Kitt Peak National Observatory is one of my favorite day trips near Tucson, Arizona. It is located about 57 miles south of Tucson, Arizona, off of Route 86. At 7,000 feet the temperature is about 10 to 20 degrees cooler than in Tucson so it is bearable when Tucson is over 100 degrees. Kitt Peak can also be quite cold during the winter months. The mountain has the largest number of astronomical instruments in the world with 24 optical and two radio telescopes.
Visitors can walk around the mountain and visit two of the telescopes- the 2.1 meter and Solar- without a docent; during summer of 2017, the 4 meter was only open during docent led tours. There are also nice picnic tables to eat lunch. Docents lead tours to three of telescopes including Solar Telescope, 2.1 meter Telescope, and the 4 meter Mayall Telescope. The tour of the Solar Telescope is the first one of the day at 10 am and the 4 meter is 1:30. I would recommend the tours because all the docents I have had so far are knowledgeable and visitors learn about the history of Kitt Peak, how a telescope works and past as well as future projects. If you go bring a lunch, snacks and drinks because there is no food up on the peak. During the Summer Monsoon (July through September) storms can occur at Kitt Peak during the afternoon some of which can be intense. Watch the weather and bring an umbrella. Last summer I was caught on the mountain in a sudden thunderstorm that drenched both my son and I.
Visit during the winter with 4 inches of snow on the ground