Tucson On a Budget: 10 Free Things to Do in the Old Pueblo

One of Tucson's best free attractions is the Mission San Xavier del Bac, located about nine miles south of downtown Tucson on the Tohono O'odham San Xavier Indian Reservation. The mission is a great example of eighteenth century southwest mission architecture, with colorful interiors, a desert courtyard, museum and gift shop.

There's also a small marketplace in the parking lot where you can shop for Native American jewelry, art and other Southwestern wares. The mission is an active place of worship, so please be mindful of the local mass schedule. If you come on a Sunday, enjoy a tasty piece of authentic fry bread from the vendors that set up in the parking lot after mass. 

Tucson is a thriving university town, which means it offers many free arts and cultural attractions. One of the best is the Center for Creative Photography, located on the University of Arizona Campus. The museum hosts several exhibitions throughout the year, many of which feature the works of well-known photographers. 

Even the most casual art lover will enjoy a visit to DeGrazia's Gallery in the Sun. The beautiful museum and garden were the home and studio of Italian artist Ted DeGrazia, who adopted Tucson and the southwest as his permanent home. Wander through the rustic, artful courtyard, take in the mountain views, and explore DeGrazia's impressive body of work in the museum. 

Finally, explore Tucson's history with a visit to the historic Presidio San Agustin del Tucson, a re-creation of the Tucson Presidio built in 1775. The site is still home to many historic buildings, and the museum offers free admission on the third Saturday of the month. 



Train and history buffs will love a visit to this underrated downtown Tucson attraction. The Southern Arizona Transportation Museum in downtown Tucson preserves and interprets Southern Arizona railroad heritage through the museum's educational...  Read More

Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block


The Tucson Museum of Art houses a permanent exhibit of pre-Columbian art, Western art, Latin American art (from ancient to contemporary), modern and contemporary art, and Asian art, plus traveling exhibits. It also houses an art school and an...  Read More



Winding along the dry Santa Cruz River, this park is a fun place to forget the woes of the day. The park features a very popular disc golf course (the oldest in town, incidentally), as well as the Garden of Gethsemane, a peaceful little corner...  Read More

El Presidio


The Presidio San Agustín was Tucson's first neighborhood. Named for the Spanish-built Presidio de San Augustin del Tucson, the historic area is the site of the original walled fort of Tucson. Though none of the original wall remains, the...  Read More



Sentinel Peak, also known as "A" Mountain, is local landmark, as well as a city park. Fans of the University of Arizona maintain the decades-long tradition of painting a giant "A" on the side of the mountain in honor of their alma mater....  Read More



Within its boundaries, this 20,000 acre park has miles of hiking trails and numerous incredible desert vistas. If that sounds appealing, a hike up to Gates Pass will reward you with a charming stone gazebo from which to take in a stellar sunset...  Read More



A major addition to the arts complex at the University of Arizona, the Center for Creative Photography was conceived by Ansel Adams and is now the chief repository for his work. The photograph collection of the Center is one of the finest and...  Read More



Ted DeGrazia is a Tucson legend. His home and the surrounding buildings, originally built in open country in the foothills of the Catalinas, are now surrounded by the city. The gallery, his former home, his workshop, and the roofless chapel were...  Read More



The University of Arizona campus is an excellent place for a scenic stroll, with groves of mature olive trees and shaded pathways surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens full of palm trees and cacti. Start at the UA visitor center, where...  Read More



San Xavier is considered one of the finest examples of Mission architecture in this country. Founded by Father Eusabio Kino, today it serves as the parish church for the Tohono O'odham tribe and often hosts concerts. The elaborate interior has...  Read More


Meet Patricia Escarcega

Patricia Escarcega has lived in the Arizona desert since she was a teenager. She works as a writer and editor in Phoenix with her four dogs and two cats.

She received her MFA in Creative...  More About Patricia