The University of Arizona campus isn't just college lectures and weekend tailgates. And, you don't even have to be a college kid to enjoy all the UA has to offer.
It's a perfect place to explore with kids of all ages through different events and programs hosted by UA departments or campus adjacent businesses and organizations.
Weekends on campus are much quieter and easier to navigate and most parking garages and surface lots are free, so it's the great time to explore all the campus has to offer for families.
Plus you're never far from a public, well-maintained restroom and there are plenty of places to stop for lunch at Main Gate Square on University Boulevard or the Student Union. You could even pack your own lunch and make a picnic on the mall or one of the other shaded, grassy areas now that it's a bit cooler outside.
Here are a few favorite kid-friendly places for your next family outing:
Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium
If you grew up in Tucson, chances are you took a school field trip to Flandrau, so why not share the wonder with your curious child?
A few years ago the planetarium theater underwent a major renovation adding in new, comfy seats and a state-of-the art projection system. There’s a range of planetarium shows for different ages that cover topics like the solar system, black holes, the Tucson night sky and laser light shows. You can even celebrate Shark Week all year round with the science center’s newest interactive exhibit called “Sharks: Magnificent & Misunderstood."
Where: 1601 E. University Blvd.
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Closed on some holidays.
Cost: $16 for adults; $12 for children ages 4-17; Free for children 3 and under. Prices include admission to all exhibits and one show. Discounts available for seniors, military and college students.
More info: Learn more about all Flandrau has to offer here.
Worlds of Words
Get lost in a book and discover children’s stories from around the world at Worlds of Words, the largest collection of global children’s and young adult books in the U.S.
While you can’t take any of the books home with you, there are plenty of cozy spaces throughout the collection to enjoy reading aloud to your littles, or to read silently alongside your teen.
Each month WOW hosts a Book Fiesta, featuring an author or illustrator, light refreshments, books for sale, book signing, and activities. Your older reader might enjoy being Teen Reading Ambassador, which introduces them to new literature and helps them share it with peers at their high schools.
Where: Fourth Floor of the College of Education building, 1430 E. Second St., Room 453
When: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
More info: Learn more about the collection and upcoming events including Book Fiestas here.
UA Athletics and KidCats Club
Take them out to the ball game! Or gymnastics meet, soccer match, or track and field competition.
UA Athletics offers discounted tickets to most sporting events for kids ages 3 to 12, and admission for kids 2 and under is free. Some sports also offer a family package which includes four tickets, four hot dogs and four sodas for $40.
If you have a student in kindergarten through eighth grade, you can sign them up for the KidCats Club. For $15, your child gets an ID card; 2 tickets to use at volleyball, soccer, women’s basketball, gymnastics, baseball and track & field; a birthday card from Wilbur & Wilma; a t-shirt; and other perks.
Storytime at the UA BookStores
Books come to life at this monthly event where your kids can meet their favorite book characters. They'll also hear stories, sing sings and make crafts at this free event geared toward children ages 2 to 5 hosted by the campus bookstore.
Each month features a different character (favorites include Curious George and Elephant and Piggie), and a different theme, plus you’ll get 20% off any general reading books (for adults or kids) purchased that day.
When: Every first Saturday of the month at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
More info: See the schedule of characters here.
UA Campus Recreation
Looking for ways to burn off some kid energy? The UA's Campus Recreation center offers several options to keep your kid active during school breaks and year-round.
Kid-friendly offerings include:
- Swim lessons
- School break camps ("A" Camp for kids ages 5-11, and Arizona Youth University for students from first grade to 12th grade.
- Birthday parties (with activities that include swimming, bouldering, and indoor or outdoor games)
Where: 1400 E. Sixth St.
More info: Schedules, pricing and more info can be found here.
UA Poetry Center
the magic of words and books
is best done with kids
The UA Poetry Center is home to some great programs for poets of all ages. The free, monthly Kids Create event features live music, a sing-a-long and story time for children up to 3 years old, writing workshops for kids from 4-10, and breakfast.
The annual Brave Books exhibit celebrates bookstores and libraries from all around the world, and a part of the Poetry Center is transformed into an interactive exhibit. This year's Brave Books theme is Casa Camino Real and Literature of the US-Mexico Borderlands, which features a mural of the Las Cruces, New Mexico bookstore Camino Real and two adobe style playhouses.
Where: 1508 E. Helen Street
When: Kids Create events happen one Saturday a month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. See the schedule of upcoming events here. The Brave Books area can be explored any time during regular business hours.
The Turtle Pond
Wildcats aren't the only animals that call campus home. This serene little palm tree-lined oasis is home to dozens of slider turtles, even tiny baby turtles! It's a favorite among college students looking for quiet place to spend some time between classes, but also a favorite for kids who will enjoy counting the number of turtles, or watching them crawl out on the rocks and swim around the water.
When: The pond is always open, but best explored in the morning or afternoon.
For the artsy or philanthropic kiddo, the Ben's Bells studio on University Boulevard offers drop in hours where you can volunteer to help paint the colorful beads that decorate the bells, or kindness coins. It's a relaxing and creative way to give back to the community.
Where: 816 E. University Blvd.
When: Monday-Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
More info: Learn about Ben's Bells here.
Campus Candy & Yogurt
Rows of dispensers and bins filled with candy in every color of the rainbow line the walls of this sweet shop AKA kid paradise on University Boulevard. Fill a bag with your favorite Jelly Bellys, gummy candies, chocolates, and more, or use the sweets to top a bowl of fro-yo which comes in several different flavors.
Where: 910 E. University Blvd.
When: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
More info: More about this sugar rush inducing spot can be found here.