15 Things to Do in Marana (AZ)

Written by Sofia Jones
Updated on
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As someone who has explored the charming town of Marana, I can tell you that it offers a truly unique southwestern experience. Nestled near Tucson and surrounded by the vast Sonoran Desert that stretches into Mexico, this place has a special allure that captivates both nature enthusiasts and history buffs.

One of the main attractions of Marana is its appeal to retirees seeking respite from harsh winters. The area’s pleasant climate and proximity to the stunning Sonoran Desert make it an ideal haven for those seeking tranquility and natural beauty.

But Marana isn’t just for retirees. Visitors from all walks of life are drawn to the area’s rich history, awe-inspiring geology, and diverse wildlife. Exploring the past and immersing yourself in the captivating stories of the region is an experience you won’t want to miss.

In recent years, Marana, like many other Arizona towns, has experienced a cultural renaissance. The arts scene is thriving, offering a vibrant display of local talent. And when it comes to cuisine, Marana has embraced the culinary arts with open arms. From traditional southwestern flavors to international fusion, you’ll find a wide range of dining options to satisfy your taste buds.

Let’s not forget about the ever-popular micro-brewing trend that has taken hold in this parched climate. Marana has become a hub for craft beer enthusiasts, offering a variety of locally brewed creations that are sure to please even the most discerning palate.

To make sure you don’t miss any of the incredible experiences Marana has to offer, here’s a list of 15 must-do activities in this captivating town.

1. Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National ParkSource: Galyna Andrushko / shutterstock
Saguaro National Park

If you’re planning a trip to Tucson, I highly recommend visiting Saguaro National Park. As a nature enthusiast, I can assure you that this park is an absolute gem, dedicated to preserving the stunning saguaro cacti that thrive in the Sonoran Desert.

Standing tall at heights of up to 50 feet and with lifespans of around 200 years, these majestic cacti are rightly revered as the grandfathers of the desert. Their unique shapes and incredible endurance make them a true symbol of the Southwest.

To make the most of your visit, I suggest starting at one of the park’s two visitor centers. They are invaluable resources, providing you with trail maps and essential information that will enhance your experience. Familiarize yourself with the park’s trails, so you can choose the one that suits your interests and fitness level.

While the saguaro cacti steal the show, don’t miss the opportunity to appreciate the diverse array of other cacti and wildlife that thrive in the park. Keep your eyes open for creatures like javelinas, coyotes, and a variety of bird species. The desert ecosystem is teeming with fascinating life, and each encounter adds to the magic of the experience.

Remember, the desert can be harsh and unforgiving, so it’s crucial to come prepared. Wear comfortable and sturdy shoes for your hike, and don’t forget to bring an ample supply of water to stay hydrated in the desert heat. Protect your skin from the intense sun by applying sunscreen generously and consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat for added shade.

Saguaro National Park is a treasure trove of natural beauty and a sanctuary for the iconic saguaro cactus. Get ready to immerse yourself in the serenity of the desert, surrounded by these majestic giants and the enchanting wildlife that call this place home.

2. Hit the Links

Marana GolfSource: discovermarana.org
Marana Golf

Having spent several winters in Arizona, I can confidently say that it’s a golfer’s paradise. The combination of perfect weather, world-class courses, and breathtaking landscapes makes it a top destination for golf enthusiasts like me.

While you can certainly play golf in Arizona throughout the year, it’s during the winter months when the experience truly shines. The mild temperatures and clear blue skies create an idyllic setting to tee off and enjoy the game. The cool breeze and the warm sun make each swing feel effortless, allowing you to fully appreciate the beauty of the surroundings.

If, by chance, you find yourself in Arizona during the scorching summer months and still wish to play, don’t worry. The bright side is that you can score incredible deals at exclusive courses, as the summer is considered the off-peak season. Take advantage of discounted rates and enjoy the opportunity to play on renowned courses without the crowds. Just remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, wear a hat to shield yourself from the sun, and consider renting a cart to make the experience more comfortable.

Whether you choose to play in the winter or brave the summer heat, Arizona’s golf courses offer an unforgettable experience. Soak in the beauty of the desert landscape, with towering saguaros and rugged mountains as your backdrop. Challenge yourself on perfectly manicured fairways and greens, designed by world-renowned golf architects.

