The Gateway Saguaro

The 30-ft-tall neon public art piece, by local artist Dirk J. Arnold, shows people traveling northbound on Oracle the history of the roadway, and if they are traveling southbound it welcomes them to Tucson.

When summer arrives in Tucson, it’s time to become nocturnal.

Even though nighttime temperatures are still warm, they’re better than exploring the city in the beating sun and its triple-digit temperatures. Thankfully, Tucson organizations know this.

Below are nine things to do in Tucson — after the sun sets.

Shop under the stars

The MSA Annex Night Market will feature more than 60 vendors selling everything from purses to photo prints.

Tucson is filled with local artists. Markets are a good way to help support them.

Here are some upcoming night markets to check out:

Take a neon sign tour

Some of Tucson's most-notable neon signs now light up Drachman Street west of Stone Avenue. 

If there’s one thing you *have* to do at night, it’s this.

Explore Tucson’s historic neon signs, from the iconic Tucson Inn sign (which is currently under restoration and not lit at last check, but is still standing in all its glory) to the sign at the tasty Pat’s Chili Dogs. You can find retro signs in many areas, though a handful of them are along Drachman Street and nearby. Check out the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation for a map!

With flashlight in hand, explore the Desert Museum

Guests enjoy a stroll through the Desert Gardens by the light of the trees during Cool Summer Nights at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in 2015.

Every Saturday through Aug. 27, you can enjoy the sights of the Desert Museum at night — and in cooler temperatures! Bring a flashlight to walk around and possibly spot a nocturnal animal, plus touch a stingray and check out themed activities.

When: Open until 9 p.m. Saturdays through Aug. 27

Where: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, 2021 N. Kinney Road

Cost: $24.95 for adults, $13.95 for kids ages 3-12

Visit the event page for more information.

See Penzi at sunset

This photo shows 10-month-old Penzi with big sister Nandi and mama Semba.

See zoo animals at sunset, all while enjoying cooler temperatures, at Reid Park Zoo's after-hours event, Summer Safari Nights. Each event will have different themed activities, including keeper chats, animal encounters and live music. 

When: 5:30-8:30 p.m. every Saturday through Aug. 13, except June 18

Where: Reid Park Zoo, 3400 E. Zoo Court

Cost: $10.50 for adults, $6.50 for kids ages 2-14

Visit the event page for more information.

Planes after dark

As night falls, aircraft enthusiasts check out jet fighters under the lights during Night Wings at the Pima Air and Space Museum, 6000 E. Valencia Road.

Watch as the sun sets over historical planes during the Pima Air & Space Museum's summer Night Wings events. There will be kids' activities, aviation talks and $8 tram tours during the bimonthly June and July events.

When: 5-8:30 p.m. Saturdays, June 11, June 25, July 9, July 23.

Where: Pima Air & Space Museum, 6000 E. Valencia Road

Cost: $10 for ages 12 and up, free for ages 11 and under

Visit the event page for more information.

Wander the gardens of Tohono Chul

Docent Janel Feierabend talks about the night-blooming cereus Emerald to onlookers during the 2019 Bloom Night at Tohono Chul Park.

Every Friday and Saturday night through Sept. 3, head to Tohono Chul for its first-ever summer series, slated to feature music, spirits and bites. And on Saturday nights, Tohono Chul partners with Children's Museum Oro Valley to provide family-friendly nature play.

When: 5-8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 3

Where: Tohono Chul, 7366 N. Paseo del Norte

Cost: Free to attend

Visit the event page for more information.

P.S.: At some point this summer, the beautiful night-blooming cereus will wow us with its flowers that only open at night — and wilt by morning. We don't know exactly when bloom night will be, but sign up for Tohono Chul's newsletter for updates!

Catch a movie outdoors

Patrick Cobb and Jenner Bryant, both with Technicians for Sustainability, work to install solar panels on a Ford Transit 250 van in Tucson on July 14, 2016. The van is part of The Loft Cinema's Solar Cinema.

As the sun goes down, the projection screen goes up. Catch a movie outdoors at one of these spots:

  • Nightjar, the sister bar of The Coronet and Meyer Avenue Cafe, is hosting movie nights on Friday nights (except for June 24 to July 8). They’re showing films that don't seem to get a lot of love — the next two showings on June 10 and 17 are “To Have and Have Not” and “L.A. Story,” respectively. The 10 p.m. movie is free to watch, plus there's a happy hour starting at 9 p.m. Find more info here.
  • Solar Cinema, part of The Loft Cinema, hosts movie screenings at different spots in Southern Arizona thanks to a cargo van clad with solar panels that power an inflatable movie screen and projector. The next showing is of “Over the Hedge” on Saturday, June 11, at Las Milpitas Community Farm. It's free!
  • On Saturday, June 18, Oro Valley Parks and Recreation is hosting a screening of "Encanto" outdoors at the Oro Valley Community & Recreation Center. The movie starts shortly after sunset and is free to attend.

Gaze at the night sky

Several sight seers take a minute to watch the sunset from Windy Point following a storm that dumped rain on the valley and left several inches of snow in the upper reaches of the Santa Catalinas, Wednesday, December 26, 2018, Tucson, Ariz.

Head up to Mount Lemmon, where it's typically about 20 degrees cooler than Tucson. Explore the shops, dine at a restaurant, maybe take the ski lift to get a bird's-eye view. When that's all done and the sun goes down, look up at the twinkling stars in the sky.

Mount Lemmon is also home to Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, which hosts the SkyNights stargazing program, happening nightly through Sunday, June 12. The five-hour program includes an astronomy lecture and a guided look at the sky through binoculars and telescopes. Tickets are $85 for adults, $60 for kids ages 7-17.

Alternatively, over at Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium on the University of Arizona Campus, volunteer astronomers will guide visitors this summer through points in the night sky with a 16-inch telescope. The activity is free! The schedule may change due to weather, but currently these events are set for Saturday, June 11, most Saturdays in July, and Saturday, Aug. 6.

Music to your ears

Sophia Rankin & The Sound perform at 2nd Saturdays Downtown Tucson on April 9, 2022.

Maybe your idea of a perfect summer night is sitting on the patio of your favorite restaurant, eating delicious food and listening to the sounds of live music.

If that's the case, here are some spots that frequently have live music:

  • 2nd Saturdays in downtown Tucson — Every second Saturday of the month from 5-10 p.m., this outdoor street festival lines Congress Street with live music, food trucks and artists selling their crafts.
  • St. Philip’s Plaza — This plaza, filled with local restaurants and a giant patio area, often hosts live bands and musicians multiple times a week. Check out their calendar here.
  • Hotel Congress — The iconic hotel boasts a huge events calendar, with all kinds of music happening on their own plaza frequently, in addition to the sites of Club Congress and The Century Room.
  • MotoSonora Brewing Co. — Sip on your beer to the sounds of music at MotoSonora. The brewery often hosts live music on Saturdays. For Saturdays in June, check out Dos Sueños on June 11, Billy Sedlmayr on June 18 and The Bird Lords on June 25.
  • LaCo — The charming outdoor patio, complete with twinkling lights strung above, welcomes you with music most nights. Find the music calendar here.
  • Monterey Court — The courtyard of Monterey Court is often home to live music of all genres. Check out the calendar of events here.
  • AVA Amphitheater at Casino del Sol — Want to catch a national or international tour? Head to the outdoor venue at Casino del Sol. See who's playing when, and get tickets, here.

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