While it’s true the Greater Tucson Metro Area is full of great hiking trails, plenty of shopping and a burgeoning downtown scene, there’s plenty of adventures to be had across Arizona.
From the (relatively) frozen north of Flagstaff to the charm of Bisbee, here’s a few ways to get out of town this summer, and make the most of the hot season.
Flagstaff. Want to escape the scorching Arizona summer heat? Flagstaff is a no brainer. Its 6,900-foot elevation provides the cool temperatures and lush pine forests it’s famous for. Visit the Museum of Northern Arizona to discover rare Native American artifacts, check out the Lowell Observatory (one of the oldest in the United States), or hike through Walnut Canyon to see where 12th-century Sinagua tribes made their homes in the cliff sides. On top of all that, an impressive collection of local restaurants, breweries, shops and boutiques makes this the perfect weekend getaway.
Bisbee. In the late 1800s, tens of thousands flocked to Bisbee hoping to prosper from the copper, gold and silver deposits that were quickly mined to depletion. Today, it’s home to about 5,000 and remains a popular tourist destination to those from all over the state. The town is named after Judge DeWitt Bisbee, one of the financial backers of the Copper Queen Mine. If you’re looking to dive into a little Arizona history, Bisbee is home to the state’s first golf course, Turquoise Valley, the first community library, Copper Queen, and America’s oldest ballfield, Warren Ballpark, all dating from the 1800s—and all still in operation and open to the public. You can also take a ghost tour, try out a variety of healthy food restaurants or grab a drink at the famous St. Elmo bar, the oldest continually operated bar in Arizona.
Phoenix. We hate to admit it, but Phoenix does have quite a few fun things to do. If you’re in the mood for some hotter air and denser traffic, head up to the capital to see the Heard Museum of Native American history, the Phoenix Zoo, hike Camelback Mountain, relax with some friends and take a tube ride down the Salt River (don’t forget sunscreen and a hat), take a stroll down the Roosevelt Row arts and cultural district, check out the Musical Instrument Museum and don’t forget to stop by IKEA on your way back!
Sedona. A day trip to red rock country is always a good idea. This isolated desert city is just 30 miles south of Flagstaff with a mild climate and several hiking trails to choose from. The Chapel of the Holy Cross, which sits right on the edge of stunning red cliffs, is a beautiful site to see, regardless of your religious orientation, and the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village provides a serene outdoor space to do some shopping. Slide Rock State Park, originally a private apple farm, is now a unique Arizona tourist attraction where visitors can ride down a “natural” water current over smooth sandstone.
Patagonia Lake. Every year, Arizona residents descend to Patagonia Lake State Park for days full of swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking, sunbathing or whatever else you like to do at one of Arizona’s few bodies of water. Lake Patagonia is just an hour and a half drive from Tucson, and was created by damming the nearby Sonoita Creek. The park has accommodations for RV and tent camping, as well as cabins for those who’d like to stay a while longer.
Ostrich Farming. Drive about 40 minutes north on Interstate 10 and you’ll come across the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch and Petting Zoo. Open since 1999, this roadside attraction features so much more than just ostriches. They also have miniature donkeys, goats, deer, ducks, Rainbow Lorikeets, rabbits, sheep and most recently, stingrays, that originate from all over the world. The family-owned farm is open Friday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you want to “feed the critters,” prices range between $12 and $15 per person.
Oracle. Biosphere 2 has long been the one and only attraction in Oracle, Arizona, and continues to bring in around 100,000 visitors each year. It was built to develop self-sustaining space-colonization technology, and now serves as a research facility for the University of Arizona that offers tours to the public. But since 2016, there has been a new allurement in town. Arizona Zipline Adventures promises an experience of the Sonoran desert with a new perspective. With 20 acres of pristine desert land, the business has five ziplines that carry you 80 feet above the ground. You can even take a ride with an adventure-seeking companion. It costs $79 during the day and $89 to do it at night.
Tombstone. Tombstone hit its peak in the late 1800s, riding the prosperous wave of silver mining in Arizona that eventually died out before the turn of the century. But today, the “town too tough to die” remains a popular tourist attraction. Complete with a daily historical reenactment of the famous gunfight at O.K. Corral, preserved saloons, hotels, restaurants, the mines that started it all, and the world’s largest rose bush (planted in 1885), you can spend a day in a Hollywood-style wild west utopia.
Tubac. “Tubac” is the English spelling of a Hispanicized form of the original Tohono O’odham name “Cuwak,” which translates as “rotten.” But the town is anything but. Located just 23 miles from the U.S.-México border, Tubac has a rich history dating back to Spanish colonization of the land in the 18th century. The Tumacácori National Historic Park is home to the ruins of three Spanish mission communities. People come to Tubac for the numerous fine art galleries, high-end shopping and dining. The Tubac Golf Resort, a prestigiously rated property, offers everything you need to unwind in style.