HomeArticlesSouthern Arizona Day trips, Weekend Getaways & Excursions

Southern Arizona Day trips, Weekend Getaways & Excursions

Stagecoach on the streets of the wild west town of Tombstone. Photo by Cracker Clips Photography.

Southern Arizona provides plenty to do for a day trip or fun weekend getaway. With many historic sites, museums, and even small nearby excursions to explore, you’ll find there’s a lot of adventure and new things to discover that awaits. 

Tombstone: With dozens of quaint shops, historic attractions, tasty restaurants, and western saloons, there is so much to see and do in “The Town Too Tough to Die”. Need more than one day to see all of what Tombstone has to offer? Spend the night in one of the more than 20 lodging options including cozy bed and breakfasts, modern hotels, and vacation rental options. 

Family enjoying the outdoor art in Bisbee.

Bisbee: Located 90 miles southeast of Tucson, this free-spirited town offers a thriving arts, music, and hospitality scene, amidst a well-preserved historical architectural setting. Its welcoming, creative spirit and cool climate makes it an ideal overnight home-base for visitors, hikers, wine tasters and those looking to escape the hustle and bustle. Stay at one of the many historic inns, dine at the vintage Dot’s Diner, or enjoy some live stand-up comedy at Chuckleheads Comedy Club and Bar. 

Mount Lemmon: Just an hour from Tucson, due to its elevation, Mount Lemmon is an average of 30 degrees cooler making it a haven in the summer and an outdoor playground in the winter. With several hiking and biking trails ranging from novice to expert, as well as more than 2,000 rock climbing routes, six campgrounds, trout fishing, and cabin rentals, there’s plenty of options for outdoor enthusiasts. Take a ride on the ski lift and experience 30 minutes of breathtaking views of the Santa Catalina mountains. Also, be sure to check out the massive cookies at the Mt. Lemmon Cookie Cabin and creative fudge flavors at Mt. Lemmon General Store and Gift Shop. 

Tanque Verde Ranch: Visit and stay at one of America’s old-time dude ranches. Located on 60,000 acres of Tucson’s most breathtaking desert landscapes, it provides guests with comfy accommodations, unparalleled amenities, delectable dining options, and a vast array of exciting activities including horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing, hiking, and more! Kids will also have plenty to do when they take part in the Daily Kids Program with several age-based activities such as horseback riding, pool time, archery, tie-dying, guided tennis playing, and water balloon fun! 

Colossal Cave Mountain Park. Photo: Facebook.

Colossal Cave Mountain Park: Fifteen minutes Southeast of Tucson, you’ll find the beautiful Colossal Cave. Enjoy family-friendly (ages five and up) cave tours where you’ll learn about the Cave’s history, its legends (like train robbers and ghosts), and its unique geology. As you descend approximately six stories deep, you’ll see some amazing cave formations that were sculpted by millions of years of geological activity. Keep an eye out for the wildlife too! Stop by the gift shop, Terrace Cafe, or stay the night under the stars camping at one of the many campsites tucked among the magnificent saguaro cacti and mesquite trees.

Gaslight Theatre:  Since 1977, The Gaslight Theatre has provided Tucson with fun, family entertainment. With musical comedy melodramas six nights a week, and five different shows per year including Westerns, sci-fi spoofs, Christmas shows, and everything in between—you can find it all at The Gaslight Theatre! Enjoy sipping on your favorite beer or soft drink, eating pizza, ice cream, and snacking on lots of free popcorn during the shows. The theatre also has concerts every Monday night!

Trail Dust Town: Trail Dust Town has seen Tucson grow up around it since it was built in 1961. A trip down main street still feels like a journey through the streets of a pioneer town. Indulge in some unique shopping opportunities at the quaint stores–all of which are owned and operated by local Tucson residents. Enjoy a spin on the vintage carousel or test your skills in the shooting gallery! Come hungry to dine at Pinnacle Peak, the original Cowboy Steakhouse or get your brunch fill at Millie’s Pancake Haus. 

Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Farm. Courtesy of Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Farm.

Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Farm: Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch is a three generation family-owned and operated working ostrich ranch. In addition to ostriches, the farm is also home to Miniature Sicilian Donkeys, Nigerian Dwarf Goats, Fallow Deer, Peking Ducks, “The Goat Penthouse” and the “Hole in the Wall Gang” featuring Boer Goats and Rainbow Lorikeets, and a Stingray Bay! Bring your lunch and have a picnic at one of the many picnic tables to make it a fun-filled afternoon.

