20 Best Things to Do in Downtown Tucson, AZ

This article was written by local contributor Sophie Arboleda & edited by the Travel Lens team.

Downtown Tucson
Sean Pavone / shutterstock.com

Downtown Tucson is one of the most exciting places to visit in southern Arizona, and as someone who lives here, I can attest to the fact that it's a bustling hub of activity with something for everyone.

Whether I'm looking for a fun night out with friends, a relaxing day at the park, or a unique shopping experience, Downtown Tucson offers it all.

However, the city’s main attraction is its historic downtown area, which offers many unique attractions filled with old buildings, charming shops, and eateries, making it an excellent place to spend time on a sunny day or any day of the year.

I only need to be here for a day or two to fall in love with the lively atmosphere of this vibrant downtown area and enjoy my stay!

Tucson is one of the best-kept secrets in the Southwest—if you haven’t been here yet, now might be the time to make a trip to Southern Arizona.

With so much to see and do in downtown Tucson, it can be hard to know where to start, so here’s a list of the 20 best things to do in downtown Tucson, whether you're a local like me or just visiting:

Watch Performances in Fox Theater

Exterior of Fox Theater
Pamela Brick / Shutterstock.com

The next time I'm looking for something fun to do downtown, I'll pick up a ticket to see a show at the Fox Theater instead.

Whether I'm looking for a movie, comedy show, or musical performance, the Fox never fails to deliver and always transports me with its wonderful old-timey vibe.

I feel like I stepped back into an era when everything was simpler, and all the best entertainment came from the stage.

Fox Theater prides itself on the diverse array of acts it hosts, which continues to be a draw for me and other locals and visitors alike – from late-night comedy to music to magic, this historic venue has something for everyone.

Entrance doors and ticket booth of Fox Theater
Ammodramus, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fox Theater is one of Tucson's most historic venues and has been hosting shows since 1930, but it was renovated in 1999 by a small group of volunteers to restore the theater’s former glory.

The structure still holds true to its roots and is a popular venue for movies and music, but it also hosts other events throughout the year, such as dance recitals, fundraisers, and even political rallies.

I remember attending the Bruce Hornsby concert as part of the 2023 Tucson Jazz Festival, and the acoustics were stellar, making it an unforgettable experience.

Browse the Shops in Old Town Artisans

Depending on what you’re into and what time of year it is, there will always be something fun to do in the city.

One of the many places where I love to spend my time in Old Town Artisans, an artisan village with unique shops selling handmade arts and crafts at every turn.

The Old Town Artisans is located in a historic adobe complex right in the heart of downtown Tucson, and it's been around since the 1970s.

There are many shops here where you can buy gifts for your loved ones back home or browse through some of the beautiful artwork available in this area.

I always find local art, pieces of jewelry, handmade crafts, and unique gifts in the shops of Old Town Artisans.

This is the perfect spot to find souvenirs or treats for those back home, and even if you don't buy anything, this place is still great to look around.

I was so grateful for her help and the excellent customer service at Old Town Artisans.

Old Town Artisans is definitely one of my favorite places in Tucson.

There is a wide array of shops and art forms to peruse, and it's a great place to view some of the local artists' work!

Plus, there is an adjoining courtyard with a restaurant and a pub, making it a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the atmosphere.

Spend a Relaxing Day at Veinte de Agosto Park

Bronze statue at Veinte de Agosto Park

While downtown Tucson has a great mix of restaurants, attractions, and local shops, Veinte de Agosto Park offers something that you won’t find in the city center: a place to relax.

Veinte de Agosto Park holds a special place in our community, and I feel lucky to have it right in the heart of our city.

It's named after a significant day in our history—August 20th, 1775—when Mexico's War for Independence against Spain began.

This park has become a gathering spot for social events and celebrations ever since.

When I walk through the historic city center, I always make a point to stop by Veinte de Agosto Park.

Right at its center is a plaque commemorating the important day that gives the park its name.

It's a reminder of our rich heritage and the struggles our ancestors faced for our independence.

Surrounding the plaque, there are comfortable benches where I often sit to relax and admire the stunning view of Downtown Tucson.

Exploring downtown can be quite tiring, but Veinte de Agosto Park offers a peaceful retreat.

The park is dotted with picnic tables, providing a perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely lunch or take a break from my adventures on foot or by bike.

As I sit there, I can't help but appreciate the lush trees that envelop the park, creating a serene atmosphere.

I often take advantage of the walking path created by these beautiful trees—it's an ideal way to stay active and get some exercise during my trip.

