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Are you planning to spend 3 days in Tucson on your upcoming trip? This Tucson itinerary for 3 days details how to see the best of the city.
Tucson is the oldest city in the state of Arizona and has gone through a lot of changes throughout its history. A few things that have contributed to the spirits of this city is its culture and the warmth of the community. It is home to beautiful architecture, cultural sites, museums, outdoor experiences and a variety of restaurants serving delicious cuisines. This makes Tucson one of the best cities to visit in Arizona.
There is no surprise that Tucson attracts a lot of travelers and visitors throughout the year. Considering there are a lot of things to do and to witness here, it may be difficult to decide what are some of the best places you must not miss out on in this beautiful city.
For this, planning your Tucson itinerary ahead of your trip will enable you to explore the best of the city. To help you with the planning, here is a guide that shows you what to do in Tucson on a 3 days trip, including a few insider tips.
Tucson Itinerary : 3 Days In Tucson
Day 1 : Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Pima Air and Space Museum, Sunset Hour At Saguaro National Park
Morning – Afternoon
Begin Your Tucson Itinerary With A Visit To The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
While you are in the desert, it becomes essential that you witness the utmost beauty of it preserved in one place. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has everything that you can imagine and much more. It has a bundle of experience and hence it is the best place to kick start your visit to Tucson. It has a zoo, a botanical garden, an art gallery and classes if you want to attend any at the time that you want to visit the place. Apart from all that, there is an aquarium and a natural history museum. So, you are in for a lot of exploration and surprises.
Apart from outdoor exploration, you can also have coffee and snacks at Phoebe’s Coffee bar or a delicious lunch at Ocotillo Cafe. These are very conveniently located in the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.
Opening Hours : Sunday to Friday – 7:30 AM to 2 PM | Saturday – 7:30 AM to 9 PM
Insider tip : Try to arrive early at the desert museum to avoid the summer heat. If you are looking for a more organized excursion to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, here is a tour that is inclusive of all fees, taxes and transport. You can easily spend upto 3 hours at this attraction so be sure that you carry a bottle of water and wear a good sunscreen.
Check Out The Pima Air and Space Museum
Speaking of the modernization of one of the oldest cities in the desert, your next stop should be the Pima Air and Space Museum. At this museum you will find the models of many aero planes and spaceships that have been built in America. It is one of the largest aerospace museums in the world. Here you would not only witness the models but real aircraft that are not functioning anymore. The aircraft and war machines are not only kept in the hangar but are also on the open grounds. You would be fascinated after knowing the history and technology of these machines and how efficiently they help in defense, protection and exploration.
Opening Hours : 9 AM to 3 PM everyday.
See The Sunset At Saguaro National Park
If you are tired of urban living and want to please your eyes with some natural landscapes then on your first day you must visit Saguaro National Park. The sites of sunsets against giant cactus and colorful shrubs make for a once in a lifetime experience. Though there are hiking trails available throughout the park for better views. However, if you are short on time, you can always go to the west side of the park which is considered to have spectacular views of the sunset. You can also rush to the Tucson Mountain desert and Rincon Mountain area to catch the sunset of your dreams.
Opening Hours : 7 AM to sunset hours everyday.
DAY 2 : Tucson Museum of Art,
Morning – Afternoon
Admire Amazing Artworks At Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson Botanical Gardens, Reid Park Zoo, Downtown Tucson
Connecting art to life has been the motto of the Tucson Museum of Art for years and if you have been looking for something to add a little bit of motivation and drive to your mundane life then this is the place. The museum is a fine specimen of architecture from the outside and inside it has been cleverly built to offer the visitors an escape from their regular life and indulge themselves in the world of art and artists for a while.
The maze-like structure, corners and walls offer you an experience to see life through the various lenses with the help of artists whose creations adorn these walls. The museum prides itself in preserving the collection of indigenous art from 1000 years ago. This is going to be a compelling start to your second day.
