The cure for the summertime blues

There’s no reason to be blue this summer. Tucson has plenty of activities to keep everyone occupied — and cool. Here are our top picks for things to do this summer.

1. See a movie at the Loft Cinema

3233 E. Speedway Boulevard

If you can’t find anything to do this summer, you clearly have not looked at the Loft Cinema, where even kids can get their fill of popcorn, games, prizes, raffles and, oh yeah, movies. During Loft Kids Fest they will be screening “Toy Story,” “Sing 2,” “The Sandlot” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” among others. The best part of this nine-day fest? It’s all free.

Things kick off with a Looney Tunes Outdoor Movie Party on Friday, June 23, at Himmel Park. After that, Loft doors open at 9:15 a.m. and the movie starts at 10 a.m.

Adults are not without their entertainment at the Loft. No, not that kind, just really good, sometimes kitschy, movies from times past.

Every Thursday until Aug. 31 check out the likes of Doris and Rock in “Pillow Talk,” or the amazing Marlon Brando at possibly his very best in, “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Find out what we were really afraid of in 1956 with, “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” or watch Jimmy Stewart become a peeping Tom in “Rear Window.” It’s all part of the Loft’s Hollywood Classics Series.

Think that’s all? This is the Loft; there’s way more.

Of course, the Loft will still be showing its usual selection of interesting, bizarre and contemporary films.

Find all the featured titles, times and tickets on the website.

2. Stay in your cool house and binge

Because we don’t have enough streaming services, here’s one that’s free.

With Kanopy, all you need is a library card or to be a university student or professor. After that it’s classic and not-so-classic movies galore.

Didn’t see “Chinatown” the first time around? It’s here. Watch, with regret, Amy Winehouse come apart in the documentary, “Amy.” Get some good advice from Mo Willlems when you “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.”

There’s something for everyone.

3. Thousands of years in the making

Arizona State Museum

1013 E. University Boulevard

Across the street from Centennial Hall on the UA campus is the oldest and largest anthropological research facility in the Southwestern United States, the Arizona State Museum. Want to do some archeological digging? This is where you go to get permitted, though that happens upstairs in the offices.

In the first-floor public spaces find a bit of the more than 3 million archaeological, ethnographic and modern objects that belong to the region’s Indigenous people.

There’s also the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of Native North American basketry with objects from more than 7,000 years ago, along with southwest Indigenous pottery that goes back roughly 2,000 years.

Right now, the museum is showing off some of its ancient and modern Southwestern native jewelry.

It’s worth your time, won’t take all day, and the gift shop is pretty good, too.

Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. Tickets start at $8, $6 for seniors ages 65 and older and free for children younger than 17.

4. Be on a mission

San Xavier del Bac Mission

1950 W. San Xavier Road


Drive nine miles from Downtown on I-19 and you will see a sight that has welcomed visitors to Tucson since 1797, our own San Xavier del Bac Mission. One look, even from the freeway and you will immediately see why it got the nickname, The White Dove of the Desert.

The mission is Arizona’s oldest intact European structure. It is a National Historic Landmark founded as a Catholic Mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692, though the actual structure wasn’t completed until the late 18th century. Inside the church’s walls are original statuary and mural paintings that remember Spanish Colonial times.

Here’s something to keep in mind when visiting. This is a working Roman Catholic Church, a house of worship. Mass is offered here, and people still come to pray. Be respectful of the space and the worshipers.

The church houses a small museum, which has been closed for a bit, but staff is hopeful it will be opening again by the beginning of June. Call ahead to be sure.

Still open, however, is the gift shop, where they have any number of Roman Catholic items, T-shirts and other souvenirs.

After seeing all there is to see, get native frybread hot out of the boiling oil and covered in powdered sugar. If that doesn’t do it, get it with meat. Both yummy. Fry bread vendors are in the parking lot.

5. Picture this

Etherton Gallery

340 S. Convent Avenue

Hankering to collect art but don’t know where to start? Etherton Gallery has an idea. Here you will find works created by the masters of the art of photography, both past and present. Pieces are available to see but they can also be available to buy. As they say on their website, “...We remain dedicated to making great works of photography accessible to novices and experienced collectors alike.”

You don’t have to buy to visit the gallery. These days see works by Wendy Schnieder and Laurie Lambrecht until Saturday, June 10.

6. Yeah, but is it art?

Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson

265 S. Church Avenue

It couldn’t be the summer of art without expanding your vision a little with a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, which lets you in for free every first Thursday of the month.

