Interesting and fun things to see and do in Arizona

I wanted to love our weekend in Sedona. But I had no idea where to begin.

Fall in Sedona is a magical time: the heat of summer has begun to fade, and the foliage turns shades of crimson, orange and yellow, complimenting those famous red rocks. The cooler weather makes enjoying the outdoors–and Sedona’s spectacular scenery–especially pleasant. Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy Sedona in the fall.

NOTE: Some facilities might have modified hours due to COVID-19 restrictions. Be sure to check before visiting.

Ogle the Foliage at Oak Creek Canyon

One of the great joys of fall in Sedona is the magnificent display of colorful foliage. The best place to see this is via a drive through Oak Creek Canyon. A series of switchbacks along Arizona Highway 89A just north of Sedona will have you winding through spectacular scenery that is especially resplendent in autumn.

Creek with fall foliage in background fall in sedona

Be sure to stop at Oak Creek Vista, near the canyon’s northern end. As the title implies, it will give you a tremendous view-and a perfect photo op. There are also Native American craftsmen who display there wares here, if you’d like to do a little shopping.

PRO TIP: Just north of Oak Creek Canyon, near Flagstaff, stop in at an Arizona Pumpkin Patch for some additional Fall Fun!

Visit a Historic Apple Farm

No fruit says “fall” more than apples! The Pendley Homestead is a 43-acre historic apple farm located in Oak Creek Canyon. The farm was established by Frank L. Pendley, who acquired the land in 1910 as part of the Homestead Act, and began his apple orchard in 1912. The state of Arizona acquired the homestead in 1985 and opened it as Slide Rock State Park in 1987.

Red apples on tree branches

There are still 300 fruit-producing trees in the orchard, along with the historic homestead buildings and farm equipment on display. When visiting Sedona in the fall, be sure to stop by the park to pick up some fresh Pendley Homestead apples!

Chill Out at the Sedona Stupa

Stupa in Sedona in the fall, with banners coming from peak

Sedona is a must-visit place for spiritual seekers the world over. The Sedona Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park offers a rare opportunity for solace at a form of sacred architecture that is typically found in Asia. Stupas date back over 2,500 years, to the time of Buddha. The structure represents the Mind of Enlightenment, and is considered to be living presence of the Buddha.

This sacred place is a soothing spot to visit during the fall in Sedona. It’s tucked into a clearing among pinion and juniper pines, under the watchful eye of Cathedral Rock. Take a short trek up winding trails for prayer, meditation, healing, and peace. The Amitabha Stupa (and the smaller Tara Stupa) is open every day from dawn until dusk. Like all places of worship, it is free to visit, but donations are accepted.

Hike the Red Rocks near Sedona in the Fall

Fall in Sedona is the perfect time to explore the area on foot. There are a myriad of trails for all abilities winding through the red rocks, valleys and Canyons. Southwest of Sedona, Red Rock State Park offers a collection of relatively short hikes (0.2-0.5 miles each) that can be combined to create longer treks. There is a small admission fee to the park.

For a broader range of hikes throughout the region, be sure to stop into the Red Rock Ranger District Visitor Center of the Coconino National Forest, located on AZ Route 179 just north of Interstate 17. There you’ll find an excellent selection of trail maps, with knowledgeable park rangers who can make suggestions based on your interests.

PRO TIP: Hiking is free in the Coconino National Forest, but parking areas at most of the trailheads require a fee. Pick up a Red Rock Pass at the Visitor Center, or purchase online ahead of your visit.

Taste Wines in the Verde Valley

Yellowing Grape vines in Verde Valley in the fall with a "syrah" sign

The fertile lands along the Verde River have been an agricultural hub for Arizona inhabitants for centuries, and is now home to the Verde Valley Wine Region. Wine tasting is a perfect activity to do in Sedona in the fall! The vines are ready to yield the season’s bounty and the the new vintages are making their way through the fermentation process.

Over 20 wineries and tasting rooms are clustered around the town of Cottonwood, just a few miles east of Sedona. For those that like to turn tasting into a quest, download a passport to the Verde Valley Wine Trail, and check ’em off as you go! (If you’d like to have a designated driver, consider this wine tour with transportation.)

Hunt for ghosts in nearby Jerome

Front entrance Jerome Grand Hotel at night

Perched on the side of a mountain about 30 miles west of Sedona, the former mining town of Jerome is reputed to have its fair share of ghosts. Front and center is the Jerome Grand Hotel, which was repurposed from a former hospital. Some say the hotel is “the most haunted place in Arizona.” When visiting Sedona in the fall, all that vortex energy, coupled with Halloween, has got to raise a spirit or two. Right?

Oh, and did I mention the hotel restaurant is called “The Asylum”? That’s not TOO spooky!

Browse the shops and galleries of Tlaquepaque

Many destinations have shopping areas and galleries, but it takes a place as special as Sedona to have Tlaquepaque Arts and Craft Village. Far more than a simple “shopping center,” Tlaquepaque was actually built to resemble a traditional village of the same name in Mexico. Although it was constructed in the early 1970s, it has a feeling of being around for centuries–the buildings themselves feel like a work of art.

Tlaquepaque artist village in sedona-buildings with mexican-style fountain in front

Originally conceived as an artist community, Tlaquepaque today has over 50 specialty shops and art galleries, many of which contain artists working on-site. As you stroll around trickling fountains under the shade of a giant sycamore, you’re bound to be tempted by ceramics, architectural decor pieces and contemporary jewelry along with fine art paintings and more.

Attend an Arts Festival

Sedona in Fall-hands of ceramic artist shaping pottery on a wheel

Browse unique works of art while helping to support future artists and artisans. Established in 1989, the Sedona Arts Festival is the oldest and largest arts festival in the community. Every fall in Sedona this festival exhibits the work of more than 125 artists in a variety of artistic mediums. Explore creations in ceramics, photography, sculpture, drawing, fiber art and more during the two-day festival, which is held outdoors with the magnificent red rocks as a backdrop.

Attend knowing you’ll be supporting art programs at schools, parks, camps and more. The festival has funded nearly $300,000 of programs during its history. And if all that browsing has worked up an appetite, be sure to check out the Gourmet Gallery for tasty locally-sourced treats.


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Observe (or participate in) Art en Plein Air

hands of artist painting a watercolor outdoors

The dry sunny climate of Sedona in the fall is perfect for creating art outdoors, or “en plein air,” as the French dubbed it. Each year the Sedona Arts Center holds a week-long festival to celebrate this unique artistic experience. The Sedona Plein Air Festival consists of master artists painting, along with workshops, lectures and free events, all amid the magical scenery of Sedona.

The Sedona Arts Center originated over 60 years ago, when the region was just becoming known as an “art colony.” Sign up for one of the workshops and maybe you, too, will one day be one of the master artists!

Go back in time at the Sedona Heritage Museum

Nothing says “autumn” like shiny red apples, and in the early-mid 20th century, apples were big business in and around Sedona. So it seems only fitting that a museum celebrating Sedona’s past should be located on a former apple farmstead. To learn more about this history a visit to Sedona in the fall should include a stop at the Sedona Heritage Museum, located at Jordan Historical Park in Upper Sedona.

The farmstead buildings have been preserved and repurposed into exhibit halls, where visitors can learn about various periods in the region’s history, including Early Settlers, Ranching & Cowboys, the Orchard Industry, movies made in Sedona. There’s even a display about Sedona Schnebly, the woman for whom the town was named.

Ride the leaf-peeping Rails

Fall foliage in Arizona is at its most resplendent near rivers and streams, when the summer greenery changes to vivid reds and yellows. Along the Verde River northwest of Sedona much of this magnificent foliage is unavailable to view–unless you go by rail. A ride on the historic Verde Canyon Railroad will take you through canyons you’d otherwise be unable to see–and it’s especially beautiful during fall in Sedona.

Aerial shot of Verde Canyon Railroad going through canyon along a river with trees displaying fall foliage-near Sedona in fall
The Verde Canyon railroad snakes through gorgeous fall foliage. Photo by Tom Johnson via Flickr

The 40-mile, 4-hour ride takes you on a lazy ride through the canyons along the Verde River. Plenty of windows–and outdoor viewing platforms–give you plenty of terrific photo ops. The train departs from Clarkdale, about 25 miles west of Sedona. Refreshments can be purchased on board, and there are also special event rides, such as the Grape Train Escape Wine Tasting train ride (now there’s a way to multi-task!).

Take a Yoga Hike

In a destination where inner peace and hiking are both so important, a yoga hike is a natural combination. For those who like multi-tasking, yet really need to relax, this is a perfect solution. Spend 3 hours communing with nature as you reach within yourself. All out in the splendid scenery of Sedona in the fall.

