Traveling with dogs in Tucson

At the beginning of winter break, we decided to take a little trip from Phoenix to Tucson as we had never traveled there as a family before. However, because we’ve only had our dogs for about three months, we weren’t ready to leave them with anyone yet so we decided to take them with us.

The first step was finding a hotel that allows dogs and were thrilled to find that TownePlace Suites by Marriott Tucson allows pets. The room was perfect for our family of five (plus 2 dogs), as it had two separate bedrooms as well as a pull-out couch and a full kitchen stocked with plates, cups, utensils and more.

The hotel also offered a free breakfast, a fitness center and a pool (though we didn’t use the pool on this trip.)

Next on the agenda was figuring out what to do while we were there, with being able to include the dogs as much as possible.

Pima Air & Space Museum

After we checked in to the hotel, we went to the Pima Air & Space Museum, an aviation & space museum featuring more than 300 aircraft that allows leashed dogs.

There was plenty to see, both inside and outside, and it was cool to be so close up to so many different types of aircraft. Our 11-year-old was more focused on the dogs but our 13-year-old and 15-year-old found some things they found interesting and my husband loved it.

We visited the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun Museum on our last day there, after checking out of our hotel and heading home. It was a really nice way to spend the morning, as we leisurely checked out the artwork of Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia. The gallery is located on a 10-acre site in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson and in addition to viewing his artwork inside the gallery, you can walk through the adobe where he lived (and also visit a chapel on the property, as well as his grave).

Winterhaven Festival of Lights

On the first evening in Tucson, we ended up getting takeout from a nearby sushi restaurant and watched movies in the hotel room. But for the second night, we wanted to go out. We spent the day at Biosphere 2 in Oracle (which doesn’t allow dogs) and had lunch at the JCC in Tucson on the way back so we wanted to go somewhere with the dogs.

After a Google search of local events, I discovered the Winterhaven Festival of Lights, an event in a Tucson neighborhood where you walk through to see the elaborate holiday light displays. The event, which began in 1949, is a holiday tradition in the area. (Fun note: One of the main streets in the neighborhood is Christmas Avenue.) The roads are blocked off to cars so pedestrians (and leashed dogs) can walk through the streets and admire the lights. Food trucks sell hot chocolate and other treats and the local police department gave out light-up fidget spinners to the kids. Admission was a food or cash donation to the Community Food Bank. The event was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID. This year’s event was held Dec. 11-26 and considering the number of people that were there on a Monday evening, I’m guessing that hundreds of people attend throughout the festival.

Biosphere 2

Although the Biosphere 2 does not allow pets, I’m including it here because it was part of our trip and it’s an interesting place to visit when you’re in Tucson. It’s located in Oracle, which is about a half our north of Tucson. (For more fun things to do in Oracle, check out “The hidden treasure of Oracle, AZ.”)

Biosphere 2 is a science research facility that defines itself as “the world’s largest controlled environment dedicated to understanding the impacts of climate change.” The 3.14-acre laboratory has active research systems such as an ocean, a rainforest and a desert environment. It’s a self-guided walking tour and you use a tour app on your phone that explains what you are looking at.

I remember first hearing about Biosphere 2 years ago when “Biospherians” lived inside the sealed facility and wanted to tour it ever since so I was happy to check it out. It was also a beautiful day – since most of the tour was outdoors, it was definitely more comfortable than it would have been visiting during the summer.

On the way back to the hotel we also stopped by the Tucson JCC for lunch and discovered its sculpture garden so took a walk through it after lunch to check out the artwork.

We were in Tucson for three days and two nights and found plenty to do with the dogs (there are also many parks and hiking trails and we might have checked out some of those had we been in town longer.)

I think the dogs had a fun time, too.

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