With the long holiday break (or even just a weekend), you might want to get the heck outta dodge. 

Luckily, we're within driving distance of a bunch of awesome places you and the family will love.

So, read on. Then GO.

Patagonia Lake State Park

About 71 miles southeast of Tucson, you'll find Patagonia Lake, tucked away in the green rolling hills. 

It's a great place to hike, picnic, camp, fish, watch wildlife and, weather permitting, swim. 

There's a marina where you can rent boats and a store where you can get supplies and snacks. 

Fishing at Patagonia Lake created fun memories for this father and son.

About 12 miles from the lake is the town of Patagonia where you'll find quirky art shops, antiques and restaurants. 

Click here for directions.

P.S. They're building camping cabins, so if your idea of fun is not roughing it in a tent, you'll be able to rent a cabin in the near future. 


You've probably seen the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch off of Interstate 10 in Picacho and thought 'I should take the kids there.' 

Well, you're right.

It's less than an hour drive and it's much more than ostriches. There are goats, lorakeets, sting rays, donkeys, deer and ducks that the kids can feed. Plus, there are monster truck tours. 

Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch is located at 17599 E. Peak Lane in Picacho. Prices range from $10 to $25 per person, depending on what you want to do. 

A Blue-Necked Ostrich looks out of his enclosure in the Nuremberg Zoo, Germany Wednesday July 17, 2013. (AP Photo/dpa,Daniel Karmann)

Afterward, head over to Picacho Peak State Park for some sightseeing or hiking. There's a visitor center with exhibits, a park store, playground, hiking trails and campgrounds. 

The kids can become a Junior Ranger at Picacho Peak. Pick up a booklet at the visitor center, complete the activities and show it to a ranger. Once the ranger gives your kid the ok, he or she will ask them to say a pledge and they'll get a badge. Click here for more info on the Junior Ranger program. 

Hikers are practically knee-deep in blooms on a trail at Picacho Peak State Park in March, 2015.


We know. It's Phoenix. But it's only about 100 miles away and it has some great activities for families.

The Musical Instrument Museum, at 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., has more than 6,500 instruments from about 200 countries on display. Most of the displays are enhanced with audio and video technology so you can see and hear the instruments in their original context. You'll also see instruments from music legends like John Lennon and Elvis Presley. Make sure and go to the Experience Gallery so you can play different instruments from around the world.

Mattias Martens, 5, front, and his sister Annamieke Martens, 8, look at an exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Ariz.

The Children's Museum of Phoenix is huge and full of hands-on exhibits — more than 300 — for kids ages birth to 10. The museum, housed in the 48,000-square-foot Monroe School Building downtown at 215 N. 7th Street, focuses on learning through play, with emphasis on early childhood education and school-readiness.

The Arizona Science Center, just a couple blocks from the children's museum at 600 E. Washington Street, is a great place to take the kids. With exhibits like "All About Me," where you get to walk through a working stomach and the "Evans Family Sky Cycle" where you ride a bike 15 feet in the air and numerous other exhibits, there's no way the kids could be bored.

Emily Oller (EMILY OLLER-cq), 9, center, plays with one of the games at the MathAlive! (MATHALIVE!-cq) exhibit at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix. The interactive traveling exhibition is presented nationally by Raytheon and is designed to get kids interested in math. Thursday August 09, 2012 (THURSDAY AUGUST 09, 2012-cq). Phoenix, Arizona photo by: Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star MANDATORY CREDIT, NO SALES, NO MAG

Arizona Mills, right off of I-10 near Baseline Road, now houses the Legoland Discovery Center and the Sea Life Arizona, making it a fun family destination.

At the aquarium, you'll see rays, sharks, seahorses, a sea turtle and more. There's also a "Touch Pool" which allows the kids to do things like hold a crab or touch a sea star.

The Legoland Discovery Center has rides, 4-D cinema, building areas and a play area that has climbing walls, a jungle gym and Lego Fire Academy.


We know what you're thinking...Oracle? But, stay with us.

First, it's only about 38 miles away (just head north on Oracle Road). Secondly, there are some pretty cool things to do there, especially if you like the outdoors.

You can learn a little history at the Arcadia Ranch Museum at 825 E. Mt. Lemmon Highway.

Hours are limited so keep that in mind for planning. 

This one's a little more spendy, but also a little more adventurous.

Arizona Zipline Adventures , 35406 S. Mt. Lemmon Road, offers what they call Zipline EcoTours. Basically, you hike a little and zip. Each tour takes about two hours with up to six people per group. You'll get to ride on five ziplines which range in length from 400 to 1,500 feet. You have to book a reservation in advance, so make sure and do that. It costs $79 for adults and $69 for children. Kids have to weigh at least 50 pounds to zip.

Biosphere 2 is basically a large earth science laboratory that hosts seven model ecosystems. Get there by taking Oracle Road north to Biosphere Road. It's at 32540 S. Biosphere Road. You'll get to see real-time research on the future of Earth. When you take a tour, you'll see the ocean and a rainforest up close. It concludes in the underwater ocean viewing gallery. Tours last about an hour and 15 minutes.

Visitors walk through the lower Savanna habitat during a tour at the University of Arizona-Biosphere 2.


