Tucson with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day

Tucson with Tweens: A Family Vacation

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With sunny skies year around, a rich history that dates back more than 4,000 years and fascinating high-desert scenery all around, families with tweens can enjoy a fine family vacation day in and around Tucson -- even in the heat of the summer. Officially founded as a city in 1775 and still known as The Old Pueblo, Tucson is fascinating, exciting and, sometimes, a little hot -- but never boring!


After breakfast, the family might enjoy visiting Old Tucson (201 S. Kinney Road, Tucson, AZ 85735 520-883-0100; $16.95/adult and $10.95 for children 4 to 11), a Western town and movie set that still serves as the backdrop for movie and television productions throughout the year and offers daily Wild West entertainment. There is a lot of walking from place to place outdoors at Old Tucson, which might be a little toasty in the summer heat, but the insides of the buildings are air conditioned and there's definitely a lot to see in Tucson with tweens. There's Miss Kitty's dance hall, the general store, a stagecoach ride, a train ride, horseback trail rides. There are also a number of dining and shopping options.


After Old Tucson, the family might want to take a ride through the nearby Saguaro National Park (3693 South Old Spanish Trail Tucson , AZ 85730 (520) 733-5100; $10/car). During the cooler months, the park offers a number of great hiking trails through the Giant Saguaro, while in the summer a drive through the park in an air-conditioned car offers spectacular views.

If the tweens get bored, two great stops close to the park are the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (2021 North Kinney Road, Tucson, Arizona 85743 520-883-1380; rates start at $9.50/adults and $2.25/kids 6 to 12) and at the International Wildlife Museum (4800 W Gates Pass Road Tucson, AZ 85745, 520-629-0100; $7/adults and $2.50/children 4 to 12). The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is an outdoor adventure. The family will be exposed to desert plants and animals. This is an outdoor walking tour, so if the heat is a problem, you might want to skip this in the summer months. But with light clothing, sunscreen, and a hat, the museum is definitely worth the effort and will help the desert become a much more friendly and familiar place.

The International Wildlife Museum is a beautiful and exciting place. It is an indoor experience highlighting more than 400 beautifully realistic species displays. There are no live animals in the museum (except for a couple of displays of insects or turtles in a carefully controlled and sealed environment). The other animals are taxidermy displays and very realistic. There are displays of wild animals such as lions, tigers, various bears, as well as birds and insects. There is, of course, a gift shop and a cafeteria that serves snacks as well as sandwiches and drinks. The Wildlife Museum is air conditioned and is a very pleasant environment for those hot afternoons. Maps of the exhibits are given at the museum entrance but it's really impossible to get lost while on the path.

If these attractions don't appeal, the family can always visit the Tucson Museum of Art, Biosphere 2, or the Tucson Botanical Gardens. There are also several attractions in the towns not far from Tucson, including Marana, Bisbee and Casa Grande.


There are many choices for dinner in Tucson. With tweens, you might have to navigate some picky eating habits, but there are options for any kind of food the family enjoys. There are many Mexican restaurants serving both authentic Mexican and Mexican-American food. There are also fine Italian and Asian restaurants. Fast food can be found on almost street corner, as well as family-style restaurants.

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