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, 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” (that’s the mission of the food bank).
3. Take pictures at Trail Dust Town. This miniature western town in East Tucson is selfie-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. If you choose, you can pay $4 to watch the on-site stunt show or $8 for a wristband (which also includes admission to the Museum of the Horse Soldier and three different kiddie rides).
4. Run in a 5k. Not a runner? Don’t let that stop you. Almost anyone can set a 5k goal, complete the training, and participate in a race. We recommend Jim Click’s Run n’ Roll 8k or 3k, Sunrise at Old Tucson 4m, Dr. Gann’s Cinco De Mayo 5k, or Meet Me Downtown 5k Night Run – all put on by Southern Arizona Roadrunners. 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. Take the Tumamoc Challenge. 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 InJoy Thrift Store. Bargain hunting at its finest! This thrift store at Broadway & Pantano is big and clean with flat rates on clothing. Even if you don’t want clothes, the shop has shoes, books, baskets, frames, craft supplies, purses, hats, scarves, furniture, etc.
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 at Rocks N’ Ropes or the BLOC. Brave or not, rock-climbing can be a fun way to try something new in a safe environment. 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 on student night ($9 with student ID).
10. Watch a movie at Roadhouse Cinemas. This is the best movie theatre in Tucson, hands-down. The huge leather seats are comfy and clean. Plus, you can order off a menu – breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. Join the email list to receive coupons +news about upcoming feature films.
11. Roam the DeGrazia Gallery. Open 362 days of the year from 10am to 4pm, this 10-acre art gallery in north Tucson is fascinating to walk thru. Learn about Ted DeGrazia – who lived, worked, and is buried on the property.
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. New, sleek, and dare-we-say pretty, 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 (unlimited rides).
14. Sketch famous artwork at the Tucson Museum of Art. Free for youth under age 18, TMOA is a must-visit before you graduate. Wander the property, bring a sketchbook or journal, and/or stop for a scone at Cafe a la C’Art.
15. Perform stories for children as a volunteer with Make Way For Books. If you love storytelling, consider volunteering for this literacy-based non-profit. If you prefer not to be in the spotlight, you can assist with cleaning, organizing, sorting, and distributing books.
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. It’s a bit out of town so you may want to carpool with family/friends to share fuel expenses. Begin your visit by watching the 20 minute film about the restoration of the Mission. It plays continually between 8:00am and 4:30pm. Check the tour schedule in advance if you would like to take a free 45-minute tour. P.S. We hear the fry bread is pretty amazing so bring cash if you want to try the wares.
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. Kids 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. Organize + restock 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. That’s crazy talk. 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 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 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 w/ 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. Try on (or admire) vintage clothing at How Sweet It Is. Love bell-bottoms? Puffed sleeves? Poodle skirts? Suspenders? Fedora caps? Head down 6th street to this vintage clothing retailer to find a truly unique fashion piece.
27. Take a driving class. Listen, driving is a serious business. Become a capable, smart, and focused driver by taking a class that will help you understand responsive driving, safety precautions, and more.
28. Rock babies or tutor kids at Casa de los Ninos. Casa de los Ninos was one of the first crisis nurseries in the United States and is the oldest crisis shelter for children in the Tucson area. The volunteer application process is lengthy (understandably so) and includes a mandatory 4-day new volunteer orientation, but there are plenty of opportunities for you to make a difference in the life of young children. Volunteers must be age 16+.
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) 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. A date has not yet been announced for 2016 College Night.
30. Happy Hour at Zona 78. You don’t have to be of drinking age to enjoy happy hour. Stop in at one of the two Zona 78 locations between 3-6pm on every day but Sunday to enjoy 1/2 off of appetizers. Trust us – the Bianco Pizza is DELISH (Regularly $11.50 — $5.75 at Happy Hour!).
31. Yell “Encore” at a Broadway musical. This one is spendy, but an experience you’ll not soon forget. Scroll thru the season line-up and purchase tickets to a musical that catches your eye. We recommend “classics” like The Lion King, Wicked, Newsies, Mary Poppins, Annie, etc.
32. Take a tour of the U of A. During the academic year, tours are available Monday-Friday at 10am and 2pm, and Saturday at 10am. Over the summer, tours are available Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 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 Udall or Reid Park. Both of the aforementioned parks 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 $1.50. Outdoor tracks are free.
34. Play AYSO. 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.
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 the high dive or zip down the slide at Oro Valley Aquatic Center. 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+. Family night is on Friday – your whole family gets in for 5 buckaroos. 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. If you’re an athlete, you can bring your used sporting clothes and equipment to Bookmans Sports Exchange to do the same thing. Your parents may even add to your box of items to trade in if you ask them.
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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