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Top Rated Attractions in Tucson

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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.

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 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.

Sabino Canyon

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.

Titan Missile Museum

Here's a museum south of Tucson that must surely be considered unique and a chilly reminder of the Cold War. Go underground and see one of the old Titan ballistic missiles, watch the roll-back silo door open, follow operations at the launch control center, and watch demonstrations of countdown procedures. Tours begin every half hour. To reach Titan Missile Museum, go south on Interstate 19 and take exit 69 to the Duval Mine Road and follow the signs.

Reid Park Zoo

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.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

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.

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