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Located at the University of Arizona campus, the Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium is the place to go for astronomy buffs of all ages. Attend the special planetarium shows here, complete with high definition digital dome projection. Kids will have fun participating in the hands-on science exhibits and exploring the history of planet earth at the mineral museum. The planetarium show themes change every month, but the fact that their star projector can show over 8,000 stars never changes.
Center For Creative Photography is one of the nation's finest museums of photographic art. Founded in 1975 with the aid of world-renowned photographer Ansel Adams as part of the University of Arizona Art Complex, the Center is now an established institution offering public access to its large photo collection and research facilities. Today it is home to over 200 archival photo collections, as well as 90,000 photos by over 2,200 photographers. Gifts and photo publications are available at the on-site gift store.
Located on the University of Arizona campus, University of Arizona Museum of Art is home to a remarkable collection of Renaissance as well as 19th to 20th century art including works of such giants as Rembrandt, Rodin, Georgia O'Keefe, Rothko and Hopper. Apart from the permanent 15th century exhibit upstairs, there are changing exhibits around prominent artists and themes. The on-site bookstore and gift shop is a great place to pick up a souvenir as well.
Tucson Botanical Gardens is a major tourist attraction in the city that's not meant just for plant lovers. Apart from a rich collection of cacti and desert wildflowers, the gardens offer an educational walk around the history of the native Tohono O'odham Indians and the efforts of local scientists to preserve native seeds. Don't miss the wonderful Nuestro Jardin, the traditional Mexican-American neighborhood garden, or the shaded restaurant patio.
Tucson Museum of Art proudly features pieces created by artists in American West and Latin American. Most of the pieces are also contemporary modern in nature. The museum also features works by some of Arizona's most talented artists. Children under 12 and members are admitted free of charge and it's free for all on the first Sunday of the month. If art is what intrigues you, especially that of a local variety, then this place is a must-visit.
Of all the natural attractions in and around Tucson, Sabino Canyon is certainly the most popular. This large chasm in the Santa Catalina Mountains is where ancient Hohokam people built irrigation dams while mammoths roamed the ground. Access is free, but there is a charge for parking. Highlights are swimming (conditions allowing) in clear pools after a six-mile (ten kilometer) hike to Seven Falls and summer evening shuttle rides (paid for by pre-paid reservations). Sabino tram and bear shuttles rides are available.
The Mission San Xavier del Bac is perhaps Tucson's best-known historic landmark. Established in 1692 by the Spanish missionary Father Kino, 16.09 kilometers (10 miles) south of what is now downtown Tucson on the Tohono O'odham Indian reservation, San Xavier del Bac is considered one of the finest examples of Mexican folk baroque architecture. The mission's spotless whitewashed walls are embellished with the contrasting colors of the ornately handcrafted mesquite-wood entrance that adds a tinge of old-world finesse to the structure. The mission that stands today is, in fact, the second mission built between 1783 to 1797, and yet is the oldest European building in the state of Arizona. The parish is still active and holds mass every week.
This world-famous museum is also a zoo that displays the creatures of the surrounding desert in their natural habitats. Located in the middle of the Sonoran desert about a half an hour drive from Tucson's city center, it also provides breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain ranges. The gift shop has an excellent selection of Sonoran desert souvenirs. This is a must for any visitor staying in Tucson for more than just one day.