Tucson Historical Sites And Museums

A descriptive overview of museums and historical sites in Tucson, AZ.

Tucson is home to a plethora of museums and historical sites. Whether you prefer a climate-controlled indoor atmosphere or a sun-soaked outdoor environment, you are certain to find something suiting.

Established in 1893, the University of Arizona's Arizona State Museum is the oldest, as well as largest, anthropology museum in the southwest. ASM offers exhibitions and programs that allow visitors to encounter native southwestern cultures firsthand. Exhibits found are the likes of Navajo blanket weavings, masks of Mexico and saguaro harvest traditions of the Tohono O'odham. Programs presented include workshops such as "Care of Navajo Textiles," lectures, and book sales. The museum store is the perfect place to shop for authentic Native American crafts.

The Sonoran desert comes to life at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. This unique zoo has enthralled visitors for over 50 years, allowing them to view desert animals and vegetation in a natural setting. Guests have the chance to trek nearly 2 miles of picturesque desert trails and observe more than 300 species of animals, including many that are threatened and endangered. If you decide to visit, plan on wearing sunscreen, carrying water, and spending a few hours outdoors.

The Tucson Children's Museum in the heart of downtown is the perfect way for parents or grandparents to spend an afternoon with their little ones. Exhibits and activities are always hands-on, and run the gamut from giant bubbles to real emergency vehicles to robotic dinosaurs. Even grown-ups cannot resist the interactive fun.

The Fort Lowell Museum is part of the Arizona Historical Society. Located in the lovely Old Fort Lowell Park, the museum is built at the site of an 1880's military fort that served as barracks for soldiers protecting pioneer settlers. Exhibits offer insight to frontier-days military life. The surrounding park is perfect for a picnic; bring extra snacks to share with the ducks and ground squirrels!

Distinct from the Desert Museum is the International Wildlife Museum. Dedicated to increasing knowledge and appreciation of wildlife, the museum utilizes taxidermy displays as well as replications to show animals in their natural habitats. Natural history movies are also shown daily in the Wildlife Theater.

The Pima Air & Space Museum is the largest of its kind in the western U.S. Over 200 aircraft are on display, including old B-58's, Migs, and President Kennedy's Airforce One. Tram tours as well as walking tours are offered, and you can grab lunch in the Thunderbird's Café before hitting the gift shop.

Tucson Museum of Art is nestled in the historic Old Town section of downtown Tucson. The museum has been collecting art of the Americas for a quarter of a century. Permanent collections vary from Pre-Columbian to Spanish Post-Colonial to Western American art and artifacts, while changing exhibits range from eye-catching black-and-white photography to contemporary paint-on-metal sculpture to mind-boggling computer enhanced images. Also offered are programs and events, lectures and classes, and an extensive library. The Museum Shop is brimming with one-of-a-kind gifts and lunch at the innovative Café à la C'Art is a must.

A trip to Tucson would not be complete without including the San Xavier del Bac Mission. In 1700, Father Eusebio Francisco Kino laid the foundations of the first church, naming it in honor of his chosen patron, St. Francis Xavier. The present church, in the Tohono O'odham Community of Wa:K, was built from 1783 - 1797. Nicknamed "The White Dove of the Desert," the beautiful Spanish architecture is breathtaking against the desert sky. Visitors taking the self-guided tour will discover striking carvings, frescoes and statues inside the mission, and Tohono O'odham artisanship such as hand-woven baskets and foods including sweet fry bread are often purchasable on the grounds.

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