Exploring Tucson with kids

Looking for a winter getaway? Thinking ahead to Spring Break? Tucson delighted us with genuine nature and wilderness, a lively, historic downtown, which has been newly revitalized, and resorts with all the amenities for a sunny vacation. We’ll definitely be back!

Hotels.com asked me to share my favorite activities and tips for exploring Tucson, so start here as you plan your wintery vacation.

Tucson with kids

When picking a hotel, remember that Tucson’s warm weather makes outdoor space crucial: you’ll want a resort with all the amenities, with leisure space for soaking up the sun and a refreshing pool. If you plan to golf, hiking, or horseback ride, staying at a resort out of town will put you close to the outdoors. If shopping and dining is the central focus, stay right in town! 

What to do in Tucson with kids:

Saguaro National Park:

This park of desert landscapes has two entrances, and two ‘sides’. Its two sections are on either side of the city of Tucson. The park is named for the large saguaro cactus, native to its desert environment. And yes, this is the type of cactus you picture when you think of the Southwestern desert. On the west side, Signal Hill Trail leads to petroglyphs of the ancient Hohokam people.On the east, Cactus Forest Drive is a loop road with striking views of the desert landscape. There is a robust array of ranger-led programs and junior rangers at the park; they even have Not-So-Junior Rangers, catering the the retirees who visit.

tucson hike

If you can’t make it into the park, try Sabino Canyon, just outside of town. This awesome hiking park has a tram system to take families to the top of a canyon loop, which they can then hike down (or stay on the tram). For families with kids ready to do more hiking, there are many loops that don’t necessitate the tram at all. Just be sure to take plenty of water, and a hat/sun protection. There are bathrooms and drinking fountains on site.

Tucson Botanical Gardens:

Open 8:30 am until 4:30 pm daily, the botanical garden is a great spot to hit in the morning, while the desert sun is still mild. There’s a butterfly garden, and plenty of meandering walking trails, plus tours if you’re up for it (the bird tour is a good one). It’s $13 for adults and $7.50 for kids; consider becoming a member if you think you may visit more than once a year.

Horseback riding:

Check out Houston’s Horseback riding with kids. There are many options in and around Tucson, however, as well as several dude ranches, should you want to make an entire vacation of it. On average, two-hour rides are around $60.

Tucson Arizona

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum: 

See raptors, visit the ‘Cat Canyon’, check out a desert garden, feed birds in an aviary, and hike short nature trails and loop trails at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, celebrated as one of the top museums in the Southwest. Kids can easily spend half a day or more here, so plan accordingly! There are indoor and outdoor attractions, so bring sun protection and water. Check out the hours of operation here. Adults are $20 (age 13 and up), kids are $8 (under three are free).

Where to eat:

Tucson has been recently awarded with the UNESCO designation of World City of Gastronomy. The city’s cultural heritage is celebrated in its food, which is very multicultural. For a memorable meal, head to Downtown Kitchen, the Flying V, or, especially with kids, the Tucson Tamale Company and Cup Cafe. Many restaurants are within a few blocks of each other in Tucson’s downtown area, so make an evening out of it and wander a bit after dinner, keeping an eye out for ice cream and cocktails (if desired).

Westin La Paloma

Tip: wherever you lay your head will become your oasis in hot and dry Arizona. Make sure your hotel or rental has a swimming pool, shaded grounds, and some indoor activites in addition to the standard tennis courts, fitness center, and workout clubs.

Westin La Paloma

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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