers in the area.
After a morning of exploring Saguaro National Park, head over to Tucson Mountain Park for more natural beauty. The park offers various hiking trails and picnic areas, perfect for a midday break. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a guided horseback ride through the park’s trails.
Day 1 (continued): Immerse Yourself in Tucson’s History and Culture
In the afternoon, explore Tucson’s rich history and culture. Start with a visit to Mission San Xavier del Bac, a stunning historic Spanish mission located just south of Tucson. The mission dates back to the late 18th century and is considered one of the best-preserved examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States.
Next, head to the Tucson Museum of Art, located in the heart of downtown Tucson. The museum features an impressive collection of American and Latin American art, as well as special exhibitions throughout the year. Be sure to check out the museum’s sculpture garden, a serene oasis in the middle of the city.
Finally, take a stroll through historic downtown Tucson, where you’ll find a mix of old and new buildings, vibrant street art, and charming shops and restaurants. Don’t miss the historic Hotel Congress, a Tucson landmark that dates back to 1919 and is still in operation today.
Day 1 (continued): Immerse Yourself in Tucson’s History and Culture
After exploring Tucson’s natural wonders, it’s time to dive into its rich history and culture. Start by visiting Mission San Xavier del Bac, a stunning 18th-century Spanish mission located just 10 miles south of downtown Tucson.
Known as the “White Dove of the Desert,” this iconic mission is one of the oldest intact European structures in Arizona and is considered a masterpiece of Baroque architecture in the United States.
Next up, head to the Tucson Museum of Art, where you can explore a wide range of art and culture from the Southwest and beyond. From pre-Columbian artifacts to contemporary art, the museum offers a glimpse into the diverse heritage of Tucson and the greater Southwest.
Finally, take a stroll through historic downtown Tucson, where you’ll find beautifully preserved architecture, unique shops and restaurants, and plenty of art and cultural attractions. Don’t miss the chance to explore the Tucson Arts District, home to dozens of galleries and artist studios.
Day 1 (continued): Savor the Flavors of Tucson
Tucson boasts a unique and flavorful food culture that visitors shouldn’t miss. One of the most iconic cuisines in the city is Sonoran-style cuisine, which blends Mexican and American flavors. If you’re looking to sample the best of this cuisine, there are several restaurants and markets you should check out.
Tucson’s Local Cuisine
For a truly authentic experience, head to El Charro Cafe, which has been serving up Sonoran-style cuisine for over 90 years. This historic restaurant is known for its carne seca, a dried beef that is a local specialty. You can also try other traditional dishes like green corn tamales and enchiladas.
Another must-visit spot is the Mercado San Agustin, a vibrant market that features local vendors and restaurants. Here, you can sample a variety of cuisines, including Sonoran-style dishes like tacos and burritos.
If you’re looking for a more upscale dining experience, check out Cafe Poca Cosa. This restaurant features traditional Mexican dishes with a modern twist, and everything is made from scratch using fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
Another great option is Penca, which serves up contemporary Mexican cuisine. The menu is full of delicious options, including tacos, ceviche, and mole dishes.
If you’re traveling on a budget, don’t worry – there are plenty of affordable options for dining in Tucson. One great choice is El Guero Canelo, a Mexican fast food chain that serves up delicious Sonoran-style hot dogs and other dishes.
You can also check out the Food Truck Roundup, which takes place every Friday night at the Tucson Mall. This is a great opportunity to sample a variety of food truck fare, including tacos, burgers, and more.
If you’re not familiar with Sonoran-style cuisine, be sure to try dishes like carne asada, chiles rellenos, and sopapillas during your visit to Tucson. These local specialties are not to be missed!
Day 2: More Tucson Adventure
On your second day in Tucson, continue your outdoor adventure with a visit to Colossal Cave Mountain Park. This unique geological formation is home to underground caves that are millions of years old. Take a guided tour through the caves to learn about their history and formation.
If you’re looking for more outdoor fun, head to Mount Lemmon. This mountain in the Santa Catalina range offers hiking trails, scenic drives, and stunning views of Tucson. Don’t miss the SkyCenter Observatory for a chance to stargaze in the clear desert skies.
For art enthusiasts, Tucson has a thriving arts scene. Check out some of the city’s art galleries, such as Etherton Gallery or Davis Dominguez Gallery. You can also explore the Tucson Arts District and see murals and street art throughout the city.
To relax and recharge, consider a visit to one of Tucson’s many spas. The Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa offers a range of treatments and services, including yoga and meditation classes. Or, take a stroll through the Tucson Botanical Gardens and enjoy the natural beauty of the desert.
