Area attractions include San Xavier mission, Saguaro National
Park, Old Tucson Studio and Kitt Peak National Observatory. The vast Tohono
O'odham (Papago) Indian reservation is a few miles west of
Tucson. Mexico is an hour away via Interstate 19. Tombstone,
home of the famous OK Corral, is only 70 miles to the east.
Classical cultural events include a symphony, opera, ballet,
dance, and theater. Popular arts are represented by country and
western, rock, folk and jazz clubs. Sports range from professional
baseball, golf, and tennis to college programs including the
very popular University of Arizona football, baseball, and basketball
games.
There are a host of museums including the Tucson Museum
of Art, Arizona Historical Society Museum and the Arizona
Sonoran Desert Museum with its extensive exhibits of native
wildlife. The University of Arizona has several specialized museums.
Catalina State Park
Catalina State Park is at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, in the Coronado National Forest. The park has 5,511 acres of desert plant and wildlife. Here you will discover high desert foothills, canyons, and
streams. The park offers bird watching, hiking, picnicking, camping, and horseback riding.
There are many hiking trails to choose from at the park. The park rangers are a great source of information. Make sure you talk to a ranger before you start off on a hike. Rangers will give you a trail map and let you in on the current trail conditions. The park advises hikers to not hike alone. Camping is a lot of fun in Catalina State Park. There are 48 campsites available. The camping area offers water, restrooms, showers and a dump station. Campsites are open all year round.The park also has some unique parts that interest many people. The equestrian center has many trails perfect for riding, along with horse trailer parking.
The Audubon Society offers a Friday morning bird walk, starting at 7:00 am. The time does vary depending on the time of year, so please call ahead. Catalina State Park has more than 150 species of birds. The Catalina State Park is open every day from 8:00 to 10:00 pm. The admission is $4.00 per vehicle. Camping cost is $10.00 to $15.00 per vehicle. If you would like more information, you may call 520-628-5798.
You can get to the park from Tucson by taking State Highway 77 (Oracle Road), which goes through town and head north along it. You will arrive at 11570 North Oracle Road at milepost 81. Here you will see signs directing you to the park. It is nine miles off of State Highway 77 (Oracle Road). You can get to the park from Phoenix, by taking Interstate 10 south out of town. Just as you reach Tucson, you will take the exit for Tangerine Road and head east on Tangerine Road. You will travel on Tangerine Road, until you come to State Highway 77 (Oracle Road). Here you will turn right and head south on State Highway 77 (Oracle Road) until you see signs for the park.
Visitors love coming to Catalina Park because of all the unique activities it offers.
The Kitt Peak National Observatory
The Kitt Peak National Observatory is located on the Tohono O'odham Indian reservation. It is in the Quinlan Mountains, at an elevation of 6,875 feet. The location was chosen, due to its dry atmosphere allowing for 260 days a year of clear skies and its isolation from light pollution. The Tohono O'odham Indian Tribe has leased the land "until the end of time", as long as the structure is not used for military purposes.
The Kitt Peak National Observatory is a three building research structure. The National Optical Astronomy Observatories oversees the site operations of Kitt Peak. The observatory has the McMath Solar Telescope, which is a largest solar telescope in the world. The telescope is aligned with the North Pole. There are 22 optical and 2 radio telescopes from eight astronomical research institutions. Kitt Peak also has the Mayall 4-meter telescope, which is the nation's second largest optical instrument. This observatory monitors solar, stellar and extragalactic activities.
Visitors will learn about the history of optical astronomy and how Kitt Peak Observatory has played an integral part in gathering research over the past years. Guests will take a tour and discover how astronomers have gained so much knowledge of the universe. One section that you won't want to miss is the National Solar Observatory exhibit gallery. Here you will watch astronomers using the world's largest telescope. Kitt Peak National Observatory offers visitors another unique opportunity. At night, the Visitor Center telescope dome is available for a tour. This tour begins with a light dinner while admiring the spectacular sunset from the peak. Following the sunset, there is a complete tour of the night skies.
Using binoculars, star charts and a state-of-the-art 16-inch telescope, you will be able to look at the sky in a whole new way. It is a chance to see planets, galaxies, star clusters and the birth and death of stars. Night stargazing tours usually last three hours and are limited to 20 participants. Due to this tour's popularity, it is required that reservations are made in advance. Since stargazing depends on the weather, if the weather turns poor, a decision will be made at 2:00 to determine if the tour will be held that night. If you are not a part of the night time stargazing tour, you will be asked to leave the peak at 4:00 pm.
Visitors should be aware that the temperature on top of Kitt Peak is almost 10 to 20 degrees cooler than in Tucson. Please bring the appropriate attire, especially if you are participating in the nighttime tour. The nighttime stargazing tour spends approximately three hours outside. Also, individuals with cardiac and respiratory ailments should be aware of the steep walking paths to many of the telescopes. There are no food or gas services available at Kitt's Peak, so be prepared.
It is a good idea to pack a lunch and eat it at the picnic area at Kitt Peak. Kitt Peak National Observatory does provide restrooms and wheelchair accessible facilities. The Kitt Peak National Observatory is open everyday, except New Year's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas from 9:00 to 4:00 pm. Guided tours are offered daily at 10:00, 11:30, and 1:30 pm. Tours are approximately one hour in length. The nighttime stargazing tour costs $35.00 for adults, $25.00 for students with I.D. and $25.00 for seniors over 55. The daytime admission cost is free.
The Visitor Center dome is available to reserve in its entirety for a large group, by calling in advance. You will need to call in advance to go on a night-time stargazing tour. However, if space is available, you may be fortunate to go on the same day as your visit. You may schedule a group tour by calling and making a reservation. If you are interested in a group tour, call 520-318-8732. If you have any other questions, you may call 520-318-8726 or for a recording, you can call 520-318-8200.
You can get to the observatory from Tucson by taking State Highway 86 west out of town. Continue on State Highway 86 for approximately 56 miles, until you come to the signs for Kitt Peak Observatory. Kitt Peak is an amazing spot. You will learn so much on a tour of this unique place tucked away in the middle of the Sonoran Desert.