A gem of Tucson, Ariz., the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (ASDM) is one of my favorite places to go for family days.
The ASDM is located in the Saguaro National Park, only about 15 miles outside of Tucson. They like to call themselves a “living museum” and they work on environmental conservation in the Sonoran Desert. Tickets range from about $22 to $25 for adults depending on the time of year, and seniors, children and military have reduced rates. Also, if you are an Arizona resident, you can receive a discount!
When you first walk into the ASDM, you have the aquarium to your left and reptiles and insects on your right. The aquarium has both freshwater and saltwater fish, along with eels, seahorses, urchins, and small sharks. The reptile room has all sorts of snakes — from rattlesnakes to king/coral snakes to tree snakes — and a variety of lizards and a little Gila monster. On some days, there are volunteers in the reptile room holding snake that you are allowed to touch! Right next to the reptile room are amphibians (featuring giant bullfrogs, toads, and other amphibians) and insects. I, personally, am not a big insect fan. The ASDM has an assortment of tarantulas, spiders, beetles, scorpions, and other *things.*
The newest attractions at the ASDM is the Stingray Touch and the Packrat Playhouse. I love the outdoor stingray touch and have found that the stingrays love me. It is so awesome to touch their slimy fins and, if you’re lucky, feel the suction cup of their mouth as they try to take food from your hand. My little brother loves the playhouse and I have to admit that it is pretty awesome. It is all indoors so it is a nice place to cool down from the Arizona heat and there is a bathroom and mini concession stand with tables. Kids could spend hours in this place! It’s basically a giant overhead playhouse that has things for kids to climb on and over, through and slide down. It’s actually adult-sized so parents could follow their kids around if they wanted to. Initially, I got excited about the playhouse and started to crawl around in it but ultimately decided that I was too big and uncomfortable in it.
Near the playhouse is an area with wolves, deer, a bear, and a mountain lion. I have found that the bear is always sleeping and the mountain lion is always hiding, but on occasion I have seen them both.
The ASDM doesn’t neglect archeology, so there is a small area with “dinosaur bones” that the kids can dig up and get messy in. There is also an air conditioned “cave” that families can walk through that features some of the natural gems and minerals that can be found in Arizona, as well as other natural history facts. And what lives in caves? BATS! There is a section about bats with giant hilarious human-sized bat ears for kids and adult to try on and there are little crawlspaces for the kids to squeeze through.
Other wildlife featured around the ASDM are javelinas, prairie dogs (my favorite!), more snakes, insects, amphibians, and an assortment of birds. There is a “Cats Canyon” with a bobcat, Grey Fox, and ocelot, as well as a walk-in aviary and another separate aviary filled with gorgeous little hummingbirds. They have mountain goats, a beaver, and an adorable otter. In the morning, keepers hold a “Raptor Free Flight” bird show that features hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey (it’s actually really cool!). By the numbers, the ASDM has almost 5,000 animals made up of about 242 species.
Gardens and natural flora can be found throughout the ASDM on the Desert Loop Trail (0.5 miles), as well as in the Cactus Garden, Desert Garden, and Pollination Gardens (which is amazing to go to in the spring to see the butterflies!).
Walking around seeing all of these incredible desert animals is exhausting, so there is a cafeteria with an assortment of food and a fancier sit-down restaurant. After lunch/dinner, it’s time for ice cream! The ASDM has an ice cream shop open on occasion (seasonally), and my little brother loves to go there.
Every time my family goes to the Desert Museum, we always try to arrive earlier in the morning (optimally 9am) and leave before or around 1pm. It is completely exhausting to be out in the heat for such a long period of time and my brother always naps on the car ride home. It’s definitely a treat for the entire family and I highly recommend a visit!
Tips for the ASDM:
- Bring a water bottle! They have water bottles for purchase, but there are also water fountains around the museum.
- Wear sunscreen! Bring a hat! The Arizona sun is unforgiving.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes and clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
- Bring a camera! There are definitely moments that you’re going to capture of amazing flora, fauna, and humans.
Plan your own visit! Link to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum’s website here.
Thank you for reading! Have you ever been to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum? What are your favorite experiences in the desert? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!