You’ve heard Tucson is awesome, and, naturally, now you want to go. Despite being surrounded by a desert, Tucson doesn’t feel lifeless or like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but what exactly makes it so attractive to tourists?
Moreover, what are the best and the worst times to visit this unusual city? After all, nailing the season is key to ensuring the perfect trip!
Find out all you need to know about Tucson’s on and off-season in our detailed guide. We’ll help you pick the most suitable dates for your stay as well as answer some frequently asked questions!
The Best Time to Visit Tucson
The overall best time to visit Tucson is during the November–March period due to the overall great weather in comparison to other places with more temperate climates.
In November, the average high temperature is 71°F, and the average low is 51°F. In March, similar temperatures are observed — the average high is 72°F, while the average low is the same, 51°F.
It hardly ever rains. In any case, if you’re heading to Tucson in these months, pack light clothes for the daytime and a warm sweater or a coat for the evenings.
Winter officially marks the beginning of Tucson’s tourist season, so this is also when accommodation rates peak, especially due to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.
The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious mineral and gem show worldwide. It has enjoyed an international status since the 70s, and it was the first show of this kind to unite the public.
Hobby enthusiasts and professionals alike are in search of discovery. If you’re visiting in this period, book a room at least a month before.
Besides the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, Tucson visitors can enjoy other well-known events in the winter months, such as:
- All Souls Procession (November), which is all about celebrating life and honoring ancestors and lost loved ones;
- 4th Avenue Winter Street Fair (December), promising delicious food, local entertainment, artists from around the world, and a lot of fun;
- Tucson Jazz Festival (January), an event bringing world-class jazz performers and jazz lovers to Tucson;
- Tucson Festival of Books (March), heaven for all bibliophiles.
Cheapest Time to Visit Tucson
Folks on a budget should visit Tucson in September or October. The temperature in September fluctuates between 89°F and 71°F.
In October, the average high temperature is 81°F, and the average low is 60°F. If you’re visiting Tucson in September, bring some shorts and T-shirts, as it’s warm most of the time.
However, if you’re heading there in October, make sure to pack a light sweater for the evening, as the nights get cool. Also, do expect to see a bit more rain these days as opposed to spring.
The monsoon season runs through mid-September, but you’ll find most days sunny and suitable for outdoor activities. Plus, beating the winter travelers means getting some cheap room rates.
Some key events that take place in September and October in Tucson are:
- Tucson LGBT Pride Festival (September), founded in 1977, which makes it Arizona’s first LGBTQ Organization. The festival seeks to empower the LGBT community and enhance its visibility.
- University of Arizona Homecoming (October), an event where thousands of alumni go back to the campus to celebrate their Wildcat pride and reunite with peers.
- Tucson Meet Yourself Festival (October), which is a folklife festival and an annual celebration of the traditional arts of Northern Mexico’s and Southern Arizona’s diverse folk community. This three-day event includes dancers, artisans, home cooks, and musicians who honor beauty in all its forms.
Least Busy Time to Visit Tucson
If you wish to avoid large crowds, head to Tucson in April or May. In April, the average high temperature is 78°F and the average low is 55°F.
In May, the average temperature ranges between 86°F and 61°F. Visiting Tucson in April or May means packing T-shirts and a few light sweaters for the evening.
While April and May are generally off-season, in case you visit Tucson in May, try to avoid the University of Arizona’s commencement weekend. Not only does the city get slightly crowded, but hotel rooms also get pretty scarce.
Other key events during this period include:
- Spring Fling (April), an awesome family-friendly event known for games, carnival rides, food booths (both local and original), and local entertainment.
- Arizona International Film Festival (April), Arizona’s oldest film celebration, which runs The Screening Room (downtown), the Loft Cinema, the Mercado Annex (Westside), the Historic Hotel Congress, UA Main Gate, the Loft Cinema, and other venues. Not only is the festival a great experience movie-wise, but it’s also an opportunity to see different areas of the city.
- Tucson Folk Festival (April), one of the oldest folk festivals in the country honoring Folk Music and Americana traditions alongside variations such as blues, jazz, zydeco, bluegrass, Celtic, and more. The annual festival is traditionally held in some of Tucson’s most historic areas.
- Fiesta de Garibaldi (April), a wonderful evening filled with dance and music by the students of the TIMC (Tucson International Mariachi Conference) and Folklorico workshops.
- Cinco de Mayo Parades & Parties (May), typically celebrated with a parade, parties, and a lot of food.
