Sometimes people call Tucson the foot of Arizona because it's boring, because it's barren, because it's "no Phoenix," etc.
Locals, you know that's not true. If you need a reminder, the Tucson community offers up a LOT of cool, recurring weekly and monthly events. Not only are the events on this cool, though—they’re also free. I can’t think a better-sounding combination.
Tucsonans, don't let yourself waste away in this culturally vibrant, diverse town. Get out and explore with Tucson’s 15 coolest, free-est attractions, separated into categories for your ease of use.
The more I’ve lived here, the more I’ve realized that Tucson is kind of a small-scale Austin, Texas—and, yes, I’ve been to Austin. Its music scene is, from a non-local standpoint, actually pretty popping. Any given week, many downtown / 4th Ave. venues host shows ranging in genres from jazz to EDM.
2nd Saturdays: 2nd Saturday is the Tucson equivalent of what is elsewhere known as First Friday. It’s one of Tucson’s many cultural affairs, mixing art, food, and music to create what 2nd Saturday organizer Sandy Mellor calls an urban block party. Though the art and food sometimes cost attendees, the music is always free, entertaining and oftentimes from local artists.
Hotel Congress: You can expect Congress to host a live show from a menagerie of touring artists at least a couple times a week. The historic hotel offers a pretty diverse range of shows, too—they’ve hosted groups including chillwave Hippie Sabotage, pop-punk Modern Baseball and new-wave Martha Davis and The Motels. Every week, though, catch DJ Sid the Kid’s ‘80s/’90s-themed Monday House Party, cumbia-inspired DJ DirtyVerbs Friday nights on the Plaza, and a bunch of local DJs at Saturdaze Dance Party every Saturday night, among many other weekly Congress events.
Cushing Street Cool Jazz: Every Saturday night from 7 to 10 p.m., Cushing Street Bar and Restaurant hosts a “cool” jazz showcase featuring the music of Jeff Lewis and pals. Jazzy.
ARTS & CULTURE
The Old Pueblo has a pretty wonky art subculture—I get it, "keep Tucson weird." With this subculture, though, brings profound artists whose galleries and works go against the grain—and a lot of the time, admission is free.
Words on the Avenue: Storytellers, slam poets, freestylers and more gather at Cafe Passe every last Sunday of the month to speak their minds at Words on the Avenue, an open mic night. There are rules, so study up before you show up at 6:30 p.m.
MOCA Tucson: Admire something beautiful for something debatably more beautiful—free admission, every last Sunday of the month at the MOCA. Life is good.
Tucson Museum of Art: Speaking of free admission—it’s real at Tucson Art Museum every first Thursday of the month from 5 to 8 p.m. Cheers.
UA Museum of Art: Admission is always free for UA students, faculty and staff, AAM members, children, and guests who have SNAP cards or Tribal IDs. If you don’t fit one of those bills, I’m sorry.
Downtown art galleries: There are so many, and most of them are free. Check out Moen Mason for work that challenges social norms, Solar Culture for culturally-empowering local and national mediums, or Dinnerware Artspace for a variety of revolving contemporary exhibitions.
Fitness classes can be expensive, but Tucson luckily has a couple free workout options (aside from hiking in Sabino Canyon or Lemmon, of course).
Even in if you technically have to spend money in order to obtain anything physical at a farmer’s market, it’s free to explore and enjoy the experience. Not to mention, you’ll probably meet your fair share of characters—Tucson has plenty of them.
Banner - UMC: Open every Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at UA’s Medical Center, 1501 N. Campbell Avenue.
Maynard’s: Open every Monday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Night owls, take note—you don’t have to forsake your precious sleep-in schedule for fresh food.) If you don’t know where Maynard’s is (how couldn’t you?), they’re located at 400 N. Toole Avenue.
St. Phillip’s Plaza: Their artisan market runs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and their classic one runs every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Both located at 4280 N. Campbell Avenue.
Plaza Palomino: Open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 2960 N. Swan Road.
Downtown Arts and Crafts Mercado: Open every Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the south lawn of the Main Library, 201 N. Stone Avenue.