Wondering to yourself, does it snow in Tucson? You’ve come to the right place as we answer that, discuss the weather, and what to do during your winter stay!
If you’re like us, you know the joy and excitement of exploring new corners of our beautiful country. As seasoned travelers, we have crisscrossed the U.S., and today we will discuss our time spent in Tucson.
We’ve had the pleasure of visiting Tucson in December, and it’s an experience we wholeheartedly recommend.
It’s a vibrant city teeming with outdoor activities, cultural events, and many experiences that appeal to every kind of traveler.
Whether you are planning a winter visit or contemplating a trip during another season, we’re excited to share our insights to help you make the most of your time in this unique Southwestern city.
Does It Snow In Tucson, Arizona
Tucson is located in a desert region and has a hot desert climate.
However, it does occasionally receive snow. It is not a common occurrence, and the snow often melts quickly when it does happen.
Higher elevations around Tucson, such as Mount Lemmon in the nearby Santa Catalina Mountains, get snow more frequently during winter.
Tucson Weather In Winter
In general, Tucson experiences mild winters compared to many other parts of the U.S.
Tucson Winter Temperatures
- December: Average high temperatures are typically in the mid-60s° F, while average low temperatures can drop to around the low 40s.
- January: Average high temperatures are typically in the mid-60s° F, and the average low temperatures are in the upper 30s to low 40s.
- February: Average high temperatures begin to climb a bit, often reaching the upper 60s° F, while the average low temperatures remain in the low to mid-40s.
So as you can see, daytime temperatures in Tucson in the winter are quite mild and perfect for outdoor adventures.
What About Rain In The Winter
Winter is one of the wetter seasons in the city, but it’s important to note that “wetter” in a desert context is relative.
As mentioned, Tucson is in a desert climate. So the overall rainfall is quite low compared to many other parts of the U.S.
The city experiences a precipitation pattern that has two rainy seasons: the summer monsoon season and a winter rainy season.
On average, Tucson receives about 0.9 inches of rain in December, about 1 inch in January, and about 0.7 inches in February.
So despite the slight increase in winter precipitation, Tucson remains fairly dry. And sunny days are common throughout winter.
5 Best Things To Do In Tucson In Winter
Wintertime temperatures in the 60s° F make it a popular time for travelers. So there are tons of outdoor activities to keep you entertained.
We are listing just a handful of options today that we recommend you check out on a visit to Tucson, but there are many other incredible places to visit in the city.
1. Visit The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is an exceptional attraction that uniquely combines the elements of a zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium.
This innovative fusion allows you to fully immerse yourself in the rich biodiversity and cultural history of the Sonoran Desert region.
As a zoo, the museum houses more than 200 animal species, most indigenous to the Sonoran Desert.
You can encounter various creatures, from mountain lions and bobcats to javelinas, prairie dogs, and even Gila monsters.
A standout feature is a walk-in aviary, which allows you to observe native birds up close in a naturalistic setting. The museum’s raptor-free flight exhibit is another highlight, where birds of prey like hawks and owls can be seen in thrilling, unobstructed flight demonstrations.
The botanical garden component of the museum showcases the lush and diverse vegetation of the Sonoran Desert, featuring over 50,000 plants spread across 21 acres.
As an aquarium, the museum provides a glimpse into the marine life that inhabits the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez, a significant part of the Sonoran Desert region.
You can view seahorses, stingrays, and a variety of other marine species.
📎 Tip: The winter months are a great time to visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Many animals are more active during this time of year, and the lower temperatures make it more comfortable to visit outdoor displays.
2. Explore Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is named for the iconic saguaro cactus, which is a familiar symbol of the American Southwest.
This park is unique in that it’s divided into two sections: Saguaro National Park East (Rincon Mountain District) and Saguaro National Park West (Tucson Mountain District), with the city of Tucson nestled in between.
The park was established to protect its namesake—the saguaro cactus—which can reach heights of up to 50 feet and live for 150 to 200 years.
These cacti dominate the landscape, but the park’s biodiversity extends far beyond them.
