Adventure Activities in Tucson -Try if You Dare
1. Fear Factor: Scorpion Lollipops
Gift shops here love to stock squirm-inducing suckers: candy that contains edible scorpions. In strawberry, apple, banana and blueberry flavors, these translucent lollipops appeal to Tucson's most adventurous eaters.
Forget the Tootsie Roll center: in Tucson the crunch comes from arachnids. Crablike in appearance, these desert dwellers have four legs, a pair of pincers and a long segmented tail with a stinger. They ambush and then paralyze their prey with venom. But scorpions also serve as snacks – for owls, bats, lizards, tarantulas and Tucson visitors intent upon finding ever-more daring activities. In high doses their venom can be fatal to humans, but Chinese medicine treats rheumatism with small amounts.
Just don't be the sucker who gets hooked. Over in China, Li Liuqun bit the head off a huge live scorpion that stung him. It tasted so sweet and nutty, he's consumed at least 10,000 over the last three decades.
2. Javelina Slalom: Tucson Mountain Park
Ten miles west of the city stretch 20,000 acres of saguaros, rattlers and granite-strewn trails. Sweep down arroyos and over exposed rock on a daring off-road mountain bike ride through Tucson Mountain Park.
The Sonoran Desert's wildlife emerges in force around sunrise, from coyotes to red-tail hawks. But most dramatic may be the javelinas that snuffle and snort, especially along the 13-mile round trip Yetman Trail in the northeast corner. Part of the peccary family, these dusty critters resemble hairy, faux-hawky pigs on stilts.
Aggressive and equipped with tusks, javelinas (pronounced "ha-va-LEE–nas") run in bands and reek, thanks to their musk glands. Javelinas rarely attack humans, but if you encounter one, stop and calmly back up. Getting into a tussle with javelinas is not the kind of adventure activity in Tucson that you desire.
Tucson Mountain Park
Ajo Way to Kinney Road, then turn right on Gates Pass Road
Tucson, AZ 85745
3. Tower of Taxidermy: International Wildlife Museum
Introduce an educational twist to your adventure vacation in Tucson with a visit to this excellent museum. The International Wildlife Museum highlights more than 400 species of insects, birds and mammals, including a black rhino shot and donated by President Theodore Roosevelt. Visitors also meet "Big Terror," a man-eater from northern India. This 11-foot-long male Bengal tiger slaughtered a dozen or so people before a Californian hunter killed him in 1969.
The museum resembles a French Foreign Legion fort (based on the real thing in Chad, Africa). Inside, the main gallery contains a 33-foot crag stacked with wild goats and sheep. But this impressive collection prefers to showcase predator-prey relationships: a bobcat batting a ptarmigan, wolves devouring a caribou, and Arctic foxes stalking a musk ox, to name just a few. It's a great place for Tucson visitors to dream of travel adventures while in the safety and comfort of a museum.
International Wildlife Museum
4800 W. Gates Pass Road
Tucson, AZ 85745
Mon-Fri 9AM-5PM, Sat & Sun 9AM-6PM
Adults $7, children $2.50, kids 5 & under free
4. Explore Colossal Cave Mountain Park
Now on the National Register of Historic Places, this limestone maze sheltered prehistoric peoples for centuries before its 1879 "discovery," and it later hid train robbers. Legend claims a sheriff staked out the entrance to Colossal Cave for two weeks, before learning the scoundrels had hightailed out the back way and were whooping it up in a remote saloon.
Don a hard hat and clamber into areas not open to the public since the 1950s. Guides steer small groups (7-12 people) through 90 minutes of ladders and caves, followed by a buffet dinner and bonfire on the ramada, weather permitting. Or truly crank up your Tucson adventure travel with the Wild Cave Tour, which encourages adventurous visitors to wriggle a quarter mile into the stony passageways.
Colossal Cave Mountain Park
16721 E. Old Spanish Trail
Vail, AZ 85641
Ladder Tour $20 daytime, $45 with dinner; Wild Cave Tour $55 intermediate, $75 advanced
5. Big-Time Burger: Lindy's on Fourth
Follow up the Colossal Cave with a burger worthy of the same name. Lindy's on Fourth serves a three-pound wrist-wrencher. The O.M.F.G. contains 12 patties, 12 slices of cheese and all the fixings. Devour it in less than 20 minutes and receive a free meal and T-shirt.
Just beware: 19 out of 20 contenders fail this daring challenge, including Adam Richman, the host of the Travel Channel's Man v. Food (he managed to clean his plate – but only did so after 44 minutes – during a 2009 episode). Perhaps a more manageable goal would have been the 1.5-pound, six-patty AZ Hooligan...
Lindy's on Fourth
431 N. Fourth Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85705
Mon 11AM-4PM, Tues & Wed 11AM-10PM, Thu-Sat 11AM-2AM, Sun noon-5PM