Beating the heat: These evening summer activities are totally Tucson | Entertainment

Tucson summers can be brutal.

But the nights, after the sun sinks behind the Tucson Mountains and the moon and stars blanket the sky, can be downright pleasant.

We won’t go as far as to say it’s cool, but skim 10, 15 degrees off those three-digit daytime highs and you arrive at pleasant.

Nighttime in the summer is when es to life.

We found several nighttime activities that will help you get through what promises to be another punishing Tucson summer.

Lynyrd Skynyrd plays a sold out show at the AVA Amphitheater in 2017.

Big-name stars under the stars

The AVA at Casino del Sol goes into full swing from late April through October-ish, bringing in big names in all genres, from classic rock to rock en Español and comedy to country.

In the reserved seating area, fans blow what’s left of the day’s heat, providing some relief, while nighttime breezes create a refreshing air flow that extends into the grassy general admission section.

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Toss in a cool adult beverage or icy lemonade from the venue’s vendors for the makings of a perfect summertime evening.

Tickets for shows at the AVA, 5655 W. Valencia Road, are available through Coming up:

ZZ Top brings its “Raw Whiskey Tour” on June 17; $32-$235

Comedian Chris Rock’s “Ego Death Tour 2022” is here July 1; $40-$500

Latin pop singer Pepe Aguilar headlines July 2; $36-$225

Comedian Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias returns July 16; $32-$100

Heavy metal rules with Skid Row, Warrant, Winger and Quiet Riot on July 22; $15-$100

Bronco and Ramon Ayala bring regional Mexican music July 23; $36-$250

Reggae rockers Rebelution share the bill with Steel Pulse, DENM and DJ Mackie on Aug. 18; $16-$215

Old-school rapper Ice-T brings his “Something From Nothing” tour featuring Too Short and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony Aug. 20; $28-$75

Aussie-American comedian Jim Jefferies “The Moist Tour” is here Aug. 26; $12-$175

Mexican pop singer Alejandro Fernandez headlines Sept. 9; $48-$275

Rockers Staind headlines Sept. 20; $32-$150

Sinaloa’s Banda MS headlines Sept. 30; $45-$350

Comedian George Lopez circles back to Tucson with his “OMG Hi! Comedy Tour” Oct. 22; $24-$100.

You can also catch live entertainment on the Hotel Congress Plaza, 311 E. Congress St., and the Courtyard at St. Philip’s Plaza, 4280 N. Campbell Ave.

Visitors from Hermosillo Aidaly Chavez and Fernanda Ruiz-Coronado check out the photos they’ve shot at the flamingo exhibit during the Safari Nights event at the Reid Park Zoo in 2017.

Hanging with the hippos

Tucson animals are a lot like Tucson humans: They prefer to frolic in the cool of night.

Reid Park Zoo’s “Summer Safari Nights” invites humans into the animals’ night life with a series of themed Saturday night animal-human encounters through Aug. 13.

“It’s a nice time to come out and relax and see the zoo after hours when it’s a little cooler,” said Deborah Carr, the zoo’s marketing and events director. “We have different themes each evening and we have animal encounters and keeper chats where you can learn about the animals. But we also have great bands from across Tucson that come in and perform.”

Reid Park Zoo has been hosting its “Summer Safari Nights” for seven years, although it hit pause on the event in 2020 because of the pandemic. Carr said attendance averages 1,500 to 2,000.

“We’re just delighted to be open and provide a place that families can come and have a great time,” she said.

Admission is $10 for adults 15 to 61, $8.50 for seniors 62 and older and $6.50 for children 2 to 14 in advance at “Summer Safari Nights” are from 5:40 to 8:30 p.m. on select Saturdays at the zoo, 3400 Zoo Court in Reid Park, off East 22nd Street and South Randolph Way.

June 11: Tucson rock/blues band Just Intervals will perform surfer-style tunes for “Beach Party/World Ocean’s Day.” Wear your finest Hawaiian shirt or beach attire and check out the zoo’s resident otters splishing and splashing. There’s also a dolphin-themed wet slide.

June 25: Tucson Latin band Chalako — The Band will perform South American and Latin American music to celebrate the zoo’s South American animals.

July 2: The country/R&B Cornerstone Band headlines “Spots and Stripes,” which we can safely assume means the spotlight is on the zebras and giraffes and other spotted and striped inhabitants.

July 9: “Caring for Carnivores” features Tucson’s award-winning children’s performer Mr. Nature, aka Anthony Aldinger.

