Best of Ron Medvescek in 2016

A view looking northeast from Signal hill in Saguaro National Park, Tucson Mountain District west of Tucson, AZ. Photo taken Friday, August 12, 2016.

Now that cooler temps have pushed summer out of the way and the holidays are nearing, it's time to start thinking about what to do with family and friends when they come to visit. 

We've got you covered with 10 unique Tucson places to take your visitors.

1. Show off the Sonoran Desert at the Desert Museum

A mountain lion keeps its eyes on its enclosure at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Show your guests the wonders of the Sonoran Desert by taking them to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, located at 2021 N. Kinney Road

This place is special because it's like a zoo, museum, botanical garden and aquarium rolled into one, on 98 acres of lush desert. It has two miles of walking paths through various desert habitats, 230 animal species, 1,200 types of plants and a huge mineral collection. 

There are also restaurants, an art gallery and live animal presentations. 

Admission is $24.95 for adults; $22.95 for seniors ages 65 and over; $13.95 for children ages 3 to 12 and free for kids under age 3. 

2. Take in the saguaro views

Saguaro cacti backlit by western sun at the Saguaro National Park, West, Tucson Mountain District (TMD) west of Tucson, AZ. Photo taken March 25, 2015.

Go outside! One of the best things about this time of year in Tucson is the weather. Show it off, along with gorgeous scenery at Sabino Canyon, located at 5900 N. Sabino Canyon Road

Pack a picnic and make a day of hiking the trails, which range from super easy to fairly difficult. If you have people who don't like to hike, you can take them on a Tram Tour through the canyon. 

Sabino Canyon charges a day-use fee for $8 per car. Tram Tours are $12 for adults and $7 for children ages 3-12. Kids under age 3 can ride for free. 

There's also Saguaro National Park (east and west districts), if you want some extra views of our giant cactus friends. Here are even more hiking trails in the area if you're interested.

3. Eat, shop and listen to live music

The scene on North Fourth Avenue on Friday, March 15, 2013, near downtown Tucson, Ariz.

There are a few areas of Tucson that are home to shopping, dining and, almost always, live music. It's truly a 3-in-1 package.

Check out downtown Tucson (visit the websites for Hotel Congress and LaCo if you're interested in when they'll have live music), spots along Fourth Avenue, Main Gate Square near the University of Arizona campus, and St. Philip's Plaza.

Merchants in every area have varying hours, so check with them before heading out.

4. Entertain the kids

Leo Sameniego, 6, continues his work on building a house in the Imagine It! exhibit, which encourages kids to let their creative imaginations run free.

If there are kids in the group, take them to the Children's Museum Tucson, 200 S. Sixth Ave. They'll love the interactive exhibits and might learn a thing or two. The adults in the group will love it, too.

Admission is $9 for adults and children over the age of one. There are also a handful of Discovery Nights, on Thursdays from 5-7 p.m., which are free to attend.

5. Look at Tucson from way up high

The top of Tumamoc Hill offers scenic views of the city below. 

Take your visitors to see the city you love in one of the most picturesque ways. Nothing beats the view of Tucson from the top of Tumamoc Hill. 

You'll work for that view, since you'll be walking uphill for about a mile-and-a-half, but trust us: It's worth it.

The road is paved and gains about 700 feet in elevation. But, when you get up to the top, you'll thank us and so will your relatives. Especially if you go in time to catch the sunset. 

Tumamoc is located west of downtown and A Mountain, near North Silverbell and West Anklam Roads. There is no cost to visit the hill. Click here for details.

6. Visit a historic mission

Mission San Xavier is an active parish that welcomes over 200,000 visitors a year. It is a beauty — whether you’re visiting for your first time or your hundredth.

A national historic landmark, Mission San Xavier del Bac, 1950 W. San Xavier Road, was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Kino in 1692. Construction of the church began in 1783 and it is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona. 

You'll see original statues and murals giving you the chance to step back in time and learn a piece of Arizona history. 

Known as the White Dove of the Desert, the beautiful property can be seen from I-19 and is easily accessible from Tucson. You can tour the church, visit the museum and buy gifts in the gift shop. 

7. Tour Tucson's beautiful murals

Each letter on this Tucson Together mural painted by Jessica Gonzales represents a local business: (from left to right) Old Tucson Studios, The Fox Theatre, Hotel Congress, Eegee's, the Gateway Saguaro sign, Hub Restaurant and Ice Creamery, Ben's Bells and the Rialto Theatre. 

In case you didn't know, murals in Tucson are kinda a big deal. They seem to pop up around town regularly, transforming blank walls and bland buildings into massive works of art. We have a running list with more than 100 murals on it, and we know that's not all of them. 

Many murals are concentrated in downtown Tucson, extending into Fourth Avenue and Barrio Viejo. But there are murals all over Tucson. Check out the Arizona Daily Star's map here to start creating your route!

8. Check out retro neon signs

Signs of all types, including one from the Jerry's Lee Ho Market, middle, are on display as final preparations are being made at the Ignite Sign Art Museum.

At the Ignite Sign Art Museum331 S. Olsen Ave., check out old neon signs now restored to their former glory. 

The museum houses signs, clocks and other pieces, mostly from Tucson that once advertised products and business. Signs from Molina’s Midway and Jerry’s Lee Ho Market, for example, gleam amid gas station and restaurant scenes set up in the museum. There's also a gift shop that sells lots of quirky, vintage items. 

Admission is $12, $8 for kids ages 6-17 and free for kids younger than 6. Go here for more information.

9. Spend the day at the UA

Old Main on the University of Arizona campus.

Sports, space, stories... whatever your family is into, you're likely to find something on the UA campus they'll go wild for 😻 

Make a day of browsing the campus museums, or simply stroll the grounds and see some of the unique features like the turtle pond. There's the Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium, the massive collection of children's books World of WordsArizona State MuseumCenter for Creative PhotographyMuseum of Art and lots more.

You can also catch a football or basketball game, or watch a show at Centennial Hall ("Hamilton" is in town!). Check out the UA's visitor's center here.

10. EAT

Tacos Apson on Tucson’s south side is known for its array of tacos, including the house special: shaved beef ribs taco.

Tucson is home to an endless list of delicious food. If we tried to give you all our recommendations, we'd be here all day.

But last year, our former food writer Andi Berlin wrote up a list of spots to take out-of-towners who want to taste real Tucson Mexican food. The list included: Tacos Apson, Anita Street Market, Barista del Barrio for breakfast burritos, Aqui con El Nene and raspados.

Andi also wrote about her favorite dishes of the decade, which you can read here.

Other food stories you may find helpful:


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Angela Pittenger | This Is Tucson