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Hacienda del Sol | Tucson Hotel Review
- Tucson Travel (Pima, Aircraft Boneyard, and Cactus Forest Drive)
- Tucson Sightseeing Part 2 (Mt. Lemmon Byway, Titan Missile Museum, & Mission San Xavier)
In my previous post in this series, I covered the first few sightseeing spots on our trip to Tucson: The Pima Air and Space Museum, the Airplane Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and Cactus Forest Drive.
In this post, I’ll talk about our drive along the Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway, The Titan Missile Museum, and Mission San Xavier!
Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway in Tucson, Arizona
So, as we got started on Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway, we were at the bottom of the mountain. As we started to go up the mountain, I made a little ho-hum noise. I said to Ken, “This is supposedly a very scenic drive, but so far it’s pretty underwhelming.”
Then within about 60 seconds of speaking those words, holy crap, the scenery got AMAZING.
The landscape changes were so dramatic along Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway because of the changes in elevation. For reference, Tucson is at about 2,400 feet above sea level. By the time you reach the top of Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway in the town of “Summerhaven,” you’re at nearly 8,000 feet!
I’m not sure what the elevation was, maybe around 4,000 feet or so by my estimation, all of a sudden, there were zero cacti around. Just done. Then we were greeted with this kind of sparse desert shrubbery. (I’m no botanist, sorry! Shrubbery is the best word you’re going to get from me!)
Then, near the top of the drive, there are all sorts of evergreen trees!
There are tons of places to pull over along the drive so that you can take the time to enjoy all the scenery (and of course, take photos of it too!)
In fact, at one of the spots, which also had some pit toilet restrooms, we saw someone rock climbing.
Can you see her?
The drive itself was not crowded (we were there in February), and there is only one way up and one way down the mountain. So make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to enjoy the sights. It’ll probably take you longer than you’d expect!
Titan Missile Museum in Tucson, Arizona
Another great stop we made in Tucson was to the Titan Missile Museum. We were a bit undecided about whether we wanted to go here.
For one, it was pretty far outside of Tucson, nearly an hour drive from our hotel. Second, I mean, it’s just an old missile right? How on earth could the required tour take more than an hour? Third, you couldn’t make advance reservations. So, we were concerned that we’d get all the way out there and then wouldn’t be able to get on a tour.
Well, I’m so glad we went, because this place was really cool!
The tour starts with a video explaining the history of the Titan Missiles and a general layout of the area, to draw your attention to various things while actually on the tour. Everything is completely original at the Museum (but the “bomb” part of the missile has been removed of course!).
Then, you got to enter the control center area via this underground doorway.
Passing this sign along the way (again, original to the missile site).
Once entering the door, you walked down about 70 steps or so to get to the “blast doors.” (There was a construction-type elevator available for those needing an accessible option).
At the bottom, a guide deomonstrated the operation of the blast doors (he enlisted the help of a young kid on our tour).
Afterwards, we started walking down a series of hallways.
We entered the main missile control room at the Titan Missile Museum. There are signs saying that this was a “No Lone Zone.” Our guide explained that, when the missile site was operational, two people had to be in this room to avoid any lone wolf trying to set off a missile. (Which, our guide explained, would have been impossible anyway. It required the operation of two buttons and keys that had to be operated simultaneously, and were far away from each other.
There was also a fun missile launch scenario that the tour group got to play out.
The whole room was as if we were transported to a different era.
Then, we walked down more hallways.
The hallways ended at the main attraction at the Titan Missile Museum … the missile! It was enormous and there was no way to get it all in one camera shot.
Once we exited the underground portion of the Titan Missile Museum, we were able to get a view from the top.
There were also other original elements on display around the museum grounds, including security jeeps and motion detectors.
Mission San Xavier del Bac in Tucson, Arizona
After we left the Titan Missile Museum, we stopped at Mission San Xavier which was right along our route back to Tucson.
This place was so lovely. The architecture, the clear blue skies, and the nice desert landscaping made it very picturesque!
It happened to be a Sunday on the day of our visit, and when we arrived, it was shortly before a church service. So it was pretty crowded at first.
But, before the church service began, we had time to stand in a line to view the inside of the Mission.
After taking some photos inside, we walked around other parts of the Mission grounds. Since the church services had begun, the crowds had thinned out significantly.
Up a short hill outside the Mission was an altar-type commemoration spot.
From the hillside, we had a great vantage point to see the entire area of Mission San Xavier.
We walked around some more, including to some side chapels that were separate from the main church building.
I couldn’t believe how striking the white buildings were on the bright blue sky. I couldn’t stop photographing it!
Afterwards, we bought some frybread from vendors outside of the Mission.
And with that, we started to drive back toward the city of Tucson and got geared up for our next stops, which I’ll cover in the next post!