July 16: The Phoenix inspirational band StarAlliance is on hand for “Bird is the Word and Reptiles Rule,” shining a spotlight on the zoo’s fine-feathered friends and slithering inhabitants.

July 23: “Hoofin’ It.”

July 30: “Dog Days and Astronomy Summer.”

Aug. 6: “Positively Primates,” with live music by the rock and blues band Just Intervals.

As night falls, aircraft enthusiasts check out jet fighters under the lights during Night Wings at the Pima Air and Space Museum, 6000 E. Valencia Road.

Get lost in (air and) space

The Pima Air & Space Museum‘s “Night Wings” program returns after a COVID-prompted hiatus the past two years.

For history buffs and aerospace nerds, or anyone curious about all those planes parked at the museum, 6000 E. Valencia Road, “Night Wings” is the perfect escape.

Each event, which runs alternate Saturdays June 11 through July 23, will featuring aviation talks, kids activities and the stunning vision of airplanes by sunset silhouette.

For an extra $8 you can catch a tram at 5:30 or 6:45 p.m. that will take you around the grounds to get a closer look at the 400 historic aircraft that call the Pima Air & Space Museum home. Fun fact: The facility is one of the largest non-government owned-and-operated aircraft museums in the world.

“Night Wings” is from 5 to 8:30 p.m., June 11 and 25; and July 9 and 23 at the museum, 6000 E. Valencia Road. Admission is $10 for anyone 12 and older, free for 11 and younger.

Special events: June 25, Drone Racing Demo from 520 FVP; July 9, “Vettes and Jets” Corvette Car Show throughout Hangar 1.

Guests enjoy a stroll through the Desert Gardens by the light of the trees during Cool Summer Nights at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in 2015.

Communing with nature

If you ever wanted a crash course in all things natural Tucson — the ecosystems, the geological history, the natural inhabitants — head over to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. It’s a one-stop history and environmental lesson that will tell you everything you want and need to know about Tucson and the Sonoran Desert.

The museum’s “Cool Summer Nights” dishes it up sans the beating rays of a blistering Tucson sun.

The museum stays open until 9 p.m. on Saturdays through Aug. 27, with entertainment on most nights. “Cool Summer Nights” also gives you a chance to see the nocturnal side of the museum, the animals who will likely be snoozing if you try to see them during the day but come to life when the sun goes down.

According to the museum’s website, expect to see bats “perform aerial acrobatics” as they swoop down on dinner prey, while beavers splash in their pond and scorpions glow green under a black light. (Ok, the scorpions might not be on your must-see list and we get that.)

Admission is $24.95 for 13 and older, $13.95 for kids 3 to 12, with senior and military discounts through

“Mad About Minerals,” June 18

“Party with Pollinators,” June 25

“Creatures of the Night,” July 2

“Astronomy Night,” July 9

“Mad About Monsoons,” July 16

“Insect Insanity,” July 23

“Plant Party,” July 30

“May the 4th Be With You,” Aug. 6

“All About Art,” Aug. 13

“Creatures of the Night,” Aug. 20

Shana Oseran spearheaded the idea of opening a jazz club called the Century Room inside the former Copper Hall at Hotel Congress.

We’ll drink to that!

The 2022 Agave Heritage Festival was such a tremendous success this spring that the organizers are launching a summertime tasting series to highlight local makers.

But the series at the Century Room, 311 E. Congress St. at Hotel Congress, also will give area winemakers some love.

Mezcal Sundays and Wine Thursdays kicks off with Bacanora mezcal on Sunday, June 12, and Sonoran wines Thursday, June 15, and will be held every other Sunday and Thursday through Aug. 25. The mezcal tastings are $35 per person, the wine tastings are $30 and you can buy tickets online at In addition to Bacanora and Sonoran wines, the tasting series will include:

Flying Leap Vineyards wine, July 14

Sand-Reckoner Vineyards, July 28

Single varietals of Tobala, Tepezxate and Mexicano, Aug. 7

Northern Arizona wines, Aug. 11

Agave Distillates, Aug. 21

Diners have a cool monsoon evening on the patio at Blanco, Tacos + Tequila, in La Encantada.

Dinner with a view

From the dramatic shadows cast by the picturesque Catalina Mountain range ringing the foothills and the blanket of stars unimpeded by city lights to people watching by moonlight, nighttime dining at some Tucson restaurants comes with a side of spectacular views.

Foothills fabulous and desert views: North Italia, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill and Blanco Cocina + Cantina at La Encantada, 2905 E. Skyline Drive, have wonderful patios with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Dig into your favorite appetizer or entrée and sip a cool adult beverage — North and Blanco have a handful of local craft beers on tap while Firebirds has a slew of aged whiskeys and after-dinner cognacs in addition to its cocktail and beer menu — while the patio misters and fans make you forget you live in a sweltering desert.

