Looking for a fun and exciting destination to visit this December? Look no further than Tucson, Arizona! With its mild weather, picturesque landscapes, and exciting holiday events, Tucson is the perfect place to spend the winter season. In this article, we’ll highlight the best things to do in Tucson in December, from outdoor adventures to cultural experiences and more. Whether you’re a local or a first-time visitor, there’s something for everyone in Tucson this December. So, let’s get started!

Why December is a great time to visit Tucson

December is a fantastic time to visit Tucson for several reasons. Firstly, Tucson in December weather is mild making outdoor activities enjoyable without being too hot or cold. This is the perfect time to explore Tucson’s scenic mountain ranges, go for a bike ride or hike, or even visit Saguaro National Park.

Additionally, the holiday season brings a festive spirit to Tucson, with numerous events and activities taking place throughout the month of December.

From holiday light displays to local festivals and parades, Tucson has something for everyone during this time of year. Plus, with fewer crowds than in the summer months, visitors can enjoy all that Tucson has to offer without feeling overwhelmed or rushed. Overall, December is a great time to visit Tucson and experience all that this vibrant city has to offer.

Overview of the article’s contents

In this article, we’ll take a look at the best things to do in Tucson in December. We’ve organized our recommendations into several categories, so you can easily find activities that suit your interests. First, we’ll explore the outdoor adventures that Tucson has to offer, including hiking, biking, and exploring the area’s natural beauty.

Next, we’ll delve into the cultural experiences that are available in Tucson, from museums to historic sites and more. We’ll also highlight some of the holiday events and activities that take place in Tucson during the month of December, including light displays, parades, and festivals.

Lastly, we’ll provide some suggestions for family-friendly activities, so you can make the most of your time in Tucson with your loved ones. No matter what you’re looking for, we’re confident that Tucson has something to offer this December. So, let’s get started and explore all that this amazing city has to offer!

Things to do in Tucson in December

Outdoor Activities

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For tours, I recommend using get your guide and walking tours available in most places

A. Hiking in Tucson’s scenic mountains

Tucson’s mountain ranges offer some of the most breathtaking views in the region, and December is the perfect time to explore them. Here are two hiking destinations that are a must-visit during your trip to Tucson:

  1. Sabino Canyon: Sabino Canyon is located in the Santa Catalina Mountains and offers a variety of trails for hikers of all levels. This area is known for its stunning desert landscapes, crystal-clear streams, and diverse plant and animal life. Don’t miss out on the Seven Falls trail, which takes you to a series of cascading waterfalls that are especially beautiful during the winter months.
  2. Catalina Mountains: The Catalina Mountains are another popular hiking destination in Tucson. With over 150 miles of trails, there’s something for hikers of all levels here. For a challenging yet rewarding hike, try the Romero Pools trail, which takes you to a series of natural pools and stunning vistas. Or, for a more leisurely hike, try the Finger Rock trail, which offers panoramic views of the Tucson Valley.

B. Hiking trails

If you’re looking for more hiking opportunities, Tucson has plenty of trails to choose from plus these are some free activities in tucson that you can enjoy. Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Tumamoc Hill: Tumamoc Hill is a short but challenging hike that offers panoramic views of Tucson. The trail is just over 1.5 miles round-trip and gains over 700 feet of elevation, making it a great workout for hikers of all levels.
  2. Wasson Peak: Wasson Peak is located in Saguaro National Park and is the highest peak in the Tucson Mountains. The hike to the summit is just over 7 miles round-trip and offers stunning views of the surrounding desert landscape.

C. Biking and walking along Tucson’s urban trails

If you prefer to explore Tucson on foot or by bike, there are plenty of urban trails to choose from as well. Here are two popular options:

  1. Rillito River Park Trail: The Rillito River Park Trail is a paved multi-use path that runs for over 12 miles along the Rillito River. This trail is popular with walkers, joggers, and cyclists, and offers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
  2. Santa Cruz River Park Trail: The Santa Cruz River Park Trail is a 10-mile paved trail that runs along the Santa Cruz River. This trail offers a mix of urban and natural scenery and is a great option for a leisurely bike ride or walk.

