What to do in Tucson while house and pet sitting

Lewis Packwood
Tucson, Arizona, United States

If you’re travelling to Tucson, Arizona for pet sitting or house sitting, we’ve put together a guide to activities around the city. Read on for useful information on what to do in Tucson, where to eat and where to take your furry companions.

Tucson attractions

1. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Although it’s billed as a museum, this actually boasts a botanical garden, zoo, aquarium and art gallery in addition to various museum exhibits, providing enormous potential for one or more days out. Stretching over nearly 100 acres, the Desert Museum showcases around 200 animal species and more than 1,000 plant species found in the local region, and is one of the most visited attractions in Arizona. The Earth Sciences Center explores the region’s geology, while kids will enjoy getting up close with sea creatures in the Stingray Touch experience.

2. Saguaro National Park

As its name implies, Saguaro National Park is home to thousands upon thousands of impressive saguaro cacti, which are native to the Sonoran Desert. These mighty plants can reach over 12 metres in height, and can live for up to 200 years. The 92,000-acre park is split into two halves: the Tucson Mountain District to the west of the city, and the Rincon Mountain District to the east. Both areas provide hiking along more than 266 kilometres of trails, along with cycling and horse riding routes.

3. Catalina State Park

The area around Tucson is a hiker’s paradise, and the 5,500-acre Catalina State Park provides plenty of opportunities for rambling through and camping in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Only around half an hour’s drive from the middle of Tucson, the park is home to more than 150 species of birds, as well as an equestrian centre.

4. Tucson Botanical Gardens

Right in the heart of the city you can find the beautiful Tucson Botanical Gardens, featuring 16 individually themed gardens. They include delights such as the Backyard Bird Garden, Aloe Alley and the Children’s Discovery garden, as well as the Cox Butterfly and Orchid Pavilion, where you can find tropical butterflies between October and May. 

Free things to do in Tucson

1. Mission San Xavier del Bac

Founded in 1692, the Mission San Xavier del Bac around 16 kilometres south of Tucson is the oldest European structure in Arizona. The current building dates back to the late 1700s, and this outstanding piece of Spanish colonial architecture is an oft-visited pilgrimage site, attracting around 200,000 visitors every year. The mission is still actively run by Franciscans, and the church is free to enter, although only a limited number of people are allowed inside at one time.

2. University of Arizona Campus

Pick up a free map from the visitor centre and enjoy a self-guided tour of the expertly landscaped gardens of the University of Arizona, which was founded over a hundred years ago in 1885. The main campus stretches across 1.5 square kilometres and includes 179 buildings, while the gardens feature plants from around the world, including one of the tallest Boojum trees in Arizona.

3. Sentinel Peak

The nearly 900-metre-high Sentinel Peak lies southwest of Tucson and provides commanding views of the city and excellent hiking opportunities. The mountain is easily recognisable from the stone ‘A’ near its summit, which was laid by University of Arizona students in 1915, and lends the peak its other name: ‘A’ Mountain. 

Mount Lemmon, Tucson, United States

Fun things to do in Tucson

1. Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway

The nearly 50-kilometre-long Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway takes travellers weaving through the Santa Catalina mountain range to the northeast of Tucson, up to an elevation of over 2000 metres. Every corner provides a fresh, stunning vista of precarious rock formations and precipitous valleys and there are various rest stops along the way where you can disembark to enjoy the incredible views.

2. Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

Located in the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Coronado National Forest, the Sabino Canyon is a haven for plants and wildlife and offers beautiful views along with varied hiking opportunities. An electric shuttle bus tours the area, providing onboard commentary about the natural history of the landscape, and the Sabino Creek running through the canyon is studded with several large and stunning waterfalls.

3. Pima Air & Space Museum

This huge museum is home to around 400 aircraft and spacecraft, including famous Second World War planes like the Boeing B-29A Superfortress and P-51D Mustang. Other highlights include an SR-71 Blackbird, F-14 Tomcat, giant seaplanes and an extensive exhibit on the history of space flight. There’s even a full-size replica of the Wright brothers’ first airplane from 1903.

What to do in Tucson with pets

1. Agua Caliente Hill Trail

Located in the Coronado National Forest, the 14-kilometre-round-trip Agua Caliente Hill trail provides some excellent views of Tucson and dogs are welcome, provided they are kept on a leash. Be aware that some parts of the trail are difficult and it’s unsuitable for walking in the heat of summer.

2. Barrio Brewing Company

This family-run brewery was founded in 1991 and offers a wide range of craft beers in addition to a sumptuous food menu that includes burgers, sandwiches, salads, chicken wings and tacos. Dogs are welcome in the large covered patio area outside.

3. Dogs-N-Donuts

As its name implies, Dogs-N-Donuts provides donuts that are suitable for canine consumption – as well as sweet treats for their human companions. It’s not just donuts either, as there’s a full range of doggie toys and treats on sale, even doggie-friendly cakes!

4. DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

The Degrazia Gallery in the Sun hosts several permanent collections showcasing the art and culture of the southwest, as well as regularly changing temporary exhibitions centred around local artists or themes. Dogs are welcome inside, as long as they remain on a leash.

Man holding a dog

Best restaurants in Tucson

1. The Grill at Hacienda del Sol

Located at the base of the Santa Catalina mountain range, The Grill at Hacienda del Sol offers fine dining in beautiful desert surroundings. The ranch was originally constructed in 1929, and from the 1940s onwards it operated as a getaway for Hollywood stars such as Katherine Hepburn and Clark Gable.

2. Mariscos Chihuahua

Tucson is famed for its Mexican food and Mariscos Chihuahua is one of the most highly rated Mexican restaurants in the city. As the name implies, it specialises in seafood, offering treats like shrimp tacos and shrimp ceviche in addition to oysters and whole fried fish.

3. Tito & Pep

Located in midtown, Tito & Pep is a contemporary neighbourhood bistro that specialises in cocktails and mesquite-fired cuisine – mesquite being a hardwood that’s used to add flavour to meats during the smoking process. Current menu highlights include grilled octopus with salsa, avocado and red onion, and mesquite-grilled pork chop with quince and greens, although the menus change regularly.

Hopefully we’ve given you a few good ideas of what to do in Tucson while house and pet sitting, but we’re sure you’ll find plenty more places to discover in this vibrant southwest city!

If you’ve yet to enter the friendly world of house and pet sitting, find out more about how TrustedHousesitters works right here. And if you’re looking for more guides to various pet and house sitting locations across the world, as well as general pet advice, take a look at our blog.

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