The University of Arizona

Stay Cool With UA Day-Trip Destinations

By Shelley Shelton, University Communications | June 20, 2012

Fun family activities are just a short drive away this summer at some of the UA's off-campus sites, or on campus itself.

People lived in the Biosphere 2 in the early 1990s as part of a study on survivability in a sealed environment. Now, visitors can check out an apartment, kitchen and the farm area where study participants grew their crops.
People lived in the Biosphere 2 in the early 1990s as part of a study on survivability in a sealed environment. Now, visitors can check out an apartment, kitchen and the farm area where study participants grew their crops.
Kitt Peak National Observatory is home to the world's largest collection of optical telescopes.
Kitt Peak National Observatory is home to the world's largest collection of optical telescopes.
Arizona State Museum guests can take a docent-led tour or just wander through and take in the sights while escaping the heat outside.
Arizona State Museum guests can take a docent-led tour or just wander through and take in the sights while escaping the heat outside.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum offers plenty of shade on a hot day as the state's oldest and largest botanical garden.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum offers plenty of shade on a hot day as the state's oldest and largest botanical garden.
Main Gate Square features dozens of retail merchants and eateries as well as an actual "square" gathering area where people can rest or take in the occasional concert.
Main Gate Square features dozens of retail merchants and eateries as well as an actual "square" gathering area where people can rest or take in the occasional concert.

The University of Arizona is a "cool" place to work or go to school. And it's also got a lot of "cool" places to visit and things to do – as in, away from summer's heat.

Lower temperatures and fun family activities are just a short drive away at the following spots, perfect for a weekend retreat. And always be sure to ask about a UA employee discount.

Biosphere 2
Cool factor: 5-10 degrees cooler than Tucson

The Biosphere 2 research facility, located north of Tucson in Oracle, features a guided Under the Glass Tour that takes guests inside the 3.14-acre glass-enclosed biosphere facility, where Biospherians resided in the early 1990s as part of a study on survivability in a sealed environment. Visitors can check out an apartment, a kitchen and the farm area where study participants grew their crops. The tour also takes guests through the Biosphere's engineered wilderness areas, including a tropical savanna, a 1 million-gallon tropical ocean, a desert, a tropical rain forest with more than 150 different species of plants, and more. For more information on hours and special programming, visit the Biosphere 2 website.

Admission: Tour is $20 for people 13 and older; $18 for AAA members, military and seniors age 62 and up; $13 for children ages 6-12; free for children under 5; $10 for UA employees with a CatCard.
Drive time:
About an hour
More information:
520-838-6200, info@b2science.com, http://www.b2science.org

Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter
Cool factor: 20-30 degrees cooler than Tucson

The UA's science learning facility atop Mount Lemmon offers a variety of public programming and workshops, including SummerNights, an evening program that lets visitors explore the skies with binoculars, star charts, a telescope and the help of a professional astronomer. Reservations are required. This program lets the public sign up on any night from July 1 through Aug. 31 and takes place if weather conditions are good. The program was started because stargazing in the summer can be difficult when there are afternoon thunderstorms that sometimes last into the early evening during July and August. The SkyCenter's popular June SkyNights program is sold out for the rest of the month. For hours, reservations and programming details, visit the SkyCenter website.

Admission: $30 to $60. Cost includes a light dinner. There's a 20 percent discount Monday through Thursday.
Drive time:
About 90 minutes
More information:
520-626-8122, skycenter@as.arizona.edu, http://skycenter.arizona.edu

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
Cool factor: About 5 degrees cooler than Tucson, with lots of shade

Situated on 323 acres, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is Arizona's oldest and largest botanical garden. Trees, cacti, flowers and other plants from throughout the world create a shady oasis, complete with a lake, canyon and plenty of wildlife. Visitors can stroll on walking trails at their own pace or participate in the park's special summer events, including musical performances, classes and guided walking tours. Regular summer hours at the park are 6 a.m.-3 p.m. The park's summer "The Arboretum Rocks!" monthly geology walking tour kicks off at 8 a.m. this Sunday with geologists Kristen Gholson and Alan Seymour. Details are available on the Boyce Thompson Arboretum website.

Admission: $9 adults; $4.50 children ages 5-12; children under 5 free; CatCard holders get $1 off admission.
Drive time:
About two hours
More information:
Recorded event information line 520-689-2811 (must dial 1 + area code), business office 520-689-2723 (must dial 1 + area code), btainfo@ag.arizona.edu, http://arboretum.ag.arizona.edu.

