Growing up in Arizona, I spent many weekends and school vacations hiking and camping with my family. Exploring the desert was a favorite activity and my dad enjoyed teaching my brothers and I about Arizona wildlife. We recently spent Memorial Day weekend in Tucson for a sponsored travel opportunity at the Westward Look Resort. During our three day stay we took a short drive from the resort to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The museum offers great views of the desert with many learning opportunities about plants and animals native to Arizona. This was the perfect day trip to teach my daughters about our home state.
The drive to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is one you’ll want to take more than once. The narrow road twists and turns right through the beautiful desert landscape. With many areas to stop and enjoy the view, the desert backdrop full of Saguaros is impressive.
The museum is open every day of the year but keep in mind about 85% of the experience is outdoors. Summer visits should be planned to align with early morning hours to avoid the hottest time of the day. Expect to learn about Arizona desert history, plants and many different animals.
While most of the museum provides the opportunity to explore the desert outside on 100 acres of Sonoran Desert property, there are a few indoor exhibits as well. The Warden Aquarium highlights the roles of the region’s rivers including the Colorado River, Gulf of California, and the Sea of Cortez. Here you’ll find many different species like fish, seahorses, and standing eel.
The aquarium teaches about conservation and the importance of sustainable seafood. Learning opportunities are also provided with hands on activities and touch tanks.
Reptiles, invertebrates, and amphibians are also featured in an indoor exhibit. Sonoran Desert snakes include a variety of rattlesnakes as well as other non-venomous species. You’ll find spiders and frogs in this exhibit too.
The walk through cave was a great experience for our entire family. Strollers can enter and remain on the walking path. My older daughter and I explored a more narrow trail that she enjoyed so much she asked my husband to go back with her so she could walk through the trail again.
Inside the cave you’ll find information about bats native to Arizona, a solar system exhibit, and a large collection of gems and minerals.
The museum has a wonderful collection of animals but because you are walking through the desert, you might also see unintentional animal exhibits. My daughter was very impressed by the many large lizards we spotted along the trails. The mountain lion and prairie dogs were also family favorite exhibits.
Saguaro cacti cover the Arizona desert and the there are many great photo opportunities along the museum trail.
You should come prepared with plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen as a majority of your visit will be spent outside. There is a stop along the trail where you can purchase beverages and snacks. Our family enjoyed ice cream in the shade while we stopped for a short break from the trail.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a great place for children to learn about the desert. Every visit is unique and we will definitely be back. The drive is just over an hour from our home and with the stunning scenic views of the Saguaros, we look forward to another visit soon.
What would you like to learn about during a visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum?
See more of our Arizona family fun for travel and day trip inspiration.