Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum#1 in Best Things To Do in Tucson
Although it's called a museum, this facility – about 15 miles west of downtown Tucson – is more of a zoo. In fact, 85 percent of what you'll experience is outdoors (so dress accordingly). The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's 98 acres host 230 animal species – including prairie dogs, coyotes and a mountain lion – and 1,200 local plant species (totaling 56,000 individual plants). Walking through the museum's trails, visitors get acquainted with desert life. And if you feel hungry after your leisurely hike, you can enjoy a meal at one of the museum's four eateries, all of which have great views of the surrounding desert.
Recent visitors enjoyed their time at the museum and highly recommended future travelers set aside a few hours to explore the attraction's grounds and educational exhibits. Just make sure you come prepared: wear appropriate walking shoes, sun protection and sunscreen (though, if you forget your sunscreen, there are dispensers in the on-site bathrooms). Reviewers also advised stopping by in the morning or near closing as that's when the animals are most active. Aside from the flora and fauna, visitors also praised the knowledgeable docents.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is open every day, although hours vary depending on the season. Entry costs $21.95 for adults ages 13 to 64, $8.95 for kids ages 3 to 12 and is free for children 2 and younger. (Additional discounts are available for Arizona residents, seniors and military.) Visitors with a Tucson Attractions Passport get two-for-one admission. Opening hours vary by season, but generally the museum is open from 7:30 or 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. or 10 p.m. You can learn more about the museum by visiting its official website.
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#2 Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
Regarded as one of the most scenic drives in southeast Arizona, the Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway takes travelers to the upper reaches of Mount Lemmon and the Santa Catalina Range. Aside from the arresting canyon and mountain views, the nearly 60-mile round-trip byway offers visitors the biological equivalent of driving from the deserts of Mexico to the forests of Canada (the road begins in the lower Sonoran vegetative life zone and ascends to the high forests in the Canadian zone).
Recent visitors highly recommended making the drive, which many described as "spectacular" and a "must-do" when in Tucson. Along with the stunning vantage point, the ride up also provides a reprieve from the desert heat; travelers said the temperature drops as you climb higher along the byway. Take advantage of the scenic overlooks and rest areas by bringing along a picnic – another recommendation from past visitors.
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