3. Get Splatted

Disruptive PaintballSource: www.disruptivepaintball.com
Disruptive Paintball

In recent years, I’ve noticed how paintballing has gained immense popularity as a thrilling and stress-relieving activity. It has become a favorite pastime for a diverse range of people, from school kids seeking excitement to corporate executives wanting to unleash some pent-up energy.

If the idea of donning camouflage attire, suiting up in body armor, and engaging in adrenaline-pumping battles where you unleash high-velocity balls of paint at your opponents appeals to you, then you’re in for a treat. Marana offers not one, but two fantastic paintball facilities that cater to this exhilarating sport.

First up, we have Disruptive Paintball, conveniently located on West Tangerine Road. This well-established facility is equipped with all the necessary amenities to provide an unforgettable paintball experience. Whether you’re a seasoned player with your own gear or a complete newbie, fear not, as Disruptive Paintball warmly welcomes everyone. They are more than happy to provide you with the necessary equipment to get started and ensure you have a blast on the battlefield.

Another great option in Marana is BKW, situated on North Sanders Road. This facility offers an exciting and action-packed paintball experience. Regardless of your skill level or prior experience, BKW accommodates all players, making it a welcoming destination for both beginners and seasoned veterans. So, if you’re looking to dive into the world of paintball, BKW has you covered.

4. Sample Some Micro-Brews

Dove Mountain Brewing CompanySource: facebook.com
Dove Mountain Brewing Company

Arizona has been experiencing a remarkable beer renaissance, and I must say, it’s been quite a treat. Micro-breweries have been sprouting up all over the state, from the vibrant city of Tucson to the charming town of Flagstaff, and every place in between.

Here in Marana and Tucson, we’re fortunate to have more than 20 micro-breweries to explore and indulge in. What sets these breweries apart is that they are often attached to fantastic restaurants and bars, creating a perfect pairing of delectable cuisine and craft brews.

One of the remarkable aspects of the local beer scene is the emphasis on using locally sourced and organic ingredients. It’s fascinating to see breweries incorporate unique flavors like agave nectar, prickly pear cactus, and even jalapenos into their brews. Trust me, I’ve had the pleasure of trying these creations, and they are nothing short of intriguing and delicious.

The micro-breweries here not only offer exceptional beer but also provide a vibrant atmosphere for entertainment. Many of these establishments feature live entertainment, allowing you to enjoy great music while savoring your favorite craft brew. If you’re a sports enthusiast, you’ll be delighted to know that several breweries televise sporting events, creating a lively and communal experience for fans. And for those who love to test their knowledge, trivia nights are a regular occurrence at many of these local bar-breweries, adding a fun and competitive element to your evening.

So, whether you’re a beer connoisseur seeking new flavors or simply looking for a lively and enjoyable night out, Marana and Tucson’s micro-brewery scene has something for everyone. Prepare to tantalize your taste buds with unique and locally-inspired brews, soak in the vibrant atmosphere, and make lasting memories while supporting the local craft beer community. Cheers to the Arizona beer renaissance!

5. Check out the University of Arizona

University of Arizona, TucsonSource: Nagel Photography / shutterstock
University Of Arizona, Tucson

When visiting a new town, one of my favorite things to do is explore the local colleges and universities. They offer a plethora of activities and attractions that are sure to pique your interest.

Colleges and universities are hubs of creativity and knowledge, hosting a wide range of events that cater to various interests. You’ll find live performances, thought-provoking lectures, captivating art shows, and even instructional classes that allow you to learn something new. If you’re a sports enthusiast, don’t worry – they’ve got you covered too, with sporting events ranging from thrilling football games to exciting women’s volleyball matches.

Aside from the vibrant events, these institutions often boast picturesque campuses and sprawling grounds. It’s an absolute delight to take a leisurely stroll and soak in the beauty of the surroundings. Plus, it’s a great way to stay active while exploring the area.

One university that stands out is the University of Arizona. They proudly house nationally ranked men’s and women’s sports teams, adding an extra layer of excitement to the campus atmosphere. You’ll always find something cool happening on their grounds, and the best part is that many of these events are family-friendly and free. While snagging tickets for football and men’s basketball games may be a challenge due to their popularity, fear not! There’s an abundance of other activities to enjoy. Be sure to check online for the latest happenings and make the most of this incredible resource.