Opening Hours : Thursday to Sunday – 7 AM to 5 PM | Closed on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
Insider Tip – If you are looking for a place for having breakfast or lunch, head to Café à La C’Art. It is located at hardly a minute’s walking distance from Tucson Museum of Art. It’s a cozy café that serves delicious food and has a variety of offerings on their menu. For desserts do try their heavenly chocolate bomb.
Get Amazed By Tucson Botanical Gardens
Beside the museum, there is the Tucson Botanical Garden which has the ability to make you feel as if you are in a magical world. Spread into an area of 5.5 acres, the garden has been designed in such a way that it displays the perfect amalgamation of human creativity and the natural vegetation of the area. It has been famous for the monarch butterflies that reside here in the garden among the locals. The people visiting here love the environment to relax in nature and have some time all by themselves. You will be amazed by the collection of flowers in the garden. The food available here, at Edna’s Cafe, is loved by the people who visit this place.
Opening Hours : 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM everyday
Visit The Reid Park Zoo
From the beautiful collection of desert flowers and plants to the Tucson collection of animals, your next stop will be Reid Park Zoo. The zoo is spread over an area of 24 acres which makes it more like a natural habitat for the animals to live. The zoo claims to have you travel from the South American Rainforest to African Savannah within a few hours.
The collection of different kinds of animals within the zoo certifies that claim. No matter what you want to see, the zoo will have it. From the giant, old tortoise, to lions, Zebras, Giraffes and Lions, it features more than 500 animals within its borders. It is the most fulfilling adventure that you are going to have in this area.
Opening Hours : 8 AM to 2 PM everyday
Evening – Night
A Night out
On your second day here in Tucson, you can reserve your night to enjoy the nightlife of this city. Downtown Tucson has many restaurants, clubs and lounges to give you that fun and thrilling experience in the city. Once you step out in the city at night time, you would love the warm and festive spirit of this city. The community of the city and the music combines to bring life to Tucson. You can be a part of this experience too. A few of the known places to experience the best nightlife in Tucson are;
- Owls Club
- The Shelter Bar
- Sky Bar Tucson
- Chicago Bar
DAY 3 : San Xavier del Bac Mission, St. Augustine Cathedral, Sweetwater Preserve Trailhead or Sabino Canyon Recreation Area
Visit San Xavier del Bac Mission
Your third day here is planned with a spiritual retreat and with some really fine specimens of interior decoration. San Xavier del Bac Mission is a church in Tucson and by the view, it might seem to be in the middle of nowhere. Its giant two towers would remind you of its presence and as you approach it, the golden entry gate will leave you speechless by its intricate detailing. But don’t get astonished just yet, the interiors of the mission will leave you spellbound as soon as you lay your eyes on them.
San Xavier del Bac Mission was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and is always open for visitors except for special hours. It is a must visit place in your Tucson itinerary. You can attend the masses as well which would be quite an experience.
Visit The St. Augustine Cathedral
The huge white building with two standing spires on each side of the entrance is the St. Augustine Cathedral. It is the witness to the architectural growth of the city. The cathedral was first built in 1776 and hence had the old architecture. Its architecture also had the influence of the pope of that time. As the centuries passed it was being renovated and designed by modern architecture to make sure that it doesn’t lose its beauty.
From the arched ceiling and whitewashed walls with colorful frescoes on them to the revamped flooring, the cathedral got a new look in the modern world. They even made sure to include modern sound and lighting systems to modernize and keep the spirits of the holy place. For a place that is centuries old, there is lots and lots of history that you will discover once you visit it.
Afternoon – Evening
Sweetwater Preserve Trailhead
For travelers who look for a bit of an adventure on every holiday or vacation, Tucson has you covered by welcoming you to the Sweetwater Preserve Trailhead. There are a lot of trails in the Sweetwater preserve and you can bike, trek, etc. on these trails. You would love the landscape and it would bring out the adventurer in you. Some of the notable trails in the preserve are the Black Rock Loop trail, Desperado Loop, Wildflower Ridge Loop trail, Saguaro Vista, Lost Arrow, Spine, and many others.