Book a Room in El Presidio Inn & Breakfast

El Presidio Inn & Breakfast is situated right in Downtown Tucson within walking distance of more than a few attractions that should be on any visitor's itinerary.

As a local, I can't help but admire the Victorian architecture of this building, which was built in 1876.

It's one of the most stunning historic hotels in the city that offers a unique and memorable experience for visitors.

Now it's one of the most well-preserved historic buildings in the Southwest and is considered a National Historical Landmark.

The interior is decorated with beautiful antique furniture, and it feels like it's out of a history book.

The rooms are well-dressed with linens and decorations that give them an old-world feel, but the staff has all the modern amenities you'll need for your stay.

This building has had quite a bit of wear and tear over time, but it hasn't lost any of its appeals over the years.

I recently had the pleasure of staying at El Presidio Inn & Breakfast, and I must say, the experience was nothing short of amazing.

Breakfast was wonderful and beautifully presented.

The omelet Patty made was one of the best I've had in a long time.

Admire the Artworks in the Tucson Museum of Art

Entrance of Tucson Museum of Art
Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As a resident of Downtown Tucson, I can't help but be proud of our premier art museum, the Tucson Museum of Art.

It offers an impressive range of exhibitions that are well worth your time.

The museum has a wide array of special exhibits, classes, educational resources, and family events that celebrate the art scene here in Tucson.

When I visit, I find myself immersed in a beautiful art collection that covers all media and styles, from classical paintings to modern sculptures.

I've learned much about art history through the permanent collection, which features pieces from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and more.

I always keep an eye on the calendar for historical exhibitions, as the museum frequently hosts traveling exhibits from other museums around the country and displays that feature work from local artists.

One of my favorite recent exhibits was BRAD KAHLHAMER: 11:59 TO TUCSON, which featured a huge skull wall that was a sight to see.

I also loved the #MONICAAISSAMARTINEZ exhibit.

Discover the History of the J. Knox Corbett House

If you're wondering, "Why on earth should I visit Tucson?" - let me tell you about my personal haven.

Right smack in the middle of downtown Tucson, my house stands, teeming with historical allure, a living testament to the city's rich past.

When you first see it, you might be misled—its pale stucco facade and the modest front door might give you the impression of another run-of-the-mill big box store, but stepping inside reveals a sanctuary of peace and history.

This sanctuary is none other than the J. Knox Corbett House, a heritage home dating back to 1907, once the dwelling and private retreat of the Corbett family.

My Victorian-era abode is a treasure chest brimming with countless original items from that era, ranging from antique furniture and apparel to ceramics.

The Corbett House offers a glimpse into the Corbett family's life in Tucson.

Play with Little Kids at Children’s Museum Tucson

Exterior of Children’s Museum Tucson
Underawesternsky / Shutterstock.com

Visiting the museum is more than an opportunity for parents to have some much-needed kid-free time—it’s also an opportunity to learn something new about your kids.

Located on Sixth Avenue in Downtown Tucson, Children’s Museum Tucson provides an interactive, hands-on experience that will entertain your entire family.

The Children’s Museum Tucson (CMt) is a hands-on museum geared towards children aged up to 10 years old, but many of the exhibits can be enjoyed by the whole family.

The museum boasts three floors full of activities, including an outdoor playground, colorful art studio, music room, science lab, and more, so there are plenty of activities to keep the entire family entertained.

My kids and I recently visited the Children's Museum for a day of exploring and learning.

We had a total blast!

I loved the well-thought-out and creative spaces. There's so much to do for all age groups.

My kids are under four, but I believe the museum caters to children up to 10 years old.

One of the highlights for us was the art studio, where my kids could paint with watercolors, experiment with bubble wrap, or even make their T-shirts with silkscreens.

It's one of the best things to do in Downtown Tucson.

The building itself has an interesting history as a refurbished Carnegie Library, which adds to the charm of the museum.

Plus, there's free parking on weekends, which is always a bonus.

Climb the Walls in Rocks and Ropes of Tucson

Rocks and Ropes of Tucson is a climbing gym that's been around since the early 90s, so it has decades of experience in putting together some of the best indoor rock walls you’ll ever see.

I've been going there for years, and it never disappoints.

The facility offers everything from bouldering walls to high-ropes courses, so there's something here for everyone.

I remember my first time trying out the high-ropes course; it was thrilling and challenging.

This 15,000-square-foot climbing facility has plenty of climbing walls and boulders so you can get your fun on without risking life and limb.

Even as a beginner, I could experience the fun of climbing because knowledgeable instructors guided me through everything.

The facility is clean and modern but still maintains the old-school charm of what you'd imagine the inside of a mountain lodge would look like.