Worst Time to Visit Tucson
The worst time to end up in Tucson is definitely in summer, which is in the months of June, July, and August.
Some days the temperatures pass 100°F, and the heat is truly unlike anywhere else. Spending time outdoors is difficult, but it’s summer, so you don’t really have a lot of choices when it comes to the available activities.
June is also a very dry month accompanied by strong, hot winds. Can’t imagine what that feels like? Try blowing a hairdryer in your face for the whole day, and you’ll understand it right away.
Also, mid-July marks the beginning of Tucson’s monsoon season, so frequent thunderstorms become the norm. That said, visiting Tucson in the summer doesn’t have to be that bad.
For example, hotel rates drop during the summer, and lower temperatures are just a ride away from the city (it’s 20 degrees cooler at some close mountain ranges).
Those ready to not only face the heat but fully embrace it can try attending some events such as:
- Juneteenth (June), held at Kennedy Park and attended by thousands of people each year;
- Southeast Arizona Birding Festival (August), featuring keynote speakers, photography, workshops, professional field trips, and a Nature Expo;
- World Margarita Championship (August), perfect for those who wish to taste original Margaritas and enjoy menu samplings from local Tucson restaurants.
Things to Consider
Knowing what to bring, where to go, and what to do is just as important as knowing the best time to visit Tucson. Our tips and tricks below might answer any pending questions you may have.
- Hablas Español? If you don’t, it’s a good idea to learn a thing or two. Speaking Spanish can be a big asset during your stay in Tucson. Plus, Mexican food is the go-to in Tucson, and understanding how spicy your meal is can make or break your food experiences in Tucson. That said, you won’t have any problems navigating the city using only English.
- Prepare for scorching temperatures. Especially if you’re visiting in summer. Tucson’s heat can really test people’s high-temperature endurance. Also, note that many attractions reduce their work hours in the afternoon during summer months.
- Don’t go hiking without a hiking buddy. Getting lost or injured in the desert isn’t impossible, and snakes and Gila monsters are common to come across, so make sure you’re always accompanied on your desert adventures.
- Know when to expect traffic and crowds. As Tucson is a college town, basketball and football game days translate into a buzzing atmosphere and heavier traffic than on the usual days.
- Get the Tucson Attractions Passport and enjoy a bunch of deals at major attractions such as the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, The Arizona Opera, the Saguaro National Park, and many others.
- Consider flying to the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Being bigger and having more traffic, the Phoenix airport may provide better airfare offers than the Tucson International Airport.
- Try ingredients such as prickly pear, cactus, and chiltepin to truly experience Tucson’s local cuisine. If you feel like your taste buds aren’t ready for such spicy flavors and need some reassurance, it’s probably worth mentioning that in 2015, Tucson became the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the United States.
- Your food experience won’t be complete until you sample some of the region’s wine. For a sophisticated wine experience in Tucson, we recommend booking a guided tour with the Arizona Winery Tours.
- Take a day trip from Tucson. While you’re there, it’s a shame not to see as much as you can. You can go to Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone, Kartchner Caverns State Park, or Mission San Xavier del Bac. You can take a day trip to Mexico too!
- Finally, don’t forget your travel insurance! It’s simply not worth the risk.
Book Your Trip to Tucson Today!
We’ve covered a lot in this Tucson guide, so let’s recap the most important information. Overall, the best time to visit Tucson is anytime from November to March.
It’s perfect for travelers who seek mild winters, outdoor activities while the temperatures are bearable, and some of the most popular festivals and events.
September and October are the cheapest because summer is gone, and winter visitors are yet to arrive. If you’re trying to stick to a budget, finding nice airfare deals and accommodation packages in this period should be easy.
Also, the weather is pretty comfortable, especially at night, when you might even need a light sweater. Tucson is a student city, which means things are always dynamic, but if you’re not a fan of large crowds and want a calmer stay, going in April or May might do it.
Keep in mind that in May, the University of Arizona’s commencement weekend takes place, so avoiding it would be a smart move. Come in June, July, or August, and you’ll wish you never came.
Joke aside, you’ll still have a whale of a time, but summers in Tucson are truly unbearable due to its oven-like temperatures. Mid-July is the onset of Tucson’s monsoon season, so if the intense heat isn’t enough, you’ll have heavy rainfall and thunderstorms to deal with too.
Take our guidelines while planning your trip. Whether you come to Tucson for hiking or its incredible dining, the best time to visit it is whenever it works for you. Happy travels!