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Although Tucson's excellent climate, national parks and forests, and desert landscape provide the perfect environment for lots of outdoor recreational activities, this city of half a million people also has its share of history and culture. The town served as a colonial outpost for both the Spanish and Mexicans and also has a rich Native American history.

Saguaro cacti near Tucson, ArizonaToday Tucson boasts turn-of-the-century architecture, a host of museums and the San Xavier del Bac Mission, a still-functioning 18th-century mission considered one of the most beautiful in the USA. The city's rich heritage is evident in its distinctly Western flavour and pervasive Mexican and Native American influences, although there's also a college-town atmosphere, thanks to the University of Arizona, which has its own share of museums and a science centre.

Whether golfing, horse riding, hiking in the wilderness, discovering desert flora and fauna at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, or exploring pre-Columbian and other art at the Tucson Art Museum, there is plenty to see. The highlight of the region, however, has to be the nearby Saguaro National Park, home to many of the Sonora Desert's monumental saguaro cacti.

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