Day 2 (continued): Discover Tucson’s Art Scene
If you’re an art lover, Tucson has plenty to offer. The city’s art scene is vibrant and diverse, ranging from modern galleries to traditional museums. Here are some places you should visit:
|University of Arizona Museum of Art
|University of Arizona campus
|Modern and contemporary art
|Philabaum Glass Gallery and Studio
|Glass art and workshops
|Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block
|Western and contemporary art
If you’re looking for a more immersive experience, head to the Tucson Arts District. This historic neighborhood is home to dozens of art galleries, studios, and theaters. Don’t miss the Second Saturdays event, where galleries and studios stay open late and offer free admission.
“Art in the Streets: Art, Architecture, and Landscape in Downtown Tucson”
October 1, 2021 – January 9, 2022
This outdoor exhibition will feature site-specific installations and murals by local and international artists, showcasing the city’s vibrant art scene. Don’t miss this opportunity to experience Tucson’s cultural side!
Day 2 (continued): Relax and Recharge in Tucson
After a full day of adventure in Tucson, it’s time to unwind and rejuvenate. Luckily, the city offers plenty of opportunities for relaxation.
Indulge in some self-care with a spa treatment at one of Tucson’s many luxury spas. The Miraval Resort & Spa offers a variety of treatments, from massage to facials to acupuncture. If you’re looking for something a little more unique, try a session in their flotation pool or a Thai stretching class. Other popular options include the Canyon Ranch and the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa.
Tucson Botanical Gardens
For a peaceful escape into nature, head to the Tucson Botanical Gardens. This hidden gem features several themed gardens, including a butterfly garden and a cactus and succulent garden. Stroll through the tranquil pathways and take in the beauty of the desert flora and fauna. The gardens also have a gift shop and a café, where you can enjoy a refreshing drink or snack.
With a relaxing spa treatment and a peaceful visit to the Tucson Botanical Gardens, you’ll be recharged and ready to take on the rest of your Tucson adventure.
Tips to Save Money While Traveling in Tucson
Traveling to a new city can be expensive, but with a little bit of planning, you can experience all that Tucson has to offer without breaking the bank. Here are some budget travel tips to help you save money during your two-day trip to Tucson.
1. Look for Free Things to Do
Tucson has many free things to do, such as spending time at public parks, like Reid Park or Tucson Mountain Park. Take a stroll through the historic downtown area or check out the Tucson Arts District for some free entertainment. The University of Arizona’s Museum of Art is also free to visit on the first Sunday of every month.
2. Take Advantage of Happy Hour
Many of Tucson’s restaurants and bars offer great deals during happy hour. Take advantage of discounted drinks and appetizers at places like Thunder Canyon Brewery, Charro Steak, and Sir Veza’s Taco Garage.
3. Use Public Transportation
Tucson has a good public transportation system, which includes buses and streetcars. Using public transportation can be a great way to save money on transportation costs throughout the city. Consider purchasing a SunGO pass for unlimited rides.
4. Look for Affordable Accommodations
There are plenty of affordable accommodations in Tucson, ranging from budget hotels to vacation rentals. Consider staying in a hostel or booking a room through Airbnb to save money on lodging costs.
5. Bring Your Own Snacks and Water
Bringing your own snacks and water can save you money on food while you’re out and about exploring Tucson. Pack some snacks and reusable water bottles to stay hydrated and fueled up during your trip.
FAQ About Two Days in Tucson
If you’re planning a trip to Tucson and only have two days to explore, you may be wondering what to expect and how to make the most of your time. Here are some frequently asked questions to help you plan your visit.
What is the best time of year to visit Tucson?
Tucson is known for its hot summers, so if you’re sensitive to heat, you may want to avoid visiting in June, July, and August. Spring and fall are great times to visit, when temperatures are more comfortable. The winter months can also be pleasant, although some attractions may have reduced hours or be closed.
What is the best way to get around Tucson?
While Tucson does have some public transportation options, such as buses and streetcars, having a car will give you more flexibility to explore the city. If you’re staying in the downtown area, you may be able to walk to some attractions. Alternatively, consider using a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft.
What type of lodging is available in Tucson?
Tucson has a range of lodging options to suit different needs and budgets. You can find everything from budget-friendly motels to luxurious resorts. There are also many vacation rental options available, such as apartments or homes through Airbnb or VRBO.
What are some free things to do in Tucson?
There are many free activities and attractions in Tucson. You can explore parks like Reid Park or hike in Saguaro National Park. The Tucson Museum of Art is free on the first Sunday of every month, and the University of Arizona Museum of Art is always free for visitors. The Fox Tucson Theatre also offers free tours.
What should I pack for my trip to Tucson?
Be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes, as you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking and hiking. Sunscreen and a hat are also essential, as the sun can be intense in Tucson. If you plan to visit in the summer months, be prepared for hot temperatures and bring lightweight, breathable clothing.
Are there any day trips from Tucson that I should consider?
Yes! If you have time for a day trip, consider visiting nearby attractions like the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum or the historic mining town of Bisbee. You could also take a scenic drive to the wine country of Sonoita and Elgin.
With this itinerary and these tips, you should be well-prepared for your two-day trip to Tucson. Enjoy your visit!