I always feel at home when I'm there.

Rocks and Ropes is a great place for a date night too. I took my partner there once, and we had a blast, even though they were afraid of heights.

The awesome community atmosphere made it a memorable experience for both of us.

Take a Walk in Jacome Plaza

Life-size chess on the grounds of Jacome Plaza
Rosemarie Mosteller / Shutterstock.com

Every lunchtime, I find myself seeking solace in the oasis that is Jacome Plaza.

Amid the frantic pulse of the city, this is my preferred escape, a sanctuary not as recognized as other places in the city yet so much more welcoming.

I cherish the ample shade provided by its generous tree canopy and the comfort of the many benches.

This place is my sanctuary after a taxing morning at work.

What makes Jacome Plaza even more appealing is its strategic location at the heart of the city.

Numerous businesses are just a stone's throw away.

Memorial bronze plaque at Jacome Plaza
Rosemarie Mosteller / Shutterstock.com

At the end of my peaceful sojourn around the plaza, I often take a leisurely stroll down Fourth Avenue, Broadway Boulevard, or Congress Street.

The selection of restaurants and shops is simply irresistible.

My love for nature indeed finds fulfillment here.

I'm not much of an art enthusiast, but the charming landscape of the plaza is a sight to behold.

The array of plant species that beautify the area is fascinating, and the walk around the park never gets old.

And, of course, there are intriguing sculptures scattered around that add an additional layer of charm to this hidden gem in the city.

Jump and Play in Get Air Trampoline Park

If you want to get up, get down, and have a good time, you can do that at Get Air Tucson trampoline park.

This fun and exciting place is the perfect place to bring family and friends for a great time of laughing and jumping.

Tucson's only trampoline park combines the exhilaration of jumping on giant trampolines with the fun challenges of dodgeball and other team sports.

The park offers a vast space filled with hundreds of foam padding-covered trampolines, so you can bounce around in an open arena or try out some of the obstacles and games scattered around the walls.

With over 20,000 square feet of trampolines, a foam pit, basketball courses, dodgeball courts, and more, Get Air has something for everyone—whether you're there with your family or looking for a place to have fun with friends.

My kids and I decided that we were going to go to Get Air for our first time during the day on a Monday.

To accompany us, I brought my mother, who didn't quite know what to expect - honestly, none of us did.

When we entered, there was a sign which directed us to watch a safety video and fill out an electronic consent form.

The process was quick even though there was a line.

After this process, you move around to the front of the desk, where you can pay.

There are a variety of jumping specials depending on the day, and you can purchase time from one hour up.

Have a Blast from the past in El Charro Cafe

Exterior of El Charro Cafe
https://www.flickr.com/photos/daquellamanera/, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Every time I navigate the bustling 5th Avenue in Downtown Tucson, I am presented with a plethora of choices for post-lunch amusement.

The decision is always tough. But, there's one place that's undeniably a classic — El Charro Cafe.

El Charro Cafe, a fixture in our city since 1922, stands out with its eye-catching architecture both inside and out.

As a local, the neon sign signaling El Charro's welcoming ambiance is a familiar sight.

It's as if the restaurant itself promises a sensory celebration, decorated as it is with traditional Mexican motifs.

Step inside, and you're transported back in time.

Patio and lounge sign of El Charro Cafe
Scott Leslie, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There's no evidence of contemporary gadgetry, just the delightful buzz of good food, affable service, and an ambiance that exudes nostalgia.

It's like stepping into a freeze-frame of an era long past, yet one that feels so warm and familiar.

And, let's not forget the menu, a testament to authenticity, brimming with Mexican favorites.

From the unique taste of carne seca (dried beef) to the savory goodness of chiles rellenos (stuffed peppers), the delightful tortilla soup, and hearty bean-filled burritos — the culinary experience is as real as it can get.

A visit to Downtown Tucson without a stop at El Charro Café feels incomplete.

It's more than just a restaurant; it's an embodiment of authenticity.

Here, you find the most genuine Mexican cuisine served with warmth in an atmosphere that echoes a time gone by.

It's an experience that you wouldn't want to miss.

Although it is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, let's face it: sometimes, I need to view the photographs in person.

As someone who lives in Tucson, I've had the pleasure of visiting the Etherton Gallery multiple times since it was founded in 1981.

This gallery is a museum dedicated to photography, and it's always a treat to see the incredible works on display.

Downtown Tucson holds its own, with a vibrant community of galleries and studios, and Etherton Gallery is one of my favorites.

It showcases the work of local artists, and I'm always amazed by the talent found in my backyard.