Tucson Botanical Garden: A lush oasis in the heart of Tucson, the Tucson Botanical Gardens offers mature trees and expertly cultivated foliage, specialty gardens such as the Cactus and Succulent Garden, Barrio Garden, and Herb Garden. Come see the tropical butterflies from around the world featured in the Cox Butterfly and Orchid Pavilion, October through May. Experience year-round art exhibits, classes, and events, as well as the creative, seasonal menu of Edna’s Eatery.

Tohono Chul: Embrace the authentic beauty of the Sonoran Desert year-round at Tohono Chul. Set on 49 acres of lush desert, nature will be at your fingertips. Stroll along winding paths with soaring Saguaros, themed botanical gardens, and marvel at a chance to encounter a resident hummingbird. Take in the quiet atmosphere in the artfully designed relaxation spots sprinkled throughout the property. Gain a new appreciation for the treasures of the desert as you admire the various art and garden exhibits. Enjoy regionally inspired fare and indulge in the fresh Southwestern flavors of the Garden Bistro. 

Mission Church of San Xavier del bac. Photo by CS Foto Images.

Mission San Xavier del Bac: A National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797. The oldest intact European structure in Arizona, the church’s interior is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings. It is a place where visitors can truly step back in time and enter an authentic 18th Century space. The church still retains its original purpose and currently administers to the religious needs of its parishioners.

International Wildlife Museum: The International Wildlife Museum highlights over 400 species of insects, mammals and birds from around the globe. All the animals found at the museum were donated by various government agencies, wildlife rehabilitation centers, captive breeding programs, zoos, and individuals. See the wild animals in their natural settings, through videos, and interactive computers, as well as hands-on exhibits. Gain a better understanding of the animal’s adaptive characteristics, habitats and conservation issues through your visit. 

Museum of Miniatures: Founders Patricia and Walter Arnell, who became active members in the miniature community after moving to Tucson in 1979, began dreaming of an interactive space where the entertaining and educational aspects of miniature collections could be enjoyed by everyone and thus started The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures. This 15,560 square foot, state-of-the-art museum displays an entertaining and interactive array of antique and contemporary miniatures as well as enchanting artifacts. There are over 500 miniature houses and room boxes that are part of the collection serving as an educational and magical environment for visitors of all ages, interests, and talents.

Pima Air and Space Museum. Photo: Facebook.

Pima Air and Space Museum: The Pima Air and Space Museum, which sits on 80 acres, first opened to the public in May 1976. For 40 years, the museum has grown immensely and today features about 400 historic aircrafts, from a Wright Flyer to a 787 Dreamliner, and encompasses six indoor exhibit hangars, three of which are dedicated to World War II. Dine at the Flight Grill, a quick-service eatery that features floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Navy and Air Force fighters. Sit out on the patio to enjoy the mountain views and catch a glimpse as aircrafts take off and land just across the street at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. 

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum: Founded in 1952, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is regularly listed as one of the top ten zoological parks in the world due to its unique approach in interpreting the complete natural history of a single region. The 98 acre Desert Museum is a fusion experience encompassing a zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium all in one. With two miles of walking paths through various desert habitats, 242 animal species, plants from 56,000 individual specimens, and one of the world’s most comprehensive regional mineral collections, it’s a place you’ll surely want to visit! 

Gadsden-Pacific Toy Train Museum: Train enthusiasts will delight in this interactive museum of operating toy train layouts, displays, and exhibits run by a non-profit group of dedicated model railroaders. Visitors can enjoy a vast array of framed railroad art, including photographs, prints, graphic arts, and line art. There are also various antique toy trains and display castles. The toy train museum has limited hours, so be sure to call ahead or check the website before scheduling your visit.

Southern Arizona Transportation Museum: The Southern Arizona Transportation Museum is located in the Southern Pacific’s beautiful two-story station in Tucson. The museum focuses on the history of Arizona’s railroads, railroading equipment, and the Southern Pacific that is cosmetically restored to its original livery. In addition to the museum’s railroad equipment, they also feature a number of historic railroad artifacts and even have a model railroad layout. Guided tours of the facility are offered for a small fee and the museum also puts on community events, downtown historic walking tours (October–March), railroad safety education, and an oral history program. 

Titan Missile Museum. Photo by EHRLIF Photography.

Titan Missile Museum: Plan your visit to the one-of-a-kind Titan Missile Museum to see the last of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert across the United States from 1963 to 1987. Go underground and back in time on the 45-minute guided tour where you’ll descend 35 feet into the missile complex, visit the launch control center, and experience a simulated launch of the missile. You’ll also get an up-close look at the Titan II missile itself. Be sure to check the website ahead of time and reserve your tour online as space is limited. Keep in mind that all visitors must also be able to safely descend and ascend 55 stairs. 

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