Phoenix Local Life

5 Neighborhoods that Prove Tucson is the Best City for Recreation

Tucson was ranked in the eighth spot among cities with the best recreation, according to a new study from WalletHub. This included high numbers on metrics like entertainment and recreation facilities—both quantity and variety—costs of the facilities, quality of parks, and weather conditions. It’s no surprise Tucson has a wide range of activities, since the city encourages residents to get outdoors and get involved as much as possible.

Proving WalletHub’s point, there are neighborhoods within the city with many choices for both indoor and outdoor activities. Check out these five neighborhoods that prove Tucson is the best city for recreation.

Downtown Tucson

Tucson Museum of Art photo courtesy of Paul Sableman

The most diverse part of Tucson, Downtown Tucson is a melting pot of historic and modern buildings, trendy restaurants, quirky shops, and urban attractions. The neighborhood is also known to have a variety of home styles from historic architectural designs to modern high-rise condos.

Downtown is also home to numerous recreational opportunities. Spend an afternoon at the Tucson Museum of Art or the Museum of Contemporary Art, where you can view stunning collections of artistic talent from Tucson and around the globe. Also, Etherton Gallery boasts a highly acclaimed contemporary collection of paintings, photography, and mixed-media work by local artists. Or for a family-friendly option, check out the Children's Museum Tucson for hands-on educational exhibits. Downtown also offers plenty of open-air markets and bazaars on a weekly basis like 2nd Saturdays, a community-oriented event that takes place every second Saturday of each month in Downtown Tucson. The event hosts local vendors, food trucks, live music, and entertainment along Congress Street and Scott Avenue. 

Arroyo Chico

Reid Park Zoo

Arroyo Chico was named after the Arroyo Chico River that cuts through the northern portion of the neighborhood. Homes date back to the 1950s, with the majority of lots featuring small, idyllic fenced-in backyards. A quiet neighborhood in reputation, there are still many activities for residents to choose from during their spare time.

Gene C. Reid Park is 131-acres of lush greenery situated in the middle of the city. Residents have access to a rose garden, dog park, Edith Ball Recreation Center, Hi Corbett Field, and Park Rx—a public health initiative to promote healthy and active lifestyles. The park also houses the Reid Park Zoo which is home to over 500 exotic and local animals. Residents can also drive their own golf carts across the street to Tucson City Golf, featuring the Randolph North Golf Coursethe longest golf course at the TCG complex measuring at 6,900 yards.

Barrio Hollywood

Tucson's All Souls Procession photo courtesy of John

Full of diverse architectural styles spanning the last 100 years, with some homes dating back to the 1860s, Barrio Hollywood is a history lover's dream. Set apart from the other Barrio neighborhoods in the area, Barrio Hollywood prides itself on community involvement and fully supporting local businesses. With a name that derived as a joke as it was a destitute neighborhood during the 1930s and 1940s, the neighborhood has transformed into a vibrant hub of Tucson culture.

Gaining fame as the recent location of Tucson’s All Souls Procession, the neighborhood comes to life in the fall with thousands of onlookers from all over the world attending the event. And when not honoring the dead in this full costume extravaganza, the neighborhood hosts art shows, a garden festival, and outdoor movie nights in the community garden. The neighborhood also happens to be right across the street to El Rio Golf Course, which was the original site for the PGA’s Tucson Open.

Tucson Estates

Saguaro National Park photo by Shutterstock

Ideally situated against the backdrop of the Tucson Mountains near the Tucson Mountain Park and Saguaro National Park, Tucson Estates has plenty of recreational options such as golf, tennis, hiking, biking, and swimming for its residents to choose from. With the scenic mountains and the Sonoran desert right in your own backyard, living in the wild west is exactly what this neighborhood exudes. 

Speaking of the west, this area is home to Old Tucson Studios. A preserved slice of Americana, it was the site for more than 400 film and television projects since 1939, and remains one of the most active filming locations for Western-themed films, television shows, and commercials in the United States. Also a theme park, this is where kids can ride a western train, take a trail ride, watch a live action gun-show, and stroll the vacant movie sets. The Sonoran Desert Museum is also close by, offering additional entertainment and attractions. This world-renowned zoo, natural history museum, and botanical garden, offers 98 acres of recreational space and has won numerous awards including a spot on the top 10 U.S. museums, per Tucson Business.


University of Arizona photo by Shutterstock

Home to the University of Arizona, this is one of the liveliest neighborhoods in all of Tucson. Homestyles range from classic Art Deco of the 1920s to modern bungalows. Better known as West University, this area is one of the more historic neighborhoods in the city, and it was the first suburb created north of the Southwestern Pacific Railroad. It has since been included in the National Register of Historic Places and is now the largest historic district in Arizona.

From homegames to eateries, bars to festivals, there’s always something happening in this neighborhood. A trip to the iconic 4th Avenue offers endless options for recreation like special events and activities on the first weekend of each month. This hot spot is also known for bars like Skybar where you can view the night sky with telescopes and learn about astronomy. Also, you can’t miss this neighborhood during the Fourth Avenue Street Fair when arts and crafts booths, street musicians, jugglers, and carnivals take over the streets. Cultural buffs can check out the art exhibitions, plays, and musical performances near the university, which is also home to The Museum of Art, State Museum, Mineral Museum, and festivals like the Tucson Festival of Books.

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