There are so many ways to enjoy Sedona in the fall . . . which ones will you choose?

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What so special about these Franklin cars? And what’s with the dirt roads in the middle of Tucson?

Lovers of Franklin cars must visit the the Franklin Automobile Museum in Tucson, Arizona. It’s the largest public collection is devoted to the the quirky marque, built in Syracuse, NY from 1902 through 1934. Just getting to the museum is part fo the fun: it’s tucked away in the residential neighborhood north of downtown known as Richland Heights West, one of the last areas in Tucson with unpaved streets. You approach by driving across natural desert sand, much as a shiny new Franklin car might have done in the 1920s. It’s not uncommon to see the odd tumbleweed charting a lazy course across the sand like in some old John Wayne western.

So plan to take a trip back in time. Drive (slowly!) on some dusty sand roads amid cacti for a few blocks before arriving at the museum’s three adobe buildings. The throwback atmosphere is really part of the fun when viewing such a fine assemblage of pre-World War II cars.

Franklin Automobile Museum Tucson Arizona

History of the Franklin Automobile Museum

This 27-car collection of Franklin cars was developed by car restorer Thomas Hubbard. He purchased his first Franklin in 1950 and just kept buying them. He was first attracted to Franklins at the tender age of eight when his family bought a brand new 1933 model. Apparently his friends were not impressed.

Museum guide Bill, who as a child used to hang around helping Hubbard’s auto restorations, recalls Hubbard saying, “They’d rib me about the car. I had to explain to my friends, why if the car was so good they didn’t make them anymore.” Hubbard passed away in 1993 but the foundation he established funds the museum and its continued acquisition of cars including a purchase of a 1905 Franklin Model A Runabout with a rare rear-entry tonneau.


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History of Franklin Cars

Franklins were the brainchild of engineer John Wilkinson and businessman Herbert H. Franklin, whose personal motto was “It can be done.” Franklin Automobiles were built in the much colder climes of Syracuse, New York in the early part of the 20th century, from 1902 through 1934.

All of the Franklins were air-cooled. Because air-cooling removed the need for a bulky radiator, Franklin cars took on some unusual front-end shapes including barrel hoods, shovels, and horse collars. They were a considered a premium brand; pricing ran just under a Cadillac. Collections this large are rare: although over 150,000 Franklins were produced, only about 3,500 survive today.

What’s on display at the Franklin Automobile Museum

There are three rooms’ worth of autos here. Because early cars required constant maintenance, the 1918 Franklin Model B Touring came with tool kits; the originals are cleverly hidden inside the front doors of Franklin cars and even included extra spark plugs. Look for the handy (and surprisingly small) golf bag on the 1929 Franklin Convertible Coupe.

In a sign of the times, with Charles Lindbergh having crossed the Atlantic Ocean (with an air-cooled engine) just two years before, an airplane logo was placed on the rear bumper to symbolize the car’s “airplane-type” engine; further increasing its sportiness factor.

A 1929/1930/1931 Franklin Model 153 is unique because it was company founder Herbert Franklin’s personal vehicle. The reason it has so many model years attributed to it was that he brought it into the shop annually to update it to the current model year. 

Franklin 1925 Sport Coupe

A one-off 1931 Franklin Model 153 Sport Phaeton was custom ordered by 21-year-old Stillman F. Kelley, II for his honeymoon. Despite the Great Depression raging, Kelley was able to pay $6,500 for this beauty, and may have survived the financial downturn better than Franklin. The automaker had leveraged his company for growth that didn’t materialize and was unable to shoulder the increased debt burden, declaring bankruptcy in 1934. The aircraft engine division survived but, in an odd twist, was bought in 1947 by Preston Tucker to produce engines for the Tucker 48. It’s not all Franklins though. In an outbuilding there are several other marques, including a 1909 REO Touring, which was the first car Thomas Hubbard restored.

And what’s with those dirt roads?

Part of what makes a visit to the Franklin Automobile Museum so unique is its setting in a quiet area with dirt roads. Dirt roads themselves aren’t really all that unusual-especially in rural parts of Arizona. But the museum is in the city of Tucson, which makes it quite an oddity. Here, you can still find corrals with horses and wild rabbits nibbling on mesquite leaves . . . and the speed limit is a whopping 15 MPH.

The dirt road entrance to the Franklin Automobile Museum harkens back to the 1940s

The neighborhood, known as Richland Heights West, is about 3 miles northeast of downtown Tucson. The 16 square block parcel was developed on a former ranch in the 1940s, before it was part of the city–and before paved roads were the accepted thing. The city offered to pave the neighborhood roads in the 1990s, but the neighborhood association said, “no thanks.” They like it just the way it is: quite, a little dusty, and full of wildlife. It’s also the perfect place to see a Franklin Car.

Unique roadside Americana near the Franklin museum

A visit to the Franklin Automobile Museum offers the opportunity to take in a bit of authentic roadside Americana located nearby. Anyone who loves road trips is aware of the Muffler Man statues that sprinkle the heartland. These distinctive, 20-foot-tall fiberglass figures were mostly erected in the 1960s to lure visitors to various shops and attractions. They were cleverly designed so the statue could hold an object related to the business they were promoting.

They came to be known as “Muffler Men,” regardless of what they held, because so many of them ended up holding mufflers to promote service stations. One of these icons of mid-century advertising presides over an intersection in Tucson, just two miles southwest of the Franklin Museum. The circa-1964 fiberglass giant at the corner of N. Stone Avenue and E. Glenn Street is one of the earliest “Muffler Man” statues. This one’s dressed up as Paul Bunyan holding an axe, yet it’s still auto-related, as it stands in the parking lot of Don’s Hot Rod Shop at 2811 N. Stone Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85705.

PRO TIP: If you’re really into quirky sights, just about 6 blocks south of the Franklin Auto Museum is the intersection of Glenn & Campbell Although the Rhinestone Cowboy spelled his name with only one “n,” the crisscrossed street signs provide a nifty photo op.

This museum showcasing Franklin cars is one of several unusual museums in Tucson. It truly is a one-of-a-kind destination and a real trip back in time. Further information is available at www.FranklinMuseum.org.

Where is the Franklin Automobile Museum?

3420 North Vine Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85719

When is the Franklin Automobile Museum Open?

Mid-October through Memorial Day, Wed-Sunday, 10am to 4pm.

What was unique about Franklin cars?

The engines were air-cooled, so there was no need for a bulky radiator.

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Photo-op classic cars parked in random spots all around Tucson. How wonderfully odd!

Truly Nolen cars are a staple in the Tucson landscape. But why are classic cars perched on random street corners with the words “TRULY NOLEN” painted on the side? We were on a mission to find out.

What are Truly Nolen cars?

Truly Nolen cars are one of the truly (yeah, we really said that) unique things about Tucson: classic cars parked all over Tucson with the words TRULY NOLEN boldly painted on them. There are more than fifty of these cars, turning the southern Arizona city into an unofficial outdoor car museum. They’re such a fixture that most locals take them for granted. Perhaps it’s because, with 350 days of sunshine per year, Tucson is one of the best cities in America to own a classic car. There’s hardly any rain and you certainly don’t have to worry about corrosive salt being put down on the roads to counter ice and snow.

1948 light blue Chevy-one of the Truly Nolen cars to be found on a random Tucson street corner

But that still doesn’t explain why they’re here. As nice as the climate is in Tucson though, we’re not sure we’d leave a classic car parked outside permanently, certainly not a collection of 50 classic cars. But then again, we’re not mid-century extermination magnates. The cars are part of a quirky marketing campaign for the Truly Nolen exterminating company, a national company founded in Tucson by the eponymous Truly Nolen–yes, that was his real name. His siblings included Really and Sincere Leigh. (Seriously. And yes, really.)

How Truly Nolen Cars Began

The whole spectacle began in 1955. Young exterminating entrepreneur Truly Nolen’s car broke down while he was driving around town on business. Truly had to leave the car parked outside a mechanic’s garage for a week while he waited for his next paycheck to cover the repairs. Fortunately for him, that car had the company name and phone number prominently displayed on the side.

We met with Michelle Nolen Senner, the company’s current head of public relations (and Truly’s daughter), who told us, “During that period he received more calls than ever for new business. He loved marketing and he loved old cars, so he got an idea.” And what an idea that was.

From an idea to a marketing classic

Truly started acquiring cars and painting his name on the side. (In the late 50s these would have simply been used cars–who knew they’d become classics?) Then he began parking them at prominent intersections throughout town; in fact, they’re now known as “corner cars.”

