Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Marana, AZ

  • Published 2023/04/09

Marana is the gateway to Saguaro National Park in far west and Southern Arizona, offering plenty of opportunities for exploration, excitement, and family fun.

One may find the town of Marana in Pima County, Arizona, right in the middle of the Sonoran Desert.

It is a lively city close to Tucson that serves as a fantastic home base for enjoying the area’s excellent golfing, hiking, traveling, shopping, eating, and relaxation.

Because of the many classic Westerns shot here, the location has always been popular with tourists.

Due to the area’s remote location, business boomed for guest ranches that catered to the Hollywood film crews and the visitors who came to see the filming sites of their favorite movies.

Nowadays, northern retirees wishing to escape harsh winters aren’t the only ones drawn to the area.

History and nature buffs worldwide go there to learn about the region’s rich heritage, stunning landscape, and remarkable wildlife.

Culinary historians will also enjoy reading about the region’s long and storied relationship with food and agriculture.

Read on to discover the best things to do in Marana, Arizona.

See Ancient Artifacts at Saguaro National Park

Scenic views from Saguaro National Park

Charles T. Peden /

Saguaro National Park is a desert oasis with two separate sites in the Sonoran Desert.

Saguaro cacti, which may reach the height of a tree and survive for up to 250 years, inspired the park’s name.

People often regard the saguaro cactus as the most recognizable emblem of the American Southwest.

The Signal Hill Petroglyph Area is an absolute must-see.

The ascent to the peak of Signal Hill is a modest 40 feet tall.

Large cacti at Saguaro National Park

Charles T. Peden /

This petroglyph site is the biggest in Saguaro National Park.

You may view around two hundred petroglyphs created by ancient Native Americans from the path.

Interpretative signs at the top will help you find what you’re searching for.

These artifacts date back 550 to 1,550 years ago.

From here, you may also get further out through the path.

Pamper Yourself at the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain

Five-star Forbes-rated The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain is Arizona’s finest hotel.

Not only may you visit a national park, but you can also have a luxurious experience there.

You’ll feel like you’re in Saguaro National Park because the resort’s design fits the natural environment.

Unique among the area’s eateries is CORE Kitchen and Wine Bar.

Among its 42 trees is an in-house citrus orchard with oranges, red grapefruit, and Minneola tangelos.

Locally produced Sonoran wheat and foraged saguaro, agave, and mesquite are just a few examples of the sustainable goods and local produce that Executive Chef Emily Dillport employs whenever feasible.

A good pool is a must in the desert; The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain boasts three, an authentic taste of luxury.

Ride a Horse at Way Out West Ranch

Guests at Way Out West Ranch may enjoy a thrilling riding adventure across the Sonoran Desert, led by knowledgeable guides and atop well-mannered horses.

The desert riding routes stretch more than two kilometers and provide breathtaking views.

Those who have never ridden or would like to improve their abilities can take advantage of the ranch’s riding instruction.

Thrill-seekers can go on off-trail horseback excursions.

Rides may be as short as 1.5 hours, making them ideal for novices.

Seasoned equestrians, on the other hand, can ride for a whole day.

You may also go on a 2-hour trail ride in the moonlight.

You’ll also be glad to know all Way Out West Ranch horses are rescues.

Go Hiking at Wild Burro Trail

Southwest Arizona is a great place to hit the trail or ride through the state’s national parks.

The area has several hiking paths, but the Wild Burro Trail is a must-do for anybody visiting this magnificent spot.

This hike begins in the parking lot of the Ritz-Carlton, making it a convenient starting point for hotel guests.

You can see the beautiful Tortolita Mountains from a whole new perspective.

You may also hire guides well-versed in introducing tourists to the Sonoran landscape of the Wild Burro Trail.

Ascend the Tortolita Mountains

Trail at Tortolita Mountains

James Omlid Photography /

There are several types of cacti, including saguaros, chollas, prickly pears, and pincushion cacti, in the Tortolita Mountains.

It also has hiking paths, Native American petroglyphs, and ruins.

