Summer Survival 2021: Bustin’ Loose: It’s time to get out and—safely—have fun this summer

For the last year or so, we haven’t really had a good answer to the question “What have you been up to lately?” But with about half of all adults in Pima County vaccinated and more getting their shot every day, it seems like the pandemic is slowly starting to fade away.

Not that you shouldn’t continue to take precautions such as wearing masks in crowded situations with strangers and frequently washing your hands. And with more variant strains spreading, it’s important to consider the risk when unvaccinated children are involved. The virus hasn’t vanished yet but we’re (*crosses fingers*) past the worst of it.

There’s a reason that Tucson ended up on Travel + Leisure’s list of the Top 50 Places to Travel in 2021 and Condé Nast Traveler’s list 2021 Hot List: It’s fun place to be! It’s certainly been too long since we’ve sought out many of our favorite adventures in this town, so here’s a calendar that can guide you through what’s going on this summer. Get out, have fun, stay well!

Camps & Kids Stuff

Camp Groundworks. Hopefully the youth in your life get to spend a lot of time at Groundworks—the youth-driven, nonprofit community arts space in town—this summer. They’ve got lots of great stuff coming up, but they’re kicking the summer off with Camp Groundworks, a summer camp-themed celebration that includes a virtual live stream with local musicians, a mural scavenger hunt, an art showcase and an auction. They’ve faced a lot of challenges in their first two years, but the “little nonprofit that could” is still forging ahead, and this is a great way to celebrate it. Participating is free, but donations are greatly participated to fund other events throughout the year. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, May 29.

Desert Museum Summer Camps. Whether your kids are itching to leave the house to do some exploring, or they’d rather learn about the desert from the air-conditioned comfort of home, the Desert Museum has some exciting offerings this summer, including a virtual camp, a camp onsite at the museum, a camp up on Mount Lemmon and a camp that combines both art and science. Camps run in June and July – just check the kids camp page at for more info on which programs are geared toward your child’s age. There’s really nothing like summer camp, and summer camp after over a year of pandemic weirdness is going to feel extra special.

Puppet Camp. Puppet camp is for ages 8 to 13, which is not fair, because I am 26 and I want to go to Puppet Camp. The program is hosted by Red Herring Puppets, whose founder, Lisa Sturz, has 40 years of puppetry experience and has worked with Disney, Jim Henson Productions and Lucasfilm. So she definitely, definitely knows what she’s doing. In the five-day camps, campers will create their own hand puppets with papier mache heads and cloth bodies, create their own vignettes, record their characters voices, and create a soundtrack to their very own puppet show with music and effects. They will also make a shadow puppet and scarf marionette. What a fantastically unique experience for the creative kiddos in your life. 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Final performance is 4 p.m. on Friday. Sessions are June 7 to 11, June 21 to 25 & July 12 to 16. Red Herring Puppets in the Tucson Mall (upper level, between Macy’s and Forever 21). $150.

Summer Safari Nights at the Reid Park Zoo. There’s something a little bit magical about getting to spend a summer evening at the zoo with your kids. Watching the wonder on their faces while they learn all about our fellow members of the animal kingdom and play educational games is special. And doing it to the sounds of live, local music in the gorgeous setting at the Reid Park Zoo, even more so. And, hey, if you partake, it might not hurt to know that these nights also feature craft beer, prickly pear margaritas, wine and White Claws. Each week of this program has a different theme, so you can come back as many times as you want and keep learning more. (And FYI: it’s super fun even if you don’t have kids to bring). 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays May 15 through Aug. 14. Reid Park Zoo, 3400 Zoo Court. $10.50 adults, $8.50 seniors, $6.50 kids 2 to 14.

