by Donna McBride

This is the time of the year when the rest of the country drools in envy of the beautiful Arizona weather. Our winter visitors marvel at the sunshine and call “back home” to brag about wearing shorts, flip flops and sunscreen.

But where can Arizonans go? This certainly isn’t the time to skip town after successfully surviving all those hot summer days! You don’t have to go far to still enjoy nice weather and beautiful scenery in the great outdoors. Jump in the car and head south to Tucson. For a short 65-mile trek from Casa Grande, you’ll find one of the top 10 museums in the country – Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Founded back in 1952, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is recognized worldwide because of its native plants and animals featured in ecological exhibits. For you history buffs, William H. Carr inspired and founded the museum with the support of his friend Arthur Pack, an editor for Nature Magazine and a known conservationist. Moving to Tucson in 1944, Carr became familiar with local naturalists, and got involved with the Pima County Park Committee, which eventually led to the establishment of the “Arizona-Sonora Desert Trailside Museum,” today called the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Over 80 percent of the museum is outdoors with 97 acres that includes a zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum and aquarium. This is not just your normal museum! The friendly, tranquil atmosphere created by dedicated volunteers and staff make this oasis in the desert even more enjoyable.

This museum has something for everyone. For those who enjoy easy hikes, you will find two miles of walking trials nestled in the 21 acres of desert habitat. Along the paths, you’ll notice signs that help identify over 1,200 native plants totaling 56,000 individual plants. Keep your eyes open for wildlife too. We were lucky enough to enjoy owls, longhorn sheep and fox along with many slithering snakes and lizards. Over 200 different species are said to call this area home.

Nearly 400,000 visitors come each year are joined by about 35,000 school children on field trips. No matter your age, you will be fascinated by the Earth Sciences Center that recreates an underground cave with stalactites and stalagmites.

The Warden Aquarium has two areas of interest. The freshwater gallery highlights the region’s rivers, native fish and conservation efforts, while the salt water gallery showcases marine life from the Gulf of California.

Whether you plan to take a day trip or spend a few days exploring southern Arizona, be sure to make this a destination stop. So go on – hit the road and enjoy the beauty of gorgeous weather right in your own back yard!

Members enjoy unlimited admission 365 days a year:

  • Student $35
  • Individual $55
  • Dual $80                                                                                                                                 
  • Family $105

The Museum is located in Tucson Mountain Park – 2021 North Kinney Road, just 2 miles from Saguaro National Park (West) Visitors Center. 

520-883-2702 •