FREE Tucson Date Ideas You've Never Heard Of
Looking for a romantic date to keep your sweetheart swooning without breaking the bank? That's where the Event Oracle comes in! In a vibrant city full of unique things to do, we've lined up the best date ideas here for you that won't have you reaching for your wallet.
Take a romantic sunrise walk at Tumamoc Hill
If you and your partner are into early mornings and hiking, head to Tumamoc Hill for a romantic (and possibly sweaty) walk up to catch the first rays of sun coming up over the Tucson Basin. You'll also get some gorgeous views of Tucson proper and can snuggle together for warmth while you wait for the show. The hike itself is only 3.1 miles round trip, but you'll have to navigate some steep switchbacks that'll probably leave you and your date feeling a little breathless before you've even kissed. Don't worry though, there are conveniently placed benches and signs for you to pause at along the way to take a breather. Play it casual and your date won't even realize you're winded. Prefer sunsets to sunrise? Here is the Oracle's suggestion for the best sunset spot in Tucson, complete with amazing photo ops.
Escape the Sun at Agua Caliente Park
You don't need cash to enjoy this gorgeous desert oasis disguised as a park. With its ponds and palms, if you're sick of that desert heat, you can't beat an afternoon at Agua Caliente Park. Take a walk or pack a lunch and enjoy a break from the summer sun for a couple of hours. This park is an Oracle favorite. Plus, Agua Caliente has a little something for everyone. Is your date into birds? This is a birding hotspot. Turtles? Right here. Frisbee? There's plenty of space to throw the disc. Picnics? It has a surplus of picnic tables where you can dazzle your date with that meal you thoughtfully prepared.
Stroll Along "A" Mountain
"A" Mountain, or Sentinel Peak to call it by its original name, is another great Tucson viewpoint. The mountain is known for the giant A that decorates the top – courtesy of some University of Arizona students from 1910. Once a year they light it up in a tradition that dates back over a hundred years. If you're looking to take your date on a hike that ends with some stunning views of the city, this is a great option and it's accessible and not too tough. You certainly won't get any alone time, since the trail is well-trafficked, but you can still enjoy the walk and your partner's company.
Travel Back in Time at San Xavier Mission
Detour down South of Tucson a few miles to visit the San Xavier Mission for a unique and very picturesque date. There's a reason it's called the "White Dove of the Desert." Rock up to this singularly gorgeous old mission and impress your beloved with your worldliness and knowledge about things slightly outside of the Tucson city limits. There are free tours on the hour where you can learn more about the mission's history, architecture, and art. If you've got a couple of spare dollars handy, you can pick up some authentic fry bread to share as you explore the grounds. Not required, but definitely delicious.
Discover the Desert at Saguaro West Ranger Station
Entering Saguaro National Park isn't free, but the ranger station is! You can take in some sexy views of the nearby mountains and the massive cacti that the national park is named for. Cue a tumbleweed and you'll feel like you've been transported back in time to the wild west. There's tons of information about the Sonoran Desert and its flora and fauna that you can learn and a great video called "Voices of the Desert" that shows on a loop so you can't miss it. If you're stopping by on your way into the park, there's lots of petroglyphs nearby. Ask a Ranger for directions or head out on one of the many Ranger-guided tours.
Make a Wish at El Tiradito Wishing Shrine
A visit to the wishing shrine won't take up your whole date, but it makes a great stop before hitting one of our other downtown hot spots or maybe a nearby southside Mexican taco stand like Tacos Apson or El Guero Canelo. The El Tiradito Wishing Shrine is nestled on Main Avenue between Cushing and Simpson Street. Bring a candle with you to make a wish and, if it burns through the night, your happily ever after (because what else would you wish for on a date?) is practically guaranteed. Legend says that the shrine marks the grave of an unlucky man who fell in love with his mother-in-law and was murdered by her jealous husband. Because of his sin he was left to rot where he lay. You might be thinking, maybe not the best place to bring a date, Oracle, but fear not. It adds that afterwards his lover was so overcome with remorse that she buried him in front of her home and built this shrine. Now his ghost grants wishes and he's especially sympathetic to lovers. There's some happiness in that ending!
Go Ghost Hunting at FT Lowell
If ghosts don't really scare you – and why should they, you're the one with skin, right? – then bring your date on over to Fort Lowell, whose ruins are said to be haunted by ghosts of the victims of the Apache Wars. In fact, the whole neighborhood is prone to spectral visits. Nowadays you can explore the museum, which includes ruins and recreations of the fort, along with a ton of interesting information. And admission is free! The museum is located within a reconstructed officer's house which is filled with period style furnishings. The ruins of the hospital are nearby, plus an ongoing Hohokam archeological dig. It's the perfect place for a date that's equal parts spooky and educational!