This Downtown Tucson gallery is dedicated to the history of photography, and they have a fantastic collection of pieces on display.

You can find 19th and 20th-century and modern-day photography featured on the gallery's walls; there are also black and white photographs, landscape photographs, contemporary photography, and many more.

With so much to see, this gallery is worth checking out if you want something more than just your average afternoon walks around town.

Make a Wish in El Tiradito Wishing Shrine

Daytime view of El Tiradito Wishing Shrine

El Tiradito Wishing Shrine, also known as the "Wishing Shrine," is a popular attraction in Downtown Tucson.

As someone who lives here, I can tell you that it's a unique place to visit when you're in the area, and it's one of the biggest reasons to make sure you get Downtown on your itinerary if you're in Tucson.

If you're already familiar with El Tiradito, you'll know that there's some uncertainty about how much of the story is true; however, one thing is certain: this place is fascinating to explore.

The story behind this shrine is all about Juan Oliveras, who is a ranch hand, and his affair with his wife’s mother.

After he was caught in the act, he was axed to death by the husband of his lover; his body could not be buried on holy grounds, so they decided to have him buried near the spot where he died.

You can offer candles, photographs, letters—anything that contains your heartbreaks and wishes—and you can leave it on the ground under the archway of the shrine or slip it into the cracks of the wall.

I've been visiting El Tiradito for years, and I always light a candle in remembrance of a loved one.

It's a special place for me and many others in the community.

El Tiradito Wishing Shrine is seemingly one of the least likely tourist destinations in the city—a "hidden gem" among hidden gems—but it's well worth visiting for people of all interests.

Escape the City and Relax in Alene Dunlap Smith Garden

In the north of downtown, off Granada Avenue, I stumbled upon a garden full of color, life, and history – the Dunlap Smith Garden.

At first glance, it didn't look like much—just a small space with a few benches and some little planters, but I quickly realized it's what you do there that counts.

The Dunlap Smith Garden Park turned out to be a great place to take in some of Tucson's natural beauty and history.

The park is dedicated to Smith, an exceptional community leader, preservationist, and conservationist.

It's an oasis of calm in an otherwise busy neighborhood with cool blue tiles and lush vegetation.

I decided to spend a quiet afternoon there, not worrying about anyone else's schedule but my own.

Even though it's in the middle of downtown Tucson, there's something very peaceful about it—I got the sense that I was away from everything else and surrounded by a peaceful, artistic atmosphere that's hard to find anywhere else.

Sitting on one of the benches, I noticed the beautiful mosaic artwork on the ground, which added a unique touch to the garden.

The plants and trees were well-maintained, and I could tell that a lot of care and effort had been put into creating this serene space.

Chug a Glass of Beer in Barrio Brewing Co.

I've been a regular at Barrio Brewing Company since its opening in 1991, and it has been a staple in downtown Tucson ever since.

With a cozy atmosphere and friendly staff, it's easy to see why Barrio is a popular place for locals and tourists.

The brewpub has a lot to offer for those who live in or visit Tucson—there are plenty of events taking place there regularly, making Barrio Brewing Co. an exciting place to be.

I've attended several fun get-togethers that involved live music or beer tastings, so it's always a good idea to check if they have any special events coming up.

Aside from the wide variety of beers that Barrio Brewing Co. offers, they also feature their full menu of hamburgers, sandwiches, incredible salads, chicken, tacos, and more.

I remember coming here on a Friday around 3:45, and it was packed.

I got a flight of beers, which included the Blonde, Hefeweizen, Rojo, and Porter, and enjoyed them all.

I also shared an order of fried pickles, which were delicious, by the way.

I loved the seasoning on them.

The brewery has a mix of bar and table seating, making it family-friendly with an extensive food menu.

I've also been here with a large group, and the service was great.

Watch a Live Performance at The Linda Ronstadt Music Hall

I love going to The Linda Ronstadt Music Hall to witness some of the best live performances in Downtown Tucson, located along Church Avenue.

It's particularly famous for its orchestras, spearheaded by the Tucson Symphony.

There are tons of shows and events year-round, all delivering world-class musical experiences that are sure to appease any music aficionado.

I've seen some concerts here and have always had balcony seats.

However, I recently had the opportunity to see the Arizona Opera's performance of Sound of Music and had the front section house left orchestra seats.

The experience was amazing!

The Linda Ronstadt Music Hall isn’t just famous for its shows, but its interior design and architecture are some of the best in Arizona.

The seating and stage are modern, and everything’s compact which gives you a more authentic immersion with their shows.

Take Artistic Photos at Tucson Museum of Contemporary Art

Exterior of Tucson Museum of Contemporary Art
Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Still haven’t gotten your fix on art consumption?