The landowners welcomed the classic cars to their site; the conversation piece drew in new customers for their own businesses, many of which were auto-related, such as body shops and car washes. Some of the cars are paired up with businesses that inadvertently create a happy coincidence. For example, a 1956 Pontiac—with its iconic jet-wing hood ornament—is parked in front of a Jet Wash car wash.

Due to the desert sand, this Pontiac looks like it could use a trip through the Jet Wash

Gradually the fleet expanded to more than 50 classic cars and continues to grow. At any one time you might run into a 1929 Nash Cabriolet or a 1934 Hudson and more, either parked around town or participating in various civic activities and car shows. The company gets the best response from chrome-filled cars of the 1950s and 1960s, like a 1950 Studebaker or the two-tone turquoise-and-white 1957 Nash Metropolitan.

Amazingly, all of the Truly Nolen cars are unlocked–what a great photo op!

People really like the cars with prominent tail fins that take them back to a 1950s malt shoppe.

Truly’s personal 1957 red-and-white Chevy Bel Air—his daily driver—is a valued artifact and kept at the company lot.  Senner recalls, “The first time I took it out for a drive was to a Starbucks. When I got back in the car I realized there were no cup holders!”

Sitting in Truly Nolen’s favorite car-truly a treat (even though there are no cup holders!)

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“Mouse Cars”: the new classic

In 1961 the company started turning Volkswagen Beetles (no coincidence that an exterminating company used a car named after a bug) into “mouse cars,” complete with mouse ears on top and a tail in the rear. (A 1974 VW “mouse car” is one of the classics parked around town.) The next logical step? The “Mouselimo:” a stretch Beetle that made it into the Guinness World Records as the longest VW Beetle. As it’s an unusual car to stretch, there are only three in the world.

Vintage car lovers in Tucson can go on a cool scavenger hunt by driving around town seeking out these shiny classics parked on their prominent perches. While Truly Nolen passed away in 2017 at the age of 89, his legacy lives on with the corner cars.

PRO TIP: To see additional classic cars parked outside the Truly Nolen offices in Arizona, drive by 3636 E. Speedway Boulevard, Tucson, AZ 85716 or attend one of their car shows.

Bonus sightings: Classic cars in the Truly Nolen spirit

In a sort of homage to the Truly Nolen marketing model, other companies in Tucson also park classic cars out front with the company name on them. A first-generation Mustang painted with a Mexican flag is parked in front of the legendary Sonoran hot dog restaurant El Guero Canelo, while a 1937 Hudson Terraplane is parked outside Buck’s Automotive Repair. When asked if the latter still runs, the owner replies, “Every day. Everything still works, even the original radio.”  The car is a favorite find for kids who are playing Pokémon Go. 

When it comes to marketing exterminating services, Truly Nolen definitely built a better mouse trap and created a unique feature of Tucson that everyone can still, well, truly enjoy.


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I could stare at airplanes for hours. Which is exactly what I did at the Tucson Boneyard (geek-heaven!)

The Tucson airplane graveyard is a must-visit site for anyone who loves aircraft (that’s us!). Learn about this amazing place, and how you can visit “the Boneyard,” as it’s unofficially known. Visiting the Boneyard is one of the truly unique things to do in Tucson-there’s nothing else like it. Anywhere.

Tours of the Tucson airplane graveyard closed during the COVID 19 pandemic, and plans to reopen are unclear 🙁. We will update this site when we learn of any changes.

What, exactly, IS the Tucson Airplane Graveyard?

“The Boneyard” is officially known as the 309th AMARG Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (military-speak for a really cool aviation junkyard). It’s located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, on the southeastern edge of Tucson, where it is the final resting place of more than 3,000 aircraft.

AMARG is the world’s largest salvage yard, minus the snarling dogs. The aircraft are lined up in rows set up with military precision, stacked so closely together that from above their wings look like they are holding hands with each other, a sharp contrast to their former roles. It’s a starkly beautiful setting as, throughout the day, the silver fuselages reflect changing colors of the Rincon Mountains to the east.

Aerial view of hundreds of planes lines up at the Tucson airplane graveyard, aka the tucson boneyard
Isn’t this a beautiful sight?

Why is there an Airplane Graveyard in Tucson?

The military has a problem. It has thousands of aircraft that are no longer being used, but they don’t want to just send them to the scrapyard like a used ’92 Chevy. So what to do? It would be impractical to build giant hangars for 3,000+ aircraft, especially when many of them are no longer operational. How about sending them into semi-permanent outdoor storage?

The Sonoran Desert of Arizona provides the perfect location, where the arid climate prevents rust.

Out-of-service military aircraft at the Boneyard, with Tucson’s Rincon Mountains in the background

Despite its moniker, the Boneyard is not a place merely to stockpile airplanes in eternal rest. Some have been mothballed for spare parts and potential future activation. In 2015 a B-52 bomber old enough to qualify for AARP membership was restored and returned to flying condition. Though the Cold War may have ended, the men and women deployed at the Boneyard in Tucson are on constant alert for any future chills in relations between the superpowers.

What can you see at the Tucson Airplane Graveyard?

Despite their placement on an active military base, tours are offered of the Boneyard. Visitors board air-conditioned buses at the adjacent Pima Air & Space Museum for a tour through the Boneyard of stored aircraft inside Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to see the world’s largest collection of military aircraft.

The amount of hardware on display is striking. Some of the planes look ready to take off while others are partially salvaged, as if the turkey vultures soaring overhead have been picking them clean. Upon approach the rows of angular F-14 fighter planes emerge like giant metal scorpions lying in wait on the desert floor. Security around them is strict since this particular model is still flown by the Iranian Air Force, which is desperate for spare parts to maintain their fleet.

Rows of aircraft from various military branches lined up at the Boneyard Tucson. Note the Coast Guard plane amidst the others.

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The tour bus ambles by ranks of abandoned bombers, propeller-driven cargo planes, helicopters and fighter jets while the guide points out the former roles of each aircraft. In an odd twist, new C-27 Spartan cargo planes were delivered directly to the Boneyard. Although recent budget cuts prevent their use, it didn’t stop production of them. 

In a sign that the military possesses its own unique brand of humor, a lone ladder waiting for a pilot to climb into the cockpit is angled ten feet into the air, hovering over a set of landing gear and . . . nothing else. A sign in front of it says that this is an F-117 Stealth Fighter. It makes the grizzled tour guide’s day when groups of unsuspecting schoolchildren exclaim, “Wow! You really can’t see it!”

AMARG’s sense of humor is evident at this display of the F-117 Nighthawk “Stealth Fighter.”
YouTube video
Some planes are sent to the scrap yards adjacent to the Boneyard, where the aircraft are not set up in such neat rows.
YouTube video

Afterwards, the Pima Air & Space Museum offers a fine collection of more than 350 aircraft including a B-24 Liberator, Sikorsky Skycrane helicopter, Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the unique Aero Spacelines 377-SG “Super Guppy” cargo plane that is cobbled together from parts of a retired U.S. Air Force C-97 Stratofreighter and a former Pan American Boeing 377 Stratocruiser.

Fast facts about the Tucson Airplane Graveyard, aka “The Boneyard”

Can anyone visit the Tucson Boneyard?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Tucson Boneyard is closed; plans to reopen are unclear) Yes, all nationalities are welcome on the tour. Be advised that you will be touring an active US Military site; as such, be prepared with proper identification.you must take a guided bus tour, which starts at the adjacent Pima Air & Space Museum

Do you need to make a reservation to tour the Tucson Boneyard?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Tucson Boneyard is closed; plans to reopen are unclear) Yes, Tucson Boneyard tours are only available by advanced reservation.

When can I make a reservation to tour the Tucson Boneyard?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Tucson Boneyard is closed; plans to reopen are unclear) Reservations must be made a minimum of 16 days in advance. Tours can be reserved up to 60 days in advance.

What type of information is required by US citizens to reserve a tour of the Tucson Boneyard?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Tucson Boneyard is closed; plans to reopen are unclear) When making a reservation, adult US citizens (aged 16 and older) must provide the following: Full name as it appears on a driver’s license or valid state-issued photo ID (including middle initial or middle name), plus ID number & state of issue, date of birth and social security number. Be prepared to bring this same ID with you for the tour. For children under 16 years of age you must provide full name and birthdate (no ID required).

Can US citizens use a passport or military ID to reserve a Boneyard tour in Tucson?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Tucson Boneyard is closed; plans to reopen are unclear) NO. US passports and military IDs are not acceptable means of ID for the AMRAD Boneyard Tour.