D. Visiting the Reid Park Zoo

The Reid Park Zoo is a must-visit destination for animal lovers, especially during the holiday season. Here are two reasons why you should add it to your list of things to do in Tucson in December:

  1. Zoo Lights event: The Zoo Lights event is a beloved Tucson holiday tradition that takes place throughout the month of December. During this event, the zoo is transformed into a magical wonderland of twinkling lights, festive decorations, and holiday cheer. Visitors can stroll through the park at night, enjoy seasonal treats, and even visit with Santa Claus.
  2. Animal encounters: In addition to the Zoo Lights event, the Reid Park Zoo offers a variety of animal encounters and experiences that are perfect for visitors of all ages. From feeding the giraffes to meeting the zoo’s resident elephants, there are plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most fascinating creatures.

Cultural and Historical Attractions

A. Exploring the Arizona- Sonora Desert Museum

If you’re interested in Tucson’s cultural and historical attractions, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a must-visit destination. Here are two reasons why you should add it to your list of things to do in Tucson in December:

  1. Animal exhibits: The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is home to a variety of animals that are native to the Sonoran Desert, including coyotes, mountain lions, and javelinas. You can explore the exhibits and learn more about these fascinating creatures and their habitats.
  2. Tucson botanical gardens: In addition to the animal exhibits, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum features a variety of botanical gardens that showcase the diverse plant life of the Sonoran Desert. From cacti and succulents to wildflowers and trees, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

B. Visiting the Mission San Xavier del Bac

For a glimpse into Tucson’s rich history and architecture, a visit to Mission San Xavier del Bac is a must. Here are two reasons why you should add it to your list of things to do in Tucson in December:

  1. History and architecture: The Mission San Xavier del Bac is a stunning example of Spanish colonial architecture, with its ornate details and vibrant frescoes. Visitors can take a guided tour of the mission and learn about its fascinating history, which dates back to the 18th century.
  2. Religious significance: The mission is still an active Catholic church and is considered a significant religious site in the region. Visitors can attend a mass or simply take in the peaceful and spiritual atmosphere of the mission.

C. Checking out the Tucson Museum of Art

The Tucson Museum of Art is a must-visit for art enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Here are two reasons why you should add it to your list of things to do in Tucson in December:

  1. Exhibits and collections: The museum’s exhibits and collections showcase a wide range of art forms, from contemporary works to historic artifacts. Visitors can explore the galleries and learn about the art and artists that have shaped Tucson’s cultural landscape.
  2. Holiday Artisans Market: During the winter season, the Tucson Museum of Art hosts the Holiday Artisans Market, which features handmade gifts and crafts from local artisans. It’s the perfect place to find unique and meaningful holiday gifts for your loved ones.

D. Exploring the historic district of Barrio Viejo

For a taste of Tucson’s rich history and architecture, take a stroll through the Barrio Viejo historic district. Here are two reasons why you should add it to your list of things to do in Tucson in December:

  1. Architecture and history: The Barrio Viejo is a well-preserved neighborhood that dates back to the 19th century. Its adobe homes, colorful facades, and intricate details offer a glimpse into Tucson’s past and its unique blend of Spanish, Mexican, and American influences.
  2. Local shops and restaurants: The Barrio Viejo is also home to several shops and restaurants that showcase the best of Tucson’s local culture and cuisine. From handcrafted pottery and textiles to delicious Sonoran-style tacos and margaritas, there’s plenty to discover and savor in this vibrant neighborhood.

E. Exploring the Downtown Tucson Art District

  1. Street art and murals
  2. Galleries and museums, such as the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures F. Ice skating at Tucson’s outdoor rinks
  3. The Tucson Convention Center’s outdoor rink
  4. The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain’s outdoor rink

Other cultural events and attractions to check out in Tucson in December include the Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s holiday concerts, the Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair, and the Avenue Winter Street Festival (more on this below). With so much to see and do, you’re sure to have a memorable and fulfilling trip to Tucson in December.

what to do in Tucson in December
Tucson, Arizona, USA downtown city skyline in the afternoon.

