Explore traditional desert culture, great Mexican food and some of the most scenic desert in Arizona with a day trip to Tucson. Tucson is one of Arizona's most vibrant and historic cities, located about 116 miles southeast of Phoenix. Here is our guide to a history-filled day trip deep into the heart of the Sonoran Desert.
The ancient four-story Great House at Case Grande Ruins was built by hand nearly a thousand years ago — Photo courtesy of National Park Service
Ride with the Legends on the Pinal Pioneer Parkway
If you're not in a hurry to get to Tucson, take the scenic route into town via the Pinal Pioneer Parkway, a 41-mile stretch of high desert and gorgeous mountain views. This is the old highway between Phoenix and Tucson, and while Interstate 10 is a much more efficient route, this is a pleasant drive filled with historical interest.
About 60 miles southeast of Phoenix in the small town of Coolidge, the Casa Grande Ruins preserve the history and culture of the ancient Hohokam people and their farming community. Explore the mystery of the four-story "Great House" at this mysterious and beautiful site. Before you leave the Pinal Pioneer Parkway, look out for the Tom Mix Memorial honoring the legendary cowboy actor, who died on this road in a tragic accident in 1940.
Explore Tucson's heritage with a stroll around the Tucson Museum of Art historic block — Photo courtesy of Tucson Museum of Art
Walk Tucson's Historic Block
There's no better way to learn more about Tucson's history than by exploring the city's historic block on foot. A great starting point is the Tucson Art Museum, which along with the main gallery encompasses five historic buildings in downtown Tucson, including the 1854 Casa Cordova - one of the oldest houses in the city.
The museum complex is part of the Presidio Historic District, where you can see remnants of the city's original Spanish fort. For a pleasant shopping and dining break, head towards Old Town Artisans at 201 North Court Avenue, a block of historic adobe houses converted into galleries, gift shops, craft stores and built around a lush courtyard.
Stop to feed the ostrich at Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch, one of the world's largest private ostrich farms — Photo courtesy of Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch
Feed the Ostrich on a Desert Ranch
Once you're ready to head back north to Phoenix, be sure to make a pit stop at Rooster Cogburn's, one of the state's most unique roadside attractions. This desert ranch is one of the largest privately-owned ostrich farms in the world, and is located halfway between Phoenix and Tucson at the base of iconic Picacho Peak, making it a perfect stopping point. The farm is home to hundreds of ostrich, deer, miniature Sicilian donkeys, Boer goats, and rainbow lorikeets. Visitors are encouraged to feed the animals and, of course, you'll want to snap your picture with these fun, exotic birds.