11 Best Things to Do in Nogales, Arizona

11 Best Things to Do in Nogales, Arizona Featured Image
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Nogales, AZ, is a city nestled along the border of the U.S. and Mexico. As Arizona’s foremost United States/Mexico border crossing, visitors will see coils of barbed wire attached to the long stretches of border wall that separates the cities of Nogales, AZ, and Nogales Sonora.

But along those walls lies a city of crossroads of cultures, where Hispanic and Anglo customs merged. A city full of gems waiting to be explored and experienced. From culture, history, wines, scenery, and outdoor adventures, the city of Nogales will ensure your visit is all worth it!

We have prepared a comprehensive guide that lists the must-try things to do in Nogales, AZ, to enjoy your visit to the fullest. Read on and enjoy exploring this small, charming city in Arizona!

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Patagonia Lake is a man-made lake formed by building a dam in Sonoita Creek. Later on, in 1975, Patagonia Lake was established as a state park to create a lake and recreation area for locals and visitors to enjoy.

Today, Patagonia Lake State Park provides various green spaces and recreation activities for every age. It has a campground, beach, creek trail, boat ramps, marina, and picnic area with ramadas, tables, and grills.

Patagonia Lake State Park can be found in the southern region of Arizona, about 30 minutes north of Nogales along the US/Mexico border and more than an hour to the west of Tombstone.
Patagonia Lake State Park Adventures

Camp in a Tent, your RV, or a Cabin

You can set up your tent or truck and trailer on many campsites in the park. Those who don’t have their own RVs or tents can rent a cabin by taking an upper road.

There are 105 well-developed campsites in the park, where you can park two vehicles, and it comes with a picnic table and fire ring/grill. Need shade? Some sites come with a handy ramada. There’s also 20/30 amp and 50 amp voltage to suit your camping needs.

For those who prefer a more rustic experience, two non-electric campsites have a picnic table, fire-ring/grill, parking for two vehicles, and a cool ramada for shade.

If you want a little adventure, there are also 12 boat-in campsites, accessible by boat only. These boat-in campsites have picnic tables and a fire ring, and some sites have portable restrooms.

Park entrance fees cost $15 to $20 per vehicle for 1 to 4 adults and $3 per person/bicycle.
You can book a Campsite reservation through their website or call their camping specialists at the Arizona State Parks Reservations Desk at (877) MY-PARKS.

Outdoor Adventures

Patagonia Lake State Park is a paradise for outdoor lovers!

Campers can see the lake from the campground, where anglers catch crappie, trout, bass, bluegill, and catfish. Aside from fishing, you can also enjoy the Discovery/Bird Watching Boat Tours, which run at 9 am or 10:15 am daily.

Other water activities in the park include swimming, canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, skiing, and motor boating. Birds and wildlife are famous sights in the Visitor Center, especially in spring. There’s also a bird feeding station with raised concrete benches.

Want to spend a day with more vigorous activity? Hikers can stroll along the scenic creek trail and surrounding hills. You can start walking by combining the 1.4-mile Blackhawk Trail with the 1.5-mile Sonoita Creek Trail for a nice little loop.

You can try Coal Mine Spring, Cat Cave, and the New Mexico & Arizona Railroad Trails for longer routes. Remember that these paths aren’t regularly taken care of, so hikers must be cautious.

Grab a Sonoita Creek Natural Area pamphlet and map from the Visitor Center for information about the trail.

Being home to many firsts in Arizona, the first fort, the first European settlement, the first American mining community, and the first newspaper printing, Tubac Presidio is Arizona’s first state park that preserves ruins that take us back to the state’s rich history.

There are many things to do in Tubac Presidio State Historic Park that history enthusiasts and nature lovers will love.

The Griffin Museum presents interpretive exhibits of many original artifacts, like early Native American archaeological and ethnographic collections, mining, Spanish Colonial and Missions, and more! The Otero Hall, built in 1914, has collections of paintings revealing some of the exciting events in Arizona history.

The Rojas House, occupied by her family for over 100 years, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can visit the house and experience what living before looked like.
It sits on the early Tubac to Tumacácori road, the road Juan Bautista de Anza and his expedition used when leaving Tubac to find modern-day San Francisco.

The park also boasts eight beautiful gardens, from herb to vegetable gardens to flowers and succulent gardens.

After visiting the Visitor Center, you can end your visit by dropping by a park’s gift shop that sells many items, including books about the area’s history, regional cookbooks, park T-shirts, baseball caps, and birding and wildlife guides.

Tubac Presidio State Historic Park is open from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm every Wednesday to Sunday.

