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Top Rated Attractions in Tucson

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Pima Air & Space Museum

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 aircrafts 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.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

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.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

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.

Mount Lemmon

At 9,159 feet (2,792 m), Mount Lemmon is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains. The mountain is part of the Coronado National Forest, where giant Saguaro cacti tower and a variety of desert vegetation blooms year around. The mountain is also home to the Mount Lemmon Observatory, which is used by the University of Arizona. Crowned by the dainty town of Summerhaven, this mighty mountain is traversed by a tapestry of windblown roads as well as the serpentine Catalina Highway. A hiking and camping wonderland, Mount Lemmon proudly watches over the enchanting desert landscape that unfolds along its lap. The Seven Cataracts and Windy Pointe Vista are some of the best vantage points on Mount Lemmon, offering incredible panoramas of Tucson.

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

Of all the natural attractions in and around Tucson, Sabino Canyon is certainly one of 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. The canyon and its surrounding area is a beautiful natural oasis thriving with desert flora and fauna, including a variety of cacti, butterflies and flowers, along with clear pools of water. You can reach the canyon via a picturesque hike or opt for the tram which offers spectacular views of the forest along the way.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

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.

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