What type of information is required by NON-US citizens to reserve a tour of the Tucson Boneyard?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Tucson Boneyard are closed; plans to reopen are unclear) When making a reservation, adult NON-US citizens (aged 16 and older) must provide the following: Full name as it appears on a passport (including middle initial or middle name), along with passport number, date of birth and country of issuance. Be prepared to bring this same ID with you for the tour. For children under 16 years of age you must provide full name and birthdate (no ID required).

How long is the AMRAD Boneyard tour?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Boneyard ae closed; plans to reopen are unclear) The tour is approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes long.

Can you walk around the Tucson Boneyard?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Boneyard are closed; plans to reopen are unclear) NO. The Boneyard is on an active US Air Force Base. Visitors must stay on the bus for the duration of the tour.

How much does the AMRAD Tucson Boneyard tour cost?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Tucson Boneyard is closed; plans to reopen are unclear) Cost of the tour is $10 per person and is non-refundable.

Where do I make reservations for the AMRAD tour?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Tucson Boneyard is closed; plans to reopen are unclear) Contact the Pima Air & Space Museum.

For another Cold War relic head nearby to the Titan Missile Museum, home of the last of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert from 1963 through 1987.

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The Grand Canyon is great, but aren’t there some off-the-beaten-path historic sites and parks?

Visiting Arizona National Monuments is a terrific way to see the beauty of the state, often with only a fraction of the visitors at Arizona National Parks. National Monuments in Arizona range from areas with unusual geological formations to sights of historic (and prehistoric!) significance. In total there are 18 Arizona National Monuments, more than any other state. Most of these sites are managed by the National Park Service and have services such as interpretive centers, ranger-guided programs and restrooms. Visiting National Monuments in Arizona provides an opportunity to explore the state’s unique scenery and culture without the crowds that can clog up the more well-known National Parks.

To help you understand the many options available to you while traveling in Arizona, we’ve outlined some of the guidelines that distinguish Arizona National Parks from Arizona National Monuments, as outlined by the National Park Service. We’ve also listed all 18 designated National Monuments in Arizona, with the services available at each. Be sure to include a visit to these magnificent sites on your next trip–you won’t be disappointed!

PRO TIP: A road trip is a great way to see Arizona National Monuments. Check out our 11 favorite Arizona road trips for some ideas and inspiration!

Fast facts about Arizona National Monuments

What IS a National Monument?

National monuments are areas reserved by the Federal Government because they contain objects of historic, prehistoric, or scientific interest. Among National Monuments in Arizona you’ll find ancient cliff dwellings, archeological ruins and natural areas with unusual landscapes and rock formations.

What is the difference between a National Park and a National Monument?

National parks are areas set apart by Congress for the use of the people of the United States generally, because of some outstanding scenic feature or natural phenomena (hello, Grand Canyon!). National monuments are generally smaller than National Parks, focusing on a single unique feature. Although some Arizona National Monuments are quite large; Organ Pipe Cactus NM is over 500 square miles.

How many National Monuments in Arizona are there?

Arizona has 18 sites designated as National Monuments, more than any other state.

Who manages Arizona National Monuments?

Most National Monuments in Arizona are managed by the National Park Service. A few sites are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Occasionally sites will be managed by local authorities, either alone or in conjunction with a federal agency.

Complete list of National Monuments in Arizona

PRO TIP: Opening times and certain park services may be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions. Be sure to check with each park prior to visiting.

Agua Fria National Monument

A large area of preserved mesa and canyon along the Agua Fria River. Varying altitudes provide a wide range of desert vegetation, and there are some petroglyphs among the rocky canyon.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape, Ancient Culture
  • Services: None-Bring in and take out all supplies
  • Special Considerations: 4-wheel drive not necessary, but advised
petroglyphs of animals on rock, with canyon in the distance
Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management

Canyon De Chelly National Monument

A fantastic place to observe dramatic scenery with over 5,000 years of continuous habitation. Some descendants still live on the site (a rarity among national sites). Scenic drives provide magnificent vistas, up-close views of the cliff dwellings are with local guides.

  • Location: Northeastern Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient Culture with cliff dwellings
  • Services: Visitor Center, Guided tours, Accessible paths
  • Special Considerations: Located on Navajo Nation lands, which observe Mountain Time Zone schedules

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Ruins of a large structure dating back to the 1400s from a Sonoran Desert agricultural society. Its exact purpose is unknown, but the scale of the remains attest to the sophistication of the community.

  • Location: Central Arizona (between Phoenix & Tucson)
  • Type of Site: Ancient cultural ruins
  • Services: Guided tours, gift shop, picnic grounds
  • Special Considerations: Accessible pathways

Chiricahua National Monument

Wonky, other-worldly rock formations that go on for miles make great atmosphere for hiking or a scenic drive. Chiricahua is located along a North American flyway and is a good site for birders.

  • Location: Southeastern Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape, geological wonder
  • Services: Visitor center with museum, bookstore, restrooms, drinking water
  • Special Considerations: camping at Bonito Canyon, Birding

Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument

Parashant is one of the Arizona National Monuments that is vast, wild and absolutely gorgeous. This million-square-mile area on the northern side of the Grand Canyon is completely “off the grid,” with no services. There’s plenty of room to roam, but you MUST have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, preferably with high clearance.

  • Location: Northern Arizona, along the border with Utah and Nevada
  • Reason to visit: Stunning scenery
  • Facilities & Services: No services within the monument boundaries; there is an information center in St. George, Utah
  • Special Considerations: 4-wheel drive required; although located in Arizona, entrances are from either Nevada or Utah.
Parashant, a national monument of Arizona, with joshua tree in foreground and snow-covered mesa in background

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Hohokam Pima National Monument

Hohokam Pima National Monument celebrates an ancient people that thrived during the first millennium. Excavations of an ancient site are ongoing and closed to the public, however there is much to learn about the community at the Huhugam Heritage Center, which showcases precious ancient artifacts discovered at the archaeological site.

  • Location: Central Arizona, about 20 miles south of Phoenix.
  • Type of Site: Ancient culture, museum & heritage center
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor center/museum, restrooms.
  • Special Considerations: Managed by Gila River Indian Community; hours may be different to other national sites

Ironwood Forest National Monument

A large (129,000 acres) site that offers plenty of wide-open desert spaces for solitude and exploration. There are 3 designated National Historic archaeological sites within the boundaries for the truly intrepid.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape, Ancient Culture
  • Services: None-Bring in and take out all supplies
  • Special Considerations: Camping and hunting allowed

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Stunning 600-year-old cliff dwelling that is remarkably intact. The 40-50 room structure is only viewable from a distance to preserve it. There is a smaller dwelling about 10 miles away, known as Montezuma Well, that is also part of the Monument. Although not as grand, it allows for a more up-close view of the structure.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient culture; cliff dwellings
  • Services: Montezuma Castle has a Visitor Center, with museum, bookstore and restrooms, along with picnic grounds. Montezuma Well has picnic grounds and pit toilets.
  • Special Considerations: Two sites, about 10 miles apart, comprise the Monument

Navajo National Monument

Spectacular cliff dwellings from the 1300s set in a massive red rock cave. Long-distance views by walkway with limited wheelchair accessibility. Close-up views of the cliff dwellings by guided tour only, rugged terrain.

  • Location: North Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient culture, cliff dwellings
  • Services: Visitor Center, with museum, bookstore and restrooms, ranger-guided tours of the cliff dwellings, camping
  • Special Considerations: Located on Navajo Nation lands, which observe Mountain Time Zone schedules

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

The unique desert landscape at Organ Pipe has been designated an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations. This Arizona National Monument is large and uncrowded: at over 500 square miles it’s over 3 times bigger than Saguaro National Park, yet it receives only 1/4 of the visitors. There are plenty of hikes and scenic drives; Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is well worth a trip to southwestern Arizona.

  • Location: Southwestern Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape
  • Services: Visitor center with displays, bookstore, restrooms; scenic drives, hiking trails, RV and tent campsites, backcountry camping
  • Special Considerations: hike to an abandoned mine on monument grounds.

Pipe Spring National Monument

The homestead at Pipe Spring offers a glimpse into the rugged life of Mormon homesteaders in the late 1800s. The fresh water from the Pipe Spring has attracted settlers for centuries; there is an interesting perspective on both Native American and White inhabitants of the area. Not many Arizona National Monuments grow fresh fruits and vegetables–the National Park Service still maintains the gardens (and livestock!) at Pipe Spring.

  • Location: Northwestern Arizona
  • Type of Site: Historic homestead
  • Services: Visitor Center with museum, bookstore, restrooms; historic ranch with animals, fresh heirloom fruits and vegetables (in season)
  • Special Considerations: Accessible pathways

Sonoran Desert National Monument

A great National Monument in Arizona if you want to spend time exploring the Sonoran Desert landscape on your own, at your own pace. Camp out under the stars . . . and even bring your horse if you’d like to ride! This is one of the few national monuments that allows hunting on the grounds.