Tumacácori National Historical Park

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Feel the history in one of Arizona’s unknown gems, Tumacácori National Historical Park! The main attractions include the mission grounds and museum. A Franciscan-era church, San José de Tumacácori, and Missions Guevavi and Calabazas can be visited only through reserved tours.

You shouldn’t miss the chance to visit its museum, Melhok ki, and the ruins of the mission convent and cemetery.

The park’s visitor center has a video presentation providing a brief mission history. Outside the visitor center, you will find a garden area, an orchard, and a trail to the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail and Santa Cruz River, perfect for those searching for a peaceful place and want to do some bird watching.

Tumacácori National Historical Park also demonstrates the native cultures in the area, from weaving baskets to painting and cooking.

The park is 45 miles south of Tucson, 18 miles north of Nogales, and only 3 miles from Tubac. It is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily, with entrance fee as shown below:

AgePark Entrance Fee
Adult$10 for a 7-day pass
Children below 16Free
Interagency National Park PassesAccepted

4. Arizona Wine Country

Arizona Wine Country

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Arizona’s wine reputation dates back to the 1970s. It continues until today with many vineyards, restaurants, and bars that offer Arizona’s flavor to their menu, making it a top destination for wine lovers.

Here are some wineries that offer immersive experiences, from vineyard tours to interactive winemaking sessions that should be included in your to-do list of things to do in Nogales AZ.

A little farm with a vineyard and pygmy goats that welcomes families and wine lovers alike. It is filled with fun activities like wine tasting and grape stomping.

Arizona Hops and Vines has a petting zoo, so kids can play with your pets if you bring them. There’s also live music and an eclectic shop on the farm with various local artisans.

It is known for its quality service. It is a vertically integrated American wine and spirits producer in Tucson, Arizona. It has seven tasting rooms (Elgin Spirits tasting room included), ensuring the customer experience is first-class and premium comfort.

You can sample various wines they produce in their tasting rooms and try their guided tours of the vineyards and winemaking facilities. Furthermore, you can also learn about Arizona grape viticulture and winemaking and discover the intricacies of the art of distillation.

This vineyard has many handcrafted and award-winning wines and offers a wide selection of wines on its tasting menu. The wines they make mainly use types of grapes from the Mediterranean and Spain, like Tempranillo, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, and Grenache for red blends.

For their white wine, they mix Viognier and Riesling. Aside from wine tastings, they also held many events to enjoy.

Hilltop Gallery

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If you are looking for wholesome arts-related activities, visit the Hilltop Gallery. It is a non-profit gallery and permanent art collection center in Nogales, where exhibits and educational activities connect the cultures of the U.S. and Mexico.

It has one main showroom and studio to display the visual arts. They also have different events throughout the year, such as the Summer Art Program, which hundreds of children attend for free.

Of course, there are also adult classes, so if you are into art, this is a perfect place!

As seen in its name, Hilltop Gallery is located at the top of the hill, north of downtown Nogales. So, as you visit here, you will also enjoy a lovely vista with beautiful views of various areas of Nogales. The Hilltop Gallery also features a gift shop, with postcards and artworks of local artists for sale.

Pimeria Alta Museum

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Pimeria Alta Museum is a local museum and historical landmark in Nogales, showcasing various memorabilia and artifacts from the ancient times of Pimeria Alta and information and exhibits related to the history of Ambos Nogales and Santa Cruz County.

You can visit the museum and enjoy learning for free. The museum has a research library if you are curious about the area’s rich history.

The library offers changing exhibits that delve into the region’s history, maintains archives of local newspapers, showcases three unique murals created by the celebrated bullfighter and artist Salvador Corona, and features a comprehensive photography exhibit portraying life on the border and at Camp Little, the residence of the Buffalo soldiers.

Moreover, the Pimeria Alta Museum is housed in a former city hall and jail. Nowadays, guests have the opportunity to explore the historic jail cells, observe the hand-drawn and hand-operated pumper fire truck named “Able and Willing,” and explore exhibits that contribute to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the rich and captivating history of the area.

The Pimeria Alta Museum is located on Grand Avenue in Nogales, just one block north of the DeConcini Port of Entry.

7. Historic Morley Avenue

Historic Morley Avenue

After visiting parks and historical buildings in Nogales, going to Morley Avenue should be included on your list of what to do in Nogales, AZ. Morley Avenue is a direct link between Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales Sonora, a city in Mexico.

During the 1920s, the area was a commercial center for people who came across the international border with Mexico. Today, Morley Avenue has become a primary shopping street in Nogales, AZ, with vibrant window displays and where you will see many busy shopping for American and Mexican products.

You can visit the Christmas town merchants from Nogales set up three blocks from the border. Here, you will find a Christmas tree and little homes decorated with cute Christmas decorations.