6. Tortolita Mountains

Tortolita Mountain HikeSource: Lauren(elle)n / Flickr
Tortolita Mountain Hike

I absolutely loved exploring the majestic Tortolita Mountains surrounding Marana. These mountains are a treasure trove of natural wonders, including hiking trails, Native American petroglyphs, and ancient ruins. Not to mention, the diverse array of cactus species such as saguaro, cholla, prickly pear, and pincushion that adorn the landscape.

To fully experience the beauty of these mountains, I highly recommend visiting the Tortolita Mountain Park, which spans over 3,100 acres of protected land. It’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts like me.

While there are some accessible trails for all skill levels, it’s important to note that much of the terrain in the mountains can be challenging. Unlike some parks, amenities like shaded picnic areas and restrooms may be scarce. Therefore, it’s advisable to do a little research beforehand to ensure you’re well-prepared for your adventure.

Fortunately, there are hiking groups in the area that you can connect with via social media. Joining these groups can not only make your outing safer but also provide valuable insights and information about the trails and surroundings. It’s a fantastic way to enhance your hiking experience and make new friends who share the same passion for exploration.

7. Play Disc Golf

Marana Disc Golf ClubSource: facebook.com
Marana Disc Golf Club

If you’re not a fan of the time, expense, plaid pants, and funny spiked shoes associated with traditional golf, then I have great news for you. Disc golf has gained significant popularity in recent years and offers a refreshing alternative.

As a fellow Seinfeld fan, I couldn’t help but recall the episode where George Costanza injures himself while playing disc golf. However, don’t let that deter you from experiencing the thrill of this exciting sport.

Marana Disc Golf Club, located on West Milligan Road in Marana, is a fantastic destination for disc golf enthusiasts. Surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty, the course offers a unique and challenging experience. Say goodbye to the old and stuffy traditional golf and embrace the dynamic and refreshing nature of disc golf.

The course features creatively designed “holes” that test your skills and precision. It’s a delightful change of pace from the traditional golf course, and the picturesque surroundings only add to the enjoyment of the game.

8. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Arizona-Sonora Desert MuseumSource: Joseph Sohm / shutterstock
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

I love visiting the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a remarkable destination nestled on nearly 100 acres of pristine desert land along North Kinney Road in Tucson. This place is a treasure trove of knowledge and exploration, offering an immersive experience into the wonders of southern Arizona’s natural landscape.

As I stepped foot into the museum, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of excitement. The exhibits are carefully curated to showcase the incredible diversity of the region. From the desert’s fascinating wildlife to its unique geological formations, every corner of the museum holds something captivating.

But the museum is just the beginning. A small zoo and aquarium await, where I can get up close and personal with some of the incredible animals that call this desert home. The botanical garden is a serene oasis, showcasing the beauty and resilience of desert flora. And of course, no visit is complete without exploring the gift shop, filled with intriguing souvenirs and educational materials to deepen my understanding of the desert ecosystem.

One of my favorite aspects of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is its network of walking trails. As I ventured into the desert landscape, I was surrounded by towering cacti, majestic mountains, and the raw beauty of the arid environment. It’s a chance to connect with nature and witness the desert’s incredible biodiversity firsthand. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some of the elusive desert critters that call this place their home. And if you time your visit right during the spring, you’ll be treated to a vibrant display of wildflowers, adding a splash of color to the desert canvas.

It’s no wonder that the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum attracts nearly half a million visitors each year. Its dedication to educating and inspiring people about the Sonoran Desert is truly commendable. From the living exhibits to the geological wonders, this museum is a true gem that allows me to appreciate and respect the unique ecosystem that thrives in this arid landscape.

9. El Rio Preserve

El Rio PreserveSource: Craig Thayer / maranaaz.gov
El Rio Preserve

I highly recommend a visit to the El Rio Preserve, a stunning 100-acre preservation area nestled on North Coachline Boulevard in Marana. This hidden gem is brimming with captivating history, abundant wildlife, and breathtaking natural beauty.

Steeped in centuries of Native American heritage, the El Rio Preserve holds great significance in the region’s past. It has witnessed significant historical events, offering a glimpse into Arizona’s rich cultural tapestry.

While the preserve once served as a quarry for Arizona highway projects, it has undergone a remarkable transformation. Today, it stands as a thriving sanctuary for migratory birds, making it a must-visit destination for bird enthusiasts. Recent renovations have turned the preserve into a visitor-friendly park, complete with well-maintained hiking trails, a captivating disc golf course, and a serene lake and garden.