Currently showing is “While Hissing,” by Raven Chacon, from Fort Defiance, the Navajo Nation. He wants to celebrate sound as a medium for resistance and connection. “Through video installation, graphic scores, and performance, Chacon amplifies Indigenous women’s voices, centering their leadership and vision both as carriers of memory and authors of culture,” according to the museum’s website. Was he successful? Visit the exhibit and find out.

Touch the edge of your memory with, “Subrosa,” by Na Mira. The exhibit showcases nonlinear film that uses radio transmissions and the color red all bleeding together. This installation uses 16 mm film and infrared video. Yes, it is different but make of it what you will.

MOCA’s artists are often a part of the BIPOC community and are women-identifying, giving a broader perspective to the current exhibits.

Keep your kids busy at the weeklong kids’ art camps in June, which you will find listed on their website.

7. Take a trip to the stars

Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium

1601 E. University Boulevard

Even if you can’t get away this summer, take a trip that’s out of this world at Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium.

In the domed planetarium you may tour our very own solar system or visit a black hole with a film produced in collaboration with NOVA and NASA. Stay after the film for a star talk. You don’t have to be a genius or even a science geek to enjoy these programs.

There are also Laser Light Music Nights, where colorful lights dance to themed music, but you have to be quick about getting tickets. They sell out fast.

Check the website for times and ticket info.

In the science center, look for these four exhibits: “Undersea Discover,” “Wild World of Bugs,” “Sharks: Magnificent and Misunderstood” and “HiRISE: Eye in the Martian Sky.”

Plus, there’s a little gift shop, where they have every kid’s favorite, astronaut ice cream.

8. Find Sombra Fria in Agua Caliente

Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente Regional Park

12325 E. Roger Road

Don’t let the name Agua Caliente, or “hot water,” sway you from this summer gem. The vast 101-acre spread of land includes a perennial warm spring and an artificial stream linking its three ponds. The park supports diverse wildlife from fish to animal populations and allows for birdwatching, bat sightings and idle ramblings among the acres of cool shade. Restored buildings that dot the landscape recall the property’s long history as a ranch and thousands of years beyond that. Admission is free, parking is ample, and hours are 7 a.m. to sunset.

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.

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.

9. Feel the breeze through a dozen species

Madera Canyon

South Madera Canyon Road, Green Valley

Throughout the summer, the canyon’s average temperature sits in the low 90s with a typical light breeze through the opening. A few dozen species of oak trees shade the land and provide a cool, low-key adventure along the Madera Canyon Nature Trail. At 5.8 miles out and back with a 921-foot elevation gain, it’s an easy path for those interested in hiking. If you’re not the type for a hike, there are plenty of spots to bust out the cooler and camp chairs and enjoy the nice weather.

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.

10. See photos

Center for Creative Photography

1030 N. Olive Road

The UA Center for Creative Photography is home to a collection of stunning photography and is known as one of the finest academic art museums in the world. The center holds more than 100,000 works from 2,200 photographers, along with archives of major artists like Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Hume Kennedy, who has created images of every president since Gerald Ford.

Check out their recent exhibit, “The Linda McCartney Retrospective,” displaying her whole photographic career from 1965 to 1997. Her work features striking Tucson landscapes and portraits of famous celebrities throughout the generations, including those of her husband, Sir Paul McCartney. The CCP galleries are open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday with free admission. The McCartney exhibit will close Aug. 5.

11. Gotta have art

Tucson Museum of Art

140 N. Main Avenue

The Tucson Museum of Art, fresh from a number of recent expansions, is bigger and better than ever. The gallery specializes in curating art from Latin America, the American West, and Modern and Contemporary themes. Moreover, their mission is to celebrate the diverse culture of Arizona and the Southwest Corridor. Enjoy the renowned Arizona Biennial Exhibition, presenting the work of professional Arizonan artists chosen through a juried competition.

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday to Sunday with $7 to $12 admission and free for members and specified populations. While you’re there, grab a bite at Cafe a la C’arte, which serves delicious omelets, sandwiches and salads. Or at least get something sumptuous from their dessert case.

12. See more art

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

6300 N. Swan Road

Starting in the 1950s, the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun was built and curated by the late artist Ted DeGrazia. What started as a small museum in the middle of nowhere has transformed into an adobe fortress through seven decades of creative ingenuity. You can tour the wonderful gallery filled with his works and then wander the grounds to see DeGrazia’s original house, his “Little Gallery,” where he first showed his work. The galleries were designed by the artist and include the lovely chapel he built in honor of the Virgin de Guadalupe.

