Tucson is Arizona’s second-largest city and is a great way to spend a weekend trip! Even though there are tons of fun, tourist attractions in Tucson, this list will just graze some of the best fun cheap things to do in Tucson, Az.
Tucson is large both geographically and with over 500,000 residents, but it still gives off a small town feel. Most of the time you will not use the Interstate to get around. Instead, most of the time you will take regular surface street roads to get from one side of town to the next.
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This city is north of the United States- the Mexican board had has lots of influence from our friends down south. The town is filled with desert wild and plant life, Mexican food and beverages, and plenty of fun things to do.
You can easily take a day trip from Phoneix by bus or take a road trip from Tucson to El Paso Road Trip.
Where to stay in Tucson
Tucson is a vast, sprawling town that is easy to get around by car. We ended up booking a hotel at the Hotels in Sheraton Tucson Hotel & Suites.
We ended up staying at this hotel because we had points on our Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, we were able to reserve a suite with a king bed and a sofa bed, and there was complimentary breakfast.
The suite was the perfect size for three adults. There was enough space for the three of us to comfortably place suitcases, sleep, and get ready in the morning.
Another thing we loved about Hotels in Sheraton Tucson Hotel & Suites was the breakfast buffet. We enjoyed eating at the breakfast buffet. There were several items available on the buffet that are not typically found in your typical hotel breakfasts.
My favorite thing to eat from the buffet? The potatoes. They were the best thing to eat on the entire menu.
8 Fun Cheap Things to do in Tucson
1. Try a James Beard Foundation Award Winning Restaurant – El Charro Cafe
The James Beard Foundation nominated El Charro Cafe as one of the most Outstanding Restaurants for 2019. This restaurant was chosen to win an award as one of the most outstanding restaurants in the United States – and it is in Tucson!
El Charro Cafe was one of the first restaurants I dined in a while in Tucson, and they raise the bar when it comes to tacos and margaritas. With four locations, one is even in the airport, there is an El Charro Cafe not too far from where you are hanging out.
El Charro Cafe is known for their famous Carne Seca Platter – marinated, shredded Angus beef dried on the roof in the Sonoran Dessert Sun. We got a small sample of the Carne Seca, but what we really wanted was tacos.
Another famous dish El Charro Cafe is known for is their Original “Charro Style” Beef Tacos. In 1922 this was the only way to make a taco, create a ground beef patty, fold it in a tortilla and pan fry it. Served with a garnish of peas, radishes, and Mexican cheeses.
Top that off with a super cute, super yummy Prickley Pear-Rita or Horny Cucumber Margarita, and you have a fabulous, authentic Mexican meal.
2. Eat a Sonoran Dog
El Guero Canelo won the 2019 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics award for their Sonoran Dog.
Wait what-what is a Sonoran Style dog?
Well, it is bacon-wrapped frank, beans, grilled onion, fresh onion, tomato, mayo, mustard, and jalapeno sauce. This hot dog is more than a hot dog, and it is hard to find outside of Mexico and Arizona.
Even if you don’t make it to El Guero Canelo - there are well over 200 different vendors in Tucson that sell Sonoran Hot Dogs. Since these Hot Dogs are not expensive at all they had to make my list for fun cheap things to do in Tucson!
3. Eating Fry Bread
I first discovered Indian Fry bread while road tripping across the United States, so of course when I found Mexican Fry Bread I just had to buy one and eat it!
The best way to describe Fry Bread is that it is a blend between a Funnel Cake and a Beignet. If you haven’t had either one of those just know that it is heaven!
Traditional Mexican fry bread is fried dough with powdered sugar and honey. There are several outlets to get Mexican fry bread, but we stumbled upon a whole bunch of vendors outside of Mission San Xavier del Bac, and it was a fantastic experience!
If you want to try a bunch of different variants of fry bread - they have sweet and savory - or different vendors make sure to get to the Mission Early, and snack on the fry bread before and after your tour!
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4. Visit San Xavier del Bac
San Xavier del Bac, a Spanish Catholic Mission, is one of the oldest, intact European structure in Arizona, dating back to the late 1700s. It is located nine miles south of downtown Tucson is the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation.
This Mission attracts over 200,000 visitors yearly and is still run by the Franciscan community. SanXavier del Bac is free of charge to the public. However, donations are appreciated. In situations like this, I typically donate $10 per hour for my entire family.