  • Location: South Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape
  • Services: Limited restroom facilities
  • Special Considerations: In addition to camping, hunting and horseback riding are allowed

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Visit the cinder cone of an extinct volcano at Sunset Crater. Even a thousand years (!) after it last erupted, the terrain is still barren near the top. You can also hike the area of the former lava floes–an other-worldly experience if there ever was one. Those with mobility issues can view the terrain via scenic drives.

  • Location: North central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Geological wonder
  • Services: Visitor Center, restrooms, picnic grounds, campgrounds
  • Special Considerations: Admission fee also covers access to Wupatki National Monument, 20 miles away.
Arizona National Monuments-sign for Sunset Crater Volcano with cinder cone in background

PRO TIP: Plan to visit Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments on the same day. They are only 20 miles apart and the admission fee gets you into both sites!

Tonto National Monument

There are a LOT of cliff dwellings in Arizona; Tonto is special among Arizona National Monuments in that you can walk right up and into the dwellings themselves. There are two sites: the lower dwelling is accessed via a paved path; see the upper dwelling via a ranger-guided tour over rugged terrain. The central Arizona location makes it a nice day trip from Phoenix.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient cliff dwellings
  • Services: Visitor Center, museum, restrooms, picnic grounds, guided tours
  • Special Considerations: trail to the lower cliff dwelling is paved, but is steep, with some steps, so might not be suitable for those with accessibility concerns

Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot is the remains of a 1,000-year-old Sinagua pueblo perched on a ridge overlooking the Verde River. The complex of 100+ rooms illustrates the sophistication of this society–modern-day condos could borrow a few tips from the construction here! This is one of the Arizona National Monuments that is nearby Sedona, making a nice excursion if you’re in the area.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient Culture
  • Services: Visitor Center, museum, bookstore, restrooms, picnic grounds
  • Special Considerations: There are paved trails to the base of the pueblo and along the marsh; access inside the upper rooms requires stairs.

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

Vermilion Cliffs is a great place to go if you like eerie rock formations. This National Monument has no services, so be prepared to rough it. But you’ll be rewarded with solitude and stunning scenery.

  • Location: Northern Arizona
  • Type of Site: Geological Wonders
  • Services: None-bring in and take out everything
  • Special Considerations: 4-wheel drive required
Arizona national monuments-strange rock formations at Vermillion Cliffs

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Walnut Canyon’s cliff dwellings more hidden than those at the other Arizona National Monuments. They are tucked away along a ridge in the forest, largely hidden from view until you are right on top of them. But that’s part of their charm: you can walk right up–and into–them, giving you an ancient’s-eye-view of life in what would become Arizona in about 500 years.

  • Location: North central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient cliff dwellings
  • Services: Visitor Center, museum, bookstore, restrooms
  • Special Considerations: Path to the cliff dwellings involves climbing up and down stairs

Wupatki National Monument

If you like ancient pueblo construction, you get a lot of bang for your buck at Wupatki. The area encompasses six distinct pueblo structures out on an open plain over an area of about 15 miles. Drive from pueblo to pueblo via a loop road, then take short paths to the structures themselves. Among Arizona National Monuments, this is an excellent option for those with mobility issues. Paths to 4 of the 6 pueblos meet accessibility standards, the accessible path to the remaining pueblos is currently under construction.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape, Ancient Culture
  • Services: Visitor Center, museum, restrooms
  • Special Considerations: Admission fee also covers access to Sunset Crater National Monument, 20 miles away.
Photo courtesy NPS

Now that you’ve seen the stunning array of choices to visit at Arizona National Monuments, which one will you visit first?

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Sure, we’re planning to go to Saguaro National Park. But what else is there to do in Tucson?

One of the reasons we love Tucson is because there are quirky attractions here that you won’t find anywhere else. Whether it’s the best Mexican food in America or the world’s largest collection of military aircraft, here are our top 12 unique things to do in Tucson Az.

Tucson Warehouse and Transfer Company mural

1. Munch through the Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food in America

El Charro Cafe Tucson

It’s no secret that Tucson offers up the best Mexican food in America. We’re not talking chain restaurants in mall parking lots, this is the real deal. Tuscon is part of the Sonoran Desert, which extends down to the state of Sonora Mexico to the south. The region has been sharing culinary treasures since long before there was a border wall. They’re so proud of this culinary achievement that there’s even a Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food in America route you can take, a tasty journey, and one of the unique things to do in Tucson Az.

2. Plane-spot at The Boneyard

Aerial view of hundreds of military aircraft lined up at the Boneyard-one of many unique things to do in Tucson Az

The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson is the largest military aircraft repository in the world and the final resting place of more than 3,000 (yes, three thousand ) aircraft. Officially known in military-speak as the “309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center” (AMARG), you can catch glimpses of the aircraft liked up in neat rows as you drive around southeast Tucson, particularly on S. Kolb Road. But to really see them up close the best thing to do is take a guided bus tour on the grounds of this Tucson airplane graveyard. This is definitely one of the things to do in Tucson AZ that you cannot do. Anywhere. Else.

3. Reach for the stars at Kitt Peak National Observatory

onal Observatory view from above

If you’re looking for things to do in Tucson AZ, but want a different perspective, you can always look up at the stars. Located one hour southwest of downtown Tucson, the Kitt Peak National Observatory hosts the widest range of research telescopes on the world. Three of the nearly two-dozen telescopes are set aside for public viewing events. After winding their way up the curvy road, stargazers take part in nighttime observing programs peering into the farthest reaches of the universe. If you’re not a night owl, there are also daytime activities.

4. Chow down on some Sonoran Hot Dogs

Orange tray with 4 sonoran hot dogs

Okay, so maybe this is not one of the things to DO in Tucson AZ, but more one of the things to EAT. The Sonoran hot dog is so popular that it ranges from southern Arizona across the border to Mexico where they originated. But what is a Sonoran hot dog? In a nutshell, take a top-split bolillo roll then stuff it with a bacon-wrapped hot dog, pinto beans, chopped fresh tomatoes & onions (or pico de gallo), jalapenos, mustard AND mayonnaise. They are found all over town from humble street carts to the James-Beard-award-winning El Guero Canelo.

Here’s our rundown of Sonoran hot dogs in Tucson, based on eating way too many of these yummy treats. (Actually, there’s no such thing as too many!)

5. Soak up the Mid-Century Vibe

Tucson Arizona Sun Land Motel neon sign

In some ways Tucson feels like the land that time forgot. I mean that in a good way. Where many cities have plowed over their history for new development, Tucson enjoys a wealth of surviving Mid-Century architecture and cool neon signs that make you feel like you’ve snuck onto the set of Mad Men. There’s even an annual Tucson Modernism Week that celebrates the city’s Mid-Century architecture and design.

One of the really fun things to do in Tucson Az is to drive around town to see the neon signs in their original locations. Make sure to cruise the Miracle Mile Historic District north of downtown, then check out the many preserved signs at the Ignite Sign Art Museum, one of several unusual museums in Tucson.

6. Tickle your tastebuds in America’s First UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy

Taqueria Pico de Gallo Tucson Arizona

In 2015 UNESCO designated Tucson a Creative City of Gastronomy, joining such foodie destinations as Parma, Italy and Chengdu, China. This selection is based on Tucson’s status as one of the oldest settlements in North America. With 4,000 years of agricultural history, its blend of Indigenous ingredients and Old World traditions form a unique and contemporary Southwestern cuisine.

All this foodie heritage is supported by a wealth of farmers markets, community gardens and food festivals that promote eating local, providing endless good eats on your quest for things to do in Tucson AZ. For a visitor this means you’ll eat very well here; the plethora of locally owned restaurants offer plenty of unique dining experiences.

7. Hunt for Truly Nolen Cars on Tucson’s Corners

1939 Ford Deluxe Truly Nolen classic car

One of our favorite things to do in Tucson Az is go on a sort of classic car “scavenger hunt.” Tucson is the world’s largest open-air classic car museum due to the efforts of a man truly named Truly Nolen. In the 1950s Nolen started setting up the antique cars to advertise his exterminating company. The fleet has grown to 50 Truly Nolen cars parked around town. It’s difficult to miss them parked in strategic locations with TRULY NOLEN emblazoned on the side. During your visit you might run into a 1923 Dodge Roadster, a 1934 Hudson, or a 1939 Ford Deluxe like the one above. You can see more classic cars park outside their offices at 3636 E. Speedway Boulevard, Tucson, AZ 85716.