13. Stop and smell the lavender

Life Under the Oaks Lavender Farm

1221 N. Rancho Robles Road, Oracle

In the northern foothills town of Oracle lies a flower oasis among 100-year-old oak trees. The elevation and vast fields of lavender encourage cooler weather on the grounds of Life Under the Oaks Farm. Enjoy a tour of the farm and take your pick of lavender-induced and -themed products. Life Under the Oaks also hosts tea parties, wreath and art workshops and farm-to-table meals. Plus, the aroma of lavender, we’re pretty sure, has a cool, calming effect on our fried brains.

14. Climb a mountain, eat a cookie

Mount Lemmon/Rose Canyon Lake

Catalina Highway/Sky Island Scenic Byway,

Spend a day, a weekend or the entire summer on Tucson’s most popular mountain range. Mount Lemmon is an oasis in the middle of the desert. Driving up the mountain, the plants slowly change from cacti and shrubs to oak and ponderosa pines. Its biodiverse environment also offers hiking, camping and fishing. While swimming is not allowed, the altitude and shade leave the area 20 degrees cooler than Tucson.

Campgrounds are available for rent on Consider stopping in one of the few mountain towns and visiting 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.

15. What’s zoo with you?

Reid Park Zoo

3400 E. Zoo Court

Summer Safari Nights are back at the Reid Park Zoo. From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturdays through Aug. 12, families and friends can explore the zoo in the cooler evenings. Every night will focus on a “Rock Star Animal,” including events themed after the chosen species from the zoo, along with the usual fun with giraffe feedings, live music from local bands and, of course, carousel rides. Tucson Parks and Rec will partner with the zoo for “Ready, Set, Rec!” games and activities.

While Reid Park Zoo undergoes expansions of its parking lot and exhibits, Summer Safari Nights will continue with little interruption. Admission ranges from $6.50 to $10.50 and is free for members and children under 2.

16. Hear the music

Fox Tucson Theatre

17 W. Congress Street

There’s something magical about summer concerts, and there’s something magical about Downtown’s gorgeous Fox Tucson Theatre. Put them together and you have memories that will last a lifetime. This summer, you’ve got the likes of Mary Chapin Carpenter (June 10); Junior Brown w/Mark Insley and the Broken Angels (June 14); Al Jardine w/Yahtzee Brown (June 17); Graham Nash (June 20); One of These Nights (June 23); Old Crow Medicine Show (July 19); The Robert Cray Band (July 25); John Lodge (July 26); Cowboy Junkies (July 27); and The Australian Pink Floyd Show (Aug. 23).

Besides the concerts, the Fox will be doing movies, including singalongs with “West Side Story,” “Annie” and “Greatest Showman.”

17. 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 and programs, including a seasonal butterfly exhibit.

This year, it’s once again hosting Dog Days of Summer, by welcoming leashed dogs from June 1 to Sept. 30. They can accompany their parents on their strolls through the gardens. Take in the free smells, summer plants and grab a pup-a-licious snack from Edna’s Eatery.

Every Sunday June to August, from 6 to 8 p.m., guests can picnic, hang with friends or take in the garden sights as the sun goes down. Regular admission prices apply.

This community favorite is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, except for Sunday evenings. Ticket prices range from $8 to $15 and are available online. Butterfly Magic hours are 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

18. A whole new world

The Dive Shop

1702 E. Prince Road, Suite 150

72 Aquatics

3110 E. Fort Lowell Road

Paragon Dive Shop

2951 N. Swan Road, Suite 175

It turns out it is possible to breathe underwater. You need an apparatus, of course, but where do you get that? At any one of the three scuba shops in town.

If you’re just curious about what’s under the sea try an introductory snorkel class for about $50. For those who want to have more than just passing acquaintances with what’s under the sea, there are classes to be certified to scuba dive. Finally, for the really enthusiastic, look for classes to become PADI certified to teach scuba diving. You don’t even have to go far. At least one of the shops has an on-site pool to learn in.

Once you’ve mastered a snorkel and tank, take an organized tour to one of the many international and exotic locales that all the shops offer. Or maybe just go on a drive and dive weekend to San Carlos. There’s plenty there to see, including a newly sunk decommissioned ship.

19. Introduce yourself to your town

Trejo Walking Tours, the real history of Tucson


Taste of Tucson



Even if it is hot, take a tour that will introduce you to your very own UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Hear a different take on the history of a few of Tucson’s neighborhoods, sample the wonderful food produced here in local restaurants, learn about the Turquoise Trail or spread out and tour Tubac, Tumacacori or our side of Nogales. You might even venture out for an overnight trip to learn about, and more importantly sample, bacanora. There is still plenty to see when the town slows down.

Some of the tour operators prefer to lead their tours in the early morning or evening, and some of them will give you a private tour if you prefer. Check their websites for details.

Find more here:

20. Be a hero

Santa Rita Park

401 E. 22nd Street

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.