Feed the turtles at the turtle pond. Hidden in plain sight on the corner of Park Avenue and 2nd Street is the "President's Pond." This little oasis in the middle of campus has been around for decades and is often frequented by turtles, birds and fish. Students come to this spot to relax between classes and feed the animals. The university staff continues to care for this pond, in order to preserve welcoming, open greenspace in a busy urban area.
Go to Spring Fling. The "largest student-run carnival in the United States" happens every year right here at the University of Arizona. Come to the UA Mall on April 3-5 to experience 40 different classic carnival rides and games, live music and delicious food cooked up fresh by dozens of student organizations. This 45-year tradition brings in 25,000 people to the school and is produced completely by nine student directors who work year-round. Talk about teamwork!
Play a sport on the mall. Throw the football, kick the soccer ball, maybe even throw a frisbee or two. Nothing says soaking up the Southern Arizona sun as a UA student like running around on the grass with a group of your new college friends and blowing off some energy with a friendly game.
Pull an all nighter in the library. While the Weekly recommends having as much fun as possible during your glory years at the UA, we can't ignore the fact that homework and tests do exist. For the days you have to buckle down and get some work done, take advantage of the nearly 24/7 main library on campus. With plenty of flexible study space—and lots of computers—few spots offer a better environment for actually being productive.
Rent a movie from Casa Video like it's the 1990s. Two floors, filled with more than 50,000 videos, audiobooks and video games, and it's all just a short drive east from campus on Speedway. Casa Video has a film for every taste with their extensive collection of foreign and independent movies, classics, documentaries and the latest popular releases. And if you get thirsty looking through all those titles, Casa has its own bar with rotating local craft beers on tap. Have a cold beer and watch a classic flick on one of their big screens if you can't decide on your own movie to take home.
Discover your favorite eegee flavor of the month. Every city has their beloved home-grown, fast-food indulgence, and here in Tucson it's eegee's. So if you really want to experience the Tucson lifestyle, eating at this restaurant for some quick energy between errands or some late night munchies is a must. Each month, eegee's offers a new flavor of their signature sugary frozen beverage, along with the resident flavors: strawberry, lemon, piña colata and skinny berry. If you didn't get to check out watermelon in July, you really missed out! In August, you'll find blue raspberry. What will your favorite flavor be?
Explore some of Tucson's dozens of thrift stores. (Seriously, we have a lot!) Whether you're looking for designer name brands, outrageously loud yet unique pieces, or just some sensibly priced everyday attire, this city has a thrift store for you. The Goodwills, the vintage antique shops, the nonprofit resellers and the highly selective Buffalo Exchange will keep you busy and far away from those expensive boutiques storefronts. Your wallet will thank you later.
Go to Bookmans and wonder: "Why doesn't every city have one of these?" Walk through rows and of the tall red bookshelves that live inside every Bookmans Entertainment Exchange store and you're bound to find something you love. Founded in Tucson in 1976, Bookmans is a hub for unique and gently used books, video games, instruments, magazines, comics, music CDs, vinyls, movies, housewares and more. Their focus is on individual expression and keeping valuable items out of the landfill. Stop by any of their three Tucson locations to find out what the hype is all about.
- Courtesy photo
- Mt. Lemmon
Hike Mount Lemmon. What could be better than escaping the mind-numbing heat of summer in Southern Arizona and spending a few hours amongst pine trees and wildlife? Mount Lemmon provides just the right amount of respite from the heat, with several trails that are can't-miss items for any desert dweller. Check out Marshall Gulch trail, which is located off the Catalina Highway, or literally dozens of other trails that are sure to leave you enthralled and in better physical shape by the time you cruise down the mountain.
Meet your favorite authors at the Festival of Books. If you're kicking it in Tucson over spring break, watch as the university's campus transforms into the third-largest annual book festival in the country. The white tents that crowd the UA Mall will be filled with panels on today's popular topics, author appearances, kids games, artwork displays and much more. Admission to the festival is free, but if you want to see any events, it's best to reserve tickets in advance. More than 130,000 people attended last year, which brought some much-appreciated revenue to the group of literacy nonprofits that the festival raises money for each time around.