It’s home to various other plant species, such as ocotillo, cholla, and palo verde, and a range of wildlife, including javelinas, desert tortoises, black bears in the East District, and numerous species of birds.
On a visit, you can explore various trails ranging from easy, flat walks to challenging hikes up into the Rincon Mountains. Or take a more relaxed approach and peruse the park via the scenic drives.
Make sure you stay for the breathtaking desert sunsets, as they were our favorite part of spending the day at Saguaro National Park.
The winter months offer a perfect climate for outdoor activities in the park. The temperatures are much more moderate than in the summer when hiking isn’t advised mid-day.
There is also a lower risk of encountering intense storms that can occur during the summer monsoon season.
3. Enjoy The Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
The Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway, also known as the Sky Island Scenic Byway, is an enchanting route that begins in the lower Sonoran desert and builds up to the high forests of the Santa Catalina Mountains.
This byway is the only paved road that leads to the upper reaches of Mount Lemmon and the Santa Catalina Range.
The abrupt change in scenery is one of this drive’s unique qualities.
The scenic byway takes you through several ecosystems in a relatively short distance. It’s equivalent to driving from Arizona’s deserts to Canada’s forests, all within less than 30 miles.
The journey starts with saguaro cacti dotting the landscape and ends with pine, fir, and spruce trees.
One of the highlights of the drive is Windy Point Vista, about halfway up. This popular stop offers panoramic views of Tucson and the vast desert landscape.
At the end of the byway, you’ll find the small town of Summerhaven.
Despite its name, it’s a winter destination for those looking to enjoy playing in the snow or skiing at the Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, the southernmost ski destination in the U.S.
The drive can be completed in a couple of hours, but with so much to see along the way, you should make a full day of it.
As this is one of the few places in the area that will most likely have snow, it’s a good idea to check the road conditions before you visit, as the road can sometimes be closed due to treacherous conditions in the winter.
4. Tour Mission San Xavier Del Bac
Mission San Xavier del Bac, affectionately called the “White Dove of the Desert,” is a beautiful and historic Spanish mission about 10 miles south of Tucson, on the Tohono O’odham Nation San Xavier Indian Reservation.
This active Roman Catholic church, which serves the local community, is an outstanding example of Spanish colonial architecture and is considered one of the finest missions in the United States.
The church’s exterior is characterized by its bright white stucco, which creates a striking contrast against the backdrop of the desert and the deep blue Arizona sky.
Inside the church, you will find a richly decorated space adorned with colorful sculptures and paintings. Many original artworks have been restored, while others have been preserved in their weathered state.
The mission also houses a museum where you can learn more about the history of the mission and its community.
The mission is an architectural gem and a testament to the local Tohono O’odham people’s enduring faith. It has been a site of continuous religious practice and cultural exchange for over three centuries.
📎 Note: If you visit, remember that this is a sacred and active religious site, so be respectful and adhere to any guidelines provided.
5. Tucson Botanical Gardens & Yume Japanese Gardens
The Tucson Botanical Gardens is a five-and-a-half-acre collection of urban gardens.
This hidden gem, considered one of the best secret gardens in America, allows you to experience a lush and diverse range of plant species, from cacti and succulents to exotic butterfly-attracting flowers.
Each of the individual gardens tells a story about the relationships between people and plants.
For instance, you can explore the Barrio Garden, which displays the rich ethnic tradition of regional gardening in the Southwest, or the Zen Garden for a moment of tranquility.
In winter, the Tucson Botanical Gardens traditionally hosts a series of events, including Lights Up!, which we discuss in a bit.
Only a few miles away from the Tucson Botanical Gardens, you can find the Yume Japanese Gardens.
Yume means “dream” in Japanese, and this garden is a dreamy escape into traditional Japanese landscaping.
The Yume Japanese Gardens features five traditional landscaped gardens, as well as a modern Japanese-style residential garden.
These serene settings showcase elements typical of Japanese gardens, such as stone lanterns, water basins, bamboo fences, and carefully pruned plants.