For a view of the desert and the mountains, visit Hacienda del Sol’s twin restaurants The Grill and Terraza Garden Patio, 5501 N. Hacienda del Sol Road, where breathtaking views of the nearby mountain range and desert landscape is matched by New American cuisine that borrows from locally sourced ingredients and a wine list of 800 wines. La Paloma Resort’s celebrated Latin restaurant Contigo at 3770 E. Sunrise Drive has a wrap-around veranda and patio that offers postcard-worthy views of the mountains and cactuses best enjoyed with a glass of the house-popular sangria and signature paella.

People watching on the side: For unrivaled people-watching, head downtown and grab a pie or a slice from Brooklyn Pizza Company, 534 N. Fourth Ave., and a cosmic cocktail from SkyBar next door at 536 N. Fourth, and settle onto the patio for some interesting human interactions along the hip-and-happening North Fourth.

For a different view, hop onto the Sun Links streetcar and take it to East University, where the people watching takes on a Wildcat roar with a side of sports. There’s plenty of room on the second-floor patio at Gentle Ben’s, 865 E. University, which has been serving cold craft beer and burgers to generations of University of Arizona fans and students.

Across the street, the twin patios of Frog & Firkin, 874 E. University, where the menu nods to British royalty (examples: The King’s Revenge roast beef sandwich, The Lady Di chicken breast sandwich and the Shakespeare Italian sandwich), and No Anchovies, 870 E. University, where you can grab a slice and cold one and catch a game from the outdoor screens on the misters-cooled patio.

While you are in the area, hop back on the streetcar and head downtown, where several establishments have patios available, including, Elliott’s on Congress, 135 E. Congress, Batch, 118 E. Congress and Cobra Arcade Bar, 63 E. Congress.

The downtown foot traffic gets extra busy on 2nd Saturdays, a monthly downtown party featuring live music, vendors and discounts at participating venues. This month’s 2nd Saturday, taking place starting at 5 p.m. this Saturday, June 11, will offer performances from Imogen Rose, Nocturnal Theory and Rae L.

Docent Janel Feierabend talks about the night-blooming cereus Emerald to onlookers during the 2019 Bloom Night at Tohono Chul Park.

Chill at the Chul

Under new executive director Jamie Maslyn Larson, Tohono Chul botanical gardens, 7366 N. Paseo Del Norte, is expanding the types of events it offers to reach new audiences.

Visitors can now participate in its Desert Discovery Days, a program featuring daily activities that focus on a different desert theme each week; and grab a discounted cup of coffee as part of Sip n’ Stroll, its daily early bird walk through the gardens from 7 to 10 a.m. (Admission to the park is free from 7 to 8 a.m.).

Night owls can now visit the park each Friday and Saturday night from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. and participate in its Chillin at the Chul series. The program, which runs through Sept. 3, offers live music and DJ sets; a seasonal menu that includes Sonoran hot dogs, tajin watermelon and mint, and prickly pear margaritas; all enjoyed amid the wide-ranging habitats that make up the garden grounds.

The Children’s Museum of Oro Valley will be on-site, providing nature activities for the kiddos, so that parents can take a breather. More info:

In addition to Chilling at the Chul, Tucson’s evening crowds can sign up to attend Tohono Chul’s annual Bloom Night, happening sometime before late July.

Bloom Night takes place once a year when Tohono Chul’s collection of Peniocereus greggii, a cactus species otherwise known as “Queen of the Night,” blooms en masse.

Tohono Chul has one of the largest private collections of nightblooming cereus (another name for it) in the world. Up to 1,500 people attend the bloom each year, depending on whether or not it takes place during the week or on a weekend, according to spokeswoman Michelle Armstrong.

Armstrong said people have traveled from neighboring states to see the bloom; children show up in pajamas.

“Once someone came to Tohono Chul straight from the airport, fresh from an international flight to see the Queen of the Night,” Armstrong said via email.

Armstrong said the bloom allows the park to “connect with plant nerds, locals looking for something fun and unique to do, and die-hard Tohono Chul supporters.”

Bloom night takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. and interested attendees are notified in advance by email when it is happening. It is free for members and $5 for the general public. Tohono Chul also offers a “morning after” viewing opportunity, the next day starting at 6:30 a.m. Admission is free.

To sign up for updates on Bloom Night, visit

All other information:

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at [email protected]. Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at [email protected].


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