There are several essential buildings you can visit while at Morley Avenue, such as the Capitol Building of Nogales City, Sacred Heart Church, Bowman Hotel, and Morley Ave. Park Outdoor Pavillion.

8. Nogales Plaza

Nogales Plaza

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Nogales Plaza is a shopping center and central retail hub, where various stores, from clothing and footwear to nail salons, appliances, and whatever you might need, provide accessible options.

There are also grocery stores, restaurants, food courts, and services serving locals and visitors alike. The plaza has a family-friendly environment, so you don’t have to worry about bringing your kids.

Nogales Plaza is located on the northbound section of Grand Avenue, about one mile north of the international border.

Kartchner Caverns State Park

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With 2 1/2 miles of underground caves, Kartchner Caverns State Park is the perfect place where you can take a guided tour to experience the underground world and discover its delicate ecosystem, which features stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and crystals that fill the cave.

When taking a guided tour, you must walk half a mile with several benches along the route. The adventure doesn’t end below the ground, as you can hike on the park’s four hiking trails. While trailing, you will enjoy the magnificent view of the Whetstone Mountains west of the park.

Kartchner Caverns State Park also has a discovery center with exhibits, a theater, a gift shop, and a cafe. The shows will tell you the story of the cave’s geologic history and have rock samples and fossils of ancient wildlife found in the park that you can touch.

There are camping sites and cabins available in the park, perfect for those who want to do stargazing. These campsites have electric hookups and water provided.

Kartchner Caverns State Park is located off Arizona State Highway 90 near Benson and is open year-round. However, reservations are required and are available differently depending on the season.

Here are the pricing you need to know when visiting Kartchner Caverns State Park:

No. of Person, Cavern Tour, and Camping SitesPricing
Per Vehicle (1 – 4 Adults)$7/day
Rotunda/Throne Tour$23.00 (adults 14+)
$13.00 (youth 7–13)
$5.00 (children below 7)
Big Room Tour$23.00 (adults 14+)
$13.00 (youth 7–13)
Camping Fees$30

10. Border Fence Viewing

Border Fence Viewing

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One of the best unique things to do in Nogales, AZ, is to see the border fence. In 1919, the US built a 2-mile, 6-foot-high border fence at Nogales that served as the border between the US and Mexico to stop illegal entry.

Standing beside the border fence from a high area, you can see the Nogales, AZ area on your right and Nogales, Sonora, on the left. It is an exciting experience for those who want to witness the area’s geopolitical history and culture.

11. Historic Downtown Nogales

Historic Downtown Nogales

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Downtown Nogales is a busy area with things from across the border and worldwide. You can see Mexican, European, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Black influences in this part of Nogales through its ranching, retail, railroad, mining, military, and produce.

Many historic buildings in downtown Nogales house several retail stores today, from clothing, footwear, supplies, groceries, furniture, and more.

Aside from that, there are also buildings filled with history and activities you can visit, such as the Pimeria Alta Historical Society and Museum located in Old Town Hall.

11 Best Things to Do in Nogales, Arizona

Final Thoughts

Nogales isn’t just a border city and crossing point; it has much to offer to fill your time and visit with excitement and good memories.

Nogales, AZ, offers the region a diverse range of enjoyable, familiar, and unique activities. You can engage in typical pastimes like exploring state parks, museums, outdoor activities, and malls.

Additionally, Nogales provides exclusive experiences, allowing you to delve into its rich history and arts, immerse yourself in the daily life of native locals, witness the border fence, and savor distinctive wine-tasting opportunities.

Whether you love history, are an outdoor enthusiast, or are a wine connoisseur, Nogales, AZ, awaits you to experience its diverse culture and adventure.

If you are interested in learning more or have questions about Nogales, AZ, please connect with me by calling 520.398.8221 or 520.245.9000 or email me at Sally@Tubac.com anytime at your convenience. I will be more than happy to assist you with your inquiries about Nogales.

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Nogales, Arizona

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Frequently Asked Questions

The best time to visit Nogales depends on your plan, but you would want to go where the weather is favorable for the activities you want to do during the city’s fall and spring seasons.

Nogales has a diverse culinary scene influenced by both Hispanic and Anglo cultures. There are American cuisines, but many restaurants in Nogales also serve antojitos or Mexican food, such as tacos, burritos, enchiladas, menudos, and tamales.

Nogales and nearby areas host yearly festivals and events, from cultural celebrations to local fairs, such as the Nogales Tamale Festival, Nogales Bicycle Classic, Family Fall Benton Festival, and more.

Visiting Nogales is a safe place and provides an enriching experience. But of course, like any other place, it is essential to exercise caution.