In 1885, the 13th Territorial Legislature awarded Tucson $25,000 to establish Arizona's first university. Most townspeople didn't think much of the idea; they wanted the territorial capital, awarded to Prescott, or at least the territorial insane asylum, awarded to Phoenix. It was left to a handful of determined citizens to get the school built. The walls went up after a saloonkeeper and two gamblers donated the land, but money ran out before the roof was finished. A federal loan completed the structure, and the university opened in 1891. The sole building, today known as Old Main, contained the classrooms, library, offices, and dorms.
Six faculty taught 32 students the first year, nearly all in the Preparatory School because, like many other states at the time, Arizona suffered from a lack of secondary schools. The university has since expanded to 37,000 students with a faculty and staff of about 12,000. Fourteen colleges and eight schools offer 131 undergraduate, 138 masters, and 95 doctoral degree programs.
Visitors enjoy several excellent museums, Flandrau Planetarium, theater and concert performances, and sporting events. Campus grounds also serve as an arboretum; you can find out about the collections from brochures at the Visitor Center or online at http://arboretum.arizona.edu. FM stations offer public-radio programs with classical music (KUAT 90.5) and jazz (KUAZ 89.1).
The campus (520/621-2211 switchboard, www.arizona.edu) lies about a mile east of downtown. Parking is tight--look for metered street spaces or signs directing you to visitor lots; you can pick up a parking map at the Visitor Center and at http://parking.arizona.edu. Note that campus buildings number their floors beginning with the basement level, so the entry level is often the second floor. Free shuttle buses make loops around campus on weekdays, and Sun Tran offers good bus connections to other parts of Tucson.
Visitor Center and Tours
The campus visitor center (811 N. Euclid Avenue at the northwest corner of Euclid Ave. & University Blvd., 520/621-5130, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., to 4 p.m. in summer) offers free maps, literature, and listings of U of A events.
The Visitor Information Program (520/884-7516) offers 90-minute walking tours; reservations required. Prospective students and parents will be interested in the 60- to 90-minute campus walking tours (520/621-3641) that leave from the Nugent Building.
Arizona State Museum
This is a great place to learn about Arizona's Native American peoples. Founded in 1893, the museum (E. University Blvd. and N. Park Ave. in the southwest part of campus, 520/621-6302, www.statemuseum.arizona.edu, noon-5 p.m. Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., $3) houses an extensive collection of artifacts from prehistoric, historic, and contemporary tribes. The exceptional Paths of Life: American Indians of the Southwest exhibit explores the cultural traditions and current lifestyles of 10 native peoples of Arizona and Northern Mexico. Major temporary exhibits appear as well. The museum shop sells books and a good selection of tribal arts and crafts. To learn more, you can head upstairs to the museum's library of books on archaeology and anthropology. In February, you can enjoy demonstrations, dancing, storytelling, and traditional foods at the Southwest Indian Art Fair.
Museum of Art
The diverse collection here spans the years from the Renaissance to the present (near Park Ave. and Speedway Blvd., 520/621-7567, http://artmuseum.arizona.edu, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Fri., noon-4 p.m. Sat.-Sun., donations welcome). A highlight of the permanent Kress Collection, the late-15th-century Retablo of Ciudad Rodrigo has 26 panels from a cathedral in west-central Spain. Hispano-Flemish artists used fine brushwork and brilliant colors to tell the Christian story. Other works in the Kress Collection present a variety of European artists from the 14th through the 19th centuries. Modern and contemporary art appear in changing exhibits in the downstairs galleries and some of the spaces upstairs. Audrey Flack's 1977 pop-art painting Marilyn above the staircase is a favorite of visitors. A small gift shop sells books, magazines, posters, and cards. The museum is on the east side of campus; you can use the Park Avenue Garage, north of Speedway Boulevard, and take the pedestrian underpass.
Center for Creative Photography
Drop in to view exhibitions of photographs by Richard Avedon, Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, and other famous artists. The center (just southeast of the Museum of Art, 520/621-7968, www.creativephotography.org, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun., donations welcome) holds some 60,000 prints by more than 2,000 photographers plus an archive of manuscripts, photography materials, and artifacts. With prior notice, you can arrange to see original works of your choice in the Print Viewing Room. Binders at the center and on the Internet site list collections and artists. An extensive photography library lies across the lobby from the exhibition gallery. There's also a small gift shop. Staff can direct you to other photographic exhibits in town.
This spacious complex in the center of campus is a good place to meet students and learn what's going on. The main level has an information desk (520/621-7755, www.union.arizona.edu), post office, and copy shop. You'll find a huge selection of places to eat, including an inexpensive Italian cafeteria south of the bookstore and a buffet restaurant on the level above. Gallagher Theatre shows popular movies. The USS Arizona Lounge displays photographs, a model, and artifacts from the battleship Arizona, destroyed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Union Gallery upstairs hosts changing exhibits, closed Sunday and in summer. In the basement, the Cellar often jumps to live music during lunch hour. The nearby Games Room provides pocket billiards, table tennis, and other games.
The attractive Bookstore (520/621-2428, www.uofabookstores.com) in the west building of the Student Union offers a fine selection of general reading matter, plus University of Arizona Press titles, regional books, school supplies, and University of Arizona clothing. Head downstairs for textbooks and a computer store.
UA Science: Flandrau
Exhibit halls and a planetarium (North Cherry Ave. and University Blvd., 520/621-7827, www.uasciencecenter.org, $7.50 adults, $5 ages 4-15) include a world-class mineral museum and nighttime observatory programs; the website is a good source of local astronomy news and activities. A gift shop sells books, posters, and astronomy souvenirs. Hours run 1-4 p.m. Sun., 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon.-Fri., and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sat.; also open evenings 6-9 p.m. Thurs.-Fri. as well as Saturday. Public viewings of the stars, planets, and galaxies use the center's 16-inch telescope (7-10 p.m. Wed.-Sat. weather permitting).
Inside the planetarium theater, amateur stargazers can experience dynamic and entertaining programs on astronomy, Native American sky lore, and wonders of the universe. Call or check the website for times and topics of planetarium, family nights, and laser light shows.
With about eight million items and access to more than 1,600 databases, the university offers serious research possibilities. The Main Library (520/621-6441, www.library.arizona.edu, long hours during main terms) has an information desk, periodicals, and a reference section on the second floor (main entrance). Government documents are up on the third floor. The map collection and copy center are downstairs, as is the Information Commons, which open out onto a subterranean courtyard. The public can use computers in the Information Commons, but university people have priority.
Special Collections has a separate entrance in front of the Main Library. Step inside to see some exhibits. Other specialized libraries on campus include: Science-Engineering, Architecture, Center for Creative Photography, Music, and Oriental Studies.
Hall of Champions
See photos of Wildcat teams and players dating from 1897 to the present at this glass-walled gallery (520/626-3263, http://arizonaathletics.com, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and noon-5 p.m. Sat.) on the upper level of the north side of McKale Memorial Center; ticket office and a sports shop are on the south side, where you'll also find parking on the street.
The History of Pharmacy Museum
Exhibits in the College of Pharmacy Building (four blocks north of the main campus at Warren Ave. and Mabel St., 520/626-1427, www.pharmacy.arizona.edu, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., free) trace the history of Arizona pharmaceuticals with drugstore paraphernalia, old-time cure-alls, and antique medicine bottles. Pick up a self-guided tour booklet at the Dean's Office on the 3rd floor. Look for displays near the elevators on the first through fourth floors and off the hallway between the third-floor elevator and the Dean's Office. A visitor parking lot is at Martin and Mabel.
On to West of Downtown