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“Immerse yourself in a living museum” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
2021 North Kinney Road, Tucson, AZ 85743
520 883 2702
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Ranked #1 of 122 Attractions in Tucson
Type: Natural History Museums, Gardens, Nature/ Wildlife Areas, Zoos, Specialty Museums, Museums
Activities: Viewing wildlife, Viewing foliage, Birdwatching
More attraction details
Attraction details
Owner description: This renowned combination zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden reflects the diverse flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert, featuring wildlife like coyotes, bears and mountain lions in their natural settings and aviaries, one for hummingbirds and the other for varied desert birds.
Useful Information: Activities for young children, Activities for older children
Reno, Nevada
Senior Contributor
28 reviews 28 reviews
19 attraction reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
31 helpful votes 31 helpful votes
“Immerse yourself in a living museum”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 30, 2014

This is definitely a must-do attraction! Not only do you learn about the desert, you can experience and become part of it, as well. The Museum offers something for everyone -- aquarium, zoo, gardens, aviaries, art museum, live animal shows, casual dining, gentle hikes and education. I was there from 7:45 am to 5:00 pm -- and just barely saw everything!

The upper half of the Museum has gently-sloped paved paths. There are also a few gravel paths that you can use as shortcuts to connect to other parts of the paved paths. The majority of features (gardens, exhibits, welcome center, restrooms and restaurants) are located here. The view from the vista ramada is absolutely stunning! The lower half (aka the Desert Loop Trail) is strictly dirt path, uneven in places and somewhat steep. The Raptor Free Flight shows are performed here, about an eighth-mile down the left branch of the trail. (You can return the way you came, instead of walking the whole loop.)

Live animal shows and docent demonstrations are included with museum admission. The "Live & (sort of) On The Loose" show presented rattlesnakes and gila monsters. The "Raptor Free Flight" is performed twice daily, with different birds in each show. On the day I went, the morning show included Chihuahan ravens, prairie falcons, great horned owl, red tail hawk and ferruginous hawk. The afternoon show featured a grey hawk, barn owl, peregrine falcon, and six Harris hawks. Docents are stationed throughout the park, with hands-on demonstrations. If you're near the orientation ramada, be sure to say "hi" to Carmen -- she has amazing knowledge of Saguaro cactus!

If time and budget permit, animal keeper and behind-the-scenes tours are available. The cost varies and is in addition to museum admission. You'll need to pre-register, as there is an enrollment cap for each activity. I did the Hummingbird Tour, which begins a half-hour before the museum opens. You tour the hummingbird aviary with a keeper and get to see nests, learn different calls and feed them. Yes, you put a live ant on your finger -- and the hummingbird gently eats!

In addition to learning about this landscape, my admiration for the plants and animals living here greatly increased. I think that's the Museum's greatest strength.

Visited January 2014
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Plymouth, Minnesota
Top Contributor
64 reviews 64 reviews
11 attraction reviews
Reviews in 30 cities Reviews in 30 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
“Educational and entertaining”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 29, 2014

We did not take advantage of the food or the guides, but still had a terrific time. The Harris Hawk flyover show is worth the trip--I will post some pictures. Some animals were taking a break in the heat of the day, but it was still fun. Just plan to spend some time--it takes a while to get there, some of the exhibits inside allow close up examination, and the outdoors is pretty interesting. The docents LOVE their work and will talk your arm off. Hummingbird aviary is wonderful and takes a little patience.

Visited January 2014
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Fort Collins, Colorado
Top Contributor
109 reviews 109 reviews
19 attraction reviews
Reviews in 74 cities Reviews in 74 cities
298 helpful votes 298 helpful votes
“Do Not Miss This”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 29, 2014

The word "museum" is not really appropriate here, if you consider museums to be dark buildings with displays behind ropes or glass. This 21-acre preserve is a walking wonder. If you elect to visit, you'll be treated to animals on exhibit, trails leading to educational exhibits, and lots of natural beauty in the bottom portion of Saguaro National park West/ Tucson Mountain Park. Information abounds. The interpretive displays are top notch.

We visited in January, and even though the day started out cool, the sun was blazing. Bring a wide-brimmed hat and water, and wear good shoes. While the paths are paved, there is some uphill walking. Happily, the restrooms offer free sunblock, and water fountains are located throughout the establishment.

In the winter months, this museum offers free-flight raptor demonstrations at 2 PM (check the website for details). Watching the docents release birds of prey to fly above the heads of spectators was stunning. Well worth the price of admission.

Be sure to take your binoculars or long-lens camera with you if you're a birdwatcher, as many species can be seen as you navigate the trails.

Our favorite exhibits were the river otter and bighorn sheep. Both species seemed to be enjoying their time outside, the otter playing in the water (you can view him/her swimming behind glass underwater), and the bighorns scrambling up and down their "mountain" rocks. We also enjoyed the hummingbird aviary, where we saw a bird on its tiny nest in a tree.

Be sure to read as much as possible, (signage everywhere but easy to grasp), and you'll learn so much. Kids can take home cool rocks from a "dump mine," they can view fluorescent scorpions and hairy tarantulas, and listen to various condensed talks (designed for hands-on with children, shorter in depth) by volunteer docents. They can also stamp footprints of animals at different stations along the way, provided they purchase the $1 booklet at the entrance. Everyone here was friendly and happy to share their expertise as we navigated the paths.

Be sure to exit the museum and drive back to Tucson through the saguaros (Kinney to Gates Pass Road into town) for stunning vistas and photo ops, especially a n hour or two before sunset.

In closing, we enjoyed soft-serve ice cream halfway through our day, and the bookstore at the main entrance offers a great selection of texts on natural and cultural history, as well as artwork. The Ironwood Gallery has fine art on display.

Visited January 2014
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Houston, Texas
Senior Contributor
23 reviews 23 reviews
Reviews in 14 cities Reviews in 14 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
“A real gem”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 29, 2014

We have been here before, but I always love it. It just feels like the epitome of Tucson. It's big enough and well laid out enough to feel like you are on a nice stroll through the desert.
The volunteers are there with animals for you to see up close and are very knowledgeable. A stop for lunch on the shady or sunny covered eating deck with great views was a treat and
I would go here every time we are in Tucson. There are also
special programs going on - just missed one that was attended by a large group on raptors.

Visited January 2014
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Puerto Penasco, Mexico
Senior Contributor
34 reviews 34 reviews
14 attraction reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
30 helpful votes 30 helpful votes
“Learn About the Desert”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 29, 2014

This is a well-thought out and well-maintained desert preserve. Several types of tours are offered, and there are many other activities scheduled throughout the year that are fun for the whole family. It's also a great place to take groups! The guides are fun and very knowledgeable. You'll come away with a better understanding of the majesty that is the Sonoran Desert!

Visited January 2014
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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