10 things to do in Tucson when the sun goes down

If checking the weather forecast makes you want to change all your summer plans to: stay and inside and cry. We understand. 

But, you can still have fun even when it’s seemingly 1,000 degrees outside, you just have to wait until the sun goes down. 

Our desert creatures figured out a long time ago that Tucson summers are best enjoyed at night when its a few degrees cooler and slightly less miserable. And many Tucson places have also adapted to embrace nighttime events. 

If becoming nocturnal is on your summer survival list, check out these ideas to fill those warm summer nights. 

Go on a neon sign tour

You don’t have to leave the comforts of your car’s AC to enjoy a night-time adventure cruising through Tucson to check out vintage and historic neon signs. The Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation has been documenting and restoring these glowing mid-century signs from businesses — of yesteryear and those still operating — and created a handy guide with illuminating information about these signs and a map you can use to plan your route which can be found here. 

See the Queen of the Night 

Tohono Chul’s annual Bloom Night event, where its dozen or so night-blooming cereus cacti reveal their palm-sized white blossoms for one-night only, is one of Tucson’s most highly anticipated summer events. But, this year’s event is for members only, so if you’re planning to see the Queen of the Night in action, you’ll want to get a jump on becoming a member.

“We decided to make it a members only Bloom Night as a thank you to our membership for their continued support during this difficult time,” Michelle Armstrong, the director of marketing for Tohono Chul said via email. “It will also help with crowd control as we sometimes receive an upwards of 1,500 in the six-hour timeframe.”

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Tohono Chul staff monitor the night-blooming cereus plants and provide updates through its Bloom Watch newsletter and the museum usually announces the Bloom Night date a couple days in advance. 

Tohono Chul memberships start at $35 for an individual membership or $65 for a family or dual membership and can be purchased online or at the door during Bloom Night. 

Summer Safari Nights at Reid Park Zoo

Enjoy a sunset stroll through the Reid Park Zoo which is open extended hours on Saturday nights through Aug. 14. At the zoo’s Summer Safari Nights events, you can hear live music, play games and do family-friendly activities with Tucson Parks and Recreation’s, Ready, Set, Rec program, go on carousel rides, and food and drink specials including craft beer and prickly pear margaritas. There’s also a different theme every Saturday. 

When: Saturdays through Aug. 14, 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Where: Reid Park Zoo, 3400 E. Zoo Court 

Cost: $10.40 adults; $8.50 seniors; $6.50 children ages 2-15

Find more information and reserve tickets at reidparkzoo.org. 

Saturday Nights at the Desert Museum 

The sprawling Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum always tops the must-visit list for visitors and residents alike and when the day-time temperatures are too warm to fully enjoy your visit while the sun is beating down on you, you can check out the museum by night Saturdays in June. You’ll get to see nocturnal animals do their thing, enjoy a spectacular sunset and you can even add on a 30-minute beer tasting with six 4 oz. pours from local vendors. 

When: The museum is open until 9 p.m. Saturday, June 19 and June 26. 

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

Cost: $23.95 general admission; $19.95 for Arizona/Sonora residents; discounts available for children, seniors, military. Beer tastings are an additional $20. 

Find more information and reserve tickets onine on the Desert Museum’s website. 

Shop under the stars

The summer heat doesn’t slow down Tucson’s artisans, makers, small businesses and food vendors, like everything else in the desert, they simply adapt. Night markets are popping up all over town where you can shop under the stars. 

Here are a few to check out:

  • Summer Night Market at MSA Annex, 267 S. Avenida del Convento. This market features more than 40 vendors and MSA Annex retailers will be open with extended hours. The market happens June 25, July 30, Aug. 27, Sept. 24 from 6-10 p.m. 
  • Summer Night Mercadito del Barrio at Galeria Mitotera, 1802 S. Fourth Ave. Shop a variety of Latinx and Indigenous artists, makers, small businesses and food vendors at this monthly outdoor pop-up market. The next market happens Saturday, June 19 from 6-9 p.m. 
  • Coven Night Market at Woolly Fern, 4401 E. Speedway. This monthly market organized by When+Where Co. brings together several oddities vendors. Markets happen from 5-8 p.m. June 19, July 17 and August 21. 
  • Community Block Party Pop-Up at Boss Women Unite, 1130 E. Pennsylvania Street. Shop women-owned vendors, listen to music and enjoy delicious eats. 

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See a movie al fresco

You can throw down a blanket or pop the trunk to enjoy a movie al fresco in the warm summer air at different venues in and around Tucson. 

Check out our round up of places to watch free and cheap movies this summer, which includes a few indoor options for those times when AC is non-negotiable. 

Vax After Dark

If you still need a COVID-19 vaccine, the Pima County Health Department has been hosting Vax after Dark events offering people the chance to get their vaccine during evening hours, if that’s more convenient for your schedule. The health department updates its COVID-19 vaccine website daily, so be sure to check there frequently for new dates and locations. Here are a few of the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine clinics happening during the evening. 

  • Thursday, June 17 and June 24, 6-9 p.m. at Antigone Books, 411 N. Fourth Ave. 
  • Saturday, June 19, 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Reid Park Zoo, 3400 E. Zoo Court

Make and play at the Children’s Museum Tucson

Two monthly events happening at the Children’s Museum Tucson allow families to explore the museum or participate in kid-friendly activities during extended hours this summer. 

Discovery Nights happen on Thursday, June 17, July 15 and August 19 from 5-7 p.m. with half-price admission for $4.50 per person and bilingual programming.

The museum’s Make It! workshops happen on Saturday, June 26, July 24 and Aug. 28 from 5:30-7 p.m. in the museum’s courtyard. Each workshop has a different theme where kids can make a guided project or use their imagination to create something entirely unique. Tickets are $15 and are buy one get one free. 

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Explore Tucson’s Night Sky

When the monsoon or soul-crushing “nonsoon” clouds don’t get in the way, Tucson’s cooler summer nights are the perfect opportunity to explore the night sky at stargazing events and star parties hosted by local groups. 

The Mount Lemmon SkyCenter hosts SkyNights most Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through the end of August. The five-hour program includes a short astronomy talk, light dinner and the chance to use the high-powered 24-inch Phillips telescope or 32-inch Schulman telescope to observe the cosmos with guidance from the SkyCenter’s expert staff. Tickets are $85 for adults and $70 for youth ages 7-17. 

Spencer’s Observatory on the grounds of Cat Mountain Lodge on Tucson’s west side offers personalized guided star tours for groups of up to ten people. The privately-owned observatory has three different telescopes to use for stargazing and star tours can be reserved for $125 for two hours or $175 for three hours and up to five people. Each additional person is $15.

Let someone else do the cooking

If firing up the oven or stove to cook a hot dinner isn’t on your list of fun things to do in Tucson this summer, we feel you. Luckily, with so many delicious food trucks serving up dishes from every cuisine imaginable, you can leave the meal prep to the experts. A visit to one of Tucson’s night-time food truck rallies is your best bet to enjoy a meal, desserts and beverages from a variety of vendors and you can usually enjoy music while you wait. 

The Women Food Truck Owners of Southern Arizona’s Ladies Night rallies happen at different locations around town and feature a rotating lineup of trucks owned by women and DJ music. 

The bi-weekly Picture Rocks Food Festival happens on the first and third Fridays of the month and bills itself as the “biggest event in west Tucson” with several food vendors, live music and sunset views for days. 

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