Five mountain ranges surround the high-rises of downtown Tucson, Arizona, creating a dramatic backdrop where vibrant wildflowers and cacti grow out of jagged, earth-tone-colored mountainsides, and reptiles slither across the colorful floor of the Sonoran Desert down below. Dubbed a “mini mecca for the arts” by “The Wall Street Journal,” Tucson also caters to culture vultures, particularly through its downtown region, which is home to 215 arts organizations and more than 35 galleries. Whether you wish to expose your kids to Tucson’s rich world of nature or the arts, the city has an array of family-friendly attractions, including indoor activities that serve as a respite during the region’s brutal summers.
Use Your Imagination
Children’s Museum Tucson is home to 12 exhibit halls, covering such subjects as the human body, animals and electricity. Hands-on displays let kids climb inside a fire truck, create works of art, use building blocks to construct small cities and play in a sand pit. The museum hosts special events as well, including storytime sessions, seasonal craft workshops and a pirate festival. The Gaslight Theatre provides family entertainment, including the staging of five musical comedy melodramas throughout the year. Audiences are encouraged to cheer and boo loudly during the performance. The theater also has a youth division that mounts productions starring and geared specifically toward children.
Party at the Planetarium
Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium is on the University of Arizona campus. The planetarium offers a series of shows, recommended for kids of all ages, throughout the week, including those that explore the moon, stars, planets and asteroids. Tucked away in the Quinlan Mountains, Kitt Peak National Observatory Visitor Center and Museum is on the Tohono O’odham Reservation and home to the world’s largest collection of optical telescopes. From early September through mid-July, the visitor’s center and three observatories offer evening programs where you can view other galaxies and planets from the massive telescopes.
Science and Nature
Pima Air and Space Museum houses 150 planes indoors, including sea planes, World War II bombers and F-14 Tomcats. The museum hosts Soarin’ Saturdays, a special program where kids can build model planes; gallery tours, storytime sessions and craft workshops are also included. The special event is held on the fourth Wednesday of every month as well. Take your little nature buffs to the International Wildlife Museum, a massive space with dioramas depicting more than 400 species, including birds, mammals and insects, in their natural habitats. There’s also an on-site theater that shows wildlife-themed short movies throughout the day.
Tucson Indoor Sports Center is a 21,000-square-foot multi-sport complex that hosts youth sports leagues, including soccer and inline hockey. The leagues run for 10 weeks and split into two age groups of 9 and under and 18 and under. The complex also stages dodgeball tournaments and sports camps. Kids can burn off some energy at My Gym Tucson. The indoor facility offers fitness and movement classes for children between the ages of one month and 13 years, including activities that incorporate dance, gymnastics, sports and relay games.