Tortolita Mountains and its surrounding 3,100 acres of wilderness comprise Tortolita Mountain Park.

While the mountains do offer accessible paths, keep in mind that many sections are rather harsh and lack comforts, such as shady picnic sites and bathrooms.

You should consider joining a local hiking organization for a fun and educational hike.

The Southern Arizona Hiking Club organizes organized treks in the area.

Compete with Your Friends at Disruptive Paintball

Paintballing has exploded in popularity over the past five years, drawing adrenaline-seekers of all ages, from teenagers to stressed-out businesspeople.

Marana is home to several paintball destinations.

If donning camouflage gear and body armor while firing paintballs at nameless foes seems fun, you’re in luck.

Disruptive Paintball on North Sanders Road and BKW on West Tangerine Road.

Inviting your friends and family along for this outing is a great idea.

If you don’t have the equipment or prior expertise, don’t worry.

Disruptive Paintball provides everything you need to get going.

Feel the Thrill at Skydive Marana

Jump out of a plane from 10,000 feet and witness the beauty of Avra Valley as you freefall with Skydive Marana.

One of its highly skilled instructors will accompany you on your jump and advise you on how to use the gear, arrange your body for optimal aerodynamics during freefall, and help pilot the parachute.

All skydives are eligible for group discounts.

Skydive Marana also lets big groups go for skydives above 10,000 feet for the same fantastic price, doubling their freefall by about a minute.

Organize your party’s trip of a lifetime by making a reservation online.

Do you need a present for the daredevil in your life?

Give them the experience of a lifetime!

All you have to do is buy one gift card from Skydive Marana, and the lucky recipient may choose a day and time that works best for them to go skydiving.

Conquer the Skies with Arizona Ultralight Aviation

If skydiving isn’t your thing, but you still want to conquer the skies, check out Arizona Ultralight Aviation.

You may discover various light sports and ultralight planes at Arizona Ultralight Aviation.

It has served customers for almost 25 years.

Courses leading to a light-sport license are the focus of this aviation academy.

Arizona Ultralight Aviation pilots who take you in their little planes may double as knowledgeable tour guides.

They know everything there is to know about the past and present of Marana.

Maybe someday you can take to the skies and fly solo above Marana.

The scenery around Marana is so stunning that you might want to learn to fly an ultralight to take it all in.

Book Tee Time at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain

Daytime view of the Golf Club at Dove Mountain

Bernard Gagnon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The area has four golf courses; their greens stand out against the desert backdrop.

The Golf Club at Dove Mountain is notable for the 27 par-72 holes that Jack Nicklaus created.

The route uses stunning scenery, including saguaros and the Tortolita Mountains.

After your round, there is a first-rate restaurant and bar, Cayton’s Burger Bistro, for refreshments at this posh facility.

Since the club is rather busy, you’ll want to book your tee times in advance.

You can see the lovely white blossoms of the saguaro cactus at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain if you visit during late May and early July.

Let Your Kids Run Free at Marana Heritage River Park

Are you looking for a place for your kids to let off steam?

Located next to the Santa Cruz River Linear Path is Marana Heritage River Park, which spans 163 acres.

The park is a popular destination for amusement and entertainment in Marana, with its soccer grounds, two baseball fields, and performing arts amphitheater.

It also has a multifunctional grassy area for soccer and sports, a wedding venue with a fireplace and catering area, and the Ramada pool barn.

Marana Heritage River Park also features a communal garden where locals may cultivate seasonal plants, a playground, a splash pad area with a tractor, and a water windmill.

A path system for walking and riding runs all around the park.

Enjoy Local Beer at Button Brew House

The Buttons, Todd and Erika, both incredibly inventive and passionate about craft beer, launched Button Brew House in 2017.

Button Brew House aspires to create a “coffee shop environment” at their brewery.

People from all walks of life may congregate and do business while sharing a passion for distinctive craft beer.

Button Brew House produces a beer with chiltepins, which are endemic to the Sonoran Desert and are small, red, and highly spicy chilies.