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8. Pedal the Chuck Huckleberry Loop

Photo credit: Nicci Radhe

How many cities offer more than 136 miles of interconnecting paths almost completely without street crossings? The Chuck Huckleberry Loop (known locally as simply “The Loop”) is a system of mostly paved paths that connects parks throughout the city. A system of over-and under-passes make it a terrific way to get around town. In January 2018 the County completed a connection on the north side of town that turned created an actual “loop”, with a complete circuit of 53.9 miles.

There’s a reason why so many professional cyclists train in Tucson during the winter. Although amateurs like us, along with joggers, walkers, wheelchairs, and parents pushing strollers use the Chuck Huckleberry Loop too. And since this is Tucson after all, you might even see a horse along the way, along with Farmer’s Markets and outdoor public art along the route. The Loop is one of the truly unique things to do in Tucson AZ.

PRO TIP: If walking/hiking is more your thing, you can stride along on the Rillito River Path, which is a segment of the Huckleberry Loop. It’s one of many great Tucson Hikes.

9. Drive up to Mount Lemmon

Mount Lemmon is a unique Sky Island that rises 7,000 feet over Tucson, providing a cooling respite during the summer heat wave. There’s even a community called Summerhaven, along with ski activities in the winter, plus hiking, rock climbing and generally enjoying nature year-round. On a relatively balmy winter day it’s pretty cool to wake up to 65 degree weather in Tucson and see snow from a storm dusting the peak of Mount Lemmon.

What makes a drive up to Mount Lemmon one of the really unique things to do in Tucson Az is the climate changes you’ll experience. During the hour-long 28-mile drive along the Catalina Highway scenic byway to its peak, you’ll pass through four separate ecological zones. You start in the desert surrounded by saguaro cacti and end up in an area lush with conifer trees that feels like the Rockies. It’s the climate equivalent of driving from the border with Mexico to the border with Canada, and all in one hour! Think of all the fuel you saved. The views from the top at Windy Vista Point (shown above) are incredible . . . and perfect at sunset.

The University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory atop Mount Lemmon provides SkyNights StarGazing programs using their Schulman 32-inch and Phillips 24-inch telescopes, two of the largest telescopes available for public viewing in the Southwest. If you’re not a night owl–or if perhaps driving down a steep, curvy mountain road in pitch black darkness isn’t your thing–there are also daytime programs.

10. Rock out at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show turquoise
Photo credit Pete Gregoire

For many people this tops the list of things to do in Tucson Az. According to the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society, the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show is “the largest, oldest and most prestigious gem and mineral show in the world.” We used to think that was just hyperbole, but we have been in town for the annual winter extravaganza and can attest that it truly is a one-of-kind event. Thousands of hobbyists and professionals descend on Tucson to shop, mingle and scratch their lapidary urges. If bling is your thing, you won’t be disappointed.

11. Reflect on space at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Tucked below the University of Arizona football stadium, the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab produces the largest and most advanced giant telescope mirrors in the world. A 90-minute tour reveals the leading edge technology producing the next generation of telescopes to explore deep outer space. Personally, I would think a location right underneath the stomping feet of thousands of fired-up football fans would upset such a delicate manufacturing process, but what do I know?

12. Catch a flick at Cactus Carpool Cinema

Tucson’s dry climate provides the perfect setting for a long lost art that the Covid shutdowns have revived: drive-in movies. The folks at Cactus Drive-In have capitalized on this by acquiring a site at 6201 S. Wilmot Road in southeast Tucson, hard by the runway for Davis Monthan Air Force Base and the Pima Air & Space Museum. So perhaps you’ll be watching Top Gun on the 40′ inflatable screen while an actual fighter plane goes roaring overhead. Or maybe it’ll be an old western while you sit nestled among the cacti and ocotillos. Overall it’s one of the truly unique things to do in Tucson Az.


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Wouldn’t it be nice to find a spot to take the family that went beyond the traditional zoo or children’s museum?

We love exploring these unusual museums in Tucson, Arizona. Many of the city’s unique museums reflect Tucson culture and showcase exhibits and artifacts that cannot be found anywhere else. From a funky spot to view old signs to a Cold-War colossus, to a rodeo tribute, check out our 8 favorite museums in Tucson.

Ignite Sign Art Museum

A collection of neon signs at one of our favorite museums in Tucson: the Ignite Sign Museum

It’s lit at the Ignite Sign Art Museum in a Tucson museum that celebrates the city’s long legacy of clever neon signage. While many of the signs are still in place at their original locations around town, the museum preserves and displays signs that are no longer used. Since this is a working sign restoration studio, on Wednesdays and Saturdays there are demonstrations of the neon bending that creates these wonderful designs.

PRO TIP: Visit the Ignite Sign Art Museum in Tucson on Wednesdays & Saturdays to see sign restoration in progress.

Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum

A collection of western saddles from the Tucson Rodeo Parade museum

Claiming to be the largest non-motorized parade in the country, the Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum dates back to 1925 when this really was a cowtown. This is one of the more historic museums in Tucson. The museum celebrates the parade’s long legacy with a collection of more than 100 horse-drawn vehicles. (Some of them were used in the movie Oklahoma which, despite the title, was filmed in southern Arizona.)

The Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum is located inside four buildings, one of which is the old Tucson Municipal Flying Field airplane hangar. In addition to all the vehicles and saddles, there’s also a model railroad inside one of the buildings. The Tucson Rodeo takes place in February but the museum is open January, February and March.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Walking path at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson.

Okay, I have to admit that at first I was skeptical about the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Even though this is one of the more popular museums in Tucson, my thought was “When you’re in Tucson there’s pretty much desert all around you, so why would I need to go a museum about it?” Well, when I hike in the desert there aren’t placards and informative guides explaining to me all the flora and fauna I encounter.

I found that a visit to the museum makes me appreciate the actual desert even more. There’s also a zoo, botanical garden, natural history museum and aquarium to round out the experience. And it’s an absolute delight to hang out in the hummingbird house! The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is adjacent to Saguaro National Park, one of 31 Arizona National Parks and Monuments in the state, a great place to test your newfound knowledge of the landscape.

PRO TIP: Visit adjacent Saguaro National Park (where you can take one of many great Tucson hikes!) after you explore the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to test your newfound knowledge of the landscape.

Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures

I was going to write a short story about this museum but I figured that was too obvious. The museum features more than 500 antique and contemporary miniature dollhouses and models. But it is more than just a museum of dollhouses. There are miniatures here of practically anything you can think of . . . like a set of animal carvings inside a walnut shell.

And lest ye think the Enchanted Tree shown above is not miniature at all, it’s hiding–at kid height–a series of miniature rooms in the nooks and crannies of its magical trunk. This is one of the museums in Tucson that’s lots of fun for miniature people as well!


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History of Pharmacy Museum

Okay, a museum devoted to medicine may not be everyone’s cup of tea but there’s no doubting that it’s different. The world-class History of Pharmacy Museum is tucked into Drachman Hall on the University of Arizona campus. It’s definitely one of the more esoteric museums in Tucson.

Hundreds of thousands of items (full disclosure here: we did not count them but take their word for it) ranging from old-timey bottles of elixir to anti-venom kits for snake poison are displayed in antique shelves. A full-scale replica of an old-fashioned drugstore that looks like it was lifted from Main Street USA helps put all these unusual items into context. Reading the ingredients on the labels on some of the old jars it’s amazing what got approved when product safety was not as emphasized.

Titan Missile Museum

Titan II missile in silo at Titan Missile Museum in Arizona

During the Cold War in the mid-20th century there were 54 Titan II missile sites on active alert across America. It’s quite surprising to realize that the picturesque Sonoran Desert surrounding Tucson was the home of 18 of these underground silos, one of which survives as part of the Titan Missile Museum in Green Valley, Arizona, just a 25-minute drive due south of downtown Tucson. It’s the only place in the country where you can see one of these missiles in its original home. But don’t worry, that’s not a real nuclear warhead on top, (or so the guide told me.)

Gadsden Pacific Toy Train Museum

Just one of the many layouts at the Gadsden Pacific Toy Train Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum.

Formally known as the Gadsden Pacific Toy Train Operating Museum, this museum features nine indoor operating layouts. There’s also one set out in the garden, along with a train you can ride around the property. If that’s not enough, hop into the full-sized actual caboose for a browse around and photo op. This Tucson museum is a train lover’s delight.