About 95 miles southeast of Tucson is the eclectic mining town known as Bisbee. If you haven't been, you should go. Aside from its infamous Copper Queen Hotel, which is allegedly haunted, there are mine tours, quirky houses and fun shops and art galleries to check out as well as a city park. Check out our guide to a full day in Bisbee.

It's fun to wander the streets of Bisbee.

The Queen Mine Tour, which is at 478 N. Dart Road, is awesome, albeit a little claustrophobic. You get to go 1,500 feet into the mine with your group, as your tour guide talks about old time mining days, techniques, dangers and even some drama.

Plus, you get to wear a headlamp. How cool is that?

Kid's call: I took my son when he was about three and a half and he had a blast. He still talks about it. I wouldn't take them any younger than that, though. If he or she is afraid of the dark, you might want to wait on it.

The Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, just across the highway from the mine tour at 5 Copper Queen Plaza, will give you a glimpse of the town's rich mining history. Smithsonian designers created the "Digging In: Bisbee's Mineral Heritage" exhibit, which takes you through an underground mine with minerals and a crystal cave.

Photo opp: The whole town of Bisbee screams 'take my picture!' One great spot to get Insta-worthy photos is in front of the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum. There are old mining cars in front that the kids (or you) can climb into for pics.

The mining carts outside of the mining museum in Bisbee make for great photos. 

If your kids are into creepiness, stay till 7 p.m. for an Old Bisbee Ghost Tour. It's a walking tour through Old Bisbee's streets, allies and stairways to learn about the ghosts that allegedly haunt the 135-year-old town. Go online to make reservations and find out where to meet.


Hop on I-10 going east and in about 45 miles you'll be in Benson. What's there? Well, not a ton TBH. But, the things that are there are pretty cool and worth the drive.

You and the kids will love exploring Kartchner Caverns State Park at 2980 AZ-90. The Discovery Center there has lots of exhibits, including a "caving wall" that allows children to experience what it's like to crawl through narrow cave passages. There are also displays on animals and they can get their picture taken with the giant sloth. There's a scavenger hunt, too.

Or, you can go on cave tours. Kartchner Caverns was voted best cave in the U.S.A. in the USA Today Readers' Choice awards.

Kartchner Caverns State Park in the biggest expanse in the 'big room' on November 13, 2006 near Benson, Ariz. Photo by Dean Knuth/Arizona Daily Star.

Tombstone, while not technically in Benson, is only 24 miles away. So, why not add that to your Benson road trip? The kids will enjoy seeing cowboys and horses and may learn a thing or two about Arizona history. Get there from Benson by taking AZ-80 East/Fourth Street toward Gila Street and go right on Fourth Street.

Visit Gammons Gulch at 331 W. Rockspring Lane. It's a western town, movie set and museum attraction built and run by Jay Gammons and his wife. It's set up to look like a town that existed between the 1880s and 1930s. Stop in the saloon for a root beer.

Make sure to call ahead to make sure there are tours when you want to go.


If you have kids who love art, history and nature, Tubac might be a cool destination.

Learn the history of the region by taking a tour of the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. There's a museum, an old schoolhouse, an archaeological ruins exhibit, a gallery and printing press demonstrations.

The 1850s era printing press works at Tubac Presidio State Historic Park.

You can also have the kids become Arizona State Park Junior Rangers. When you get there, ask for a booklet at the visitor center. Once they complete the activities and have it approved by a ranger, they'll get sworn in as a junior ranger. They get a cool button too.

The presidio serves as a trailhead for a 4.5 miles section of the Anza Trail, which leads to Tumacacori National Historical Park. Challenge the family to hike 4 miles and receive an "I Hike for Health" pin. Click here for details. 

Click here for more info.

Chiricahua National Monument

About 115 miles east of here you'll find Chiricahua National Monument, which has been described as a "wonderland of rocks" by the National Parks Service. 

You can camp, hike, picnic, watch wildlife and tour historic districts. There are hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult and a paved loop you can drive. 

A view west into the Sulphur Springs Valley between the Chiricahua and the Dragoon Mountains over a stretch of the the geologic formations at Massai Point.

If you hike the Silver Spur Meadow trail, which starts across from the visitor center, you'll end up at Faraway Ranch, where you can tour the ranch house and see human settlement in Bonita Canyon. 

Click here for a map.

The Faraway Ranch house at the Chiricahua National Monument. The land was homesteaded in the late 1880s.


After about two hours of heading east on I-10, you'll see signs for Safford. It's a small strange town, but it offers some pretty cool things to do. 

Roper Lake State Park, 101 E. Roper Lake Road, has camping, fishing, swimming and hiking trails. Plus, it has cabins you can rent. 

Rose Crum and Rich Crum sit on the bench at Roper Lake State Park near Safford. Photo by Ron Medvescek / Arizona Daily Star, Jan. 24, 2003

Three miles south of that is Dankworth Ponds, a sub-unit of Roper Lake. There's a trail there that leads to a recreated Native American village which contains replicas of dwellings, grinding stones, roasting pits, and other tools and artifacts used by a variety of southwestern tribes.

Technically in Thatcher about 3 miles away, The Discovery Park Campus has four miles of hiking trails, an observatory with gallery exhibits, a telescope, a virtual tour through the solar system and more that are open to the public. 

Angela Pittenger | This Is Tucson