Experience your first monsoon. Tucson is dry as a bone—for about 10 months out of the year. During July and August, be prepared for some serious and spontaneous rainfall. Wind and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico travels northwest to our desert city each year, creating beautiful yet sometimes destructive storms. Certain streets will flood extensively, so remember Arizona's "Stupid Motorist Law" which allows rescue agencies to charge trapped individuals up to $2,000 if they need saving after intentionally driving into flooded areas.
Take a break at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Tired of staring at your computer screen all day? Take a study break and get a change of scenery at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. For a $13 student rate, you can experience birds, butterflies, and all the desert flora you can think of. Plan ahead and participate in a drawing or yoga class to truly become one with nature. It's only an eight-minute drive from campus!
Start a weird succulent phase because you're living in the desert now. Succulents are the millennial trend of choice right now, so what better way to be in vogue than to pick up some of these dainty little desert plants at a locally owned nursery? You can find succulents of all shapes, sizes and colors at places like Green Things, Spadefoot Nursery, EcoGro, Desert Survivors and more.
They're a low-maintenance house plant for even the worst plant parents, just as long as you give them lots of sunlight and sparring amounts of water.
Watch a non-UA sporting event. Tucson is home to more than just the Wildcats, with FC Tucson of the United Soccer League One and the Tucson Roadrunners of the American Hockey League both playing games here. The former is in the midst of its first season of professional soccer, with three home matches in August, against Orlando City B (Saturday, Aug. 24) and the Chattanooga Red Wolves Soccer Club (Friday, Aug. 30). The Roadrunners' season doesn't start until October, with the team's first home game on Friday, Oct. 18. Sure, the cost of your tickets isn't covered by your mountain of student loans, but it's good, clean fun that's sure to allow you to see better quality sports than anything you'll see at an NCAA soccer match or whatever league the Ice Cats are playing in these days.
See at show at Club Congress. Club Congress, located inside the century-old Hotel Congress, is the heart of downtown cool. The club hosts shows both inside the stylish Hotel Congress and outside on the Plaza. You'll see local bands, up-and-coming indie acts and veteran musicians, along with comedians, storytellers, DJs and more. The upcoming HOCO Fest, over Labor Day weekend, promises to bring dozens of musicians in a wide range of genres, so it's your chance to get right with the music scene over just a few days.
See a show at Rialto Theatre. Across the street from Hotel Congress, you'll find the historic Rialto Theatre, a onetime vaudeville house that is now home to downtown Tucson's most rocking palace. The Rialto features several shows a week, ranging from classic rock to hip hop to indie superstars to jazz to you-call-it. Upcoming artists include blues legend Robert Cray, longtime Bruce Springsteen guitairst Little Steven and the Disciplines of Soul and Latin rockers Los Lobos. The Rialto also stages shows at the nearby 191 Toole, a former warehouse that offers a more intimate space for rising stars like Durand Jones and the Indications.
See a show at Fox Theatre. Down the street from Rialto, you'll find the Fox Theatre, a gorgeously restored venue that's more upscale that the Rialto. The Fox's fall schedule includes rocker Chris Isaac, comedian Tom Segura, singer Rufus Wainwright and stoners Cheech and Chong, among others.
See a show at Centennial Hall. You may know this large building as the place where you sit through your giant class with more than 1,000 students, but Centennial Hall is actually one of the best places on campus to catch a live show. This massive auditorium features musical shows of all kinds, and plenty of live theater.
Go sing karaoke. Who doesn't enjoy getting riled up on booze and belting out a few out-of-tune, yet lovably done songs in a dimly lit bar? There are karaoke nights at virtually any bar around campus on any given night (save for Fridays), so get off your couch and shoot your shot. Who knows, maybe you'll be good enough to land a standing ovation from your fellow bar-room brethren.
Volunteer somewhere. Remember when your parents told you to do something with your four-year college tenure besides downing beer bongs and slices of Time Market pizza? Well, luckily for you, dear college student, there are myriad ways to do just that in our fair city. There are copious amounts of organizations that would love to see your smiling face, including the Humane Society, the Food Bank of Southern Arizona, or literally any of the other groups listed online. You'll feel great knowing you're helping those in need, and may just get to go home with a four-legged friend (if you volunteer at the Humane Society or Pima Animal Care Center, at least).