Downtown Tucson also has the Tucson Museum of Contemporary Art to add to your itinerary.

As the name suggests, this is a more focused museum dedicated to contemporary artists than the Tucson Museum of Art.

The space here is enormous, which incentivizes you to explore every nook and cranny, housing some amazing artworks using a diverse range of media.

Tucson Museum of Contemporary Art is also famous for having large artworks that go well with its interiors, making this a great place to take tons of photos.

You can find the Tucson Museum of Contemporary Art along South Church Avenue.

I recently visited the museum and was surprised by the broad collection, with local and far-reaching pieces.

It's a beautiful little museum that you shouldn't miss when you're in Tucson.

The museum has three stories, and it's reasonable to see everything in about two hours.

I particularly loved the Southwest Art section and was impressed with the French artists.

I even bought some Christmas gifts there.

One of my favorite exhibits was BRAD KAHLHAMER: 11:59 TO TUCSON, which featured a huge skull wall that was a sight to see.

I also loved the #MONICAAISSAMARTINEZ exhibit.

Chow Down at El Minuto Cafe

El Minuto Cafe is one of my favorite restaurants in Downtown Tucson, famed for its scrumptious authentic Mexican food.

As a long-time resident, I can attest to its popularity among locals and travelers.

The restaurant dates back all the way to 1939, becoming an institutionalized icon in our community and a must-try for all visitors.

The rustic and homey appeal of the restaurant is reminiscent of the homes in Mexico, making it quite an eye candy.

While taking photos is certainly a bonus, having a feast here is necessary for the authentic El Minuto Cafe experience.

I always order their carne seca, albondigas, burro, tacos, and enchiladas—you can't go wrong at El Minuto Cafe.

You can find this gem along South Main Avenue.

See the Awesome Meteorites at The University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum

Exterior of the Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum
Cheri Alguire / Shutterstock.com

Found along North Church Avenue lies The University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum.

I recently visited the museum, and I must say, it's a fantastic place to learn about this underrated science.

The museum specializes in mineral specimens found globally, including an exciting collection of meteorites.

Both children and adults can enjoy the comprehensive and beautiful exhibits here.

I was astounded by the amount of Instagram-worthy exhibits at the museum, especially the ones that utilize dark rooms.

It's a great place to get lost in wonder and beauty for an hour or two.

Exhibit in the Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum
Manuela Durson / Shutterstock.com

The colors, textures, and infinite creativity of our planet are on full display here.

In addition to the mineral specimens, the museum also has a planetarium, jewelry collection, and an abundance of historical information about mining history.

I spent a good hour and a half marveling at the stunning pieces presented in their natural form, as well as the equally impressive displays of cut gems and gem-encrusted artwork.

The exhibits about the history and practice of mining for gems and minerals were also fascinating.

Located downtown in the beautiful capitol building, the Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum is truly a "gem" of a place to visit.

Interior of the Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum
Manuela Durson / Shutterstock.com

Attend an Event at Tucson Convention Center

Exterior of Tucson Convention Center
Manuela Durson / Shutterstock.com

I often visit the Tucson Convention Center, one of the most popular attractions in Downtown Tucson, located along South Church Avenue.

The organization also manages the Tucson Music Hall and Tucson Arena, and its website has all the major events happening in Downtown Tucson.

One of the most anticipated events they hold at the convention center is themed expos.

I've attended tons of sporting events here, particularly hockey ones that lots of locals, including myself, enjoy.

Other events, such as Comic Con and Disney shows, add more variety to the excitement surrounding Tucson Convention Center.

I remember staying at the nearby hotel last year and planning on staying there again next month.

The hotel, restaurant, and bars were all new, and I tried probably every drink on the menu.

My room was a Double Queen with an upgraded all-glass shower, which was awesome.

There was even a tiny well-lit fridge for leftovers or drinks in the room.

Every night of my stay, I included a stop at the main bar, which is quite beautiful.

I also tried some tacos from the Pueblo Lounge, along with chips & salsa.

Final Thoughts

Downtown Tucson has truly become a hub for art enthusiasts like myself, with a growing number of art galleries showcasing some of the most innovative local talents.

I've enjoyed many meals at restaurants that prioritize high-quality local ingredients, and I've found unique treasures in the locally-owned shops selling everything from fine jewelry to trendy clothing.

There's never a dull moment in Downtown Tucson, as there are events happening every day of the month—from gallery art openings to live music performances that I love attending.

If you haven't spent much time in Downtown Tucson, you're missing out on a good chunk of the fun that our city has to offer.

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