5 Places to Get a Dose of Southern Arizona Culture

Oct. 17, 2016

It’s one thing to read about something — it’s another thing to see, hear and smell it. Head to these sites to get a dose of real-life culture.

Southern Arizona has been quite the popular spot over the years, playing host to everyone from the Hohokam to Catholic missionaries to later settlers. And each group has left their mark. The next time your professor urges you to see what the Southwest is really all about, head to one of these must-sees.

Amerind Museum

An hour east of Tucson, you’ll find the Amermind Museum nestled among boulders in Texas Canyon. Established in 1937, the Amerind celebrates the history of native peoples from Alaska to Argentina and everywhere in between. But it isn’t all about the past at the Amerind: You can often find American Indian artists demonstrating their skills in the main gallery, and one gallery room is always dedicated to contemporary Native American art.

Arizona State Museum

Established in 1893 and located on the University of Arizona campus, the ASM is the oldest and largest anthropology museum in the Southwest. Here you can see the world’s largest whole-vessel collection of Southwest Indian pottery, as well as an impressive array of Mexican folk masks, American Indian basketry and Navajo textiles.

Fort Bowie

Prefer an excursion that’s outdoors and active? Hike through this fort-turned-national-park, which commemorates the conflict between Chiricahua Apaches and the U.S. military. The park provides insight into the clash of cultures that occurred when a young nation set out to expand its borders and came up against an established society trying to preserve its existence.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

You’ve probably seen pictures of the “white dove of the desert,” but it’s better experienced in person. This national historic landmark and Arizona icon was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Kino in 1692, and the current church was built in the late 1700s. Today, it is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona and still operates as a Catholic church, offering regular mass to its parishioners.

The Tohono O’odham Nation Cultural Center and Museum

The nearly 90-mile drive from Tucson is worth the trip. Besides getting to see the Sonoran Desert in all its natural, untouched glory, you can learn about the history of the Tohono O’odham tribe at this museum, where elders work to promote understanding and respect of their native culture.