The tranquility of the Yume Japanese Gardens makes it a perfect place for relaxation and offers a stark contrast to the native desert vegetation seen in most of Tucson.
Events & Festivals in Tucson In The Winter
Plenty of events happen all year in Tucson, including the winter. Here are a few options you might want to catch if you are in the city when they are happening.
Winterhaven Festival Of Lights
The Winterhaven Festival of Lights is a cherished tradition and has been an annual event in the Tucson area since 1949.
It occurs in December for about two weeks.
The festival is held in the Winterhaven neighborhood of Tucson, which was reportedly designed with this event in mind. There is even a stipulation in the homeowners association that states homeowners must decorate their homes for the event.
During the festival, the entire neighborhood is lit up with Christmas lights and holiday decorations. Some displays are simple, while others are elaborate, incorporating animated figures, music, and themed decorations.
Lights Up! @ Tucson Botanical Gardens
The Tucson Botanical Gardens hosts an annual event called Lights Up! (previously known as Luminaria Nights).
It typically takes place on a few dates in December.
The botanical gardens are illuminated during the event with thousands of lights and traditional luminarias (small paper lanterns).
Along with the breathtaking light displays, the event often features live music, food, and holiday decorations throughout the gardens.
The Arizona Bowl is a post-season college football game played annually in Tucson since 2015.
The Arizona Bowl typically features teams from the Mountain West and Mid-American Conferences. It is usually held in late December or early January, depending on the college football schedule for that season.
In addition to the game itself, the Arizona Bowl often includes a variety of festivities and events in the days leading up to the game, such as a downtown block party and a pre-game tailgate.
Tucson Jazz Festival
The Tucson Jazz Festival is an annual music event that generally takes place in January.
The festival typically spans about 11 days and features a variety of jazz styles, including straight-ahead, contemporary, and Latin jazz, among others.
Performers range from local artists to internationally renowned musicians.
Events are held at various venues throughout Tucson, including theaters, clubs, and outdoor stages.
The festival is renowned for its high-quality music and educational outreach, including master classes and special sessions for local students.
Tucson Gem, Mineral, & Fossil Show
The Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase is one of the most noteworthy events of its kind in the world.
It typically takes place annually in Tucson, Arizona, over two weeks from late January to mid-February.
The event is not just one show; instead, it’s a collection of multiple shows taking place at various locations throughout the city.
At the showcase, you can find an incredible variety of gems, minerals, fossils, beads, and jewelry from around the world. Whether you are a dedicated collector or a casual fan, you will find something amazing to see.
Many vendors offer items for sale, from inexpensive trinkets to museum-quality specimens and high-end jewelry.
In addition to the commercial aspect, the event often features educational presentations, displays from world-class museums and private collectors, and special exhibits on various themes related to gems, minerals, and fossils.
Arizona Renaissance Festival
The Arizona Renaissance Festival is a popular event that typically takes place in Gold Canyon, Arizona, about a two-hour drive north of Tucson.
It is typically from mid-February to the end of March, running on weekends.
The festival is a 16th-century-themed fair that features a variety of attractions, including live performances, arts and crafts, food, and rides.
One of the key features of the Arizona Renaissance Festival is its interactive nature.
You are encouraged to dress in period attire, and many of the performers interact with the guests, making it a truly immersive experience.
While we haven’t been to the one here in Tucson, we have been to the Renaissance Faire in Kansas City on several occasions and can say we have always had a blast. And don’t forget to grab your turkey leg for lunch!
La Fiesta De Los Vaqueros (Tucson Rodeo)
La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, also known as the Tucson Rodeo, is one of North America’s top professional rodeos and a special tradition in Tucson.
The event usually spans a week in late February.
The rodeo features a variety of events, including bull riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, and tie-down roping.
It attracts some of the most recognized names in rodeo to compete for sizable prize purses.
In addition to the professional rodeo events, there are junior events for younger competitors.
One of the highlights of La Fiesta de los Vaqueros is the Tucson Rodeo Parade, which usually takes place on the Thursday of the rodeo week.