Franklin Automobile Museum

Franklin antique cars lined up inside the Franklin Automobile museum
A row of Franklin cars lined up at the Franklin Automobile Museum

Lovers of classic cars will admire the collection of Franklin cars–and their unique setting at the Franklin Automobile Museum in northern Tucson. Set within in a quirky neighborhood that still has the original sandy roads from the 1940s with a 15mph speed limit, you get into the “early 20th century mood” before you even set your eyes on the cars themselves. Franklins, with their leading-edge air-cooled engines, were all the rage 100 years ago, but now are quite rare. This is the only independent museum in the country dedicated to the marque.


The magnificent weather around Tucson invites you to spend the majority of time outdoors, enjoying the splendid Arizona sunshine. But when you’re craving a little bit of shade (and air conditioning!) these unusual museums in Tucson are a great option. And if all this exploring has you feeling a bit “peckish,” satisfy your hunger with a Sonoran Hot Dog in Tucson: it’s a James Beard Award-winning classic!


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I love visiting sights where an element from pop culture has become a destination unto itself.

“Standing on the corner Winslow Arizona” immediately calls to mind the Classic Rock song Take it Easy, made famous by the group Eagles. The town of Winslow has embraced the song and created a park commemorating the song. In the opening line lead singer Glenn Frey belted out “standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona,” putting that town forever on the map of must-see rock-and-roll sights.

Standing on the Corner Park refers to the opening line to one of Eagles’ most iconic songs, from their debut self-titled album. Jackson Browne and Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey wrote Take it Easy in 1971 and it was released as Eagles’ first single in 1972. Even a half-century later, the song still resonates.

“Well, I’m a standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona
and such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford
slowin’ down to take a look at me.”

Written by Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne


Standing on a corner Park Winslow Arizona statue

Standing on the Corner Winslow Arizona: the Park

Winslow already had some acclaim as a Route 66 town with a celebrated hotel, the historic La Posada, and, up until the 1960s, it was the largest town in northern Arizona but the song sent Arizona road trippers detouring from interstate I-40 to look for the famous intersection. The only problem was Take it Easy wasn’t written about any particular corner in Winslow. But the town realized they should give these visitors something to see so in 1999 they created “Standing on the Corner Park” at the intersection of Route 66 and North Kinsley Avenue right in the center of town. Hence “standing on the corner Winslow Arizona” was memorialized.

You can’t miss it, there’s a giant highway shield of Route 66 painted in the road. Since the song doesn’t mention exactly which corner in Arizona the writer was standing this one will have to do. It won’t be long before you’ll be singing “standing on the corner Winslow Arizona” beneath your breath as you approach the legendary site.

In a mural created by artist John Pugh there is indeed a reflection of a girl slowing down to take a look. To add even more realism, a bright red 1960 Ford flatbed truck is parked in the street for a unique photo op. While Winslow doesn’t get quite the foot traffic of tourists crossing Abbey Road in London does, we were surprised by the steady flow of people on a winter’s day. It’s estimated that 100,000 people a year visit Standing on the Corner Winslow Arizona.

standing on a corner winslow arizona, image of statue in the park
The girl in the flatbed Ford appears in the window reflection. Can you spot the eagle?

The centerpiece of the park is a denim-clad statue named “Easy” holding an acoustic guitar. The statue was created by sculptor Ron Adamson. While it does bear a passing resemblance to Jackson Browne, it is supposed to represent all songwriters. It was installed in September 1999 when the park was dedicated. Upon Glenn Frey’s death in 2016 the statue became a setting for tributes to the Eagles songster. A statue of Frey was added thanks to fundraising efforts of two Phoenix morning radio DJs, Mark Devine and Paul Marshall, from classic rock station KSLX along with the Standing on the Corner Foundation and the City of Winslow.


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The origin of Standing on the Corner Winslow Arizona

But where did the famous lyrics come from? Jackson Browne had once been stranded in Winslow and put the town name in the song. But he had trouble coming up with the context to finish the verse. In the 1994 documentary Jackson Browne: Going Home Browne attributed the lyrics about the flatbed Ford to Glenn Frey. According to Browne, “He came up with this great flatbed Ford thing, that’s a transformation made right there. I dug the fact that all these women in Arizona were driving trucks so that appealed to me, ‘It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford.'”

Standing on the Corner Park and Route 66

Winslow itself is a pretty interesting town to visit. It’s a great stop along a Route 66 Arizona Road Trip. You can stay in the historic La Posada Hotel which is a former Santa Fe Railroad hotel from 1929. East of town there are a few relics from Route 66’s glory days of welcoming travelers and even a spot where the road literally ends.

In September, Winslow hosts the annual Standin’ on the Corner Festival with live music, craft vendors and food trucks. It’s a great time to visit and mingle with fellow Eagles fans. Year-round there are several souvenir shops to get your Standing on the Corner Winslow Arizona swag.

Old Route 66 peters out below, replaced by the interstate.

Visiting the Park: Standing on the Corner Winslow Arizona

Address: Intersection of 2nd Avenue (Old Route 66 eastbound) and North Kinsley Avenue. Winslow is 58 miles east of Flagstaff. You’ll take I-40 to get to Winslow so make sure to exit the interstate to get downtown.

Hours: 24/7

Admission: Free

Web site: StandinOnTheCorner.com

And here’s one for the road . . . the Eagles, Jackson Browne and (Arizona native!) Linda Ronstadt performing Take it Easy in 1974:

YouTube video
Watch more on Jackson Browne’s YouTube Channel

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Is this really where they launched missiles? Or just a creepy underground set from Stranger Things?

A visit to the Titan Missile Museum in Arizona is an eye-opening experience. This amazing underground sight shows the might (and fright) that was created during the Cold War. Take a tour for a glimpse into national defense in mid-century America.

Ah, the Cold War was a wonderful time. While the United States and Soviet Union were nuclear saber-rattling with each other, some Americans were building fallout shelters in their backyards to survive the expected onslaught of airborne radiation. Meanwhile, school-age children hid under their desks in school during air raid drills–apparently nothing provides as much protection overhead as a piece of flimsy plywood. Those were some tense times.

Titan II missile in silo at Titan Missile Museum in Arizona

Where is the Titan Missile Museum?

It’s quite surprising to realize that the beguiling Sonoran Desert surrounding Tucson, with its majestic saguaro cactus forests, was a nuclear-tipped Ground Zero. Burrowed beneath a landscape that reveals an unexpected array of plant and animal life is a surviving Titan Missile silo. The Titan Missile Museum barely scratches the earth’s surface in Green Valley, Arizona, just a 25-minute drive due south of downtown Tucson.

Radioactive suits at the Titan Missile Museum.

From 1963 through 1987 there were 54 Titan II missile sites on active alert across America; a whopping 18 silos of the encircled Tucson, making the city a prime target for the Soviet Union. (I bet THAT wasn’t in the tourism brochures back then!) The silos are relics of a time when MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) was the normal course of business between the two superpowers. Visiting launch complex 571-7 at the Titan Missile Museum is a sobering reminder of how close the countries came to pulling the nuclear trigger.


Touring the Titan Missile Museum-Underground

Visitors start their tour by descending a set of metal steps more than 100 feet deep into the subterranean bunker, which is protected behind a set of hardened blast doors. As if to show that the only dangers aren’t delivered from the sky, the entrance is clearly marked by a sign stating “Watch out for rattlesnakes.” The guides are former Air Force personnel, many of whom were missile crew members who worked and lived underground during the Cold War.

The key to ending the world.

During the 45-minute tour you get to visit the Launch Control Center. With its vast array of blinking mainframe computers and rotary dial phones it feels like a time tunnel to 1963, or perhaps something out of a cheesy science fiction film. In fact, the museum served as a setting in the 1996 film Star Trek: First Contact; in its cameo role the missile was transformed into a “Warp Drive” space ship. Across the room a standard government-issue metal file cabinet painted bright red held the top-secret launch codes that the crew would have used to send the missile skyward.

PRO TIP: Touring the underground silo of the Titan Missile Museum requires descending and climbing 55 stairs.


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Visitors can sit at the launch console and even reenact turning the launch key for a Titan missile. When I tried it I couldn’t believe how nervous I felt. The missile was topped with a dummy warhead and was no longer programmed to wipe out an undisclosed location in the former Soviet Union. So really, what could go wrong? But it’s easy to imagine the thoughts of the men and women who had trained for such a day, with a simple twist of the wrist hurling a nuclear missile skyward.

Tunnels lit by sputtering fluorescent lights turn off at right angles, giving the space the look of an oddly illuminated ant colony. Signs throughout indicate “No Lone Zone. Two Man Policy Mandatory.” This was an extra security measure designed to prevent a rogue crew member from tinkering with the equipment.

