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Travel to Tucson

Alexandra Williams, MA

You might think it’s crazy to visit Tucson in August, but it can be done without overheating or oversunburning. Benefits – sights are less crowded and hotels are less expensive. No other benefits that I can think of. Oh, wait. You also get the docents and parking lot to yourself. Total bonus.

picture of Sonora Desert

View toward Sonora Desert Museum west of Tucson


Son #2 and I went to Tucson to see my cousins. One cousin is foolish enough to live there (don’t get upset Tucson friends, you have to admit it’s way too hot in summer), and the other flew in from D.C. We decided to drive because we have air conditioning. And because I didn’t realize it was a 12, not 8 hour drive. I should have trusted you Google Maps.

No matter your means of conveyance (that’s gotta be old western talk, right?), you’ll want to visit the following three places:




Pima Air & Space Museum 

pictures of Pima Air & Space Museum

Over 300 aircraft at this museum

The largest privately owned air museum in the U.S., it has over 300 military, civilian and commercial aircraft. In the main hangar you’ll see a variety of planes, ranging from a Lear Jet that was owned and flown by the first woman to get type-rated in a Lear, to a homemade Bumble Bee plane that took the record for world’s smallest plane in 1984. Two WWII hangars (Pacific and European) are dedicated to the history and aircraft from the war. The SR-71 Blackbird spy plane and B-29 Bomber are spectacular, and made doubly so if you can get a docent to tell you their stories.
My favorite was the 390th Memorial Museum hangar, as I’m a history buff way more than an aviation fan. The POW exhibit and memorial plaques were especially moving.
More than half of the planes are outdoors, so we did a quick walk around due to the heat. You can take a tram tour of the 80+ outdoor acres, but we didn’t want to spend an hour sitting on the tram. We did find a number of Air Force One (so fancy) planes, plus a bunch of commercial planes from defunct airlines (remember TWA and PanAm?).


pictures of biosphere2

Biosphere2 – Where you can never leave.

In the early 90s, scientists were sealed up inside the biosphere for two years to measure survivability in a contained environment. Now owned by the University of Arizona as a research facility (mostly for climate change studies), it’s still a contained environment with a rainforest, desert, ocean, and their support systems – air flow “lungs”, energy center, water & life experiments.
We learned that preventing ultraviolet light (for human benefit) was detrimental to the bees and coral, both of which died out. We also heard that the trees were flopping over until the researchers realized they needed wind, which then had to be created. We also found out that the immense amount of concrete supporting the biosphere absorbed so much of the oxygen while curing that oxygen had to be pumped in via the “lungs” so the scientists could survive. And according to my cousin, the second scientific “two-year sleepover” only lasted 6 months partly because the scientists didn’t get along. He also told me that one of the scientists was caught ordering take-away pizza. I don’t know if it was thin or thick crust. And in case you’re wondering, Biosphere1 is that big blue thing – earth.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

pictures of Sonora Desert Museum

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my (okay, no tigers)

Wake up early and get to this (mainly) outdoor museum when it opens at 7:30. Not only will the animals be awake, but it’s cool enough for you to remain outside for several hours. Not cool, just cool enough, by which I mean tolerable upper 80s, lower 90s. I think we were the very first visitors of the day, which meant that the docents were happy to talk to us for as long as we wanted. Some of the museum is like a zoo in that the animals are in outdoor enclosures that separate them from us. As you can see from my photo collage, we saw all kinds of critters. The mountain lion paced back and forth in front of us for quite a while, rubbing against the viewing glass. I am pretty sure he was purring.
Along the pathway, we saw some commotion with a squirrel and several museum workers. They told us that a squirrel was protecting its nest from a poaching rattlesnake. We made the mistake of asking where the snake was. So, yeah, about 2 feet in front of us, in the grass. Not separated from humans. After we backed way up, Karl the Docent with the Animal Grabbers drove up in his golf cart and plucked the snake up and put it into a box, on its way to a part of the desert where humans did not necessarily wander.
The Desert Museum also has an aquarium, botanical gardens, walking trails, aviaries, a cave/ geology center, art center, and demonstrations. Eighty-five percent of the museum is outdoors, so we had hats, sunblock and lots of water. And by 10:30 a.m. we were back in the car and on the road home to California.

pic of the Colorado River between AZ and CA

The border between Arizona and California – the Colorado River

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About Fun and Fit

Get practical exercise advice, your fitness questions answered, and cutting edge health edu-tainment that is accessible and doable from long time fitness experts, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA. We have taught on land, sea, and airwaves for 3 decades on 4 continents. From writing to speaking, emceeing to hosting a radio show, reviewing products to teaching classes, we believe that little steps turn into big paths. Move a little more than the day before. FitFluential Ambassadors and award-winners both online and off.

