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Southern Arizona features the beauty of the Sonoran Desert and the Santa Cruz River Valley, and plenty of natural and historical attractions. Don't miss Old Tucson, Casa Grande Ruins, Kartchner Caverns State Park, Tumacacori National Historic Park, Titan Missile Museum – plus famed Arizona towns like Tombstone, Bisbee, and more.
Arizona’s second largest city, Tucson is known as the home of the University of Arizona and Sonoran culture – all backdropped by the Santa Catalina Mountains.
Western fans, you’re first stop should be Old Tucson Studios. A combination film site and amusement park constructed in 1938, Old Tucson was the set for features films like "The Outlaw Josey Wales," "Tombstone," and "¡Three Amigos!"
Kids enjoy the Wild West Carousel and Iron Door Mine Adventure, while the whole family can enjoy Big Jake’s Bar-B-Q, or playing dress up at the Old Tucson’s Print & Photo Emporium.
Tucson is a very festive city. Annual events on the Old Pueblo calendar include Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, Fourth Avenue Street Fair, The Tucson Rodeo, Pima County Fair, Tucson Folk Festival, and the Tucson Festival of Books at U of A.
No matter where you are in Tucson you can find a nearby Saguaro National Park. The park is divided into the Rincon Mountain District and the Tucson Mountain District. Both districts offer incredible biking and hiking trails in the Sonoran Desert amongst the iconic Saguaro cactus.
One: Arizona Sun Corridor
If you’re already in Tucson and not pressed for time, take a quick trip up I-10 to some more stops along the Arizona Sun Corridor.
Check out the Picacho Peak State Park in Picacho, Skydive Arizona in Eloy, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in Coolidge, and the Central Arizona Raceway in Casa Grande.
Two: Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway
Explore nearly 30 miles of the Santa Catalina Range, found just northeast of Tucson, along the Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway.
Drive through the southern Lower Sonoran desert, and pull overs for more than a few picnic spots and scenic overlooks of southern Arizona. The Mount Lemmon Highway, also referred to as the Catalina Highway, draws over a million drivers each year. Be sure to check out area attractions like the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter, and the Mount Lemmon Summerhaven.
Roughly 45 miles southeast on Interstate 10, Benson is a classic southern Arizona city and former Southern Pacific Railroad town.
The ultimate Old West and roadside attraction combined, the Gammons Gulch Movie Set & Museum is set in Pomerene – just north of Benson. Both a film site and movie memorabilia museum, Gammons Gulch features costumed characters, set tours, and more.
The Town Too Tough To Die, Tombstone is just 27 miles southeast of Benson on State Route 80. A National Historic Landmark District listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, T-town features the O.K. Corral, Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, and Boothill Graveyard.
Visit the Bird Cage Theatre and the Tombstone Historama – narrated by Vincent Price – and grab lunch at Big Nose Kate's Saloon, the Crystal Palace, or the Longhorn Restaurant.
And be sure to be a lookin’ on as Earp and the boys take out the trash daily at the O.K. Corral.
Though not actually outdoors, Kartchner Caverns State Park – Benson’s most famed attraction – feature guided tours of this famed underground cave system.
Check out the Throne Room and the Big Room, and cap off the visit with an exhibit at the Discovery Center.
Approximately 75 miles southeast of Benson on AZ-80 – and 50 miles from Tombstone – Douglas is located in southernest Arizona on the border with Mexico. A former mining town, Douglas is a history buff’s dream.
Another National Historic Landmark listed on the Register of Historic Places, San Bernardino Ranch – or Slaughter Ranch. This living museum features structures form the early 1900s, bird watching, and the Johnson Historical Museum of the Southwest.
Douglas neighbors the quaint city of Bisbee, just 27 miles northwest on State Route 80 East. Former stomping grounds of John Wayne, Bisbee is known for its Historic Downtown District, the Art Deco Cochise County Courthouse, the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum, and the Copper Queen Mine Tour.
Back east of Douglas, the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge features hiking, bird watching, wildlife viewing, and hunting. Hit the 2.2-mile Black Draw Trail, try Sport hunting for dove, quail, and rabbits or just enjoy the view.
Roughly two hours back west of Douglas, or 112 miles, Nogales is found by State Route 80 and State Route 82. The largest international border city in Arizona, Nogales features plenty to see and do in Santa Cruz County.
Set in the Santa Cruz River Valley, the Tumacacori National Historic Park was established in 1691, and has been visited by the famed Father Kino. Covering 360 acres, the park features the Mission San José de Tumacácori and the Tumacácori Museum.
Before you hit Nogales, check out the Sonoita Wine Trail – connecting the city of Sonoita to Elgin and Vail just northeast of Nogales. Also known as the Wine Country of Sonoita-Elgin, the trail features a dozen Arizona wineries, including the Village of Elgin Winery, Sonoita Vineyards, and Dos Cabezas Wineworks.
And if you’d like to extend your road trip a little bit, think about Yuma’s Main Squeeze in Yuma of western Arizona on the California and Mexico border.
Spanning over 2,600 acres in northern Nogales, Patagonia Lake State Park is home to great hiking trails, bird watching, and of course, the 250-acre Patagonia Lake. Hit the lake for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.
For more fishing in southern Arizona, hook some rainbow trout, sunfish, and more at Peña Blanca Lake, or try Parker Canyon Lake and some great spots in the Coronado National Forest.
Just over 40 miles north of Nogales along Interstate 19, Green Valley is a charming Arizona town set in the Upper Santa Cruz Valley – and just south of Tucson.
The Raul M. Grijalva Canoa Ranch Conservation Park, otherwise known as the Historic Hacienda De La Canoa, is a historic landmark telling the story of southern Arizona residents of the early 1900s. Enjoy ranch tours, plus bird watching, educational programs, and special events like “Nature Night: Bats & Bugs.”
If you’re into military history, check out the Titan Missile Museum – a National Historic Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Known as the Air Force Facility Missile Site 8, this Cold War museum features tours of the three-story Launch Control Center, and the eight-story silo housing the 103-foot Titan II missile.
How green is your valley? Well, pretty green thanks to the many golf courses of Green Valley. Check out the 18-hole Quail Creek Country Club, San Ignacio Golf Club, Canoa Ranch Golf Club, Torres Blancas Golf Club, and the public Haven Golf Course.