If you live in Tucson and have never been to Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, it’s high time that you did!
The museum is currently rated #1 on TripAdvisor for Tucson “things to do”…for good reason!
Part zoo, part botanical gardens, and part museum, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is truly a marvel. You’ll witness the spectacular beauty of desert plants and animals, while getting some exercise and enjoying the glorious year-round sunshine that draws tourists from all over the world.
Where is Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum located?
The Desert Museum is tucked away on the far west side of Tucson – adjacent to Old Tucson, Saguaro National Park West, and Gates Pass.
The address is: 2021 North Kinney Road, Tucson.
What are the hours?
The desert museum is open 365 days a year.
October – February 8:30am to 5:00pm
March – September 7:30am – 5:00pm
June, July, August Sunday – Friday 7:30am – 5:00pm; Saturdays – 7:30am to 10:00pm
Why would I visit Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum?
- To wander 98 acres of magnificent wide open spaces
- To take pictures of Southern Arizona plantlife and wildlife
- To partake in a picnic with family and friends
- To enjoy a morning coffee and pastry outdoors
- To have lunch or dinner on a scenic terrace
- To see 230 animal species: mountain lions, rattlesnakes, bighorn sheep, hummingbirds
- To give your kids somewhere to run around and learn at the same time
- To get away for a romantic date with your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend
- To attend a wedding, business mixer, or other special event
How much does it cost?
- General Admission (ages 13-64): $21.95
- Senior (ages 65+): $19.95
- Military (active/retired): $17.95
- Arizona/Sonora Resident (ages 13+; must show proof): $17.95
- Children (ages 3-12): $9.95
- Children (under 3): FREE
What should I wear?
Good walking shoes (preferably closed-toe), sunglasses, a hat, and lightweight/breathable clothing. Bring along a sweatshirt if you’re visiting in the winter.
Approximately 90% of the museum is outdoors – but there are a few air-conditioned spaces including caves, a reptile & amphibian building, Warden Aquarium, Packrat Playhouse, art galleries, and on-site restaurants.
What should I bring with me?
Water bottles, sunglasses, snacks, and a camera are recommended.
How many bathrooms are available? Are they clean?
Bathrooms are located conveniently throughout the property and are well-maintained. As an added bonus, sunscreen pumps are available free-of-charge.
What is the best season for visiting the desert museum?
October thru April are ideal because the temperatures tend to be more moderate than in the summer months. That said, summer visits can also be fun if you watch the weather and spend time at the museum in the early morning or after sunset.
What is the best time of day to visit the desert museum?
Sunrise and sunset offer the advantage of being “quieter” and make it more likely that you’ll capture great moments on-camera. That said, ANY time of day is a good time to be outdoors in Tucson’s moderate climate. The only time you may want to avoid is midday in the heat of the summer.
Will I see any wild animals?
Yes! The museum is home to 230 animal species – mountain lions, black bears, wolves, rattlesnakes, parrots, tarantulas, butterflies, hummingbirds, prairie dogs, and much more!
DINING AT ARIZONA-SONORA DESERT MUSEUM
Is outside food allowed? Are picnic tables available?
Yes. Feel free to pack a lunch or snacks. There is a small picnic area near the Museum entrance.
What dining venues are available on-site?
You will find two restaurants, a coffee bar, and a snack shop on-site at the desert museum.
- The Ironwood Terraces, a self serve grill, offers a complete menu, including children’s items, and is open everyday between 11:00am and 3:00pm.
- The Ocotillo Café offers fine dining and is open seasonally – for lunch in winter and for dinner on Summer Saturday Evenings.
- Phoebes Coffee Bar offers hot and cold drinks, pastries, sandwiches, ice cream, and other snacks.
- Cottonwood snack shop offers hot and cold drinks and ice cream.
Ironwood Terraces features burgers, sandwiches, pizza, wraps, salad, and special Sonoran Dishes (tamales, tostadas, marinated chicken with prickly pear plum sauce, etc). Entrees range in price between $4.25 and $9.95.
Ocotillo Cafe prides itself on the fact that their chefs “utilize the freshest ingredients available to create regional cuisine.” Before your meal comes out, you’ll enjoy fresh-baked focaccia bread served with cilantro pesto. Entrees range between $17-$25. Wine, beer, and prickly pear iced tea are also on the menu.
What restaurants are located NEAR the desert museum?
Not many! Your best bet is to eat on-property. The restaurants offer great indoor + outdoor seating options with magnificent views.
If you want to dine elsewhere, you’re looking at an 8-15 mile drive.
BABIES & KIDS AT THE DESERT MUSEUM
Should I bring a stroller?
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has strollers available for rent ($5/day for members; $7/day for non-members). All exhibits may be reached with a stroller. Note that some paths are unpaved and there are some hilly areas.
Is there a designated area for nursing moms?
Yes. There is a dedicated area for nursing mothers in the Packrat Playhouse.
What exactly is the Packrat Playhouse?
Packrat Playhouse is a 4,000-square-foot, air-conditioned play space for children. Designed for ages 0-12, the desert-inspired, Tucson-themed playhouse is open daily between 10am and 4pm and is included with paid admission (free for members!).
Kids can slide down a gila monster’s tail, climb through prickly pear cactus pads, slither through an oversized rattlesnake, explore secret tunnels, discover hidden objects, and scramble in giant rope netting.
Hungry after all that playing? Food & drinks are available for purchase and there are tables inside the playhouse so you can enjoy your snacks in an air-conditioned environment.
The Packrat Playhouse can also be rented out for birthday parties.
Are changing tables available?
Yes – in all of the restrooms.
Yes. Ironwood Terraces has a “Kid Kuisine” menu. For $5.75, your child will receive a choice of entree (hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken tenders, hot dog, corn dog, or cheese pizza), fruit wrap, animal crackers, and a 16 oz drink.
Ocotillo Cafe also has a Kid’s Menu. The choices are the same as at Ironwood Terraces, but the price is $7.00 and only one side is included (fruit cup or french fries).
EVENTS AT ARIZONA-SONORA DESERT MUSEUM
Can I have my wedding at the desert museum?
Yes. The Museum offers a variety of ceremony and reception venues for large and small weddings, including a shaded desert oasis, picturesque patios, scenic courtyards, intimate dining rooms, and banquet spaces with breathtaking panoramic views.
Wedding Cakes may be brought in from an external, licensed bakery.
The Desert Museum would be perfect for my…sister’s baby shower, friend’s retirement party, or corporate retreat. What are the rates?
Rates for multi-purpose areas for private events range from $500-1,500 depending upon the venue, the size of the group, and the length of the event.
You can also sign up to receive the Museum’s bi-monthly enewsletter, filled with news about upcoming events and current happenings.
What else do I need to know before I go to Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum?
That just about covers it. Have a great time!