Valley of the Moon

With dad Art getting video, Jasper Torrance, 3, bolts out of the maw of an anthropomorphic tree at Valley of the Moon.

Dreaming of vacation? Sometimes escaping to a far-off destination is a lot closer then you think.

From made-up worlds to natural environments that seem like a million miles away from the desert, here are just a few places in town that will take hold of your senses and make you feel like you're on an adventure outside of Tucson. 

Valley of the Moon

Step into a storybook land enchanted by dragons, fairies and magic at Valley of the Moon, located in midtown Tucson.

Built the 1920s as a way to promote kindness and imagination, creator orge Phar Legler used stones of various sizes and cement to construct intricate spaces for children and their families. Some of the things he made include a performance space, houses built for tiny magical creatures, fun passageways and an enchanted garden.  

Today, Valley of the Moon is a Tucson historic landmark and a non-profit run by volunteers. In its recent expansion, sculptures from a old mini golf course were added.

You can tour the grounds for free every first Saturday of the month. But if you want to truly feel the magic be sure to attend the yearly Halloween performances, "Haunted Ruins", which happen every weekend in October.

Find more information here.

Where: Valley of the Moon, 2544 E. Allen Road, Tucson

Hours: Open for tours and events. Check the Valley of the Moon's website for dates, times and pricing.

Biosphere 2

The ocean ecosystem at Biosphere 2 in Oracle where scientists do experiments on sea life and climate change.

With futuristic architecture inspired by the Mayan pyramids, the Biosphere 2 research facility, located just a mile outside of Oracle, looks like it belongs in a science fiction film rather than nestled along the Catalina Mountains.

The complex was built and funded by a Texas billionaire in the 1980s and 90s who was interested in demonstrating what a self-sustaining space colony could look like. This included experiments where researchers actually tried to live inside the walls of this closed ecosystem.

Today, Biosphere 2 is owned by the University of Arizona and serves as a laboratory for climate research. And the best part is, you can visit! Biosphere offers a number of tours where you can explore a mini desert, rainforest, ocean, and the inner workings of the facility all under one roof.

If you go

Where: Biosphere 2,  32540 S Biosphere Rd, Oracle

Hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost: $21 general admission for adults, $14 for kids, $19 for seniors

The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures

Immerse yourself in a wonderful world of crazy tiny stuff at the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures, located in midtown Tucson.

The museum was founded by Patricia and Walter Arnell as a way to showcase their extensive collection of miniatures and love of the craft.

Today, visitors can explore the different sections of the museum, including "The Enchanted Realm" complete with a giant tree sculpture and miniature renditions of haunted houses, a winter village you can walk on top of, and tiny scenes fit for a fairy tale.

Find more information here.

Where: The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures, 4455 E Camp Lowell Drive, Tucson

Hours: Open Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Closed on Monday.

Cost: $9 general admission, $8 for seniors and military, $6 for kids ages 4-17, kids under 3 get in free.

Kon Tiki Restaurant and Lounge

Known as one of the oldest tiki bars in the country, Kon Tiki looks almost the same as it did when it opened its doors in 1963.

With an old island flare and fun things to take in everywhere you look — like the largest collection of Milan Guanko tikis, allegedly — it's hard to remember you're sipping piña coladas in the middle of the desert. 

Head in for some food and try out "monkeys and birds on a stick," just tasty skewers of steak and chicken, or hang around for the daily happy hour that includes a free small buffet from 4-7 p.m.

But the real fun is in their tiki drink menu, with cocktail names like "Navy Greg" and "A Drink of the Gods." The "Scorpion Bowl" is an original Kon Tiki drink made with rums, brandy, liqueurs and tropical fruit juices. It's served in a fishbowl cup with a long red straw — share it with your friends and feel those island vibes.  

Find more information here.

Where: Kon Tiki Restaurant and Lounge, 4625 E. Broadway Blvd.

Hours: Open Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Trail Dust Town

Early arrivals explore Trail Dust Town. Trail Dust offers a variety of restaurants and attractions, including a magic store.

The Wild West is alive and well on the east side of Tucson.

Located right next to Golf N' Stuff on Tanque Verde Road, Trail Dust Town is a family-friendly rootin-tootin cowboy town that's way too fun to die.

Here you can grab some grub at Pinnacle Peak, which has been serving up steaks since 1961, catch a live-action stunt show, eat at Millie's Pancake Haus' new location, or visit a year-round haunted house. There's also plenty of old-fashioned attractions to keep the kids entertained like a carousel, ferris wheel, train rides, panning for gold and more.

Every Friday, Trail Dust Town hosts the Heirloom Farmers Market, so you can enjoy the atmosphere of the park while shopping for some fresh food.

If you go

Where: Trail Dust Town, 6541 E. Tanque Verde Road

Hours: Grounds are open daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Attractions are open 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Shops and restaurants maintain their own hours, find a schedule for them here.

Cost: There's no entrance fee into Trail Dust Town. Amusement rides are $2.50 per activity, Stunt show is $5, Ravenhearse Family Haunt is $6 and admission into the Museum of the Horse Solider is $6 for adults and $3 for kids. You can get a wrist band for $12, which includes unlimited rides and access to all of the attractions.

Mount Lemmon

With average temps 20 to 30 degrees cooler than the Tucson valley below, Mount Lemmon transforms itself to a snowy wonderland during the winter months and green forest escape in the summer.

This 9,157-foot peak is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains and a short drive from Tucson takes you through several different ecosystems, including grasslands, woodlands and tall pines.

The small community of Summerhaven near the top of the mountain has several restaurants and businesses including a cookie cabin and a popular lunch joint called the Sawmill Run, where you can enjoy a ½-pound burger and local Dragoon IPA. Work off your lunch by playing in some snow at Marshall Gulch or take a hike on a nearby trail.

Further up the mountain you’ll find the southernmost ski area in country, the Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, where you can hit the slopes when there's enough snow or just take in the lush landscape.

Find more things to do on Mount Lemmon here.

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