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19 Responses to Travel to Tucson

  1. Madeline @ Food Fit and Fam September 1, 2014 at 4:45 am #

    LOVE this! I went to college at University of Arizona and have fond memories of Tucson! Being from Phoenix I can’t wait to move back to the dessert :)
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  2. Lea September 1, 2014 at 8:01 am #

    my husband is from Tucson, I always like visiting there, but I agree (this coming from a Texan) it gets a little too hot there!
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    • AlexandraFunFit September 1, 2014 at 11:17 am #

      It was definitely hot, Lea, but we managed to stay cool enough for the sights.
      The hottest place was the parking lot at the shopping center. Not pleasant at all. I would go to Tucson again for sure and do some hiking in the winter.
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  3. Tamara September 1, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    I’ve been watching your posts and pics and taking notes. We’ve just booked a house outside Tucson for spring break! At least it won’t be quite so hot in March…
    Tamara recently posted..The Miracle Marathon | a family-friendly fitness fundraiserMy Profile

    • AlexandraFunFit September 1, 2014 at 11:18 am #

      Really? Oh, what a perfect time of year. Maybe you can do some of the outdoor hiking that we opted not to try. The mountains are lovely. I remember Mt. Lemon in the spring back in 1989 when we lived south of Tucson for a while.
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..7 Healthy Living Products You Want to Know AboutMy Profile

  4. WendysHat September 1, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    Fun post! I love visiting anywhere in Arizona and I don’t care if it’s HOT! Looks like a great trip!

  5. Jen September 1, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    So cool! I have family in AZ – this gives me even more incentive to visit!
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  6. Liv September 1, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    Wow! If I’m ever in Tuscon, I’ll keep those in mind!
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  7. Cathy Chester September 1, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

    Lovely, lovely post! My BIL lives in Scottsdale, so I think we’ve visited most of AZ. Believe it or not, we went at Christmastime one year, and was in Tucson on Xmas Day and it snowed. Tiny flakes, but it was snow!! Can you believe it?

    We considered moving there, so as a test we went in August. It was very hot, but not as humid as NJ. We decided the area wasn’t for us, but I love the landscape.

    Wonderful post.
    Cathy Chester recently posted..How A Cat And Some Turkeys Are My Morning EntertainmentMy Profile

    • AlexandraFunFit September 2, 2014 at 9:25 am #

      I can believe it about the snow, Cathy, as I have actually seen it (in 1989). It’s rare for sure, but it still counts. I’m with you – loved my visit, no interest in ever living there.
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  8. Nancy Hill (@Nerthus) September 2, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    I live in Tucson, and always try to disappear for at least a few weeks in either our first (dry) or second (wet) summer. There are so many wonderful hidden things about this Old Pueblo this place where people have lived for over 10,000 years! Next time you pass through, talk to me and I can give you some tips to wonderful and off the beaten track sites, attractions, and healthy, fun and fit activities.
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  9. Christine September 2, 2014 at 11:16 pm #

    I’ve been to Tucson so many times. I’ve been to the Pima Air Museum, but not the other places. I’ve always wanted to visit the Biosphere and I can’t believe I didn’t know about that Desert Museum. Great trip!

  10. Jody - Fit at 56 September 4, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    Beautiful pics!!!!! I so remember all the stuff on that Biosphere dome!!! :) Cool you saw it!!! Very cool a trip with son!
    Jody – Fit at 56 recently posted..Sharing the Message – Love Yourself First! “Going Fishing” to BE PRESENT!My Profile

  11. Arlene Hittle September 7, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    I live in Arizona (Flagstaff), and I’ve never been to Tucson. Drove through once on the way to Tombstone … but that’s another story. I’d love to see the Biosphere, though. Reminds me of that Pauly Shore movie, “Biodome.”
    Arlene Hittle recently posted..Choice I don’t want to makeMy Profile

  12. Reema @ Phuket Karon Beach Hotel September 22, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

    The place is stunning and amazing, I wish I could visit that place in the future. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience.

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