Teen in Tucson with nothing to do? We’ve put together a list of 40 things to do with your friends (or solo) – to have fun, learn something new, and make the world a better place.
These ideas are geared for Tucson teens, ages 13-18. We tried to mostly stick to ideas that are free or cheap since teens often have limited funds.
1. Hike Seven Falls at Sabino Canyon. This 7.8 mile moderate hike is a wonderful adventure – with views to make you catch your breath. You are rewarded at the end with a flowing waterfall and swimming spot. Be sure to wear lightweight clothing (perhaps a swimsuit under your clothes), plenty of sunscreen, good walking shoes, sunglasses, and a hat or visor. Don’t forget lots of water and some snacks or a sack lunch! Admission is $5/vehicle for a one-day pass. An annual pass is $20 and includes daily admission for one vehicle to Sabino Canyon, Mt. Lemmon, and Madera Canyon.
2. Volunteer at the Community Food Bank. If you’re 16 and up, there are plentiful volunteer opportunities available at the food bank at 3003 S. Country Club Rd. You can pack food boxes, sort donations, get your hands dirty in the garden, or help out at special events. Gather a group of friends and choose a day to give some of your time to “meet the food needs of the hungry in our community.” If you are under age 16, you can volunteer with your parents + siblings on a Family Day – or host a food drive at your school.
3. Take pictures at Trail Dust Town. This miniature western town in East Tucson is instagram-central. Bring your phone and your friends to snap super awesome photos in front of stagecoaches, with cowboys, and more. You can even get inside an old time jail. Admission is free, but you may want to bring cash for admission into the stunt show and/or souvenirs/treats.
4. Run in a 5k. Not a runner? Don’t let that stop you. Almost anyone can complete the training and participate in a race. Here are five races you might want to register for: Jim Click’s Run n’ Roll 8k or 3k (October), Sunrise at Old Tucson 4miler (February), Sabino Canyon Sunset Run (April), Dr. Gann’s Cinco De Mayo 5k (May), or Meet Me Downtown 5k Night Run (June). While you’re at it, join your school‘s track and field team. The experience will help you get in shape, develop mental willpower, and give you a way that you can exercise for the rest of your life.
5. Conquer Tumamoc. 1.5 miles sounds easy, right? Think again. This super steep hike is an intense cardio workout due to the fact that it gains 600 feet over a very short distance. Great view of the city from the top! Some people make it a point to #ConquerTumamoc every week.
6. Have a milkshake at Little Anthony’s Diner. This 50’s diner is also spelled F-U-N. Stop in after school to sit in sparkly red booths and listen to retro tunes, while enjoying a milkshake with a cherry on top (comes with the metal tin on the side too!).
7. Shop at local thrift stores. Find one-of-a-kind clothes and more at bargain prices! Try InJoy thrift store at Broadway & Pantano (it’s big and clean). Even if you don’t want clothes, thrift stores typically also offer a wide selection of shoes, books, baskets, frames, craft supplies, purses, hats, and scarves. You’ll also wander the aisles at the Midtown Mercantile Merchants, a huge antique & vintage mall in midtown Tucson
8. Start your medical career by volunteering at one of Tucson’s five major hospitals: Banner University Medical Center (ages 16+), Carondelet St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s Hospital (ages 18+), Northwest Medical Center (ages 15+), and Tucson Medical Center (college students only). Sure, you may not be able to get hands-on with surgery, but lending your time at a hospital will give you an up-close and personal look at the medical industry – not to mention the potential of forming connections with professionals in the field.
9. Climb a wall. Brave or not, rock-climbing can be a fun way to try something new in a safe environment. There are two air-conditioned rock-climbing studios in Tucson – Rocks & Ropes in Downtown Tucson and The BLOC in northeast Tucson. Both of these facilities are indoors so they’re “summer-friendly” too. $30 for your first visit (includes equipment and training). After your initial visit, you can come back for $15 with your own equipment or $21 with equipment rental. Memberships are also available.
10. Watch a movie. RoadHouse Cinemas at Grant & Swan is one of our favorite theaters in-town, but you will also like the cushy seats at Century Park Place 20 (Broadway & Wilmot) and Century Tucson Marketplace (I-10 & Kino Parkway). You may also want to peruse our free & cheap summer movie guide.