Kitt Peak National Observatory Visitor Center and Museum
Cool factor: 15-20 degrees cooler than Tucson

Guided tours and evening stargazing programs are available at Kitt Peak, home to the world's largest collection of optical telescopes. The observatory supports the most diverse collection of astronomical observatories on Earth for nighttime optical and infrared astronomy and daytime study of the sun. Located on the Tohono O'odham reservation, at an elevation of 6,875 feet, the observatory has 24 optical and two radio telescopes. Hourlong tours explore history and interesting facts about each telescope. The Nightly Observing Program, available through reservation only, allows guests to stargaze like the pros for about three hours after sunset. More information is available on the Kitt Peak website.

Admission: Visitor Center and self-guided walking tours are free. Guided tours are $5.75 for adults, $3 for children ages 6-12. All-day tour passes are $7.75 for adults, $3.25 for children ages 6-12. Children under 6 are free. The public Nightly Observing Program is $48 for adults, $44 for students and seniors over 62. Ask about discounts for UA employees.
Drive time:
About 90 minutes
More information:
520-318-8726, outreach@noao.edu, http://www.noao.edu/outreach/kpvc

Arizona State Museum
Cool factor: 0 degrees difference, but it's air-conditioned

Located on the UA campus just northeast of the main gate at Park Avenue and University Boulevard, the Arizona State Museum is a Smithsonian Institution affiliate and is the oldest and largest anthropology museum in the Southwest. It hosts researchers from around the world who use the collections to expand the frontiers of knowledge in archaeology, ethnology, and ethnohistory. In addition to several ongoing exhibits, the museum currently features "Hopi Quilts: Unique Yet Universal" through Sept. 24 and "Many Mexicos: Vistas de la Frontera" through November. More information is available on the Arizona State Museum website. 

Admission: $5 for adults; free for children, UA and Pima Community College employees and students, researchers and scholars with appointments, library visitors, store visitors and, through Labor Day, active duty military and their families.
Drive time:
The length of your daily commute
More information:
520-621-6302, http://statemuseum.arizona.edu

Main Gate Square
Cool factor: 0 degrees difference but most places are air-conditioned or cooled

Main Gate Square is a pedestrian-friendly dining and shopping destination featuring more than 20 retailers and 30 restaurants near the University of Arizona and Tucson's historic neighborhoods. Merchants include fashion retailers, salons, and restaurants with foods representing all the corners of the world. Ben's Bells also has a storefront in the square where visitors can pop in and volunteer by painting chimes. A "Friday Night LIVE!" jazz concert series is held the first and third Fridays of the month in the square. The free events are sponsored by the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance and Main Gate Square. More information about the performances can be found on the Main Gate Square website. 

Admission: The concerts are free. Shopping, eating and spoiling yourself depend on your personal budget.
Drive time:
The length of your daily commute
More information:
520-622-8613, info@maingatesquare.com, http://www.maingatesquare.com

Mirror Lab Tours
Cool factor: 0 degrees difference, but it's air-conditioned

The UA's Steward Observatory Mirror Lab is where scientists and engineers build giant, lightweight mirrors for the latest generation of optical and infrared telescopes. A tour offers a unique opportunity to experience how UA innovations are producing the world's largest telescope mirrors right on campus. It provides visitors with a behind-the-scenes look at the groundbreaking work being done under the UA football stadium. Cutting-edge optical technology and the revolutionary spin-casting processes are making telescope mirrors that will produce images never before seen with such power and clarity. Advance reservations are required. More information can be found on the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab website. 

Admission: $15 for adults, $8 for students ages 7-22, nobody younger than 7 admitted
Drive time:
The length of your daily commute
More information:
520-626-8792, mirrorlab@as.arizona.edu, http://mirrorlab.as.arizona.edu/

Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium
Cool factor: 0 degrees difference, but it's air-conditioned

Flandrau brings together the University of Arizona and regional communities to inspire the teaching and learning of science and technology and to create pathways to lifelong learning. Permanent exhibits include "Mars: Up Close and Personal," which features the world's largest scale model of the surface of the red planet. Hang out with a Skywatchers Guide for free from 7-10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and use Flandrau's public 16-inch telescope to enjoy the sky. Check out a planetarium show, where you'll get to tour the night sky with the help of staff astronomers and Hector Vector Star Projector. In June, there's a matinee laser show featuring the music of Led Zeppelin. More information can be found on the Flandrau Science Center website.

Admission: $5 and up, depending on age, program and size of group Discounts available for CatCard holders.
Drive time:
The length of your daily commute
More information:
520-621-STAR (7827), http://www.flandrau.org/