Visit the Hotel Congress Lobby
The Hotel Congress is a quintessential piece of Tucson history, dating back just over 100 years now. It's famous as the site of John Dillinger's capture, which coincided with a big fire in the building. If you're on a ghost hunt, this is another must-see location. The hotel is known for hosting several different ghostly patrons. Don't worry though, you don't have to stay here to soak in the history; the lobby is designed to make you reminisce about the good old days you weren't even born for, with gorgeous murals that will make you stop and stare. You can take a peek in one of the rooms, all of which are designed to capture the spirit of the past, swapping tvs for vintage radios and iron beds. Visit one of the several bars based here, each with its own theme and history or stop over at the Cup Café to snap a pic of a floor made entirely from pennies. You might decide to make this a first stop on a pub crawl, in which case visit the Oracle's suggestions for more great underground bars in Tucson.
Learn about Tucson's Locomotive History at the Train Museum
If you and your date are less into chasing ghosts and more into exploring history through museums, add the Southern Arizona Transport Museum to your list. It's housed in the old Tucson Station building, a cool piece of architecture in itself. Once inside this totally free museum, you can learn a ton about Tucson's history and the history of railroads in the West. Time your visit right and you might stumble upon Dillinger Days, an annual exhibit about that famed outlaw, people wandering around in period dress, or perhaps a fascinating lecture series. Think about all the new stuff you'll have to talk with your date about over dinner!
Go Postal at the Philatelic Museum
How well do you know your postal history? Bring your date to the Postal History Foundation's museum to learn all about Tucson's philatelic history. It's got a collection of permanent exhibitions, which include a replica of an 1859 postal office and a selection of paintings depicting the difficulties of delivering mail in early Arizona History. Nothing is sexier than learning about new things together and you'll have some great obscure trivia filed away for your next trivia night.
Visit Gates Pass at Sunset
Finish your date by watching the sunset in Tucson's most romantic viewing place. It's a short ride West of Tucson and super accessible, with parking located near the main viewpoint. On the other hand, if you want to impress your date with your endurance, you can hit the hiking trails. The higher you get, the more rewarding the views will be and the fewer people will be around to share your intimate moment with. Just make sure you can get back down to your car after the sun has set and don't tackle any trails outside of your skill level.
Play Outside on Mt. Lemmon
If your sweetheart is the outdoorsy type, you can't go wrong with a visit to Mt. Lemmon. The scenic road out along the Catalina Highway will reward you with some gorgeous views of desert and mountains and includes some spots to pullover and snap some pictures. Once you get there, no matter what season you go in, there's some free activity waiting for you, whether it's hiking, camping, or playing in the snow. This is the perfect Oracle retreat from city life. If you've got the cash for it, a night in the Mt. Lemmon Skycenter makes a memorable addition to your date. Either way you're in for some incredibly starry nights mixed with beautiful alpine days. It's one of our favorite places in Arizona!
Get Sweaty with your Sweetheart at Rocks & Ropes
Okay okay. This one isn't technically free, but it makes for a memorable date anyway and you should know about it. Rocks & Ropes is a climbing gym in town downtown where you and your date can try a new activity together. The gym has a starter pack that includes admission and equipment that's pretty affordable and they'll give you a crash course on how to climb safely. After that, you and your date are free to use the gym and enjoy this unique date.
Marvel at the Carnival of Illusion
We admit it, this one isn't free either. It is one of our favorite date spots though and if you haven't heard of it, you're in for an evening of magic that will leave you and your date looking at each other in awe. The Carnival of Illusion is a vaudeville style magic show that will keep you on the edge of your seat – and maybe holding your date's hand – for the duration. You may not spend much time talking to each other during the show, but afterwards you and your date can marvel, gush, and speculate over what you've seen. And if you are visiting from out of town and don't like driving much, the Royal Elizabeth Boutique Hotel is only a few short steps away, making for a very relaxing, fun and entertaining Tucson stay.
There are plenty of exciting things going on in and around Tucson that won't cost you anything and make for an unforgettable date night. It's a city full of ghosts, history, and beautiful natural landscapes that will surprise you, even if you're a longtime local. Trust us, the Oracle knows.