With high fuel costs and continued economic woes many families are looking to vacation closer to home. An easy way to keep vacation costs down is to be a tourist in your own city!
Whether you are a Tucson resident or are just planning to travel here, I hope you find my budget friendly activities and tips useful! And if you live somewhere else or plan on vacation somewhere else, check back on Tuesday because I will have links to a HUGE list of links for Staycation ideas in other cities!
Check out my list of Tucson Staycation activities below.
Tucson Children’s Museum
The Tucson Children’s Museum is geared towards kids ages 10 and under and have a wide variety of activities and exhibits. The train room, veterinary clinic, grocery store/kitchen and fire truck exhibits are some of our favorites!
Visit during Science Sundays through September 2nd and pay only $2 for admission. Regular admission prices are $8 for adults and $6 for kids 2-18. Get a free child admission with adult admission purchase when you check in on Foursquare. They have picnic tables available if you want to pack a picnic lunch.
Southern Arizona Transportation Museum
Housed in the former Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum focuses on preserving the Southern Arizona railroad heritage. It’s a smaller museum but is definitely worth visiting if you have train crazed kiddos like me!
- Free admission (they accept donations)
- Slightly limited hours. Closed Mondays, Tuesday-Thursday & Sundays 11am- 3pm and Friday-Saturday: 10am-4pm.
- Visit their train engine on Saturdays from 10am-1pm.
Brandi Fenton Splash Pad
Photo Courtesy: Pima County
The Brandi Fenton Splash Pad is a great place for FREE water fun with spray arches, water geysers and other water features. Open 7am to 7pm daily through October 31st!
The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden, all in one place!
Summer evenings bring a discounted admission rate and special programming to the Desert Museum! Adults are only $7 & kids 6-12 are $3 after 4pm. Children 5 and under are free. With special themes and activities planned for each Saturday, these summer evenings are an awesome way to experience a unique summer evening. Keep in mind some animals like mountain lions and beavers are especially active at night!
For more on information on the Desert Museum see our recent visit HERE.
Mission San Xavier del Bac
A National Historic Landmark and the oldest intact European structure in Arizona, the San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission in 1692. The San Xavier Mission museum offers a short video on the history and restoration of the mission, plus mission artifacts are on display.
The museum is open 8:30 – 4:30 daily with free admission (Donations accepted). The mission itself is open to the public 7am – 5pm daily and still offers regular services. Vendors sell authentic fry bread in front of the Mission, I think the fry bread is worth the drive alone!
Arizona History Museum
Arizona History Museum in Tucson is a great way to experience southern Arizona history from Spanish colonial through territorial eras.
- Free admission the 1st Saturday of every month. Kids 11 and younger always free. Adults $5 and 60+ or 12-18 only $4.
- Open Monday-Saturday 10-4
There is also a Downtown History Museum where you can check out exhibits depicting early Tucson business and homes.
- Free admission the 1st Friday of the month. Kids 11 and younger always free. Adults $3, and 60+ or 12-18 only $2.
And the Fort Lowell Museum features exhibits on military life on the Arizona frontier.
- Free admission the 1st Saturday of the month. Kids 11 and younger always free. Adults $3, and 60+ or 12-18 only $2.
Trail Dust Town
Photo Credit: Trail Dust Town
Trail Dust Town is a Western themed complex that includes a train ride, wild west stunt show, a museum and Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse. Walking around is free but some attractions have minimal admission fees.
Free wild west show every night at Trail Dust Town! Sun-Thursday 7 and 8pm. Friday & Saturday 7, 8 and 9pm. Donations accepted.
- Horse Soldier Museum
Explore the history and heritage of the U.S. mounted services and the horse’s contribution to U.S. military history. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for kids ages 7 and up. It’s open Daily from 11am-8pm.
Pima Air and Space Museum
The Pima Air and Space Museum is not a cheap place to visit but it has lots of indoor exhibits to visit which makes it a great place to visit during the summer. See our recent Pima Air and Space Museum adventure HERE.
International Wildlife Museum
The International Wildlife Museum is completely indoors, perfect for a summer time visit. See our recent adventure HERE!
Cool off during the summer with a visit to Mount Lemmon, where the weather averages 30 degrees cooler! Hike and enjoy the beautiful surroundings for free!
You can grab a bite to eat at the top of the mountain in the small community of Summerhaven.
The Ski Valley ski lift operates during the summer for a unique way to see the panoramic views of Tucson! Adult tickets are $9, youth tickets are $7, and child tickets are $5. There is no gas available at the top, so fill up before your trip.
More Money Saving Ideas
If you plan on visiting a lot of Tucson attractions/museums check out the Tucson Attractions Passport. Pay $18 for up to $400 savings, with many free or B1G1 free admissions. The passport works well even if you plan on visiting just a few local attractions.
Free or cheap kids movies are available at several local Tucson theaters this summer. Check out this post for locations and more details.
Eating out is often part of the vacation experience, here are a few places you can save money by taking advantage of cheap or free kids meal promotions.
Thunder Canyon Brewery offers Mighty Kids Meals for $1.99 on Mondays.
El Charro Cafe – Free kids meals (10 and under) on Wednesday.
The Loop Taste of Chicago – Kids eat free with Adult meal purchase on Tuesdays. Plus they have a kiddie corner with lots of toys to keep them occupied while you eat!
Chick-Fil-A Oracle offers free kids meals ALL DAY Tuesday with the purchase of an adult meal. Chick Fil A El Con offers free kids meals with adult meal purchase on Tuesdays from 5-7pm. Both stores also offer a kid craft/activity on Tuesday evening.
Baskin Robbins $1 Cone Nights – Enjoy a $1 Kids Scoop or $1.50 regular scoop on Tuesdays!