Go to a restaurant that's not close to campus. Tucson is a UNESCO Food Heritage city, with thousands of eclectic restaurants to satiate any food group or culinary genre you can shake a stick at. Get out of your boring routine of wandering half-stoned down University Boulevard or Fourth Avenue and visit a Meditteranean, Middle Eastern, Ethiopean, Japanese, Chinese, Serbian or Thai joint. We've got all that an a whole lot more.
Take a trip to Bisbee. The town that dubs itself "Mayberry on Acid" is a less than two hours away by car, with a host of wild, weird and wonderful offerings at its disposal. Grab a bite to eat at any of the loveable streetside cafes, or grab a pint on the patio of Bisbee Brewing Company. The onetime mining mecca, which has been refurbished into a funky town full of neat shops, restaurants and bars, has something for everyone in your traveling party. Plus, Bisbee is a mile high, so the cooler weather will provide you some much-needed reprieve from summer's triple-digit temps.
Visit an airplane graveyard. Arizona's arid climate makes it the perfect place for retirees, both of the human and airplane variety. Southern Arizona is home to some of the largest commercial and military aviation "boneyards." Pinal Air Park on the northern fringe of Marana offers tours of their collection of planes, while Davis Monthan Air Force Base's boneyard is available for tours on occasion as well. There's also the can't-miss Pima Air and Space Museum, which features a host of neat commercial and military iron that's sure to catch your eye, regardless of your interest in the skies.
Savor Tucson's brewery culture. Tucson's microbrewery scene has exploded over the past decade, with can't-miss outposts across our fair city. We've come a long way as a city, since Barrio Brewery introduced the Old Pueblo to the wonder of microbrewing three decades ago. The number of breweries in Tucson alone is staggering, but the aforementioned Barrio, as well as Ten55 Brewing, Union Public Brewhouse, Corbett Brewing, Borderlands, and Crooked Tooth are among the options you'll find within walking (or biking) distance from campus. Go find yourself a new favorite pint and help the local economy at the same time. Let's face it, anything you choose will beat the stale-ass 18-packs of Natural Light you drank as a freshman.
Try the specialty Carne Seca from El Charro. This local Mexican restaurant's carne seca, or dry meat, is dried slowly in racks above the restaurant and then seasoned with secret ingredients. According to El Charro, this world famous meat dish is one of their most popular offerings. It's spicy, savory and completely unique. And El Charro is one of the few places you can get such a delicacy!
Explore another world at Biosphere 2. But wait, you say, what is Biosphere 1? Well that's the Earth, of course. Biosphere 2 is a science research facility designed to serve as a "closed ecological system," meaning a nearly completely isolated environment right here in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. Constructed between 1987 and 1991, Biosphere 2 features jungles and riparian habitats housed within great, futuristic walls of glass and metal. Owned by the UA since 2011, this is a science experiment worth exploring.
Discover the wildlife in our deserts at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Sure, the desert has some nice views and some cute succulents. But did you know, just outside of Tucson, a massive desert museum shows off all the interesting sights of our home habitat. We're talking otters, mountain lions, gila monsters, aquariums and a walk-in aviary. Plus, the Desert Museum is always putting on interesting science-themed events, so there's always a chance to learn as you wander.
Get a taste of Tucson's painting culture at DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun. Even if you don't recognize the name Ted DeGrazia, you've seen his paintings. DeGrazia, often called "the world's most reproduced artist" combined impressionist painting techniques with Native American legends and Southwestern landscapes. And it just so happens his largest studio and residence is located here in Tucson. The Gallery in the Sun is a series of adobe buildings simply overflowing with art: paintings, sculptures, jewelry, architecture, murals and quite a few indescribably avant-garde pieces as well.
Snap a photo of a lightning bolt during a monsoon. While the mid-summer monsoon is one of the greatest annual happenings in all of the Southwest, one of the greatest feats around town is capturing a perfect bolt of lightning on film. If it sounds difficult, fear not, Tucson is home to dozens of active and passionate storm photographers who love to join together and share tips on how to harness the power of the monsoon on DSLR.
