Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The name, for me, was a misnomer. I heard museum and dressed for indoors. It wasn’t until we arrived that I learned 95% of the museum is outside. Makes sense for a desert, eh? Be warned and dress for the temperature, taking into account the wind factor. I froze in hiking pants, t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt and jacket. Thank goodness for brilliant sunshine!
This is a 98 acre hunk of land that aims to educate visitors and does a good job of it. There are literally thousands of things to see—from the zoo-like parts to the clearly marked cactus and other plants. There are two miles of walking paths, wheelchair accessible. In fact, about 98% is wheelchair accessible with a few of the grades being a bit steep.
There are shady spots, and areas under canvas roofs, water fountains scattered around to refill your water bottles. Don’t skimp on staying hydrated!
We were there from 10:15 – 1:00, but we missed the raptor free flight that takes places twice a day. Try scheduling to see it, the docents said it would be quite the experience. It’s a busy museum, even in February, so allow for crowds.
Alex liked seeing the five Javelinas—with signage: We’re not pigs!
I got a kick out of the porcupine curled up under a heat lamp in his little cave.
The fox looked fat, the mountain lion fierce, the coyote like a skinny, typical coyote.
We maintain two summer hummingbird feeders and love watching them zip in for a drink and off again to who knows what destination.We’re not sure where our handful of visitors go in the winter but these desert species were good fill-ins for us. The museum’s hummingbird area was fun, many with bright red or orange beaks. One landed on my husband’s shoulder, but dashed off too quickly for me to snap a picture of it.
There was a cactus, tall & skinny with thin red nodules sticking out from it. I said: “God really has a sense of humor.” Two couples our age heard me and cracked up.
I tend to stay away from crawling, slithering things, so skipped the Riparian Corridor. As part of the Warden Aquarium and new to the Museum is a school of stingrays—you can arrange to touch. How fun for desert-living kids to have that experience.
Be careful in the Earth Sciences Center cave. I didn’t let my eyes adjust long enough and ran my forehead smack into an overhanging way.
Getting there is a gorgeous drive through Gate’s Pass, west out of Tucson. To learn about the Saguaro National Park West, don’t skip stopping at their visitor’s center to pick up some good information.
To quote their statement: The mission of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is to inspire people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering love, appreciation, and understanding of the Sonoran Desert.
We’d say they do a very good job of that.
Entrance fee is $20.50 per each adult without senior or military discounts. There’s also a discount for Arizona/Sonora residents.
The gift shop prices were reasonable and the coffee shop made a very good latte for less than Starbucks.
Summer Saturdays would be a good time to visit, the museum is open until 10:00 with programs especially designed for families. I might have to borrow our friends’ kids so we fit in.
This is where we saw a rich sunset on our last trip to Tucson. It was worth the drive and the wait for that just perfect moment when the sun dipped between the mountains.
The sheer abundance of saguaro covering the acres and acres of hills is astounding. They top the very summits of the rocks, growing out of the tiniest pieces of dirt. I don’t know how a photo, maybe could actually show it clearly.
Driving to Gate’s Pass is a journey through the Tucson Mountain Park, a striking piece of landscape that rolls over 20,000 of acres. The winding road built by founder Thomas Gates takes you to Old Tucson, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Saguaro National Park West. Old Tucson is a former movie set that’s now a theme park. If you want to see the locations and costumes from Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie and any number of other movies (including three with John Wayne), this is the place to go. You can see gunfights, a musical at a saloon and enjoy tours.
Also published on Medium.