Located to the east of Tucson, this living museum covers over 21 acres of desert and features over 300 animal species and 1,200 kinds of plants. While hiking the almost 2 miles of paths, you may find yourself eye to eye with mountain lions, prairie dogs, gila monsters, and many more. Of course, there are examples of the iconic Saguaro cactus in every direction too.
Founded in 1952, this non-profit organization is dedicated to inspiring people to live in harmony with the desert. In addition to the beauty of the desert and the ability to view various animals and plants in their natural environment, there are also static displays, talks, seminars, and opportunities to see live animals up close under the supervision of a trained handler. Bring your camera! Photography is not only allowed, but encouraged.
If you get hungry after checking out all the scenery, stop at one of the four eateries at the museum -- ranging from coffee and snacks to fine dining at the Ocotillo Cafe. There's even a picnic area if you'd prefer to pack your own lunch in.
Don't forget to stop in and explore the museum gift shop before leaving. You'll find not only the usual items with the museum's logo on it, but also local Native American arts and crafts, local foods, books, and much more. (There are plenty of books and toys for the kids, too.)
Keep in mind that most of the museum is outdoors, and it can get very hot in the summer and rather chilly in the winter, so do dress and plan accordingly. If you plan on going in the summer, bring sunscreen, a hat, and drink lots of water. In the winter, depending on your cold tolerance, you may want anything from a sweatshirt to a jacket, according to the weather. The desert can get very cold overnight, so if you go early on a winter morning, it might still be very chilly.
The museum is about a 30 minute drive from downtown Tucson, over some hilly and very picturesque roads, and the route is easily accessed from I-10 coming from either direction. Though the Arizona-Sonora is open 365 days a year, the hours vary by season and day of the week, so double check the website before heading out.
Address: 2021 North Kinney Road, Tucson, Arizona 85743
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