There are numerous reasons to visit Tucson and the many other historic towns and sights around Southern Arizona.
Some RVers come for a day or two. Some come for a week. Others stay for the season.
Those of us who spend time in Southern Arizona have our favorites places. What you do and where you go depends partly on the season, the amount of time you have available, and your interests.
If you only do one thing while in Tucson…
Then go to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.
If it is HOT, go early; drink lots of water. Do take Gates Pass to get there. (Take Speedway west and keep going.) Stop at the rest area at the top of the pass for a great view amid a magnificent saguaro forest.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum, and botanical garden, all in one place. The Desert Museum is unique among zoological parks for its focus on interpreting the complete natural history of a single region, the Sonoran Desert—an arid region encompassing parts of Arizona and California in the United States and the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California.
Most of the Museum’s exhibits are living exhibits, which simulate natural habitats and their interrelationships of plants, animals, and geology. The Desert Museum’s gardens represent a variety of biotic communities found within the Sonoran Desert, with over 56,000 individual plant specimens in such diverse areas as the Mountain Woodland, Desert Grasslands, Agave and Cactus Gardens, Riparian Corridor, and Tropical Deciduous Forest.
Animals are exhibited in these immersive exhibits as well as in the Hummingbird and Walk-In Aviaries, Cat Canyon, Desert Loop Trail, Reptile, Amphibian and Invertebrate Hall, and Warden Aquarium. The Museum’s plant and animal collection includes about 20 endangered or threatened native species and hundreds of rare species. Several are part of federal or state recovery programs.
In addition, the Museum has an extensive Sonoran Desert region mineral and fossil collection totaling 16,000 catalogued specimens, some of which are on display at the Earth Sciences Center. The Center also houses a moon rock on loan from NASA.
The Museum grounds include almost two miles of paths on 21 acres and is home to more than 230 animal species and 1,200 kinds of plants. Some paths are unpaved, and there are some hilly areas. The Museum is open 365 days a year, and sees nearly 400,000 visitors annually.
Like many other zoos and museums, it is not always possible to see everything in one visit.
Don’t miss the several FREE shows, such as Raptor Free Flight, a dynamic bird of prey flight demonstration that occurs in the open desert showcasing natural behaviors of native birds. Raptor Free Flight demonstrations occur daily, as bird and weather conditions allow, at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. from October 19, 2013 until April 20, 2014.
Check the Plan Your Day board at the entrance patio for times and locations of other featured shows and events.
If you have time, take one of the five Behind-the-Scenes tours designed for inquisitive individuals seeking more in-depth experiences. Select a tour to suit your individual interests or plan to experience all of them.
Experience the antics of multiple hummingbird species in Winged Wonders, a behind-the-scenes walk with a Keeper before the Museum opens to the public. You’ll learn about identifying different species, the birds’ biology, and the care necessary to maintain these delicate winged wonders.
Tours are offered Mondays through Thursdays Fall through Spring. The cost is $35 per person in addition to regular admission price. Ticket sales are by online reservation only and must be purchased by 4:00 p.m. on the day prior to the tour.
Other Behind-the-Scenes tours include:
- The Reptiles, Amphibians & Invertebrates Tour
- Warden Aquarium Private Tours
- Zookeeper for a Day
- Walk on the Wild Side
Did You Know?
The Museum was founded in 1952 and is dedicated to the interpretation of the bi-national Sonoran Desert region.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Location: 14 miles west of Tucson in Tucson Mountain Park at 2021 N. Kinney Rd. just 2 miles from Saguaro National Park West Visitors Center.
Address: 2021 North Kinney Road, Tucson, Arizona 85743
Elevation: 2,840 feet
Hours: Open every day of the year with variable hours depending on the season; October-February, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; March and September, 7:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
General Admission: $19.50; seniors, $17.50; youth ages 13-17, $15.50; children ,$6.00
Phone: (520) 883-2702
When I walk in the desert the birds sing very beautifully
When I walk in the desert the trees wave their branches in the breeze
When I walk in the desert the tall saguaro wave their arms way up high
When I walk in the desert the animals stop to look at me as if they were saying
“Welcome to our home.”
—Jeanette Chico, in When It Rains