1. Head west.
As a Tucson east-sider, it takes a lot for me to get west of Oracle Road, but there are some wonderful things to do on the west side of town. Take a day or two to be a west-side tourist!
- International Wildlife Museum 4800 W. Gates Pass Road. Open Thursday & Friday from 9-5 and weekends from 9-6. The museum is operating at 50% capacity to allow for social distancing.You may purchase tickets online for contact-less admission; however, this is not required. Admission $10 adults, $5 kids (3 and under FREE).
- The Desert Museum-2021 N. Kinney Road. Daily from 7:30 AM -5 PM. Open until 9:00 PM on Saturday nights in March 2021. Advance ticket purchase is REQUIRED. Admission for Arizona/Sonora residents: $20.95 adults (13+), $12.95 kids (3 and under FREE)
- Saguaro National Park...west (Tucson Mountain District)! The park is open sunrise to sunset, and the visitor's center at 2700 N. Kinney Road is open 9-5 daily. $25 weekly vehicle pass (or $80 for an annual pass, good in both the west and east districts of the park). Free admission for 4th and 5th graders and their families. Be sure to check out the Junior Ranger and Not So Junior Ranger programs!
- Don't forget, if you're out west in the evening, head to Gates Pass for world-famous sunset viewing.
- Colossal Cave tours are fascinating for adults and children ages 5+ ($20 adults, $10 children 5-12). Older kids (12+) can do a longer and more strenuous ladder tour, and there are other special tours for teens and adults as well. Colossal Cave Mountain Park is open from 8 AM - 4 PM with classic cave tours from 10 AM until 3 PM. The park is located at 16721 E. Old Spanish Trail. Bring a picnic or eat at the Terrace Cafe, right on the cave grounds.
- If you are willing to take a short road trip, you might want to venture to Kartchner Caverns, about 50 minutes from Tucson at 2980 S. Highway 90 near Benson. This amazing living cave is open to adults and kids 6+ because of the strict "no touching" policy that is important for keeping the cave pristine. Also, no strollers or diaper bags (or bags of any kind) are allowed on the cave tours. The Discovery Center is open daily from 9:30 AM-5 PM. Reservations are required for cave tours. Cavern tours are $23.00 for adults, $13 for youth 7-13, $5 for youth under 7. Read our East Tucson Macaroni Kid review of Kartchner Caverns HERE.
3. Stop and smell the flowers.
Spring wildflowers can be spectacular in the desert, and while Southern Arizona may not have our best wildflower season this year, there are sure to be blooms aplenty at some of Tucson's beautiful gardens. What a great way to learn more about our desert plants with your kiddos.
- Tucson Botanical Gardens-2150 N. Alvernon Way. The gardens are open daily from 8:30-4:30 with specific time blocks for entry to reduce capacity. Advance ticket purchase required. Butterfly Magic is currently closed, but outdoor gardens and exhibits are open. Click here for admission rates and to purchase tickets.
- Tohono Chul Gardens-7366 N. Paseo del Norte. Open daily from 8 AM-5 PM with timed ticket entry required for the general public. Click here for admission rates and to purchase tickets.
- You can also take an easy road trip to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum (about 2 hours north of Tucson, located off of Highway 60 near Superior) for beautiful blooms, fascinating flora, a lovely creek, and some interesting history. Take a picnic and plan to spend the day at this hidden gem. This is a day-trip our family really enjoys and highly recommends. Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for children 5-12 (FREE admission for children under 5).
4. Step back in time.
Tucson has a rich and interesting history that is fascinating for children and adults!
- Presidio San Agustin del Tucson Museum- 196 N Court Ave. This museum is a re-creation of the Tucson Presidio built in 1775 that allows visitors to discover how Tucsonans lived during that period. The Presidio Museum has interactive experiences like blacksmith demonstrations, living history days, and family adventure hour with hands-on activities for kids. Open Wednesday-Sunday from 10 AM-4 PM. Admission is $5 for adults and $1 for children 6-14.
- Take a short road-trip south on I-19 to introduce your kids to one of Tucson's most iconic structures, Mission San Xavier de Bac, the "White Dove of the Desert". The mission is open to the public from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. each day. Access to the Church is currently limited to an area just inside the front doors for viewing, prayers and placing prayer candles. A limited number of visitors are permitted inside at any one time. The gift shop is open daily from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
- A little further south you'll find Tumacacori National Historic Park and the ruins of another mission founded by Father Kino in the late 1600s. The park is easily accessible and has an engaging Junior Ranger "seek and find" program that had our 8-year-old playing tour guide for us during a recent visit. There is an interesting museum on the grounds, access to the Santa Cruz River and the De Anza trail for hiking. The museum, visitor center, and park store are currently open only on Saturdays and Sundays, but the outdoor areas are open daily. Adult admission is $10 (16+) and is good for 7 days. Free admission for children. Children in 4th and 5th grades can get their whole family in for free with their National Park Pass.
Choose one of these Kid-friendly Tucson hikes and hit the trail, or plan a day trip or camping trip to nearby Catalina State Park or Mount Lemmon.
7. Be amused.
Another way to enjoy the great weather? Have some fun! Find mini-golf, bumper boats, and Go Karts at local amusement parks like Golf~n~Stuff and Funtasticks, or head to Trail Dust Town for western-themed rides and entertainment. As of March 2021, all of these parks are open with modifications for COVID-19 safety. Be sure to check ahead to find out what the safety requirements are for each park.
Take some time to create with your kids this spring break. Sign up for a class at Creative Juice (in its new location), paint ceramics at Color Me Mine at Park Place Mall (or pick up a to-go kit), or book a family visit to the Splat Pad at This n' That Creative Studio for some messy, creative fun! You can also pick up a Ben's Bells family activity box to get creative and give back at the same time.
View the desert like you've never seen it before...zipping high above the saguaros at Arizona Zipline Adventures in Oracle. This thrilling experience is definitely worth trying at least once and makes a typical Southern Arizona day feel like a vacation. Check out my review of our experience last September, and then book your own ecotour!
Like this article? East Tucson Macaroni Kid is full of ideas about things to do with kids in Tucson all year round!