Back to School Things to Do!
Well, the last few months have somehow been intensely chaotic and at times overwhelmingly boring. At the very least, heading back to school (in one way or another) is a change of pace, and we hope it's one you're excited about! Check out this list for some Tucson must-sees that have begun reopening, while observing strict new protocols in response to COVID-19. Or, if you're feeling extra cautious, dip your toes into the local community by attending online events and classes.
Online Improv Drop-in Class. Unscrewed Theater, one of Tucson's comedy clubs, is offering this opportunity to get silly on Monday nights. And everyone loves a good drop-in class, so you don't have to make too much of a commitment. No experience necessary, and, heck, no "being in Tucson" necessary, so invite your friends from all over and from all skill levels, so you can look ridiculous together. UA students especially: It's time you learned that you're not really a college student at all if you don't join an improv group at some point. 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Monday nights. Register at bit.ly/UTZoomDrop-In.
Tucson Museum of Art. Also on the art front: TMA is a local staple, and they've reopened this summer as well. In addition to things like mask requirements and sanitation stations, they're requiring that you reserve your ticket for a two-hour time slot in advance online. Attendance is limited to 30 percent of its normal capacity. Come on down to see a variety of art, ranging from Native American to European pieces. In the newest exhibit, Landslice, O'odham artist Dwayne Manuel, an alumnus of the University of Arizona, honors three mountains sacred to his people's himdak, or culture/way of life. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block, 140 N. Main Ave. $12 adults, $10 seniors, $7 college students and youth 13 to 17. Reserve tickets at tucsonmuseumofart.org.
Madaras Gallery. If you really want to get a feel for the way Tucson inspires visual artists, the Madaras Gallery is a great place to start. Diana Madaras is a local painter who has been depicting scenes from the Old Pueblo in her trademark style for decades. Come check out her work, and pick up some perfect postcards to send to friends and family from out of town (or to keep for yourself). Gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays, with private visits also available by appointment. Madaras Gallery, 3035 N. Swan Road.
Tohono Chul. If you're new to Tucson, you might not know that this dusty desert town actually has several beautiful local gardens. Tohono Chul, which was named one of the best botanical gardens in the world by Travel + Leisure Magazine, just reopened, just in time for school! They're taking a wide array of precautions, such as requiring masks, limiting the number of reservations per hour and cleaning restrooms every hour. All this is designed to help your experience in the gardens be just as it should: totally peaceful and relaxing. Gardens are open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the museum shops and exhibit house are open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. $15 adults, $6 kids 5 to 12, $13 for students/seniors/active military. Reserve a ticket at tohonochul.org/visit
Tucson Botanical Gardens. Can't get enough of that desert flora? The Tucson Botanical Gardens, which connects people with plants through art, science, history and culture, is another local favorite. They've taken all the proper precautions as they've decided to reopen, including deep cleaning, directional markers and limited capacity. 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily. Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way. $15 adults, $13 students/seniors/military, $8 kids 4 to 17. $5 discount after 11:30 a.m.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The Desert Museum, which really feels more like part museum, part zoo and part botanical gardens, is a must-see if you're new to Tucson (or if you have visitors). They've reopened, with heightened sanitation procedures and a few restrictions to promote public health. Some exhibits are closed or modified (for example, the "stingray touch" exhibit is now the "stingray viewing only" exhibit, but it's free!) Of course, masks are required to enter, and must be worn anytime six feet of social distancing can't be maintained, and at all times in indoor areas. To maintain daily capacity restrictions, they're only selling tickets online or over the phone in advance, so make sure you get your ticket before you go. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, 2021 N. Kinney Road. $21.95 adults, $19.95 seniors and youth. Reserve tickets at desertmuseum.org.
Heirloom Farmers Markets. If going to the grocery store in a pandemic is just a little too stressful, farmers markets are a fantastic alternative. And getting to support local farmers and other small businesses? Sign us up! Fortunately, there are an abundance of farmers markets in Tucson. You might start out by checking out Heirloom Farmers Markets, which are held from 8 a.m. to noon at several locations. The rules are pretty standard: masks required, stay home if you're sick, physical distancing and please don't touch the merchandise. Fridays at Morris K. Udall Park, 7202 E. Tanque Verde Road. Saturdays at Steam Pump Ranch, 10901 N. Oracle Road, Oro Valley. Saturdays at Rincon Valley, 12500 E. Old Spanish Trail, Vail. Sundays at Rillito Park Food Pavilion, 4502 N. First Ave.
Pima Air and Space Museum. If you have any interest in aviation, you'd be remiss not to check out this place, which features 80 acres of outdoor displays and 250,000 square feet of hangar space. They've reopened with precautions like enhanced cleaning, directed flow and upgraded hands-free fixtures in the restrooms. All this gives you the chance to check out the hundreds of aircraft, including seaplanes, freshwater aircraft carriers, Kamikaze aircraft and so much more. 9 a.m.to 3 p.m. daily. Pima Air and Space Museum, 6000 E. Valencia Road. $16.50 adults, $13.25 Pima county residents, $13.75 active military/seniors, $10 kids 5 to 12.
Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures. If you're interested in miniatures, you absolutely need to check out this museum, which features more than 500 antique and contemporary dollhouses and roomboxes. If you're not interested in miniatures, that's just because you haven't been to this museum yet. It's a whimsical delight, and the perfect way to reignite your sense of wonder if you're stuck in a pandemic slump. Right now they've got a fanciful fairy houses exhibit, a hand-carved circus exhibit, mini military figures and plenty more. They've got all the usual face covering, sanitation and physical distancing measures in place (some of the miniatures are even wearing masks). They're also doing timed-entry tickets, so pick yours up in advance. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Museum of Miniatures, 4455 E. Camp Lowell Dr. $10.50 adults, $8.50 seniors, $7 students and youth 4 to 17.
The Riveters + Salt N Pepper. Maybe you're not quite ready to do improv yourself, and watching an improv show is more your style. You might check out this one from the all-female improv team at Tucson Improv Movement. Kick back and have a laugh at this free, virtual show. And if you're able and so inclined, you might consider supporting their work by buying a digital ticket. 7 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21. More at tucsonimprov.com/shows.
Green Chili Roast. Apple Annie's Orchard has always been the perfect place to take a day trip. But, in these crazy times, the outdoor environment is especially perfect. The next few weekends, check out the green chili roast, where you can pick your own green chilis, or just swing by to pick up a 50-lb bag and watch them roast right before your eyes. There's nothing like picking produce to make you feel grounded, and there's nothing like some fresh roasted chiles (salsa, anyone?) to put some flavor in your life. 7 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, August 22, 23, 29 and 30 and September 5, 6 and 7. The Farm, 6405 W. Williams Road. Free admission—just pay for what you pick.