Summer at the Children’s Museum. Summer is for the kids, and that’s why we’re so glad that both the Tucson and Oro Valley Children’s Museums will be back in full swing just in time. The Children’s Museum Tucson (200 S. Sixth Ave.) will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, starting on Memorial Day. The Oro Valley location (11015 N. Oracle Road) will resume a six-day schedule, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Capacity is limited, but fun isn’t! The Tucson location offers half-price admission during extended evening hours with bilingual programming. Both locations have also relaunched MyTime, an inclusion program for families and children who need a more supportive environment. And don’t miss Discovery Nights, from 5 to 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month.


Hacienda Del Sol Pop Up Drive Through Sculpture Show. Maybe you’ve gotten used to being able to quasi-interact with the world and view new parts of it without leaving your car. And, while you might not be able to make every part of your life work with that preference (for example, you usually still have to leave the car for things like surgery, or getting on a flight), with this event, you can have it the way you want it. This exhibit started last summer at Hacienda Del Sol, and now they’re making it annual! Just drive through the front entrance and follow the signage to view a lovely array of art pieces on display in the desert. On display through Sunday, June 13. Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, 5501 N. Hacienda Del Sol Road. Free.

Artists Studio Tour and Sale. Do you ever miss DVDs? They had those amazing special features section with things like deleted scenes, bloopers and behind-the-scenes content. There’s just something cool about going behind the scenes and seeing how art is made. That’s one reason why this double show, which features both art for sale and studio tours, makes for an excellent summer outing. Don Baker, who works with rusted steel on canvas, is doing a retrospective. And Risa Waldt is showing her spring collection paintings. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 12, and Sunday, June 13. Don Baker is at 16530 N. Ridge Rock Road. Risa Waldt is at 65650 E. Edwin Road.

Miscellaneous Fun

Sunset Yoga at Armory Park. If you’re anything like me, you’ve thought about taking up yoga many, many times. It’s supposed to be good for you joints, right? And your mind? And it looks like it feels so good? People who do yoga always just seem to have it together. Maybe this is the summer where you take up yoga in a free Wednesday evening class at the park. They’ll even have occasional special guest DJs to help you really get in the groove. Namaste! Please arrive at 6 p.m. to be ready for the yoga session from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday evenings throughout the summer. Armory Park, 222 S. Fifth Ave. Free.

Tucson Cars & Coffee. If you’re a car person, you won’t want to miss this meetup hosted by Obsessions Car Club on second Saturdays. Get together with a group of fellow enthusiasts and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of beautiful cars. Each month of this meetup has a theme. June’s is European cars, July’s is modern muscle, August is Mopars and September is GM (it goes on through the fall and winter months too, but this is the Summer Survival Guide!) Grab a coffee, grab your car, and do try to arrive early. Lord knows the later you are, the hotter it will be 7 to 10 a.m. on second Saturdays. Lowe’s Home Improvement parking lot, 4075 W. Ina Road. Free.

Third Sunday Metaphysics Fair. Looking to explore some new worlds this summer? You’ll have fun visiting the “Oracles on Oracle,” as they like to call themselves. This group of metaphysical practitioners include gemstone diviners, palm readers, reiki masters, empaths and a variety of intuitive psychic counselors. Maybe you’re not getting the guidance you need from the realm we normally exist in, or maybe you just think it would be interesting to talk to some of these people. Of course it would! Why not meander down on a Sunday morning this summer? 9 a.m. on third Sundays. (June 20, July 18, Aug. 15, Sept. 19) Best Western, 6201 N. Oracle Road. Free.

Oro Valley Movies on the Lawn. On fourth Saturdays throughout the summer, Oro Valley is screening films on a giant, inflatable outdoor screen. Drive up, lay out a blanket, pull up a chair and enjoy. The kids will love watching a movie outside, and you’ll love that there’s no hassle: it’s free, and no registration is required. June 26 is Frozen II (so make sure you watch the first Frozen for the 4,000th time before you go), July 24 is Sonic the Hedgehog, and Aug. 28 is The Call of the Wild. Shows start around 7:30 p.m. at the Oro Valley Community & Rec Center, 10555 N. La Canada Drive. Free.