The design of the area has been in such a way that it offers both easy and tough routes around. So, you can choose your challenge accordingly. The trailhead may be most suitable for winter days but will not be appropriate for summer days. Do pack snacks and water bottles if you come to Sweetwater Preserve.
Opening Hours : 7 AM to 5 PM everyday
Apart from the Sweetwater Preserve Trailhead, you can also find many trails in Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area
After visiting the mission, your third day in Tucson needs to be full of fun and adventure. To make your experience complete, the Sabino Canyon recreation area is perfect. It offers an entire trail (Seven Falls Trail) to go hiking, natural swimming pools to have fun at and an outdoor area to organize camping or an outdoor picnic. Due to its versatility and the range of activities that it offers, the Sabino recreation area has been famous among visitors and locals alike. You can enjoy the sunsets and starry nights here in the area. And it would be like a dream come true to listen to local stories of this old city while boozing around the campfire.
There is a very organized tram service also available that takes the visitors through the Sabino Canyon to the trailheads. Check the current availability of the tram service here.
Arizona Pizza Company, Nico’s Mexican Food and the Hidden Grill are a few restaurants located at the Sabino Canyon road and nearest to the recreational area.
Opening Hours : Open for 24 hours. Though the visitor center is open from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM everyday.
General FAQs On Tucson, Arizona
Where To Stay In Tucson?
There are many fantastic accommodation options available in Tucson. Area wise the best place to stay for tourists is Downtown neighborhood, due to its proximity to many attractions of the city. You will find many galleries, restaurants, cultural sites, cafes, theaters and hotels in this area. To help you plan better, below are our highly recommended accommodations you should choose from, to stay in Tucson.
Budget (Upto $120) : Hampton Inn offers a comfortable stay in Tucson at a great price. It is located just 12 kms from Tucson International Airport. Click here to book your stay in Hampton Inn or to check its availability.
Mid Range ($120 – $150) : AC Hotel is one of the best mid range budget hotels to stay in Downtown Tucson. This hotel features comfortable and spacious rooms with seating area in each one of them. Selected rooms also offer rooms with views of the pool and surroundings. Click here to book your stay in AC Hotel or to check its availability.
Luxury ($150+) : The Blenman Inn is one of the most beautiful and stylish accommodations in Arizona. The elegant and charming interiors make the hotel ideal for a dreamy vacation in Tucson. The rooms are ultra modern, uniquely decorated and very well fitted with luxurious amenities. The Blenman Inn is located just 13 kms away from the Tucson International Airport. Click here to book your stay in Blenman Inn or to check its availability.
How To Get Around Tucson?
Renting a car is the best way to get around Tucson. You can also hire cabs using apps like Uber and Lyft.
What Are The Essentials To Pack For Tucson?
Apart from the general things you will probably pack for your trip, below are some essentials that you should not forget to carry to Tucson;
Refillable Waterbottle : To keep yourself hydrated. Pack an insulated one that will keep the water cool for longer hours. You can find one here.
Sunscreen and Lipbalm : Neutrogena Ultra Sheer sunscreen is a non greasy sunscreen that works well in protecting skin from harsh UV rays and rashes.
Sunhat and Sunglasses : To protect your eyes from the heat during the day.
Comfortable Hiking Boots : For comfortable exploration of recreational areas and hiking trails, a pair of comfortable hiking boots are a must.
Daypack : You will need a lightweight daypack to carry your essential belongings while you are out and about in Tucson. Osprey has the best lightweight, spacious and easy on shoulders daypack you must certainly check out.
And there you have it – your perfect Tucson itinerary. Rich in heritage, vibrant and sprawling, Tucson is a city that has so much to offer to explorers. We are sure that now you know how to spend your 3 days in Tucson perfectly.