Festivals and Events

A. The Tucson Tamal and Heritage Festival

If you’re a foodie or a fan of cultural festivals, the Tucson Tamal and Heritage Festival is not to be missed. Here are two reasons why you should check it out during Christmas in Tucson:

  1. Food and drink vendors: The festival features over 40 tamale vendors, each offering their unique spin on this beloved Mexican dish. You can also find a variety of other food and drink options, such as aguas frescas, craft beer, and margaritas.
  2. Live entertainment: In addition to the delicious food, the festival also offers a lively atmosphere with live music, dance performances, and cultural demonstrations. You can learn about the history and traditions behind tamales and other Mexican dishes while enjoying the festive spirit of the event.

B. The Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair

Another must-visit event in Tucson in December is the Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair. Here are two reasons why you should add it to your itinerary:

  1. Art and craft vendors: The fair features over 400 arts and crafts vendors, offering a wide range of handmade items such as jewelry, pottery, clothing, and more. You can find unique and one-of-a-kind gifts for your loved ones or simply indulge in some retail therapy for yourself.
  2. Live music and street performers: The fair also offers a vibrant and eclectic mix of live music and street performers, adding to the festive and lively atmosphere. You can dance to the tunes of local musicians or be entertained by talented performers such as jugglers, magicians, and acrobats.

C. The Tucson Parade of Lights

The Tucson Parade of Lights is another highlight of the holiday season in Tucson. Here are two reasons why you should attend the parade:

  1. Festive floats and displays: The parade features colorful and creative floats and displays, showcasing the holiday spirit and creativity of the local community. You can admire the dazzling lights and decorations and marvel at the imagination and skill that went into creating them.
  2. Holiday-themed activities: The parade also offers a variety of holiday-themed activities for both kids and adults, such as face painting, cookie decorating, and visits with Santa Claus. You can make unforgettable memories with your family and friends while enjoying the festive atmosphere of the parade.

D. The Winterhaven Festival of Lights

  1. Neighborhood lights display Winterhaven, a neighborhood located in central Tucson, is famous for its annual Festival of Lights. Every December, residents of this community decorate their houses with over 100,000 twinkling lights, turning the area into a magical winter wonderland. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll or drive through the neighborhood to enjoy the light display.
  2. Food and toy drive In the spirit of the holidays, Winterhaven residents also hold a food and toy drive during the festival. Visitors are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items or new, unwrapped toys to donate to those in need.

E. The Tucson Christmas Market

The Tucson Christmas Market is a must-visit attraction for anyone looking to get into the holiday spirit. Located in downtown Tucson, this market features a variety of local vendors and artisans selling holiday-themed gifts and decor. Whether you’re looking for unique Christmas ornaments, handmade crafts, or festive decorations, you’ll find it all here.

And with Tucson’s mild December weather, you can enjoy browsing the market’s offerings without worrying about cold temperatures. Don’t miss out on one of the top Christmas events Tucson has to offer!

Food and Drink

A. Trying out Tucson’s famous Mexican cuisine

  1. Local favorites like El Charro Café and Guadalajara Grill
  2. Fine dining options like Café a la C’Art and Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails

B. Exploring Tucson’s craft beer scene

  1. Breweries and taprooms like Borderlands Brewing Company and Crooked Tooth Brewing Co.
  2. Beer festivals like the Tucson Craft Beer Crawl

C. Visiting local wineries and vineyards

  1. Wine tastings at places like Flying Leap Vineyards and Wilhelm Family Vineyards
  2. Vineyard tours like those offered by the Arizona Wine Collective

D. Sampling local food at the Mercado San Agustin

  1. Local food vendors like Seis Kitchen and Agustin Kitchen
  2. Art and craft shops at the market, including the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures.

These options will surely delight anyone looking for things to do in Tucson in December, with many opportunities to try delicious food and drinks while exploring the city.

In summary, Tucson in December offers a variety of indoor and outdoor activities, cultural and historical attractions, festivals and events, and food and drink experiences.

With mild weather, unique holiday festivities, and a vibrant cultural scene, Tucson is a great destination for a December getaway.

Don’t miss out on the chance to explore all that Tucson has to offer during the holiday season.

Start planning your trip to Tucson in December today and experience the beauty and excitement of this southwestern city for yourself!

Let me know in the comments:

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What to do in Tucson in December

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