El Jefe Cat Lounge. Yes, technically this is a summer survival guide, but you should keep this one in your back pocket for survival at any time of year. Because what better way to cheer up than visiting with a bunch of adorable, adoptable kitties? El Jefe’s resident felines come from Finally My Forever Home Rescue, and are all in tip top health and ready to adopt. Plus, the facility is so cute that it basically feels like a spa… except better, really. Because there are cats. Book a slot today at! Or check in throughout the summer to see if any of their events, like a movie night or Cat Bingo, pique your interest.


Tiny Beautiful Things. If you’ve read this Cheryl Strayed book, you’re in for a real treat with this stage adaptation by Nia Vardalos. Starring Susan Baker, Tim Tully, Emily Gates and Richard Michael Thompson, it’s based on Strayed’s experience as the advice columnist behind “Dear Sugar.” (Who among us doesn’t think we could probably run an advice column, despite a total lack of qualifications?) It’s a touching, surprising show about coming unstuck and finding the courage to ask questions. Showing from Wednesday, June 9, to Sunday, June 20 at Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave. $40 GA, $20 students. Showtimes are at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Be sure to also check out a reprise of this spring’s hit, “Gloria: A Life”, about famed feminist Gloria Steinem. It runs Aug. 18-29.

Arizona Theatre Company’s 54th Season. At the tail end of the summer, ATC will be kicking off its 2021/2022 season. Because we’ve pretty much all been having a bad time the past year or so, the team has curated productions that tell stories about learning to heal and to love others. With three plays and three musicals (including one musical about RBG and Sandra Day O’Connor), five of which are written or created by female artists, this season certainly looks promising. First up is “My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend,” a musical based on the true story of Broadway performer Charissa Bertels. The show is going on tour after playing in Arizona, so don’t miss your chance to see it. Sept. 25 to Oct. 16. Arizona Theatre Company, 330 S. Scott Ave.

The Rogue Theatre Season Begins. The Rogue Theatre stayed open in the 2020-2021 season with elaborate COVID protocols, including making videos of each play for fans who weren’t ready to get back in a theatre. Rogue’s new 2021-2022 season opens, or should we say… it AWAKENS, on Sept. 9 with “The Awakening”, an adaptation of Kate Chopin’s early feminist novel. Four more plays follow, including the classics “Twelfth Night” and “Death of a Salesman,” ending with an adaptation of the Virginia Woolf novel “Mrs. Dalloway,” April 18 to May 15.

Eight 10s in Tucson. Winding Road Theater Ensemble received some 300 submissions from around the country for the company’s annual 10-minute play writing contest. This is your chance to see the eight winners on the digital stage! You can check it out on opening night on Friday, May 28, or watch it on demand through June 30. Keep a special eye out for the play “I See Your Face in Mine,” written by our very own Tucsonan Madison Peden. Check it out at

Live Theatre Workshop has been using its parking lot this past year to accommodate drive-in outdoor plays. But the three summer shows will move indoors, with a limited number of seats. “A Life in the Theatre,” by David Mamet, is on the stage June 10 to July 10; “The Standby Lear,” a comical work by John W. Lowell, runs Aug. 5-28; and “Bloomsday,” a Irish time-travel romance by Steven Dietz, runs Sept. 2 to Oct. 9. “Once Upon This Time,” a “princess meets the present” story, runs in the children’s theatre July 16 to Aug. 1. “The Conundrum at Camp Catalina,” on Sundays from Aug. 22 to Sept. 6, gets children participating in woodland games.

The Gaslight Theatre. The Gaslight’s shows have gone back indoors for their new season, and, as always, they are raucously fun. How about the Star Wars parody “Space Wars” from June 10 to Aug. 29? In this show you’ll join Princess Layla and Duke Starfighter as they defend the galaxy from evil, guided by the wisdom of the ancient sage, Yoga. Or see Frankenstein (you know this one), starting in September? Everyone should go to a summer show at the Gaslight at least once in their life, for a night full of top talent, terrible jokes, and tasty pizza.

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment