Summertime—and the living is easy…
Well, maybe not as easy as we’d like, what with Tucson hitting triple digits way back in April and everything costing more and COVID making a comeback and monkeypox on the horizon.
Let’s face it, we could all use a little help to get to October. So the Tucson Local Media crew has assembled a summer guide to get you through the Baked Apple’s season of sizzle. Have fun—and don’t forget your sunscreen!
See a Movie at Loft Cinema
3233 E. Speedway Blvd.
There’s so much happening at the Loft Cinema as it celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer. The plucky nonprofit moviehouse is celebrating the films of 1972 with movies such as The Seduction of Mimi, What’s Up Doc and Aguirre, the Wrath of God. The Loft Kids Fest is back on weekend mornings with selections such as The Croods and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. You can catch a bunch of Studio Ghibli films—such as Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away—on Wednesdays and Saturdays. And there’s features like Mondo Monday, Essential Cinema, late-night Cult Classics and so much more.
The Loft Cinema delivers a very cool treat in June. Charismatic, gorgeous and hilarious Michelle Yeoh features in literally everything all at once in a month-long tribute: The Films of Michelle Yeoh. Fans packed the Loft in May to watch Yeoh save the world in the brand-new science-fiction adventure comedy, Everything Everywhere All At Once. Most often heard rave: “I’ve never seen anything like it!”
But Yeoh and her producers have exploded expectations before, as with Crazy Rich Asians and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Both will be screened in the June event, along with, among others, Memoirs of a Geisha; Star Trek: Discovery; last year’s Marvel hit, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and martial arts classics Supercop with Jackie Chan and The Heroic Trio with Johnnie To.
Find all the featured titles, times and tickets at loftcinema.org.
Cryogenics have come a long way from science fiction. Through the wonders of modern enterprise, it’s available to give us a break from summer heat.
Cryotherapy is serious medicine. It provides measurable benefits for cancer patients and people who live with lupus, MS, arthritis and inflammation of any kind. A regular regimen can expedite the healing of many injuries and even help with weight maintenance.
But cryogenic treatments can also be fun, and even friendly. The cryo chamber at US Cryotherapy, for instance, holds four. You’ll all get two minutes at a temperature they won’t tell you until you get out. Of the three public cryogenic therapy facilities we found, US Cryotherapy had the best deal for a tryout. Fifty dollars gets you a choice of three of their six services. uscryotherapy.com/location/tucson-az/
Too hot? Improvise!
Can you beat the heat with your imagination? Surprise yourself in the supportive (and air-conditioned) environment of Tucson’s two improv companies, Unscrewed Theater and Tucson Improv Movement (TIM).
Unscrewed’s next Basics class starts on June 4. Finish that and you can start cherry picking from the ImprovBlox series of courses, each of which homes in on a specific skill or technique.
TIM teaches four levels of improv courses, with an Improv 101 class starting every month. They also teach two levels of standup and they promise the imminent return of Beginning Sketch Writing.
You can also Zoom your funny bone to prominent improv companies throughout the US and UK, but it will cost about twice as much. Faculties include improvisers like Will Hines, Billy Merritt and David Razowsky of Vintage Improv in Boston, who specializes in classes for folks over 50. Second City and UCB offer courses in improv, standup, storytelling and sketch. Pants are of course optional.
Watch the Moon Come Over the Mountain
West Anklam Road at Tumamoc Hill Road, South of St. Mary’s Hospital, 1601 W. St. Marys Road
Full moons are happening on June 14, July 13, Aug. 11. Consider taking in a knockout view of the moon, Tucson city lights and an awe-inspiring spread of stars all from the Tumamoc Hill trail.
It can be a tough climb, though. The trail is easy asphalt, but switchbacks take you up 700 feet in just a mile and a half. The second half has a slope angled about 50% greater than the first half. Even so, because it’s been a tradition for many generations of Tucsonans, you’ll find grandmas in high heels, moms pushing baby carriages, and little kids, running, like they do everywhere.
All along the way, interpretive signage and an audio tour available at the website describe the hill’s plant and wildlife species and its history as a native village.
Feeling a little out of shape for all that? Maybe go, anyway. You deserve to feel the Hill’s eternal spirit, and the magic of the full moon light, and you can do that even from your parking spot. https://tumamoc.arizona.edu/tumamoc-hill/overview
What’s Zoo With You
Reid Park Zoo
3400 E. Zoo Court
The Reid Park Zoo is back with Summer Safari Nights. Every Saturday night through Aug. 13 (except for June 18), you and the kids can explore the zoo in the cooler evenings. Each night has a special theme focusing on the skills of different animals in the zoo (such as “Walk on the Wild Side” on May 28, along with the usual fun with giraffe feedings, live music from local bands and, of course, carousel rides. 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. And if you’re wondering why there’s no safari on June 18, it’s because the zoo is doing it annual Brew at the Zoo party from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., with food and a wide selection of craft beer and hard ciders from the likes of 1912 Brewing Company, 8-Bit Aleworks, Barrio Brewing Company, Bawker Bawker Cider House, BlackRock Brewers, Borderlands Brewing Company, Buqui Bichi Brewing, Button Brew House, Catalina Brewing Company, Crooked Tooth Brewing Company, Dragoon Brewing Company, Grand Canyon Brewing Company, Iron John’s Brewing Company, Ten55 Brewing Company. Here’s to that! reidparkzoo.com
Hear the Music
Fox Tucson Theatre
17 W. Congress St.
There’s something magical about summer concerts. And there’s something magical about downtown’s gorgeous Fox Theatre. Put them together and you have memories that will last a lifetime. This summer, you’ve got the likes of Amos Lee (June 4), Lyle Lovett and his Large Band (June 15), Ani DiFranco (June 18), Gov’t Mule (June 22) and Three Dog Night (July 16). Besides the concerts, the Fox will be doing movies, including a Sound of Music Sing-Along (Aug. 27) and other fun events. foxtucson.com
Music Under the Stars The Tucson Pops Orchestra
DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center at Reid Park
900 S. Randolph Way
It’s the end of an era as Tucson Pops maestro Laszlo Veres retires this year after leading the Tucson Pops Orchestra since 1997. You won’t want to miss these fabulous free Sunday night concerts at the Reid Park. Concerts continue through June 12. Bring your own lawn chair or relax on a blanket. Concerts start at 7 p.m.
Stay in Your Cool House and Binge Even More Movies
One word: Kanopy. You may think you’re sick of The Neverending COVID Binge, but Kanopy has an irresistible collection of classics that will keep you inside and air-conditioned. They’re all free to watch on any of your devices courtesy of your Pima County Public Library. Sign up with your library card number at Kanopy.com. Adults get five free films a month and three days to watch each one. They can pay for additional selections.
The site offers revolving selections from award winners to deep cuts in every genre, including action adventure, true crime (see, especially The Dalmer Files). historical dramas, comedies, thrillers, horror movies, action adventure, sci-fi and more. Of note, a new, curated set of films gives context to the conflict in Ukraine. Understanding Russia: A Cultural History should be a particular hit with fans.
Baby-sitting bonus: All kids movies are free, 24-7. kanopy.com/en/pimalibrary/
Find Sombra Fria in Agua Caliente
Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente Regional Park
12325 E. Roger Road
The long wait is over for the restoration of the big pond and the completion of the new bridge to turtle island. Agua Caliente Park is beautiful again and open for birdwatching, bat sightings and idle ramblings among restored buildings that recall the property’s long history as a farm and guest ranch. Admission is free, parking is ample and hours are 7 a.m. to sunset.
Three ponds and acres of cool shade are reason enough to visit, and dogs are welcome. But to understand what you’re looking at we suggest you visit the website of the Friends of Agua Caliente Park before you go. You’ll find a video tour, information about the bats and birds and a top-line history of the property, which is estimated to have been inhabited for thousands of years.
The site also relates a cautionary tale of the human interventions that, in just the last two centuries, all but destroyed the flowing springs that first attracted our ancestors. friendsofaguacaliente.org
Visit an Amusement Park of Ice Cream Treats
7 Degrees Ice Cream Rolls & Boba Tea
4386 N Oracle Road, Suite 160
Got a hot afternoon to kill? Go read the graffiti on the walls and tables of the utterly whack 7 Degrees Ice Cream Rolls & Boba Tea. It will only take about half an hour to figure out your order.
The menus are a festival of dozens of mix-ins and toppings. They encourage consideration of combinations that may never before have occurred to you— like our recent choise Chai Tea ice cream with Ferro Rocher and lychee mixed in and toppings of whipped cream, pistachios, almonds and Reese’s pieces. For boba tea, we had a macha latte with rainbow bubbles. Their soft skin burst with tiny shots of different flavors.
For any overwhelmed by the DIY custom approach, 7 Degrees offers photos and descriptions of a variety of pre-planned ice-cream art concoctions. The fun-to-watch star of it all is a steel plate, cooled to 7 degrees Fahrenheit so the ice cream and mix-ins can be spread, cut and curled into rolls like Ding Dongs.
Be a Hero
Santa Rita Park
401 E. 22nd St.
Next time you visit your favorite discount warehouse, consider picking up a couple of cases of water and a bulk package of flavored electrolyte powder packets. Then round up some friends to help take it all to Santa Rita Park. You don’t have to talk to anyone you see hanging out there. If you don’t want the company, just leave your gifts on a picnic table. Folks will find and share them among your house-less fellow Tucsonans. You’ll never feel more grateful for your air-conditioned ride home.
Start a Postcard Chain
Plunkett’s Office Supplies and Hallmark
420 N. Wilmot Road
Remember the postcard-chains that came around early in COVID lockdown? It was a time when connection felt like a priority survival technique. You’d get a postcard of someone’s hometown and be asked to send a home-town postcard to five friends to keep it going. It turned out that the hard part was finding postcards!
Even though it’s now mostly just the heat keeping us indoors, there’s no reason to stop. If you can’t find Tucson postcards, you can other kinds. Plunkett’s Office Supplies and Hallmark, offers sets of 1,000 reprints of antique postcards for $19.99. For 40 years, Plunkett’s has been a great, locally owned, resource for a wind range of gifts and office supplies. Consider treating yourself to a new pen, too.
Feel the breeze/Through a dozen species
With an average high of 102, June 29 has historically been Tucson’s most-often hottest day of the year. So says Weatherspark.com. Watch that number climb with Global Warming.
From June through August, Madera Canyon’s average summer high in the low ’90s may still seem warmish, but a typical light breeze and the shade from its dozen or so unique Oak species make it nice enough to bust out the cooler and camp chairs and head down I-19.
The coolest low-key adventure there is the Madera Canyon Nature Trail. It’s 5.8 miles out and back with a 921 ft. elevation gain, easy for hikers. But don’t be daunted even if you’re allergic to exercise. Anyone can have a memorable and satisfying experience going only as far as they like.
Native plant species are labeled along the trail, so it’s fun to count the kinds of oaks. Take your binoculars, too, because Madera Canyon is rated the third best birding destination in the United States. fs.usda.gov/recarea/coronado/recarea/?recid=25760
Get Some History
UA State Museum
1013 E. University Blvd.
Located right on campus, the UA State Museum is the oldest and largest anthropological research facility in the Southwestern United States. More than three million archaeological, ethnographic and modern objects that belong to the Indigenous people of the region are held inside this museum. There is the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of Native North American basketry with objects dating back more than 7,000 years ago, along with southwest indigenous pottery that goes back roughly 2,000 years. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets start at $8.
Visit a Garden
Tucson Botanical Gardens
2150 N Alvernon Way
Tucson Botanical Gardens mission is to connect people with plants and nature through art, science, history, and culture. Originally founded in 1964 by horticulturist and collector Harrison G. Yocum, the gardens are now a lovely spread of pathways through gardens on the historic Porter Family property. This nonprofit organization hosts events, classes, programs, including a seasonal butterfly exhibit. If you have an appetite, enjoy a bite at Edna’s Eatery. This community favorite is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Ticket prices range from $3 to $15 and are available online. tucsonbotanical.org.
Get Some Religion
San Xavier del Bac Mission
1950 W. San Xavier Road
Nine miles South of Downtown Tucson, you can find Arizona’s oldest intact European structure. It is a National Historic Landmark founded as a Cathloic Mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Inside the church’s walls are original statuary and mural paintings that remember Spanish Colonial times. Roughly 200,000 visitors a year come from all over the world to see the preserved Spanish Colonial architecture, which has been undergoing a wonderful restoration in recent years.
See Some Photos
Center for Creative Photography
1030 N. Olive Road
The UA Center for Creative Photography is home to a collection of stunning photography, including the archives of major photographers from the renowned Ansel Adams to Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Hume Kennedy, who has made images of every president since Gerald Ford. You’ve still got time to see Trees Stir in Their Leaves, an arboreal exhibit continuing through July 23.
Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum Pima County Historic Courthouse
115 N. Church Ave.
Going to court isn’t something you normally want to do, but in this case, you can have a good time. Located in downtown’s recently renovated Historic Pima County Courthouse, the Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum features a collection of preserved minerals and meteorites from mostly Arizona and Mexico. The 12,000-square-feet of space is split into three galleries, including a Gem Gallery, an Arizona Gallery, and a Mineral Evolution space with many interactives, touchables, and digital content. Open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Tuesday through Saturday.
See Some Art
Tucson Museum of Art
140 N. Main Ave.
The Tucson Museum of Art, fresh from a number of recent expansions, is bigger and better than ever. This summer, alongside various permanent collections, the air-conditioned refuge features shows such as Brad Kahlhamer: 11:59 to Tucson; Francisco Toledo: Paper Fables; and Digital Camera: Photographic Perspectives from Mid-Century Mexico.
While you’re there, grab a bite at Cafe a la C’arte, which serves us delicious omelets, sandwiches and salads. Or at least get something sumptuous from their dessert case.
See Some More Art
DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun
6300 N. Swan Road
The late artist Ted DeGrazia started building his Gallery in the Sun at the north end of Swan Road back in the 1950s. Plenty has been built around it in the seven decades since, but back then, it was in the middle of nowhere. You can tour the wonderful gallery filled with his works (and designed by DeGrazia himself) and then wander the grounds to see DeGrazia’s original house, his “Little Gallery” where he first showed his work and the lovely chapel he built in honor of the Virgin de Guadalupe. degrazia.org
What, Even More Art?
340 South Convent Ave.
Have you checked Etherton Gallery’s new digs in Barrio Viejo? Well, you still have a chance to check out Kate Breakey: Transience, a wonderful show of nature photographs, which, as Tucson Weekly arts correspondent Margaret Regan notes, “hint at the cycle of life and death.” The show continues through June 18. ethertongallery.com
Yeah, But Is It Art?
Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson
265 S. Church Ave.
It’s not every day that you get to see cutting-edge contemporary art for free. Every first Thursday of the month, there is free admission to MOCA Tucson, which features rotating shows of paintings, photographs, prints, sculptures, installations, videos, and crafts. Many of the artists are a part of the BIPOC community and are women-identifying, giving a broader perspective to the current exhibits. Be sure to bring your ID to the museum for admission discounts at other times. moca-tucson.org
Stop and Smell the Lavender
Life Under the Oaks Lavender Farm
1221 N. Rancho Robles Road, Oracle
Take a short day trip up to the town of Oracle to experience a lavender farm amidst 100-year-old Oak Trees. It’s a wee bit cooler in Oracle and the aroma of lavender, we’re pretty sure, has some kind of calming effect on our fried brains. You can tour the farm, attend a wreath workshop or enjoy a farm-to-table dinner. lifeundertheoakslavenderfarm.com
Refresh and Relax
Patagonia Lake State Park
400 Patagonia Lake Road, Nogales
When we think of summer, we reminisce about the sweet relief of a cold dunk into a big body of water. Whether it’s an ocean, river, or lake, water is the break everyone needs from the hot Arizona sun. Luckily, the Tucson desert has a shady lake a few hours away. The Patagonia Lake State Park is a local escape offering shade, water, boating activities, picnic tables, and grills for summer barbecuing. The park has fully equipped cabin reservations available but these sell out fast! If you’re late to the reservation game, check out their boat-in campsites or pick from 105 of their developed campsites. If you miss the chance to crack a cold one at a campsite, leave early in the morning to take a day trip. The park gates are open from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. Visit azstateparks.com/patagonia-lake to reserve camping spots and discover special events at the lake.
Find Solace under the Dome
Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium
1601 E. University Blvd.
From Tuesday to Sunday, the University of Arizona Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium offers a mind-blowing visual experience in an air conditioned room. Check flandrau.org for showtimes. Adults and kids alike will be delighted by the high definition images projected on the dome, accompanied by a high quality speaker system. Kids 12 and under are recommended to see the We Are Stars or Perfect Little Planet. Everyone 10 years old and should check out the classic Tucson Sky & Beyond show, Touring the Solar System, and Black Holes. The astronomy shows are a classic must-see during the summer! Great White Shark and BUGS! A Rainforest Adventure are fun installments if you are looking to stay on earth for the evening. Featured shows this summer include the Laser Beatles and Laser Stranger Things show. Yes, you can take a safe trip to the upside-down while listening to ’80s music! All tickets are under $10.
Climb a Mountain
Mount Lemmon/Rose Canyon Lake
Catalina Highway/Sky Island Scenic Byway
Mount Lemmon is an oasis in the middle of the desert. Driving up the mountain, the plants slowly change from cactus and shrubs to oak and ponderosa pines. It is a biodiverse environment that also offers hiking, camping, and fishing. Swimming is not allowed but you won’t need to take a dip as the area is shaded all over and Mount Lemmon is 20 degrees cooler than Tucson on average! Campgrounds are available for rent on recreation.gov. While you are up there, consider stopping by the Mount Lemmon Cookie Cabin for cookies, pizza, chili, and sandwiches. Sawmill Run and Irondoor restaurants are also open for business. While you’re at 9,000 feet, check out the Arizona stars at the Mount Lemmon Skycenter by making a reservation ahead of time through skycenter.arizona.edu/content/visit-skycenter.
Live Summer Luxury on a Budget
Resort Pool day passes
Having a pool in Tucson during the summer is a precious resource that everyone wants but only a few people have access to it. Luckily, some of Tucson’s nicest resorts and hotels sell day passes to provide access to their cold pool waters. Visit resortpass.com/hotel-day-passes/Tucson-27 to reserve a day pass for yourself or call the hotels directly! Our favorite spots on this list include JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort, The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain Resort, and the retro Hotel McCoy. Day passes are available in a range of prices and can include special services. We recommend a pool with a bar and restaurant on site! It's the staycation you deserve.
Take a Stroll Down Fourth Avenue
Tucson’s funky little strip of small shops, restaurants, cafes and bars remains fiercely independent and a fun area to explore. Do some shopping at Pop Cycle, grab some authentic Italians at Caruso’s, discover Latin-inspired vegetarian fare at Tumerico or grab a drink at Tucson’s oldest dive bar, the Buffet. Wander through the Fourth Avenue underpass to downtown for a whole new adventure.