Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Sixty years ago, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum opened its doors to visitors for the first time.
Since 1952, it has evolved into a fusion experience, part botanical garden, zoo, natural history museum, art gallery, and research institute.
Raptor Free Flight, a seasonal program, demonstrates the aerial talents and acrobatics of many species of desert-dwelling birds of prey, with its narrators focusing on the natural history and roles raptors serve in the wild. While on the grounds, guests can also experience live animal and plant interpretations presented by the museum’s knowledgeable docents. In addition to presenting regional flora and fauna, the Museum also interprets the geology of the region in its Earth Sciences Center which goes underground in a realistic desert cave environment that includes stalactites, stalagmites, rocks, minerals, crystals, and, of course, bats.
In late 2012, the Museum will open in the Warden Aquatics Gallery its newest exhibit–Rivers to the Sea–which will encompass over 1,100 square feet and include fourteen tanks displaying a variety of freshwater and saltwater sea life representative of the region’s rivers and the Sea of Cortez.
The museum’s mission is to inspire people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering within them a love, appreciation, and understanding of the bi-national Sonoran Desert Region. Located in scenic Tucson Mountain Park, the Museum represents and interprets all of the Sonoran Desert habitats – from the creosote flats of the desert to the mountain “sky islands.” It is one of the nation’s leading living, outdoor museums, featuring more than 230 animal species and 1,200 varieties of desert plants, and encompasses twenty-one acres including two miles of walking trails. The Museum’s live animal programs, Running Wild Live and (sort of ) on the Loose, provide opportunities to get closer to many of the region’s animals while dispelling myths about many of them.
Tohono Chul Park
Embrace the authentic beauty of the Sonoran Desert year-round at Tohono Chul Park, Tucson’s charming crossroads of nature, art, and culture. Deemed One of the World’s Ten Best Botanical Gardens by Travel + Leisure Magazine, Tohono Chul, with its gardens, galleries, and bistro, has been celebrated for over a quarter of a century by Tucson as one of its “best kept secrets.”
Set on forty-nine acres of lush desert, the vibrant offerings at Tohono Chul will awaken your senses. Locals and visitors alike delight in the experience of having nature at their fingertips. Stroll along winding paths past soaring Saguaros and through flourishing gardens, and marvel at a chance encounter with a resident hummingbird. Enjoy quiet retreat in the artfully designed relaxation spots sprinkled throughout the lush grounds. Various exhibits reveal the unique qualities of the Sonoran region and renew a deep appreciation for the treasures of the desert.
Be inspired by the collection of artwork in the galleries and gift shops. From artisanal to avantgarde, the creations by local artists were influenced by the wonders of the region.
Renowned for its spectacular view of the Santa Catalina Mountains and regionally inspired fare, the Garden Bistro—treasured among locals as a favorite dining spot for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea—will help you indulge in fresh Southwestern flavors.
The Tohono Chul experience goes beyond one of relaxation to deliver an engaging learning experience. Discover the secrets of the desert and gain knowledge of the region’s natural and cultural heritage year-round, through a variety of lectures, guided tours, workshops, concerts, and special events.
Tucson Botanical Gardens
A five-and-a-half-acre urban garden, Tucson Botanical Gardens is a lush and tranquil oasis in the heart of the city. Built from the historic nursery and home of the Porter Family, the shaded Historic Gardens and the Porter House Gallery offer visitors the opportunity to enjoy eleven rotating exhibits annually; these focus on emerging and established local and regional artists whose themes interpret the flora, fauna, and landscape of desert regions.
Paths lead through a diverse selection of residentially scaled specialty gardens, including a Zen Garden, Prehistoric Garden, Barrio Garden, Butterfly Garden, and Children’s Garden.
The Stonewall Foundation Tropical Exhibit is home to orchids, bromeliads, and jungle vegetation. During the months of October to April, the Exhibit hosts Butterfly Magic, a display of live tropical butterflies with species representation from five continents.
Low-water gardening is exemplified in the Xeriscape Garden, while nearby Aloe Alley fills the early winter months with flowers. The Cactus and Succulent Garden presents hundreds of cacti and arid plants, geographically arranged to represent desert regions. This garden is embellished with exotic stones and minerals collected by the Gardens’ founder, Harrison Yocum.
Life in the desert is explored in the Native Crops Garden, which illustrates the prehistoric agricultural practices in Central and Southern Arizona. The Tohono O’odham Path winds among edible and utilitarian plants of the Sonoran Desert.