Time for a road trip during Tucson travels? These eight day trips are a short drive away from the city—all within two hours—and host a variety of sights to explore.
Kartchner Caverns State Park
Follow a tour guide through a Southeastern Arizona limestone cave and marvel upon the icicle-looking stalactites and stalagmites. Kartchner Caverns was discovered in 1974 by young cavers Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts, who explored the cave for four years before sharing the find with the property owners. See one of the world’s longest soda straw stalactites (21 feet, 3 inches) and many other unusual formations along the 1 ½-hour tour.
University of Arizona Biosphere 2
Modeled after Earth (Biosphere 1), the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 is a self-sustaining, enclosed colonization used for scientific research, and is open to the public for visitation and tours. Between 1991 and 1994, Biosphere 2 sealed in a group of scientists for active research and documentation of survivability. Today, the enclosure is used by UA scientists as a laboratory to study global climate change consequences, among other experiments. The 3.14-acre Biosphere facility is complete with a tropical rainforest, wetlands, grasslands, desert and ocean with coral reef.
Kitt Peak National Observatory
Stargazing through a telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory takes viewers through an abundantly bright and populated path of constellations. At 6,880 feet in elevation, the observatory sits in the Quinlin Mountains on Tohono O'odham Nation land in the Sonoran Desert, about an hour drive southwest of Tucson. It holds the world’s largest collection of optical telescopes—22—plus two radio telescopes. Guided tours run at scheduled times throughout the day from the visitor center, and a nightly observation and advanced observation program are available.
Vineyard Tours & Wine Tastings
Follow the Sonoita/Elgin Wine Trail, south of Tucson, and visit a dozen wineries and vineyards where winemakers cultivate the desert landscape and produce fine wines earning recognition and awards internationally. Kief-Joshua Vineyards, Dos Cabezas WineWorks and Wilhelm Family Vineyards are a few key stopping points. Or head east of Tucson to follow the Wilcox Wine Trail map to visit another dozen vineyards and wineries in Willcox, including Zarpara Vineyard, Keeling-Schaefer Tasting Room and Pillsbury Wine Company.
The mountainside town 90 miles southeast of Tucson was known as the “queen of the copper camps” in old mining days. Today, visitors frequent local shops and art galleries, and lounge on patios at restaurants and breweries including the Bisbee Breakfast Club and The Quarry. For adventure, take the Queen Mine Tour to learn about Bisbee’s past mining days, sign up for a ghost tour or visit the Old Bisbee Brewing Company.
The town of Tombstone was founded in 1877 and quickly became a silver-mining hub. It survived two wide-spread fires and Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday had their infamous shootout at the O.K. Corral in the 1880s. With well-preserved buildings and the oldest continuously published paper in Arizona, this town is a prime example of Western heritage. Visit the Bird Cage Theatre, Boothill Graveyard or the Old Tombstone Western Town while immersing into the Wild West.
Tubac and Tumacácori
Established in 1752 as the first Spanish military fort in Arizona, Tubac long ago exchanged its martial backdrop in favor of a more artistic character. Dozens of galleries—exhibiting everything from wood carvings to oil paintings—fill the quaint streets, and the Tubac Center for the Arts features regional and national art. Frequent festivals celebrate the area’s artistic present and ancient past, but one can encounter history all year long. Visit Tubac Presidio State Historical Park, original site of the 18th-century fort, and tour the museum and an underground archaeology exhibit. Or, explore Tumacácori National Historic Park, where three historic Spanish missions are preserved, including one of the first Jesuit missions in Arizona, dating back to 1691.
Phoenix & Scottsdale
The two hour-journey north on Interstate 10 to Phoenix unveils unlimited opportunities at must-see spots around the Valley. Visit Old Town Scottsdale for a taste of Southwestern arts and souvenir shopping; tour famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in North Scottsdale; or visit the Musical Instrument Museum, Arizona Science Center or Heard Museum for an afternoon of educational fun. Don’t head home without dining at one of the hundreds of culinary destinations—from bistros and bars to fine dining and breakfast spots.