Billed as the world’s longest non-motorized parade, it includes horse-drawn coaches, western-themed floats, marching bands, and riders on horseback.
It also features a pre-parade show with trick riders, historical presentations, and other performances.
The parade draws thousands of spectators each year.
Car Rental In Tucson
Imagine traversing the iconic Saguaro National Park, home to towering cacti that stand as majestic sentinels against the fiery sunset sky.
With a rental car at the ready, you can meander through the park’s scenic drives at your own pace, stopping to hike enchanting trails or capture that perfect photograph of the sunset casting a warm glow over the rugged landscape.
As you venture further, the allure of Tucson’s diverse attractions calls.
From the historic streets of downtown Tucson to the enchanting Tucson Botanical Gardens, a haven of tranquility where fragrant flowers bloom, renting a car allows you to navigate these captivating destinations seamlessly.
We always recommend Discover Cars to compare prices because they carry all the big rental companies in one place, like Hertz and Dollar.
Best Tours For Winter In Tucson, Az
Are you interested in taking a tour while in Tucson? We have a couple that we highly recommend to make your stay even more special.
Canyoneering at Mt Lemmon
Canyoneering at Mount Lemmon offers an exciting and adventurous experience for outdoor enthusiasts.
The activity involves navigating through narrow slot canyons, rappelling down waterfalls, scrambling over rocks, and sometimes swimming through pools of water.
The canyons at Mount Lemmon provide a range of difficulty levels, making them accessible for both beginners and more experienced individuals.
Exploring these canyons gives a unique perspective of the mountainous terrain, and with the mild winter temperatures, this time of year can be perfect for this type of excursion.
Going with an experienced guide to ensure safety will create a fun and memorable canyoneering experience.
Tombstone & Bisbee Day Trip (Friday Only)
Heading to Tombstone and Bisbee on a day trip from Tucson offers a delightful opportunity to explore two historic and captivating towns in southern Arizona.
Tombstone, known as “The Town Too Tough to Die,” preserves the spirit of the Wild West with its famous gunfight reenactments and historical attractions like the O.K. Corral and Boothill Graveyard.
You can engross yourself in the Old West’s rich history as you walk the streets lined with rustic buildings and saloons.
Bisbee, a former mining town turned vibrant arts community, is nestled in the Mule Mountains and offers a unique and eclectic atmosphere.
Explore the narrow streets, visit art galleries, discover local boutiques, and learn about the town’s mining heritage at the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum.
The Queen Mine Tour allows you to experience an underground mine, providing a fascinating glimpse into the area’s mining history.
We visited both Tombstone and Bisbee during our visit to Arizona and can say a day trip to these locations is a must if you want to get out of Tucson for a day.
Best Places To Stay In Tucson
Now that you know Tucson is the perfect mild winter destination; you need a place to stay. Here are our recommendations.
Luxury 💵 💵 💵 – JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort
- Offers a range of top-tier amenities, including a multi-level swimming pool with a waterslide, a full-service spa, multiple dining options, and an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course
- Set in the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert, the resort provides stunning views of the surrounding landscape and is perfect for those seeking a peaceful, scenic getaway
- Has a variety of recreational activities, such as guided morning hikes, evening tequila toasts, and kid-friendly events
Mid-Range 💵 💵 – Hotel McCoy
- Art-focused boutique hotel featuring works from local Tucson artists and is perfect for those into a unique, retro-modern aesthetic
- With its all-inclusive rate, you get free fast Wi-Fi, parking, and breakfast delivered to your room, making this a great option for those who appreciate style and comfort yet want to stick to a budget
- Situated in the heart of Tucson, the hotel is conveniently located near downtown, making exploring the city’s attractions, restaurants, and nightlife easy
- Hotel’s location next to the Tucson Convention Center makes it a nice choice for business travelers or anyone attending an event at the convention center, as well as being a short distance to downtown for shopping and dining
- As part of the Hilton brand, you can expect comfortable rooms, friendly service, and amenities like on-site dining, outdoor pool, and a fitness center
- Upon check-in, you are greeted with the brand’s signature warm chocolate chip cookie, a slight touch that helps create a welcoming, home-away-from-home experience
Tucson In Winter May Not Be For You If
Tucson in winter may not be for you if you prefer colder climates with heavy snowfall and winter sports.