As you explore the trails, keep your eyes peeled for the diverse array of desert birds, colorful butterflies, and other fascinating creatures that call this preserve home. It’s a nature lover’s paradise, offering a unique opportunity to witness the wonders of the Sonoran Desert up close.

10. Old Tucson Studios

Old Tucson StudiosSource: Flickr
Old Tucson Studios

If you’re like me and have a deep sense of nostalgia for old movies, especially classic westerns, then you absolutely have to visit Old Tucson Studios on South Kinney Road. Stepping onto the grounds of this iconic destination feels like traveling back in time to the golden era of filmmaking.

Old Tucson Studios is more than just a museum; it’s a living testament to the old westerns that were once filmed in the picturesque landscapes of southern Arizona.

The studios proudly display memorabilia from over 30 classic movies, with notable titles like “Arizona” from 1940 and “Rio Bravo” from 1959. It’s incredible to see the artifacts and mementos that have been preserved, allowing me to connect with the rich cinematic heritage of the region.

But the experience doesn’t end with the museum-like exhibits. Old Tucson Studios offers so much more. Guided historical tours take me on a journey through the past, providing fascinating insights into the making of these iconic films. I get to relive the most memorable scenes through thrilling reenactments, complete with daring stunts and the sounds of gunshots echoing through the air.

As I strolled through the streets of this western-themed park, I was transported to a bygone era. The attention to detail is impeccable, and I couldn’t help but feel like I’m a part of those classic films that I grew up watching. The atmosphere is electric, with live performances, entertainment, and interactive experiences that bring the spirit of the Wild West to life.

Old Tucson Studios is a true delight for film enthusiasts, history buffs, and anyone seeking an immersive and entertaining experience. It’s a place where cherished memories are preserved and shared, allowing visitors to relish in the magic of the silver screen.

11. Ora Mae Harn Park

Ora Mae Harn ParkSource: facebook.com
Ora Mae Harn Park

Located just off Interstate 10 on North Lon Adams Road in Marana, Ora Mae Harn Park is a vibrant public park that offers a wide range of amenities to cater to everyone’s interests and keep them happily occupied.

As I stepped into the park, I was immediately greeted by the exciting sight of basketball and tennis courts, perfect for those looking to engage in some friendly competition or practice their skills. The lively atmosphere and the sound of laughter fill the air as people of all ages enjoy these recreational activities.

One of the highlights of Ora Mae Harn Park is its inviting swimming pool, providing a refreshing oasis during the warmer months. It’s a great spot for families to cool off and splash around, creating joyful memories together.

For all the dog lovers out there, the park also features a dedicated dog park, allowing our furry friends to socialize, run freely, and burn off some energy. Watching the dogs play and interact is truly heartwarming.

The park doesn’t forget about the younger visitors either. A well-designed playground awaits, ready to inspire the imaginations of children and provide endless entertainment. Their laughter and excitement fill the air, creating an atmosphere of pure joy.

What sets Ora Mae Harn Park apart is its commitment to inclusivity. The park features a dedicated area for seniors, providing a space for them to gather, relax, and engage in activities that cater to their needs and preferences. It’s a wonderful testament to the park’s efforts to foster a sense of community and inclusiveness.

As a popular destination for families, Ora Mae Harn Park can get quite lively and bustling, especially on weekends. The happy and energetic youngsters running around add to the vibrant atmosphere, creating an environment filled with youthful exuberance.

However, for those seeking a bit of tranquility and solitude, the park offers a solution. I loved taking a leisurely stroll on the paved trails that wind their way around the park. The serene surroundings and the beauty of nature provide the perfect backdrop for some peaceful reflection and relaxation.

12. International Wildlife Museum

International Wildlife MuseumSource: Sangre-La.com / Flickr
International Wildlife Museum

As someone who has always been fascinated by wildlife, I was thrilled to explore the vast array of plant and animal species that inhabit the expansive Sonoran Desert when I first arrived in Arizona. The sheer diversity amazed me.

If you share my interest in wildlife, then the International Wildlife Museum on West Gates Pass Road in Tucson is an absolute must-visit. This remarkable museum offers an immersive experience through its extensive exhibits, spanning nearly 40,000 square feet. It provides a perfect escape from the heat while allowing you to delve into the captivating world of Arizona’s native species.

