In Tucson, Arizona not only will you find a beautiful desert landscape but also a rich history filled with Native Americans, Spanish missionaries, wild west lawmen and banditos. Since Tucson was founded in 1775 it has become a thriving Metropolis with a major university. Although Tucson has developed into a modern city, the cultures and traditions of the past have not been forgotten. With Tucson's beautiful surroundings your vacation can be; exciting, relaxing or any combination of the two.
When to Go:
November is one of the best times to visit Arizona; the weather is delightfully sunny, mild and typically rain free. The days rarely get above 85 but the nights can get down into the 40's so bring a jacket.
How to Get There:
Tucson lies at the intersection of Interstate 10 and Interstate 19. Tucson has its own International Airport which is 20 minutes from downtown.
What to See and Do:
We recommend you spend three days in Tucson, Arizona to get the most out of your camping road trip:
1. Balloon Tour - Allow 3.5 hours minimum
Start your day off with a balloon tour over Tucson, you'll see it's finest 5 star resorts, championship golf courses and multi-million dollar estates. Balloon tours take you up to 2,000 feet above the ground providing breathtaking views of the snow covered 9,300-foot tall Santa Catalina Mountains. The start very early - anywhere between 5:30 AM - 9:30 AM to catch the sunrise. Balloon rides typically last about 3.5 hours and cost around $230 for adults. Children ride for less, around $130 per child.
Address: 1501 N. Houghton Road, Tucson, AZ
2. Mission San Xavier Del Bac - Allow 2 hours minimum
Head over to Mission San Xavier Del Bac, a natural historic landmark. Catholic missionaries founded the church in 1692. Mission is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona. The interior of the church is breathtaking. Original statuary and mural paintings cover the interior walls. Truly it is like stepping back into an authentic 18th century scene. Visit the museum and gift shop in the church. Hours are 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM daily. Best of all it is free to the public.
Address: 1950 West San Xavier Road, Tucson, AZ
3. Stargazing at Flandrau Science Center Observatory - Allow 1 hour minimum
The nighttime Arizona sky offers an unbeatable view of the stars. The lack of light pollution from the city allows you to see more stars than you ever thought possible. So take advantage of this great location by visiting the Flandrau Science Center Observatory located on the University of Arizona campus. Experts are onsite to help you locate stars and constellations on their 16-inch telescope. The cost is free and you don't need to make a reservation.
Address: 1601 E. University Blvd
Hours of operation: 7 PM to 10 PM all year
Spend the night at a campground or RV Park near Tucson, Arizona
1. Saguaro National Park - Allow 2 hours minimum
Head over to Saguaro National Park. The park is located in the Tucson Mountain District just outside the city. The Sonoran arboreal desert is full of giant saguaro cacti, one of the most iconic symbols of the west. Most people will recognize these large cacti, which sometimes resemble humanlike shapes. Make sure to snap a photo as these are only found in Arizona, Southern California and Northern Mexico. They can grow to be 40 feet tall and live for more than 200 years. The Saguaro National Park has over 165 miles of hiking trails with many of the trails beginning right off the scenic roads.
Note: there are no RV camping facilities within Saguaro National Park. Also, trailers measuring 35 feet or more in length are not allowed within the park.
Getting there: Exit I-10 at exit # 275 (Houghton Road) and drive 9.5 miles (15 kilometers) north to Old Spanish Trail and turn right. Drive 3 miles (5 kilometers) southeast on Old Spanish Trail and the park entrance, which will be on the left side of the road.
Scenic Drive: For a more scenic alternate route, take exit #279 (Colossal Cave Road) and go north for 3.5 miles (5.5 kilometers) to Pistol Hill Road and turn left. Drive 2 miles (3 kilometers) northeast on Pistol Hill Road to Old Spanish Trail and turn left. Proceed north on Old Spanish Trail 11 miles (17.5 kilometers) to the park entrance, which will be on your right.
2. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum - Allow 3 hours minimum
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a world-class zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden. You can find more than 300 animal species and 1,200 different plants. Find yourself eye to eye with mountain lions, Gila monsters, and prairie dogs to name a few. History buffs will love the Sonora Desert history exhibits and hikers will fall in love with the 2 miles of paths traversing over 21 acres of beautiful desert. Food and refreshments can be purchased inside the museum. Best of all this zoo, museum, and botanical garden is all in one convenient location.
Hours of operation:
October - February: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm (no entry after 4:15 pm)
March - May: 7:30 am to 5:00 pm (no entry after 4:15 pm)
June - August: Sun - Fri: 7:00 am to 4:30 pm (no entry after 3:45 pm), Sat: 7:00 am to 10:00 pm (no entry after 9:15 pm)
September: 7:00 am - 4:30 pm (no entry after 3:45 pm).
September - May: $14.50 for Adults, $4.50 for Kids (ages 6-12).
June - August: $12.00 for Adults, $3.00 for Kids (ages 6-12).
Summer Saturday Evenings: Admissions after 4:00 p.m. ONLY $7.00 ($3:00 for ages 6-12). Children 5 and under are ALWAYS free!
Address: 2021 North Kinney Road, Tucson, AZ
Spend the night at a campground in Coronado National Forest
1. Coronado National Forest - Allow 3 hours minimum
The beautiful Coronado National Forest is home to some of Arizona's unspoiled, natural beauty, and is a great place to begin your day. Here you will find a myriad of recreational activities such as hiking, biking, canoeing, camping, rock climbing, Cave exploring and much more. Sabino Canyon is a popular spot near to Tucson, where you can hike some trails or take a tram tour. Although you would not expect to see a lake in the arid southwest, there are several man made lakes in Coronado National Forest. Parker Canyon Lake offers a fishing pier, boat ramp and lakeside camping.
2. Wine Tour - Allow 3 hours minimum
The environment in Tucson Arizona is ideal for vineyards and great wine making. The Tucson soil is almost identical to that of southern France, Spain and South East Australia where some of the best wines in the world are made. The wineries here are very different from California's Napa Valley. Tucson wineries have been gaining recognition for their wines but have not yet become over crowded or commercialized. Here you will find a fresh, unique experience with knowledgeable wine makers.
There are numerous wineries located just outside of Tucson. Be sure to check out Callaghan Vineyards, Domaines Ellam Winery and Dos Cabezas Vineyard. When you reach the tasting room be sure to ask about their glass special. You can typically buy a plain wine glass from vineyards in the area and save a dollar off your tasting. Other local vineyards will allow you to use that same glass, so bring it with you to other vineyards and be sure to ask.
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