At the end of one tunnel the actual Titan missile looms overhead, still poised to reach supersonic speed in seconds. Visitors also access the crew’s cramped living quarters, a Spartan living arrangement they likened to a “Motel 2.” The 4-member crew worked in 24-hour shifts trained for a job they hoped never to fulfill.


Above the missile silo.

Aboveground at the Titan Missile Museum

Back above ground there is a museum that relays the history of the site and the Titan Missile program during the Cold War. In the gift shop you can even buy a mushroom cloud-adorned board game called Nuclear War. It’s billed as the “comical catyclysmic card game of global destruction.” You may never play a boring old game of Monopoly again!

YouTube video

Visitor Information

  • Address: 1580 W. Duval Mine Rd. Green Valley, Arizona 85614
  • Hours: 9:45am – 5:00pm; open 7 days a week Oct-May, closed Tue, Wed June-Sept
  • Price: $13.50 adults; discounts for seniors/military/children 12 and under

PRO TIP: Due to the small space, tours are limited to 26 individuals each; purchase tickets online in advance to ensure your spot


Afterwards, for another Cold war site that is active today, tour the Boneyard of military aircraft in Tucson to see where 3,000+ planes are stored.

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I never expected 4 Corners Monument to be the perfect road trip destination. The surrounding scenery is astounding.

This Arizona road trip to 4 Corners Monument takes you through the Navajo Nation in the northeast part of the state. You’ll see Monument Valley and many other stunning ancient sights related to Native American history and culture. For geography geeks (like us!), a trip to 4 Corners Monument is a must-see road trip destination. It’s the only place in American where you can stand in 4 states at once!

PRO TIP: 4 Corners Monument (i.e.The Navajo Nation) observes Daylight Savings Time, the State of Arizona does NOTbe sure to plan your schedule accordingly!


The 4 Corners Monument Road Trip Itinerary

Map showing route of 4 Corners Monument road trip
Route map of 4 Corners Monument Road Trip, image courtesy of Google Maps

This Arizona road trip itinerary begins near the north center of the state (Flagstaff or the Grand Canyon) and heads northeast into the Navajo Nation toward 4 Corners. Customize your journey to make it your own personal best road trip in Arizona by linking to one of our other itineraries. Along the way you’ll see some magnificent scenery, including Navajo National Monument and a historic Navajo display in an unlikely location (more on that below).

Spend a night (or two) at spectacular Monument Valley, using it as a base as you explore the area and visit 4 Corners Monument. Afterward, continue southward, stopping in to see the ancient Canyon de Chelly and historic Hubbell Trading post. Finish up near Petrified Forest National Park, where, if you’re so inclined, you can head back west on Route 66 in Arizona.


NOTE: Some National Park and Navajo Nation sights may be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Be sure to check prior to visiting.


Cliff Dwellings at Navajo National Monument

Visit cliff dwellings that date back to the 1300s Navajo National Monument. There are two sites within the park that are available to visit: Betataking and Keet Seel. You can seek the Betatakin dwellings from a distance via an overlook on a self-guided trail. If you want to seek the site up-close, sign up for a ranger-guided tour, which takes 3-5 hours of rugged hiking. For a real in-country Navajo Nation experience, sign up for the 17-mile round trip hike to Keet Seel.

Sweeping view of cliff dwellings at Navajo National Monument, 4 corners monument

PRO TIP: Up-close looks at the cliff dwellings involve rugged hiking on ranger-guided tours. Sign up at ranger-guided tours at Navajo National Monument.


The Navajo Code Talkers Exhibit

After driving about 150 miles east the Grand Canyon you’ll come to the small town of Kayenta. Don’t bypass the Burger King: what appears to be a run-of-the-mill fast food outlet contains a hidden gem. Inside there’s an exhibit dedicated to the Navajo Code Talkers. These Navajo soldiers transmitted encoded military messages in the Pacific Theater during World War II. The Japanese were unable to decipher the ancient language, helping the Allied path to victory.–a code the Japanese navy was never able to break.

PRO TIP: Interested in learning more about the Navajo Code Talkers? Seek out the 2002 movie Windtalkers, starring Nicolas Cage and Adam Beach.

On the Navajo Code Talker website you can hear fascinating interviews from actual Code Talkers who served in World war II. One display depicts a fascinating blend of cultures: a Purple Heart medal decorated with local turquoise.

mural of a WWII Navajo code talker on the side of a barn in the Arizona desert


What, exactly, is 4 Corners Monument?

We’re both geography geeks so even from a tender age we used to look at maps and always wonder about that magical place where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah met. That’s 4 Corners: the only place in the United States where you can stand in one spot and be in four states at once. And because of that bit of geographic weirdness, naturally there’s a monument. To some it’s a tad silly, but to travel nerds (and since you’re reading this you may be one, too) a road trip to 4 Corners Monument is a must-do journey.

4 Corners Monument feet straddling state borders
As geography geek photo ops go, 4 corners monument is high on the list!

The 4 Corners Monument straddles four states but it is firmly located within the Navajo Nation. The tribe controls the monument at the remote location and charges an admission fee of $5/person in winter; $10/person in summer; ages six and under are free. Given the uniqueness of the site that’s not bad. The monument itself consists of a pink granite slab with markings showing the boundaries of the four states. They intersect at a round brass marker which designates the actual spot where they meet, stamped by the US Department of the Interior.



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What about GPS? Is 4 Corners Monument in the right spot???

There’s been some talk lately that GPS technology has proved that the spot isn’t the actual corner of the four states. Some critics theorize that it could be 2 1 /2 miles away. Ray Russell of the Navajo Nation addresses this issue by saying, “In 1868, GPS technology was not available to surveyors. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the current location is the legal location of the Four Corners.” The local Bureaus of Land Management also agree. So when you stand on the brass plaque in the you can be confident that you are indeed standing at the 4 Corners of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.

“In 1868, GPS technology was not available to surveyors. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the current location is the legal location of the Four Corners.”

Ray Russell of the Navajo Nation
Here’s a cute video of a girl running in and out of four different states.

4 Corners Monument: A Breaking Bad Moment

The Four Corners Monument even made it into an episode of the TV show Breaking Bad. When Skylar White was thinking of leaving her husband Walt she drove up to the 4 Corners with baby Holly in tow. She stood near the plaque and flipped a coin at the middle to determine where she should go. Her choice is pretty telling. (Observant fans of the show will notice that Anna Gunn, the actress who plays Skylar, never actually made it to the Four Corners. Due to the magic of cinema her body double was used for the shots.)

YouTube video

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

After getting your geography fix at Four Corners, head to Monument Valley to see some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, straddling the Arizona and Utah borders. The epic landscape has been featured in hundreds of old Western films, many of them starring John Wayne riding to the rescue and other star-studded fare including Forrest Gump, Thelma & Louise and even the most recent version of The Lone Ranger. (Okay, so maybe they all haven’t been hits.)

Where to stay near 4 Corners Monument

We stayed in Monument Valley for a few nights. We found it was a great location a base to explore the 4 Corners Monument and the stunning rock formations at Monument Valley. There are only two hotels, but they are both winners, each offering their own unique charm:

  • Right at Monument Valley, stay at The View Hotel. It’s owned by the Navajo Nation and just like the name promises, it looks right out over Monument Valley and some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
  • Historic Goulding’s Lodge opened in the 1920s as a trading post, eventually growing into a motel that housed John Wayne and crew when those Westerns were being filmed. The views of Monument Valley are more long distance views but still spectacular.

Canyons of Navajo Culture

Leaving Monument Valley and the 4 Corners Monument behind, turn south and visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument to see the site of 5,000 (!) years of civilization. Because this park is contained within the Navajo Nation, it is a rare National Park that has inhabitants, whose ancestors have lived there for generations. While there you can view spectacular cliff dwellings, take a guided hike with a park ranger, or an off-road tour with a local Navajo guide.

If all this Navajo immersion has you hankering for a special souvenir, stop into the historic Hubbell Trading Post, which has been selling the work of Native American artisans for nearly 150 years. You can tour the Hubbell homestead, then watch Navajo artisans-in-residence practicing their craft. Much of this magnificent work is available for sale.

After leaving Hubbell Trading Post, head due south for about an hour to connect you with Interstate 40 and Old Route 66. From here you can head west, exploring the mid-century delights of Route 66, or continue south through Petrified Forest National Park and a Road Trip along the Mogollon Rim. Either way, you’ll have completed a unique trip through northeastern Arizona . . . somehow managing to visit 3 other states at 4 Corners Monument!

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Where is Four Corners Monument?

Four Corners Monument feet straddling state borders

Four corners monument straddles 4 states: Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado & Utah, but this intersection of states is firmly located in the midst of the Navajo Nation.