A bustling college town where freight trains rumble and old West meets south of the border, Tucson is Arizona’s second-largest city, but it still exudes a small town feel. Distinct neighborhoods and 19th-century buildings give it a rich sense of community and history not found in the more modern and sprawling Phoenix, which boasts a more cosmopolitan (though disputably soulless) energy.
1) Hike amid towering saguaro cacti at 90,000-acre Saguaro National Park. Another favorite hiking area is Sabino Canyon, where residents include mountain lions and javelina.
2) Get up-close views of scorpions, prairie dogs and other desert wildlife at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, where guides discuss the natural history of the area.
3) Play cowpoke-for-a-day on a Western-style horseback ride. Several local ranches offer guided trail rides into mountain wilderness areas.
4) Intrigued by flying machines? Visit the Pima Air & Space Museum, where more than 300 aircraft and spacecraft are on display, indoors and outdoor.
5) Cool off with a ride to Mount Lemmon, the southernmost ski area in the United States. Drive up from the desert floor through pine trees and enjoy fresh mountain air above 9,000 feet.
6) Architecture buffs make it their mission to see Mission San Xavier del Bac, considered one of the finest examples of baroque Spanish mission architecture in the U.S.