Visitors are welcome from 7 am - 5 pm daily. If you are interested in attending mass there is a 530 pm Saturday Vigil, 7 am, 10 am, and 1130 am Sunday Mass, and 630 am daily mass in the Juan Diego chapel.
One of my favorite things about San Xavier del Bac was to see all of the pilgrims, tourists, and locals praying to St Francis. There is a wooden statue of St Francis in a tomb where all parishioners can walk up to the saint, touch him, and pray.
There is also a small museum, gift shop and the ability to purchase candles to leave an intention or prayer behind. One of the most beautiful spots in this Mission was all of the areas where people were able to leave their candles and special intentions.
5. Visit Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park isn’t the largest national park, but it is divided into two separate and distinct parts. Saguaro East and Saguaro West. The entrance fee is $20 to enter Saguaro National Park, and that is good for seven days, or you can invest in a National Parks Pass and visiting the park is free.
Of course, this had to make the list for the best fun, free things to do in Tucson - even if you do have to spend the $20 for a 7-day pass.
I highly suggest splitting Saguaro National Park up into two days, but if you can’t, you need to decide if you want to do more hiking or driving.
No matter how long you are visiting, make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks because of the desert heat.
On the east side of town is Saguaro East, in the Rincon Mountain District. This side of the park contains the Cactus Forest Loop Drive.
This paved, one-way road loop allows guests to see 8 miles of the rugged desert. There is a handicapable path called the Desert Ecology Trail. We use this walker while traveling.
Other than hopping out of the car, taking photos with the largest Saguaro you can find, and taking a few walks through the cactus forest, you can catch one of the most stunning sunsets high up in the Rincon Mountains.
The age-old debate is should one go to the East or the West. The west has a larger number of Saguaro concentrated in that side of the park while
Baja, a Loop Drive, is the best way to see Saguaro National Park. Most of the loop is two way, but there is one section that goes one way. Beware because between the Valley View Overlook Trail and Apache Peak, many people drive the wrong way.
One of the best places to have a quiet picnic in Saguaro National Park is at Ez-Kim-in-Zin Picnic area. This area is situated at one of the highest parts of the park where you can easily drive to.
There are a few picnic table, including some with shelters, where you can enjoy a peaceful lunch while looking over the cactus forest.
Even though Signal Hill is steep and is not handicapable at all, it is an excellent place to pull off and see the ancient Petroglyphs in the park. These petroglyphs were formed by the people of this region over 800 years ago.
They were created by etching and scrapping designs into the surface of the sandstone. Many of the petroglyphs look like squiggly lines and spirals, but a few look like people and animals.
There are so many bright and beautiful murals in Tucson that you could spend a half of a day just driving around and finding them all! For us, we had finished up our day pretty early, and took a drive downtown and stumbled upon the Tucson Bike Mural.
This mural is 130 feet wide and 30 feet tall, which makes it easy to spot from the street. It is located on the back of Epic Rides facing the sixth street.
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7. Greetings from Tucson
Greetings tour is one of my favorite traveling families ever, and this mural is special to me because I found out about them while I was in Tucson, and they were painting a mural in New Orleans!
The Greetings tour family is traveling in their RV and bringing joy to each of the different cities with their amazing Greetings From postcard style murals.
The Greetings From Tucson mural is located behind Miller’s Surplus on 406 N 6th Ave. Beware - the mural is in an alley where many people park, and when we visited, it was very close to a dumpster and porta-potties.
8. 30 Foot Cactus Sign
Did you know that Tucson has a 30 Foot Neon Cactus Sign? It was put up in 2010 on the median of N. Oracle Rd and intersects with W. Adams Street.
On the southbound side, the cactus reads Tucson while the Northbound side reads Miracle Mile. This attraction is better viewed at night, but fair warning it is tough to take a photo of it!
I hope you find this guide helpful in figuring out fun cheap things to do in Tucson. If you have visited (or plan to visit) Tucson let me know your favorite Tucson Attractions
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Eating a Delicious Bacon-Wrapped Sonoran Hot Dog in Tucson - Plaid Shirt Yoga Pants
Wednesday 26th of June 2019
[…] The second we landed in Tucson, I knew I had to find the best place in Tucson to eat a Sonoran Hot Dog – it is even one of my top things to do in Tucson! […]