The interior features bar chairs and tables with black, brown, and red wooden planks.

A wide viewing glass into the brewing area gives the impression that you are a part of the operation.

See the tanks where the beer is brewed, then taste it cool and crisp from the tap.

Button Brew House has continued to work on developing the brewery since its grand debut.

In 2021, the brewers installed seats for its al fresco area.

Bring Home Local Honey from True Love Honey

True Love Honey is where Holly’s Little Farm used to be.

It is a farm and shop that collects and processes honey from various sources, including mesquite, wildflower, and dessert mixes.

The gallberry the bees produce is a high-enzyme, high-pollen product of a particular evergreen shrub shown to have beneficial health effects, especially in treating allergies.

In addition to honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, and beeswax, True Love Honey manufactures cinnamon and raw honey.

It’s a great location to learn how raw honey goes from the beehive to your table.

You may try some raw honey from different regions.

Likewise, discover how to tell the difference between local desert honey and other single-source raw honey varietals like cat claw, wildflower, cinnamon, cayenne honey, and orange blossom.

Other Things to Do Nearby

As its bedroom community, Marana is just a stone-throw away from Tucson.

As the county seat of Prima County, the city is brimming with attractions and activities for all kinds of travelers.

Here are other things to do near Marana, Arizona.

Learn about Local Ecology at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Signage of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

University of College /

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a 27-minute drive from Marana.

It features a zoo, an aquarium, a natural history museum, and a botanical garden all rolled into one.

It’s just a couple miles past the Saguaro National Park visitor center.

The gardens are an excellent representation of the diverse ecology that makes up the Sonoran Desert.

Cacti at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz /

As you wander the walkways, you’ll see animals in their natural settings and exhibitions.

Half a mile in length, the desert circle walk offers stunning panoramas.

You should know it is downhill on the way out and upward on the way back, so pace yourself accordingly.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum store is rather sizable and features regional artisans’ work.

Succulents at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

QhoobNuchy /

Catch Local Wildlife at El Rio Preserve

El Rio Preserve is a 100-acre conservation area in Tucson, Arizona, 14 minutes from Marana, home to many native plants and animals.

The site was home to native people for ages and has been pivotal in several significant historical moments.

Despite its past as a quarry for Arizona highway construction, the preserve is a vital resting spot for migrating birds today.

It’s also popular with hiking trails, disc golf, and a lake and garden that attract various desert birds, butterflies, and other creatures.

Granite, gneiss, and newer volcanic rocks create the area’s unique geological makeup, which results in the area’s distinctively brilliant red hues.

El Rio Preserve is a paradise for birdwatchers, and the calm waters are perfect for unwinding.

Feel Like a Movie Star at Old Tucson Studios

People at Old Tucson Studios

Grossinger /

Old Tucson Studios lies 30 minutes from Marana and is a must-see for any film buff with a soft spot for the Western.

At least as far back as 1939, Marana has been a location for classic and modern Western films and several silent period short films.

Several of the hundreds of feature films produced at Old Tucson Studios and numerous other films and television series were filmed in Marana.

Since nearly all of Marana’s filming locations are on private property, Old Tucson Studios is your best bet if you want a glimpse of the cinematic past.

The studios work as a museum and a theme park, so visitors of all ages will find something they like.

The grounds of Old Tucson Studios

Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They aim to preserve classic westerns shot in southern Arizona.

For example, Arizona (1940) and Rio Bravo (1959) are notable movies shot there.

The studios also provide guided historical tours and role-playing of the movie’s most iconic moments, stunts, and loads of shooting.

You can also find memorabilia from more than 30 masterpieces.

Final Thoughts

Marana, Arizona, is an excellent home base to discover Southern Arizona.

With its spectacular desert backdrop and proximity to major airports, this community has many advantages of a big metropolis without the hassles.

Kick back with a cold beer, play top-notch golf, or indulge in adrenaline-pumping activities.

Discover the best things to do in Marana, Arizona!

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