Things to Do...

So much adventure awaits you.

Greater Tucson Area

Tucson area attractions listed on PINTEREST: Happy Cactus Vacation Rentals


Approx 30 min drive from rental house. MUST SEE!! Enjoy a narrated tram tour within Sabino Canyon. 9 Optional off/on stops throughout Sabino for hiking and picnicking. Stop 8 has a waterfall and an area where you can "canyon ball" if water levels are high enough. Free Junior Ranger Program.  Tram prices: $10 adults, $5 children.



3 mile hike to the falls and 3 mile hike back if you take the tram to the trailhead. Do not attempt with young children. Note: depending on the season, water may or may not be present within the canyon. It is best to call the visitor center at Sabino Canyon first and check with a ranger or do some online forum searches.



MUST SEE! Approximately 40 minute drive from rental property. Take the gates pass route for breathtaking scenery. This mainly outdoor museum features all of the native plants, animals and geology of the Sonoran desert region. Highly educational. There is a kids booklet you can pick up for $1 at the admission booth to collect foot print stamps of the native animals throughout the museum.




5 minutes away from rental. Pick up a trail map at the visitor center on the way in. Multiple hiking options. Good 1 mile nature loop hike for kids. $7 per car admission. Most Saturdays you can catch a free Nature Program (native reptiles, insects, animals etc..) at the trailhead 10 am - 1pm. Hike to Romero Pools (5.6 miles RT / Moderate-Difficult)!

Located near the desert museum approximately 45 minutes away from rental. Enjoy old west gun fights, can-can dancing girls in the saloon, rides, haunted mine...Make sure you pick up a program and do not miss the scheduled showtimes. Not always open during the week. Call ahead. Weekends are usually good. Take the Gates Pass Scenic route for amazing views.

Tucson and Oro Valley boasts some of the best road and mountain biking destinations in the state. From beginners to advanced cyclists, there is a trail or road route for everyone. Discover the Oro Valley/ Tucson Loop with over 135 miles of traffic free biking. The famous Tour de Tucson begins its 40 miler route in Oro Valley. 
For a leisurely scenic ride along paved non-motorized paths, I recommend biking the CDO (Canada del Oro)/Big Wash Trail. Ride directly from Happy Cactus to Tangerine road and head towards the mountains. Access to this trail can be found directly across from the hospital (look for the Oro Valley trash can and make a right). An underpass trail can also take you into Catalina State Park.  Stop at Steam Pump Ranch along the trail on Saturdays for the Farmer's Market and Food Trucks (8-noon during summer, 9-1 pm winter). Exit at First Street for a Smoothie or Starbucks. Maps provided for guests at Happy Cactus.
Tucson Bike Rentals at is the premier spot for both Bike Rentals and Cycling/Mountain Biking Information. They have a large inventory of Road, Mountain and Hybrid Bikes as well as delivery services to Oro Valley. Check out their website for a comprehensive list of rental packages and services offered.
Arizona Bicycle Association is also a terrific website with information on local group rides, free maps etc..
DeGrazia Art Gallery in the Sun: Combine this stop with your trip to Sabino Canyon as they're located close to each other. Approximately 30 minutes from rental. Lovely gallery even kids will enjoy.
Very close within town (approx 10 min). Enjoy a lovely stroll through beautiful gardens, art gallery and enjoy a cocktail or lunch at the bistro.

Golf: abundance of public courses nearby within minutes.
Oro Valley: Hilton El Conquistador, The Views ***, Crooked Tree***, Golf Club at Dove Mountain.


Our family loved this adventure. The Zipline EcoTour allows you to zip on 5 different spans ranging in length from 400 to 1,500 ft. and lasts approximately 2 hours in the amazing sonoran desert setting.


Multiple locations as close as 20 min away. Tucson Mountain Stables (at White Stallion Ranch),Hacienda Del Sol, Spanish Trail Outfitters, Colossal Cave (do this if you visit the cave). As low as $40 per hour. If you visit Tucson Mountain Stables, you are encouraged to take a tour of White Stallion Ranch just up the drive. There is a gift shop, ranch cattle, etc..It is actually a resort destination but they like when visitors com to see what they are all about (check in first at the desk).
There are 4 Casinos in the Tucson Area. Casino Del Sol, Desert Diamond X2  (By the airport and also in Suhuarita) and Casino of the Sun.
Casino Del Sol: 45 min away. Probably the nicest of the four casinos. Combine this trip with Mission San Xavier.

13.  Mission San Xavier
45 min away. Active mission on the Tohono O'odham reservation. Combine with a day trip to TUBAC, Copper Mine, Titan missile museum or Casino del Sol.

14.  Reid Park Zoo
45 min away. Lovely Zoo where you get really close to the animals. Offering camel rides and more...Great for kids!

