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Visit renowned Arizona Sonora Desert Museum near Tucson

A large variety of rattlesnakes that live in the desert are on display.
A large variety of rattlesnakes that live in the desert are on display.
copyright photo by John R Howard

The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is rated among the top ten museums in the world. If and when you are in southern Arizona, do not fail to allow yourself at least a day to roam, learn and enjoy this outstanding institution. Founded over 50 years ago to help interpret the Sonora Desert that stretches clear across the southern half of the state and down into Mexico, the institution is part zoo, botanical garden, aquarium and art museum. Much of it is outdoors, where paths loop among glorious native flower gardens and wildlife enclosures. If you arrive at the museum thinking the desert is just a hot, largely lifeless place, I guarantee you will leave with the knowledge that the desert is a biologically rich environment, teeming with wonderful plants and animals.

Harris hawks put on an amazing show at the desert museum
Copyright photo by John R Howard

The museum is a photographer’s delight. Over 2,500 animals are on display and 56,000 desert plants. The animal enclosures are masterfully designed with few obvious bars or barricades. It is easy to get close to many of the great mammals that we associate with the desert: jackrabbits, bighorn sheep, coyotes, javelinas, bobcats, cougars and others. Rattlesnakes and other reptiles are on display, including the reclusive desert tortoise. Don’t miss the hummingbird enclosure where dozens of varieties buzz right past your nose! An aquarium was added in 2013, displaying the undersea creatures that live in the Gulf of California, not far south of the US-Mexico border.

In season, the museum stages a raptor show in which trained owls and hawks swoop overhead and perform amazing maneuvers. Reptile shows are also offered, where visitors have an opportunity to safely observe and touch the snakes that thrive in the Sonora Desert. In every case, visitors are stimulated by the variety and resilience of the remarkable plants and animals that live in the region.

The 21-acre Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is located just 12 miles west of Tucson. It is open year-round, although the hours, shows, exhibits, and admission fees vary with the season and weather conditions. Lectures, art shows and musical performances are frequently hosted by this world-class facility.

To learn more about hours of operation, admission fees, and other pertinent information, please click on

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