15 Best Things to Do in Downtown Tucson, AZ

Downtown Tucson
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Downtown Tucson is one of the most exciting places to visit in southern Arizona; it is a bustling hub of activity that has something for everyone.

Whether you are looking for a fun night out with your 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 and charming shops and eateries, making it an excellent place to spend time on a sunny day or any day of the year.

You 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 your 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 15 best things to do in downtown Tucson, whether you're a local or just visiting:

Watch Performances in Fox Theater

Exterior of Fox Theater
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The next time you're looking for something fun to do downtown, and you’re tired of bar-hopping like everyone else seems to be doing these days, pick up a ticket to see a show at the Fox Theater instead.

Whether you're looking for a movie, comedy show, or musical performance, the Fox will not only deliver but also transport you with its wonderful old-timey vibe.

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

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

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

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.

The next time you’re looking to have a good time downtown, skip the overpriced bars and grab a seat to see a show at the Fox Theater instead.

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 you can enjoy is 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.

You can 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.

Spend a Relaxing Day at Veinte de Agosto Park

Bronze statue at Veinte de Agosto Park
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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 was named after an important day —August 20th, 1775—which was when Mexico's War for Independence began against Spain; ever since then, it has been a hub for social gatherings and celebrations.

The historic city center is marked by an honoring plaque in the center of the park and benches surrounding it for people to relax and enjoy the view of Downtown Tucson.

There are also picnic tables located throughout the park where you can enjoy your lunch or take a break from exploring downtown Tucson on foot or by bike.

Beautiful trees also surround this field, which makes for a nice walking path if you need some exercise during your trip!

To really see what this unique little park has to offer, be sure to head over when there’s an event taking place—there’s always something going on at Veinte de Agosto Park!

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.

It boasts Victorian architecture that was built in 1876, and 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.

Its 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.

If you want to experience what it's like to live like a local in Tucson, stay at El Presidio Inn & Breakfast.

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 Downtown Tucson's premier art museum, the Tucson Museum of Art offers an impressive range of exhibitions that are well worth your time.

Tucson Museum of Art offers a wide array of special exhibits, classes, educational resources, and family events that celebrate the art scene here in Tucson.

When you visit, you'll find yourself immersed in a beautiful art collection that covers all media and styles, from classical paintings to modern sculptures.

You can learn a great deal about the history of art through the permanent collection, which features pieces from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and more.

If you're interested in historical exhibitions, keep your eye on the calendar—the museum frequently hosts traveling exhibits from other museums around the country and displays that feature work from local artists.

Whether you're looking to soak up some inspiration to take back home with you or are just looking for an interesting new activity to do with friends, family, or a significant other while visiting Tucson, the Tucson Museum of Art is a must-see.

Discover the History of the J. Knoxx Corbett House

If you're asking yourself, "What could possibly make a trip to Tucson worthwhile?"—this is the place to go.

Nestled in the heart of Downtown Tucson, this house is full of historical charm and serves as a wonderful reminder of the city's past.

It's deceptive at first glance—the pale stucco exterior and unassuming front door make it appear to be just another big box store, but once you enter the doors, you'll find yourself in an oasis of tranquility and history.

The J. Knoxx Corbett House is a historic home built in 1907 that was used as a residence and private club by the Corbett family.

The Victorian-era home is filled with a number of original artifacts from that period of time, including antique furniture, clothing, and ceramics.

The Corbett House gives visitors an insight into the life of the Corbett family in Tucson, so if you're looking for something to do while you're downtown, a tour of this historic home might be just what you need!

Play with Little Kids at Children’s Museum Tucson

Exterior of Children’s Museum Tucson
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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.

Kids can also create their own masterpieces at the art studio, where they can paint with watercolors, experiment with bubble wrap, or even make their own T-shirts with silkscreens.

With all it has to offer, the Children’s Museum Tucson is definitely one of the best things to do in Downtown Tucson.

Not only will you and your family have fun exploring the museum together, but you may even learn something new about yourselves along the way.

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.

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

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 if you are a beginner, you can still experience the fun of climbing because knowledgeable instructors will guide you 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.

Rocks and Ropes is a great place for your next date night: It's got plenty to do, even for those afraid of heights, plus an awesome community atmosphere.

Take a Walk in Jacome Plaza

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

Jacome Plaza is a great place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city during your lunch break.

It may not be as well-known as other spots in town, but it offers plenty of shade, benches, and trees so you can rest your weary feet after a hard day at work.

With its prime location downtown, Jacome Plaza puts a variety of businesses within easy walking distance.

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

You can pop into any number of restaurants or shops on Fourth Avenue, Broadway Boulevard, or Congress Street when you're done strolling around the plaza.

If you're more inclined towards nature than art, there's always the attractive landscaping at the plaza to enjoy.

The variety of plants used to decorate the area makes for an interesting walk through the park, and there are even some interesting sculptures scattered throughout to add a bit more character.

Jump and Play in Get Air Trampoline Park

If you're looking to get up, get down, and have a good time, you can do just 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 huge 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 some fun with friends.

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

If you've ever driven down 5th Avenue in Downtown Tucson, you know that there are plenty of options for post-lunch entertainment.

How do you decide where to go? The most obvious choice is to stick with a classic, and there's nothing more classic than El Charro Cafe.

Since 1922, El Charro Cafe has been the home of some of the most stunning interior and exterior architecture in the city.

The restaurant itself is a feast for the senses, with its landmark neon sign and traditional Mexican decor.

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

Inside, it's a blast from the past: there are no flashy computerized gadgets, just good food and friendly service in an atmosphere frozen in time.

The menu is as authentic as it gets, including favorites like carne seca (dried beef), chiles rellenos (stuffed peppers), tortilla soup, and bean-filled burritos.

Whatever you do while visiting Downtown Tucson, make sure to stop at El Charro Café during your trip.

It's one of the best places to get authentic Mexican cuisine served with a smile in a throwback atmosphere that harkens back to another era.

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

The gallery was founded in 1981, and since then, it has served as a museum dedicated to photography.

Downtown Tucson holds its own with a vibrant community of galleries and studios, including Etherton Gallery, which showcases the work of local artists.

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 photographs 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 definitely worth checking out if you want something more than just your average afternoon walk around town.

Make a Wish in El Tiradito Wishing Shrine

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

The shrine was built in the early 1900s, and it remains a popular site for locals and tourists alike.

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.

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, you will find a garden full of color, life, and history – the Dunlap Smith Garden.

At first glance, Dunlap Smith Garden doesn't look like much—just a small space with a few benches and some little planters, but it's what you do there that counts.

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

The park is dedicated to Smith, who was 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.

You can spend as little or as much time there as you'd like; you don't have to worry about anyone else's schedule but your own.

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

Chug a Glass of Beer in Barrio Brewing Co.

Barrio Brewing Company has been a staple in downtown Tucson since its opening in 1991, serving up delicious beers and inviting the community to enjoy them.

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

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

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.

Before visiting, you should find out if they have any special events coming up—they frequently have fun get-togethers that involve live music or beer tastings.

If you love craft beer or if you just want to see what all the fuss is about, this is a great place to go when you're looking for something fun to do Downtown.

Final Thoughts

Downtown Tucson is home to a growing number of art galleries showcasing some of the most innovative local talent; restaurants that use only high-quality local ingredients; and locally-owned shops selling everything from fine jewelry to trendy clothing.

There are also plenty of events going on every day of the month—from art openings at galleries to live music performances.

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