Mission San Xavier del Bac#5 in Best Things To Do in Tucson
Sitting just south of Tucson near the airport, Mission San Xavier del Bac (known as the White Dove of the Desert) is a stunning example of 18th-century architecture. Influenced by Moorish, Byzantine, Renaissance and Mexican architectural styles, this active Roman Catholic Church is worth visiting just for the photo ops, according to travelers. Visitors are invited to tour this National Historic Landmark as an architectural site or sit in on weekly Mass.
Recent visitors said that this is a must-see when in Tucson and strongly recommended taking a guided tour, offered by Patronato San Xavier, a nonprofit that raises money to preserve and restore the mission. Tours are offered Monday through Saturday; visit Patronato's website for specific tour times. Though reviewers gushed over the mission's beauty, they also warned that the neighborhood is not as nice as other parts of Tucson.
Mission San Xavier del Bac is open to the public every day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., but if you happen to pop in during a service, remember to be respectful to the congregation. The museum is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; the gift shop stays open until 5 p.m. The Mass schedule is posted on the mission's website. Admission is free, but donations are always welcome.
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#1 Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
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.
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