Take in the wonderful patio at Café Passe. Serenity is readily available on the lush, shaded patio of Fourth Avenue's Café Passe. The coffee-shop-by-day/tavern-by-night operation features an awesome outdoor space that's sure to relax your nerves after a long day of studying (or drinking—hey, we don't judge). Order a Bruce Lee (iced or hot), and suck down 12 ounces of liquid energy, with enough caffeine to give a dead man 15 minutes.
Live out your Wild West fantasies at Trail Dust Town. Wandering through the dusty, desert streets of Tucson might make you feel a bit like a cowboy from time to time. Well, good news! You can fully embrace those fantasies with a trip to Trail Dust Down on the east side. Built in 1961, Trail Dust Town is part historical recreation, part amusement park, part town ripped straight out of the Wild West. Let that childlike sense of wonderment come back as you get along, little doggie (or however that goes).
Get your mind blown at UA's Mirror Lab. Good news! This isn't only for STEM majors. UA's Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory offers tours to see how engineering and optics join together on your campus. Through this wild walk of warping walls, you'll learn about honeycomb mirrors, borosilicate glass, and paraboloids aplenty. There's more crazy science going on in the Mirror Lab than we can fit in this blurb, so go check it out for yourself.
Explore the rare desert oases at Tanque Verde Falls. We get it, the desert is dry, hot and dry. But that just means those places where it isn't hot and dry are all the sweeter. Tanque Verde Falls are a series of trails and waterfalls east of town. For those of you up for a hike through shaded gullies, and maybe even a dip into some natural water, Tanque Verde Falls is a refreshing must. Plus, you then get to tell your friends and family back home that the desert isn't all dry.
See a summer movie in a theater just to enjoy the free air conditioning. Yeah, the desert heat and can be oppressive and maddening, especially if you just moved to Tucson and aren't used to it. Well you're in luck! Tucson is home to multiple standard and artsy cinemas, and you know how those theaters like to keep it chilly. Hop inside a movie and cool off for a few hours. You'll get your money's worth of film and air conditioning!
Escape into the forested hills of Madera Canyon. If you're tired of trips to Mount Lemmon, but still want to escape to a forest near Tucson, Madera Canyon is the place for you! This canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains only 25 miles south of Tucson offers gorgeous views of the desert below, spots to camp, and some of the best bird-watching opportunities in the nation. Madera Canyon, one of the largest sky island zones, is home to black bears, mountain lions, deer, foxes, coatis, and raccoons. Just like a real forest!
Rediscover your inner child during the Loft Jr. movie series. Yes, this event does include the word "junior" in the title, but rest assured, the entire community gets involved. During this celebration of children's' films, both animation and live action, our local arthouse cinema opens it up to the public, because every screening is free. While the kick-off event often takes place at a local park, the majority of the screenings roll in like Saturday morning cartoons: plentiful, eclectic, but at a movie theater!
Take a tour to see every mural by Joe Pagac. You may have already noticed Tucson contains a lot of murals. But did you know a large amount of these were all painted by a local artist? Even better, muralist Joe Pagac is still at it, crafting new public art projects all throughout the downtown area. Take a tour through Tucson and see if you can spot them all. What better way to learn the city?
See your own movie on the big screen at the Loft Cinema. The Loft Cinema is a local treasure, with all sorts of art films, cult classics, legit masterpieces and mondo weirdness, along with an annual film festival that brings all manner of cinema to our town. And you have a chance to have your own movie up there on the Loft's big screen. The First Friday Shorts series invites Tucsonans to bring their own short films to share with a rowdy audience, so you'll see some truly bizarre, hilarious, poignant and underground short films made right here in Tucson. And if you're brave enough, you can even submit your own!
Visit the original Buffalo Exchange. Ah yes, Buffalo Exchange. That trendy spot where all the cool kids get their vintage attire. But did you know this awesome chain, now with stores in nearly 20 states, started right here in Tucson? The original Buffalo Exchange is located at 2001 E. Speedway Blvd, and has bought and sold great clothes since 1974. Get over there and see a part of history (and maybe buy some history as well).