The museum’s exhibits are not only visually stunning but also highly educational. They offer valuable insights into the unique wildlife that calls Arizona home. From majestic desert dwellers to elusive creatures of the night, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about their behaviors, adaptations, and the important role they play in maintaining the delicate balance of the desert ecosystem.

In addition to the captivating displays showcasing Arizona’s native species, the International Wildlife Museum also features exhibits that introduce visitors to animals from other parts of the world. These out-of-place exhibits offer a fascinating glimpse into the diverse fauna that inhabits our planet. It’s a chance to explore the wonders of different ecosystems and understand the interconnectedness of global wildlife.

As I wandered through the museum, I found myself captivated by the lifelike dioramas and interactive displays that brought the wildlife to life. Each exhibit provided a wealth of knowledge, allowing me to deepen my understanding and appreciation for the natural world.

The International Wildlife Museum is a hidden gem for wildlife enthusiasts, providing a perfect blend of entertainment and education. Whether you’re seeking refuge from the scorching Arizona sun or simply eager to expand your knowledge of the natural world, this museum is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered. Step inside, immerse yourself in the captivating exhibits, and embark on a journey of discovery that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the rich biodiversity of Arizona and beyond.

13. Rillito River Park

Rillito River ParkSource: gurdonark / Flickr
Rillito River Park

I have always been a nature enthusiast, and discovering the picturesque Rilito River Park on North Campbell Avenue in Tucson was an absolute delight. This family-friendly park offers a perfect retreat with its easy trails, welcoming walkers, bikers, and even horseback riders.

One of the highlights of Rilito River Park is its connection to a scenic loop that meanders through Tucson and its surrounding areas. It’s a fantastic opportunity to explore the diverse landscapes and soak in the natural beauty that Arizona has to offer.

As I ventured along the trails, I appreciated the thoughtful amenities provided throughout the park. Restrooms, water fountains, river access points, and dedicated exercise stations made my experience comfortable and convenient. I could easily take a break, quench my thirst, or engage in some invigorating exercises during my visit.

The best part about Rilito River Park and the connected trail system is that they are completely free to use. It’s a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the outdoors without any financial burden. If you’re planning to visit, I recommend accessing the park from North Campbell Road in Tucson for a convenient starting point.

While it might be challenging to complete the entire loop in a single day, even a brief excursion of an hour or two will allow you to experience the natural wonders of the area. From tranquil riverbanks to serene, shaded pathways, you’ll be treated to a variety of scenic vistas that showcase the beauty of Tucson’s landscapes.

14. Tucson Mountain Park

Tucson Mountain ParkSource: Nelson Sirlin / shutterstock
Tucson Mountain Park

If you’ve been daydreaming about the scenic wonders of southern Arizona, you’re not alone. The abundance of parks in the region is a major attraction for both locals and tourists like me.

One park that has caught my attention is Tucson Mountain Park. Established in the 1930s to preserve the natural treasures of the area, this expansive park spans nearly 20,000 acres and offers over 60 miles of trails for hikers, bikers, and equestrians to explore.

During my visit, I was delighted to discover more than just trails. Tucson Mountain Park boasts well-maintained picnic areas, perfect for enjoying a leisurely outdoor meal while surrounded by the beauty of nature. As I ventured further, I was rewarded with captivating wildlife vistas, providing me with glimpses of the diverse animal species that call this park home.

But the park doesn’t stop at natural beauty. It also features exhibits and historical ruins, each accompanied by informative signs that helped me understand the significance of the structures and the rich history of the area. It was a wonderful blend of nature and culture, allowing me to connect with the past while immersing myself in the present.

For those seeking more adventurous activities, Tucson Mountain Park offers options like hunting, camping, and guided tours. However, it’s important to note that special permits may be required for these activities. So, if you’re interested in exploring these pursuits, be sure to make the necessary arrangements in advance.

15 Things to Do in Marana (AZ):

  • Saguaro National Park
  • Hit the Links
  • Get Splatted
  • Sample Some Micro-Brews
  • Check out the University of Arizona
  • Tortolita Mountains
  • Play Disc Golf
  • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
  • El Rio Preserve
  • Old Tucson Studios
  • Ora Mae Harn Park
  • International Wildlife Museum
  • Rillito River Park
  • Tucson Mountain Park