11. Join a Swim Team. Swimming laps is terrific cardio and you’re sure to make friends along the way! There are a number of year-round swim teams and summer-only swim teams in Tucson.
12. Buy new (to you) books at a Friends of the Pima County Public Library Book Sale. Snag novels, non-fiction titles, DVDs, and CDs at one of these book sales. Bag Day is the best – fill up a blue FOPCPL bag for $10!
13. Ride the Tucson Streetcar. Super sleek, pretty, and providing plenty of photo opps, the Tucson Streetcar can take you to and from Downtown Tucson, the University of Arizona, 4th Avenue, Main Gate Square, and Mercado San Agustin. A one-day pass is $4.50 (unlimited rides).
14. Sketch famous artwork at the Tucson Museum of Art. Admission is $7 for teens (ages 13-17), ut note that the 1st Thursday of the month is free between 5:00pm-8:00pm and the 2nd Sunday of the month is free to Arizona residents. You can ponder the exhibits, bring a sketchbook or journal, and/or stop for a scone at Cafe a la C’Art.
15. Volunteer with Make Way For Books. If you are a bookworm and/or a natural with kids, consider volunteering for this literacy-based non-profit. There are a number of volunteer opportunities that will appeal to both extroverts + introverts: delivering books, hosting a book drive, doing office work, leading storytime, even baking book-themed treats!
16. Apply for scholarships. This process takes time, energy, effort, and a healthy dose of perseverance. But the potential payoff is HUGE. Author and mega-scholarship winner Kristine Ellis put it this way, “I [realized] that every scholarship dollar I received would be hours I wouldn’t have to spend working in a fast-food restaurant in college.” Make an appointment with the guidance counselor at your school to see what options are available.
17. Study history at Mission San Xavier del Bac. This mission from the 1600’s is both beautiful and slightly spooky. You may want to carpool with family/friends to share fuel expenses since it may take you 20-50 minutes to get there (depending on where you live in Tucson). Begin your visit by watching the 20 minute film about the restoration of the Mission. It plays continually between 8:00am and 4:30pm. Free tours are sometimes available in the mornings. Call ahead to confirm.
18. Read poetry at the UA Poetry Center. The Poetry Center is free and open to the public on weekdays and Saturdays during the schoolyear; Monday-Friday during the summer months. You can attend a reading or lecture, join a book club, or read/write poems in a quiet corner.
19. Walk or bike the 8-mile loop at Saguaro National Park East. This paved hike has its share of dips and curves, but it’s plenty pretty – and almost impossible to get lost. Ages 15 and under are always admitted free. If you are 15 and up, you can purchase a day pass for $5 or an annual pass for $25.
20. Help Kids with Life-Threatening Illnesses at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona. Help ill children and their families by becoming a volunteer at this “home away from home” in Tucson. You must be 12 or older to become a volunteer and there are lots of options. You can even gather a group of 2-12 friends to be “Chef For A Day.”
21. Get a library card. What’s that? You don’t have a library card. Visit any of the 27 Pima County Public Library branches to sign up for your free card – which will give you access to books, DVDS, CDs, magazines, and audiobooks.
22. Sign up for a class with Tucson Parks & Recreation. Interested in pottery, photography, soccer, swimming, piano, or ballet? The city parks and rec department offers classes every season at affordable prices. Four catalogs come out per year – spring, summer, fall, winter.
23. Attend a Teen Police Academy. The City of Tucson and City of Oro Valley both offer police academies for teens/citizens at various points throughout the year. You’ll learn about the department and undergo some training – culminating with a graduation and, in some cases, Pima Community College credits (at no cost to you). The Tucson Police Department typically conducts a spring and fall session of the Citizens’ Police Academy. OVPD offers their academy once per year (typically in June).
24. Read a book. The research is loud and clear – readers are leaders (and they’re the best people to fall in love with). Aside from the countless benefits, books are the best way to take an adventure on a budget. Good places to sit with a book in Tucson – Barnes & Noble, Bookmans, your local library, or a cafe.
25. Order an eegee’s. Strawberry, Lemon, and Pina Colada are available year-round – or choose the Flavor of the Month (which is sometimes fruity, sometimes adventurous). Try the ranch fries too.
26. Drive up Mt. Lemmon. You can bring a tent and camp, spend the day hiking, visit the cookie shop, or catch the sunset. Read our full Mount Lemmon guide for trip-planning tips.