The scenic mountain pass road through the Tucson mountains. Lots of nice pull outs for pictures. Take this route on your way to either the Desert Museum or Old Tucson. If you're lucky to catch the sunset, you will hit jackpot!!
Biosphere 2, located 25 minutes away is an earth system research facility owned by the University of Arizona.  It is the largest closed ecological system ever created. Nominated by Time Life as one of the 50 must see wonders of the world. Tours are offered daily which take you through 5 different Biomes (Ocean, Desert, Savannah, Mangrove Wetlands and Rainforest).  Kids younger than 8 years old may find it boring but my daughter and her friends 8-10 years old really enjoyed it. Check for Groupons.


40 min away. Saguaro National Park is actually divided into 2 sections (Saguaro West and Saguaro East). In between the park is the city of Tucson.

Saguaro West (aka Tucson Mountain District) has more dense cacti, great overlooks, ancient petroglyphs, a super visitor center (Red Hill Visitor Center) with a movie you should watch, Bajada Loop Drive (6 mile unpaved road) and some great hiking (See Hiking for more Info). The west side is close to the Desert Museum and Old Tucson Studios.

Saguaro East (aka Rincon Mountain District) is closer to the mountains, has a paved 8 mile loop (cactus forest drive), The Rincon Visitor Center.

There is a Junior Ranger Program at the park and it is FREE. Designed for children aged 5-12 years, these booklets can be picked up at the visitor center. They will also loan out a discovery pack which includes pens, pencils, field guides, clipboard magnifying glass and binoculars. Activities include identifying desert plants, animals, critters, native people etc.. After the books are complete, the ranger goes over the booklets with the kids and they receive a badge and a certificate.

Keep in mind that all 4th Graders in the USA receive a Free National Parks Pass. Print out your pass at

I would recommend Saguaro West for first timers to the park.

18.  TURQUOISE TRAIL- Downtown Tucson Walking Tour


30 min away.  FREE. We love it!! Combine it with a delicious meal at one of our Spotlight Downtown Restaurants such as La Cocina, Congress Hotel or El Charro.


The Turquoise Trail (formerly called the Presidio Trail) is a 2 ½ mile long self-guided walking loop trail through downtown Tucson that highlights structures and sites of historic interest and is marked by a turquoise stripe on the sidewalk. It begins at the site of the northeast corner of the reconstructed Presidio San Agustin del Tucson, founded in 1775. This presidio or fort was the first European structure in urban Tucson , constructed by the Spanish to mark the northern frontier of the Spanish empire in the Americas. The trail was created by the Tucson Presidio Trust for Historic Preservation. You can pick up walking tour brochures at the Presidio Museum or at the Tucson Visitors Center located at 811 N. Euclid Avenue on the corner of Euclid and University, adjacent to Main Gate Square. Downtown is also becoming an urban art art area with multiple murals to take in.


1 hour away. Worth the drive. Do the horseback riding if you go to the cave also.

This is a “dry cave”, meaning there is no water in it.  The tour route is a half mile long and takes about 45-50 minutes to complete. As your guide describes the Cave’s history, legends, and geology, you will walk down and back up about six and a half stories (363 stair steps) and see beautiful cave formations like stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, boxwork, and helictites.

Tours are given daily, on the hour, year-round. You need no special clothing in the Cave, which is always 70 degrees and dry and you are welcome to take pictures inside.

40 min away. Self contained Old West town with restaurants, train, old fashion kids rides, STUNT SHOW in the evenings. Little kids especially love this place! Combine with your Sabino Canyon trip.

Definitely a Bucket Lister. Get up super early in the morning and depending on the wind direction, you will be directed to a specific place for launch. We took a ride over the Tucson Mountains watching the sun rise and landed in a Cotton Field. Pretty much an experience of a lifetime.



There are two children’s museums owned by the same company.

  1. Oro Valley- 9 min away. Small, 1 Room. Ok for an hour for kids<5 years. Downtown location is recommended.
  2. DownTown- 35 min away. Awesome! Big, Lots To  Do and very interactive. All kids enjoy it. Adults will enjoy it too! Good for ages 1-13 y/o.

Combine your trip with the Turquoise trail walking tour or a good downtown restaurant such as La Cocina, Hotel Congress or El Charro Cafe. You can also ride the Tucson StreetCar.


One of the greatest FREE hiking trails in Oro Valley. The Linda Vista Trail is a well maintained hiking trail at the foothills of the Catalinas.  There is a parking lot at the trailhead (off E Linda Vista Blvd). The trail is personally one of my favorites. If you are staying at the Happy Cactus Rental, this trail is a MUST SEE for hiking. The entire loop is approximately 3 miles; however you can do the left loop which is 2.25 miles (takes just over an hour) or the right loop (1.75 miles). This trail is not easy, although children over 5 years old can hike it. There is an elevation climb and at the peak you will reach 3000 feet. The terrain is rocky and you will see many different types of cacti and rocks. The views looking down on the city of Oro Valley are splendid as are the views of the Tortolita mountains to the north. If you love nature, then this trail is for you!
What a FUN PLACE to take the Family!!  Live musicals with pit band and an old western feel. You can order food (pizza, fries etc..) to eat while you watch the show or just get drinks and chow down on their free popcorn. We went right after Christmas and the show exceeded our expectations. It was much longer than we expected (almost 2 hours) and they really get the crowd involved. Be sure to tell your waitress of any Birthdays, Anniversaries or Out of Towners. They will prepare a special FREE ice cream cone for you and announce your name. Check their schedules online and call to reserve. It is very hard to get tickets to this show so you must call way in advance. Also located right next to Little Anthony's 50's Diner.
25.  Visit the University of Arizona Campus
With over 380 acres spanning Downtown Tucson, there is alot to see & do on this campus.  Check out the interactive Flandreau Science Center & Planetarium, the U of A Gem & Mineral Museum, Museum of Art, Arizona State Museum (Anthropology) etc..
26. Karchner Caverns

