Getting there and getting around in Tucson

by Terri Cook
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Both Phoenix and Tucson are good arrival points for exploring southeastern Arizona, but it’s best to base yourself in Tucson to visit the attractions described here. You will need a car to get around the area; if you choose to fly in, you can rent a vehicle at either city’s airport. Tucson is located about 180 kilometers south of Phoenix on Interstate 10.

With a population of more than half a million, Tucson offers a wide variety of accommodations, restaurants and other services. A great place to start your visit is Saguaro National Park, which has two districts located about 45 minutes apart by car: the larger Rincon Mountain District east of town, and the Tucson Mountain District on the city’s western edge. A single admission fee covers both units and is valid for seven days.

Set aside a day to see the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, located 23 kilometers west of the city. A combination zoo, botanical garden, art gallery and natural history museum, the Desert Museum is unusual in that most of its collections — including 56,000 plant specimens — are displayed outdoors and are living. The Museum also hosts a large regional mineral collection.

Located 45 kilometers southeast of Tucson in the Rincon Mountain foothills, Colossal Cave Mountain Park offers regularly scheduled, 50-minute cave tours every day of the year, as well as more in-depth (and candlelight!) tours, trail rides, birdwatching and camping.

Southeastern Arizona is also home to many other attractions of interest to geo-travelers and history buffs, including Tumacácori National Historic Park and Mission San Xavier del Bac; a tram ride, picnicking and hiking in Sabino Canyon; the scenic drive up Mount Lemmon; and the ASARCO Mineral Discovery Center. If you are in the area in February, be sure to visit the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, one of the world’s largest.

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