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While not being a world famous zoo, the Reid Park Zoo is still one of the major attractions in the city. Due to its relatively small size, the zoo can be explored at a leisurely pace in less than two hours. The animals are on display in pleasant natural settings. Chances are you will envy the two polar bear cubs as they happily float in ice-cold water while you're struggling in the Tucson summer heat. Luckily there are plenty of shade and cooling stations available.
Located on 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.
This is the oldest archaeological museum in the Southwest, and the best place in Tucson to learn about the life of Arizona's Indians, both past and present. Impressive displays of Indian art tell the cultural history of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico. There is also a good natural history section demonstrating earth and climate changes in the area. A museum shop is also located on-site and sells related books and crafts.
Tucson Botanical Gardens is a major Tucson tourist attraction, and not just for plant lovers. Apart from a rich collection of cactus 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.
Located in downtown Tucson, the Tucson Children's Museum offers interactive exhibit areas that allow children to explore and discover things for themselves. The different exhibits here are constantly changing, but in the past have included Dinosaur Canyon, the TCM Bakery and Farmer's Market, Wee World, the ZOOMzone, and the Ocean Discovery Center. Parents just love bringing their children here because not only will the little ones have a great time, but they will learn something as well.
This building, designed in 1929 by Los Angeles architect M. Eugene Durfee, once belonged to the chain of movie theaters showing Fox Studio productions and was decorated with those Art Deco motifs that were typical of the movie houses of the period. After long years of falling into disrepair and neglect since 1974, it is now in the process of being renovated and revitalized, due to the much-publicized efforts of a group of conservationist citizens. Today it hosts a variety of live performances, including concerts, musicals, and lectures.
There is an intriguing legend behind this shrine on Main Street near the old historic barrio, a story involving broken hearts and crimes of passion, but you'll have to read the plaque mounted on it to discover the tale. El Tiradito has been part of local folklore for a long time and is now a national historic site. Take a peek and make your own wish.
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.
If you want to learn more about Tucson's role in the long and often troubled relations between Spanish settlers, early Anglo pioneers and Native American inhabitants, visit the Fort Lowell Museum. This museum is located within an old adobe building at Fort Lowell Park. Here, the Arizona Historical Society presents exhibits and photograph shows on the Apache Wars and historic Fort Lowell. The reconstructed Officers' Quarters serve as a visitor center.
This institution is totally dedicated to the preservation of the history of flight, be it commercial, military, or even interplanetary. The museum opened in 1976 with just 75 aircraft and has now grown to have more than 250 on display. A recent addition is the Northrop F-5B "Freedom Fighter." Be prepared to spend the entire day if you, or someone in your party, is a aircraft buff. The exhibits on the floor here rotate, and special events and conferences are scheduled regularly.
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 hike to Seven Falls and summer evening shuttle rides (paid for by pre-paid reservations). Sabino tram and bear shuttles rides are available.