1 hr, 15 min away

This is a “living cave” with a WOW factor! See the book I purchased (should be in the coffee table).  

There are two tours: The Rotunda/Throne Tour and the Big Cave Tour.

So far we have only done the Rotunda/Throne and it was amazing.

Be sure to watch the movie before going on your tour. It will explain everything about how the cave was found and is really interesting.

27. Happy Cactus Neighborhood Fun
Happy Cactus resides in the Rancho Vistoso Neighborhood. There are various parks within walking and biking distance which offer activities such as tennis, basketball, volleyball, baseball, golf and hiking. One of my favorite things to do is hike/trail run on the many dirt desert trails that weave throughout the neighborhood just steps out the front door. Maps are provided to guests who stay with us. HoneyBee Park offers entry level hiking with beautiful scenery including petroglyphs, a dam and many different varieties of cacti. In addition to hiking, a mountain bike trail system is one of the highlights of this park. Please visit the section on "Neighborhood Amenities" in the menu section of our website for more information.
28. Oro Valley Farmers Market
Located within minutes of Happy Cactus is the Farmers Market at Steam Pump Ranch.  The market operates every Saturday (8 am-12 pm/Summer/Apr-Sep) and  (9 am-1 pm/Winter/Oct-Mar). Visitors will find local fruits and vegetables, plants, various artifact/art vendors and food booths. Live music is often heard on the second Saturday of the month.  Steam Pump Ranch can be accessed off Oracle Road or by Bike/Foot off the CDO (Canada del Oro/Big Wash Paved Trail).  Take a bike ride from Happy Cactus and enjoy lunch on the grass at the historic ranch.
29. Oro Valley Aquatic Center
Located less than 10 minutes away is the Oro Valley Aquatic Center which features a competition-level facility. Includes an interactive splash pad, water slide, 25-yard Recreation pool and a 50 meter competition pool perfect for exercise and training purposes. Please visit their website for hours of operation.
30. Pima Air & Space Museum

45 min away. Our entire family surprisingly enjoyed this indoor/outdoor museum! (even our daughter).

One of the world's largest non-government funded aerospace museums. The museum features a display of nearly 300 aircraft spread out over 80 acres on a campus occupying 127 acres. A tram tour and Boneyard tour are optional. Open 7 Days a Week 9 a.m. to 5pm (last admission at 3 p.m.) Passport Coupons. Plan for a minimum 3-4 hour stay if your do a tour.

31. Hike the Tortolitas
The Tortolita Mountain range to the north is the smallest of the 5 ranges in the surrounding area. Make no mistake, the HIKING here is FANTASTIC and only 15 min away. If you enjoy hiking then the Tortolitas are a MUST. There is a rare density of crested saguaros in this area and the views are breathtaking. To visit, head to Dove Mountain Resort Ritz Carlton (enter through the hotel gates-free) and park at the Wild Burro Trailhead. From the parking lot, you will hike about a half mile easy wash Trail until you reach the "JUNCTION". You will know you are in the right spot when you see the map and and rainbow arrow markers showing the many available trails. There are typically maps here as well. We did the Lower Javelina Hike which is about 2 miles plus the half mile O/B to the trailhead parking lot (Total 3 miles RT). Reward yourself at the end of the hike by taking the "side trail" to the Ritz Carlton and enjoying a cold drink at the Poolside Bar.
32. Hike to Tanque Verde Falls
It's a bit of a drive to get to the trailhead (about 50 min) but if you take a picnic and make it your day outing, it will be an adventure worth taking. The road leading up to the Tanque Verde trailhead off Redington road is gorgeous and you feel as if you are entering another planet. You wind up a dirt road into the mountains to the parking lot. The trail descends into a canyon and it is about 2 miles to the falls RT. Once you reach the bottom of the dirt trail you reach a rocky area with a few small rapids/falls. Don't stop here!To get to the big falls, you must make your own trail by climbing over rocks, boulders, jumping over water, sand etc...We made it to the falls and continued up past them for more hiking and picnicking.
33. Glass Blowing
The Sonoran Glass School in downtown Tucson offers private glass blowing/moulding sessions. We got a GROUPON to make a glass flower. Molten glass is heated to over 2000 degrees and art is formed.