While Tucson does experience cooler temperatures during winter, it remains relatively mild compared to northern regions.
So if you are seeking a winter wonderland or extensive winter activities, you may be better suited to areas with more substantial snowfall and colder temperatures. Because as we have seen on the topic of does it snow in Tucson, the answer is that you aren’t likely to be building snowmen here.
In addition, the city attracts a significant number of tourists during the winter months, especially snowbirds seeking a warmer escape from colder regions.
This increased tourist activity can result in busier attractions, longer wait times, and a more bustling atmosphere.
You might consider visiting Tucson during other seasons if you prefer a more tranquil and less crowded experience.
FAQs: Does It Snow In Tucson & Weather
Let’s discuss some common questions.
Has It Ever Snowed In Tucson, Az?
Yes, it has snowed in Tucson, Arizona. Although it is rare, snowfall has been recorded in the city on several occasions, particularly in the higher elevations of the surrounding mountains. However, it is important to note that snowfall in Tucson is infrequent and typically light compared to other regions with colder climates.
Does Any Part Of Arizona Get Snow?
Yes, parts of Arizona do receive snow. The state includes a wide variety of climates, from mountains to desert regions. Higher elevation areas, such as the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, experience significant snowfall during winter. The Grand Canyon and other mountainous regions in northern Arizona also receive snow, making it a popular destination for winter sports and outdoor activities.
Is Tucson Colder Than Phoenix?
Generally, Tucson has a slightly cooler climate compared to Phoenix. Tucson’s higher elevation and proximity to mountain ranges contribute to its slightly cooler temperatures. However, both cities experience hot desert climates with similar average temperatures, and the temperature difference between the two cities is typically not significant enough to note the differences.
Has It Ever Snowed On Christmas In Tucson?
No, it has never snowed on Christmas in Tucson. The city has a desert climate with warm winters, making snowfall extremely rare, especially on Christmas Day. While there have been instances of light snowfall in Tucson during winter, it is highly unlikely to experience a white Christmas in the city.
Where Can I See Snow In Tucson, Arizona?
To see snow in Tucson, Arizona, you will need to head to the nearby mountain ranges. The most accessible location is Mount Lemmon, located in the Santa Catalina Mountains. It is about an hour’s drive from Tucson and offers opportunities for snow activities during winter months. The higher elevations of Mount Lemmon receive snowfall, providing a picturesque winter landscape.
Does Tucson Have Seasons?
Yes, Tucson experiences distinct seasons, although the transitions between them can be less pronounced than in other regions. The city has a desert climate characterized by hot summers and mild winters. Spring and fall are typically shorter transitional seasons. While the temperature variations are milder, Tucson has recognizable seasonal changes in temperature, flora, and outdoor activities.
To Finish – Does It Snow In Tucson & What ToDo In Winter
Does it snow in Tucson? As we have seen, the answer is on occasion. And when the snow falls, it doesn’t stick around for long. So we wouldn’t plan on seeing it during your winter trip to the city.
That said, we hope we’ve given you a glimpse into the magic that awaits you in Tucson during the winter anyway.
From the slight possible dusting of snow on the desert landscape to the vibrant festivals that brighten the city’s streets, winter in Tucson is a season of contrasts and surprises that will delight you.
And while the weather is mild, this lends itself perfectly to outdoor exploration.
Whether it’s a drive through the stunning Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway, a peaceful walk in the Tucson Botanical Gardens, or a day spent learning about the region’s history at the San Xavier del Bac Mission, there’s no shortage of adventures to be had.
Heading to the city in winter offers a unique blend of experiences that combine the familiar with the extraordinary.
We urge you to embrace the joy of exploration, push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and take advantage of all Tucson offers in winter.