Participate in a successful bar crawl from Fourth Avenue to downtown and back. Yes, the areas of Fourth Avenue and downtown are very different. Each contains its own style and type of regulars. But luckily for the adventurous Tucsonan, the two locales are perfect for a bar crawl. Either get started with the bars on Fourth before partying it up downtown, or start your night off as a metropolitan before calming down in the weird world near campus. Either way, there are plenty of sights to see and places to party.
See the bands you always wish you could see at The Great Cover Up. The art in Tucson just never seems to stop. And one of the best showcases is The Great Cover Up, where local bands of various genres and backgrounds cover songs from an equally diverse group of international stars. Whether you want to see The Kinks, Tom Waits, Bjork, Led Zeppelin or Talking Heads, you can see awesome cover sets of all their music at this celebration of music and pageantry.
Walk through a Christmas wonderland at Winterhaven. Every year, the residents of the Winterhaven neighborhood in central Tucson participate in a wonderful tradition that brings tens of thousands of visitors to the community: the Winterhaven Festival of Lights. The houses are decked out in holiday decorations galore for a few weeks, and the whole town is invited to walk (or drive on selected nights) through the community and marvel at the creativity and splendor. Make sure to bring canned goods for donation to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. The fun takes place this year from Dec. 14 through Dec. 29, 6 to 10 p.m. every day.
Peruse the Fourth Avenue Street Fair. There are few, if any, gatherings that take place in Southern Arizona that even compare to the sprawling Fourth Avenue Street Fair. The 50-plus-year-old tradition draws in more than 600,000 attendees every year, who shop through hundreds of artists stalls, watch entertaining shows and eat their way through dozens of food stalls. Admission is free, but don't be surprised if you leave with a tote full of knick knacks—or a whole dorm room worth of art.
Enjoy the iconic Tucson sunset. Some people do it on the top of a parking garage, some people do it on the top of a hill, while others do it in their backyard. There are few things quite as enjoyable to do in Tucson as look out to the west in the evening and marvel at the beautiful colors that fill the sky. There's a reason so many people's Instagram feeds fill up with clouds stained in beautiful shades of purple and orange whenever the sun starts to set. Eat your heart out, Phoenix.
Find your favorite Sonoran hot dog. Don't listen to what anyone tells you about the legendary Sonoran hot dog until you've had one of these delicious treats for yourself. It may have originated in Mexico, but this hot dog has found its stride in the Old Pueblo. Open up a bolillo bun, fill it with a bacon-wrapped hot dog and top it with pinto beans, onions, tomatoes, salsa, jalapeños, mustard, mayo, avocado and some cotija cheese—and send us right off to heaven. Plenty of restaurants, food trucks and roadside carts sell this legendary delight, so go and find your favorite.
Get a burrito from Highland Market. There are few traditions as sacred as walking into this little market near the Rec Center and ordering "The Famous Highland Burrito." Make sure to stop by while you still live in one of the nearby dorms for the full experience—because nothing says living on campus like eating burritos from a market 1,000 feet from your bedroom. Plus, if you're from out of state and never had a burrito in Southern Arizona, you've gotta start somewhere.
Ride your bike around campus. There are few acts as liberating as feeling the wind roar in your ears as your tear down the street on your bicycle. Tucson is a bike-friendly city—or so we've been told—and the UA area offers plenty of places to ride around. Take it as an opportunity to learn about your new home, and check out some of the exciting things to do on this list.
Attend (or participate in) an open mic night. So, you think you're pretty funny, do you? Well, why don't you put your money where your mouth is and take to the stage at a comedy night. There are plenty of bars and a few comedy spots hosting open mic nights, so work on your tight five, and we'll see you there!
Read the Weekly: Hey, you have it right here in your hands! (Or more likely, you're looking at us on your phone.) Anyway, the Weekly, which has been harassing politicians and celebrating the arts since 1984, is your best guide to music, galleries, comedy, food, drink, weed and more in the Old Pueblo. Find us every Thursday and use us to plan your weekend.