27. Take a driving class. Become a capable, smart, and focused driver by taking a class that will help you understand responsive driving, safety precautions, and more. A free class is offered through the Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Foundation for ages 16-19.
28. Visit a church youth group. Church youth groups often host super fun events – paintball, scavenger hunts, concerts, movie nights, skiing trips, and camps. Here are several to try in Tucson: Calvary Tucson, Casas Church, Christ Community Church, or Rincon Mountain Presbyterian Church.
29. Introduce yourself to reps at College Night. Put on by the Tucson Unified School District, College Night happens once per year (typically in September or October) at the Tucson Convention Center and is open to all high school students in Tucson. Admission and parking are FREE – and 200+ colleges are represented. Your school may also host a smaller college fair of its own. Check with your guidance counselor.
30. Happy Hour. You don’t have to be of drinking age to enjoy happy hour. Stop in at your favorite restaurant for discounted appetizers + entrees. Recommendations? Try: Zinburger ($5 zini burgers, $3 sides, and $3 shakes) or Zona 78.
31. Yell “Encore” at a Broadway musical. This one is spendy, but it will be an experience you won’t forget. Scroll thru the season line-up to purchase tickets to a musical that catches your eye. These are good ones if they happen to come around: The Lion King, Wicked, Newsies, Mary Poppins, Annie, etc.
32. Take a tour of the U of A. During the academic year, 90-minute tours are available Monday-Friday at 10am and 2pm, and Saturday at 10am. Over the summer, tours are available on select days at 9am. Reservations are required, but the tour is free. The website states clearly that the tours are for prospective students – If you are in 9th-12th grade and considering the university, that’s YOU.
33. Go for a run or walk at a local park. Udall Park & Reid Park both have beautiful, well-lit tracks so lace up your tennis shoes and train for that 5k you have your eye on (see #4). Too hot for outdoor training? Udall and Clements have indoor tracks. Daily pass for teens (ages 17 and under) includes access to gymnasium and/or weight room, raquetball courts, and indoor track for $1 (resident)-$1.25 (non-resident). Outdoor tracks are free.
34. Join a soccer team. New to soccer? Register to play with Arizona Youth Soccer Organization. The rate for a full season hovers around $100 – which includes all practices, games, even your uniform. It’s a good way to be introduced to the sport and/or hone your skills before transferring to a more competitive club team (Tucson Soccer Academy, Tanque Verde Soccer Club, etc).
35. Try your hand at tennis. Located in midtown Tucson, Reffkin offers a variety of classes, camps, and clinics for kids and teens. You can even participate in tournaments! Many of Tucson’s city parks also have tennis courts that are free to use. If you buy a racquet and balls, you’ll be on your way to hours of practice and fun.
36. Start a business and keep tabs with Startup Tucson. Although not often said out loud, the teen years can be a terrific time to start your own business. Think of ideas you are passionate about, interview people in your field, set up an LLC, and run with it. Startup Tucson is a great resource for you as you launch your venture.
37. Jump off high dive or zip down one of the water slides around Tucson. Here are our picks for the 5 Best Water Slides in Tucson. If you live on the NW side of Tucson, the Oro Valley Aquatic Center includes a waterslide, an interactive splash pad, recreation pool, competition/Olympic-sized pool, and diving boards. The facility is open year-round. $5 for ages 4-17; $7 for ages 18+. The center also offers teen dive-in movies.
38. Find a job – but think outside the box. Start with whatever career field interests you. Then, email, call, and/or meet in person with various people in your field (lawyers, doctors, dentists, realtors, law enforcement officers, teachers, engineers) to see if they have any part-time positions available.
39. Sell your stuff at Bookmans. Bring in your gently used books, DVDs, CDs, posters, and video games to “trade” in for credit to the store. Bookmans also has a free club for 13 to 17-year-olds (appropriately called 1317). Sign up to receive 15% off all your purchases, plus a $15 gift certificate on your birthday.
40. Serve your family + friends. Clean your room. Make breakfast for your parents. Take your younger sibling(s) to ice cream. Organize a neighborhood bike parade. Pick up trash at a nearby park or wash. Write a thank you note to a teacher that influenced your life. Small acts of kindness change the world.
What other ideas do YOU have for things teen can do in Tucson?
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