Editor's note: This story was originally published in 2022 and updated on March 9, 2023.
Before we start dreading the arrival of summer and the 100-degree days that accompany it, let's focus on the cooler days ahead of us.
Here are 10 things to do outside — before it gets too hot. (But most of the places mentioned are open year-round and some even open their doors on summer nights for folks to enjoy the cooler temperatures after sunset.)
1. Bask in the desert beauty at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
2021 N. Kinney Road, 520-883-2702
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum may not be a hidden gem, but it's a gem no less.
Check out 1,200 kinds of plants, experience the touch of a stingray, walk through a reptile and amphibian hall and see all kinds of desert animals — bobcats, a mountain lion, javelinas, prairie dogs, skunks, hummingbirds and more.
If you visit in springtime, you may even spot colorful cactus blooms in the museum's cactus garden.
2. Say hello to the animals at Reid Park Zoo
3400 E. Zoo Court, 520-791-3204
Head to Reid Park Zoo where elephant Penzi, lion Kaya, giraffe Sota, bear Joaquin and more than 200 other animals await your arrival.
Beyond the animals, you can feed the giraffes, ride a carousel and have a bite to eat at the zoo's own cafe.
3. Take a walking tour of the city
196. N Court Ave., 520-622-0594
Tucson has a lot to see and a lot to love. The Presidio San Agustín del Tucson Museum knows that.
Each month, the museum hosts a series of walking tours around the downtown area — and they almost always sell out.
Guided walking tours include the Turquoise Trail, where you'll see historic buildings and learn a slice of Tucson history; the Mainly Murals Walking Tour, which shows off some of downtown's murals and discusses the artist behind the piece; the Public Art and Murals Walking Tour, which explores public art pieces and murals; and the Barrio Viejo Walking Tour, which takes you through the historic Barrio Viejo neighborhood.
Alternatively, check out our mural gallery to put together a self-guided mural tour of your own!
4. Get your shopping on
Tucson is home to a number of markets featuring everything from handcrafted items made by local artists to fairs showing off the best collectible and vintage finds.
Here are a handful of markets happening in March:
- Oro Valley Festival of the Arts — Shop from 120+ local artisans. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 18 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 19, 12155 N. Oracle Road.
- Las Mujeres Verdes — Typically around 40 vendors. 4-8 p.m. March 25, 3538 E. Ellington Place.
- Made In Tucson Market — Find 300 local makers at this market. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 19, East Seventh Street, west of North Fourth Avenue.
- Fourth Avenue Spring Street Fair — 300 artists from around the world. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 24-25, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 26, along Historic Fourth Avenue.
- BICAS Art Mart — Find items made by local artists. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 26, 2001 N. Seventh Ave.
- Soul Food Wednesday — Shop from 45+ vendors. 7-10 p.m. March 29, 267 S. Avenida del Convento.
5. Put on your hiking shoes and head to your nearest trail
What would this list be if we didn't include hiking?
Hiking trails are all over — short trails leading up to the top of "A" Mountain, the steep walk up Tumamoc Hill, plus there's Enchanted Hills Trails Park, Sabino Canyon, Catalina State Park, Saguaro National Park and so many more nearby hiking areas.
While hiking in March is typically significantly cooler than hiking in June, it's still important to hydrate and protect yourself from the sun! Heading out during the cooler morning hours might be best.
6. Hop on a bike
The Loop is home to more than 130 miles of paved pathways, perfect for bicycling, roller-skating, jogging and horseback riding.
Dust off your bike and head to your closest entrance along The Loop — or explore a section of The Loop you may not be as familiar with. Along the way, check out the dozens of art pieces on the pathways.
If you'd rather hop on a guided bike tour, that's an option, too.
There's FUGA, which hosts monthly bike rides on the south and west sides of Tucson. There's also Tucson Bike Tours, which hosts three different tours centered on history, murals and tacos. Breweries like Button Brew House often host bike rides, too!
Need a bike? Check out Tugo Bike Share!
7. Get outside and volunteer with a community organization
If you're hoping to soak up the sun all while making a difference, volunteering with a local organization is an option to consider.
Tucson is home to an incredible number of programs that work hard to make our community a better place. Below are some outdoorsy volunteering opportunities, but remember: volunteers are likely needed every season of the year!
- Mission Garden — You can be a volunteer gardener and prepare soil, plant seeds, harvest produce and more. (Volunteering aside, Mission Garden is also a fun place to explore!)
- Pima Animal Care Center — Get the pups out of their kennels and take them for a walk!
- Therapeutic Ranch for Animals and Kids — Tasks include filling waters, feeding animals, mucking horse stalls and raking the grounds
- Buffelgrass pulls — Help remove the invasive buffelgrass at a number of pulling events throughout Tucson. Check out the Desert Museum's website for locations!
8. Pet farm animals — and a capybara
2405 W. Wetmore Road, 520-399-6555
Funny Foot Farm is not your average petting zoo.
At their main location on Wetmore Road, you can pet and feed farm animals like ducks, pigs and goats for only $6. But when their new location opens in the Avra Valley area, you'll be able to book visits with exotic animals like capybaras and kangaroos.
Follow the farm's progress online to see updates on the new location with the exotics.
9. Enjoy your favorite food — on a patio or have a picnic
Tucson is home to countless restaurants with beautiful patios, from the spacious courtyard decorated with twinkling lights at LaCo to the shipping container food hall The Boxyard.
Whatever restaurant patio is your go-to, enjoy patio season while it lasts.
Alternatively, pick up food — takeout goodies or picnic ingredients — from a place like Super Carniceria y Pescaderia El Ranchito, Roma Imports or Flora's Market Run. Have a picnic of your own at a nearby park!
10. Experience spring with all the flora you could ask for
To get the real spring experience, now's the time to bask in the plants of local gardens.
Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way, is home to more than five acres of space, including an area dedicated to butterflies. Until May, you can step into Butterfly Magic and watch as 200 butterflies flutter by.
Also a space for plant lovers is Tohono Chul, 7366 N. Paseo del Norte, which is home to themed gardens and, of course, the desert's best friend — the saguaro.
Both also have restaurants!