Thousands of avid birders come to this area each winter. Well known birding areas are Madera Canyon (12 minutes away), the Nature Conservancy Patagonia Refuge (1 1/2 hours), and the Buenos Aires Nat Wildlife Refuge near Arivaca (30 min). Another hot local birding spot is along the creek beds of the Santa Rita Mountains. The lake behind the house attracts many species of migrating waterfowl and the local hummingbird & quail populations are always a great source of enjoyment as you watch nightfall or dawn from the rear patio. The most complete reference for the birds in Madera Canyon and Southern Arizona is A Birder's Guide to Southeastern Arizona by Richard Cachor Taylor.
With the great winter weather, both road and mountain biking are highly popular. Organized groups have road rides at least twice a week from Green Valley and organized rides from Tucson are available almost every day of the week. Call the local Green Valley bike shop at 125 W Calle De Las Tiendas (520) 393-7433 for current meeting time and place. Some favorite road rides from Green Valley are to Maderia Canyon (30 mi/1500' gain roundtrip), a loop trip to Mission St Xavier, also known as the White Dove of the Desert (50 miles roundtrip), to Arrivica (78 miles roundtrip, 1200') or ride South along the I-19 frontage roads down to Tubac or Tumacacori for lunch and back (40 miles rountrip). For Tucson bike ride route possibilities look at Tucson Bike Club Rides and Tucson Bike Map
Madera Canyon is a hiking wonderland with many marked trails ranging from an easy 1 mile nature trail to a strenuous 10.8mile/4000' climbs up Mt Wrightson and back. See Sierra Club trail Guide. Another local favorite is the hike up Elephant's Peak, but it is not a maintained trail.
Located a half hour drive south of Green Valley on I-19, Tubac is an old Spanish presido that is now an artists' community. Highly recommend spending a day touring the art galleries, the museum, and the shops while taking a break for a leisurely lunch at the nearby Tubac Country Club. The Presidio State Park Museum is a great place to get a feel for the early white settlement of Arizona, long before the American revolution. My favorite Tubac places are Tortuga Books (a great little bookstore), Old Presidio Traders (Indian jewelry) and the Country store (great selection of Mexican pottery at good prices).
Sonoran Desert Museum (Tucson)
One of the most popular visitor activities, the Desert Museum is an ecological zoo dedicated to the animals and plants found in the local Sonoran eco system. No African elephants here! Favorite exhibits are the hummingbird enclosure, which you go into through double doors to get up close to the hummers, and the Desert Bighorn Sheep exhibit.
Pima Air Museum
Located adjacent to the Tucson airport, the Pima Air Museum has an outstanding collection of over 250 planes. Another advantage is the large number of retired airmen who volunteer here and are eager to help you really understand the evolution of flight. Strike up a conversation with one of the docents and you'll be talking to some real experts. The museum is so big I recommend taking the bus tour to get a flavor of the the place, then strike out on foot for longer visits to the planes that interest you most.
Titan Missile Museum
Located in the adjacent town of Suahurita, tours are offered down into a decommissioned Titan II Missile Silo. These remnants of the Cold War are an interesting piece of cold war history. Like the Air museum, some of the docents here are retired missilemen.
Less than one hour South on I-19, Nogales makes for an interesting day shopping trip. Popular items are the duty free shops, pottery, glassware, folk art and prescription medicine at discount prices. In fact the Green Valley Senior Center has monthly medicine shopping bus trips to here. Park your car on the US side, walk across the border, then grab a taxi as your car insurance is not valid in Mexico. We highly recommend combining shopping with margaritas and a meal at La Rocha Resturant. It's widely renown as a superior Restaurant and any local can show you the way (it's across the RR tracks up a side street built into a cliff).
Only open to the public 5 years ago, this is a major cave complex and will become famous as word spreads. Karcher Caverns is operated as an Arizona State Park.
The Spaniards established Missions one days horseback travel apart. The best one is San Xavier del Bac Mission, established in 1700. Located along I-19, just south of Tucson on the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation. Called the "White Dove Of The Desert", it has an incredibly ornate interior. Many call it the "Sistine Chapel of the New World". Just outside the church the local Indians have a long tradition of selling delicious "Indian Tacos" from simple, thatched roof, dirt floored, shelters. Very tasty, especially if you rode here on a bike from Green Valley. Another nearby Mission is at Tumacacori National Historical Park.
Green Valley Chamber of Commerce Recommendations
Another Tucson Area Visitor Recommendation List