America’s Unheralded Wonders: The Arizona - Sonora Desert Museum

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 9th Aug 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>North America>United States>Arizona

I've heard the desert described with words like "dead" or "unfinished." I spent several years living in one, and I can attest that nothing is further from the truth. And I've got a place that you simply must see . . .

America’s Unheralded Wonders: The Arizona - Sonora Desert Museum

Living in Tucson, Arizona, for five years as I did, it didn’t take me long to hear about what would soon become my favorite among the local destinations and for many reasons. While the name implies that it’s a museum, and it certainly is with scientific exhibits explaining desert animal life scattered hither and yon throughout the 98 acre park which is located a mere 12 miles northwest of town out in Pima County near the rugged Tucson Mountains. But these exhibits are only a small portion of what makes the Desert Museum (as it’s known among the locals) such a magical, mystical place.

To view the huge collection of desert flora the park contains some two miles of walking paths which cover approximately 21 acres carved from the desert. Visitors there are treated to garden after garden of every type of cactus and desert plant imaginable. I must confess here that I am prone to possessing a brown thumb. Cacti had long been the only plant known to me which I had been unable to send to an early demise and therefore had become my favorite. So walking among the cactus groves here in the Desert Museum would become sort of Nirvana on Earth for me.

It doesn’t stop with the park flora though. Over the years the Desert Museum has become even more famous for its fauna than anything else. Yup, it’s a zoo specializing of course in desert animals, and it currently contains over 12,000 animals representing over 300 species. You are likely to see some types of animals here you may not find in your average big city zoo, for example, javelinas (hah-vuh-LEE-nuhs) which are a wild pig-like desert animal that feed on the prickly pear cactus leaves so numerous in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and Mexico.

When all has been exhausted visiting all the exhibits you’ve wanted to see, strolling through all the plant groves you’ve wanted to photograph, and eyeballing all the exotic animals you’ve never witnessed in your entire life, it’s time to go home, and you have to exit through the gift shop. Yuck! But wait, the Desert Museum unlike most other places I’ve been in the world even has a great gift shop! Nothing kitschy here! You’ll find yourself actually spending time in this spot so be prepared to allow yourself some time for it. And be prepared to spend some money. You’re bound to find something that just must go home with you. From the exotic Native American jewelry (it really is) to the children’s book The Three Little Javelinas (an American Southwest rendering of The Three Little Pigs with matchless illustrations).

In the title I call the Desert Museum an unheralded wonder. There is truly no doubt that it is a wonder as anyone who has ever had the pleasure of visiting there will readily attest. Unheralded? Well, 500,000 visitors make the trek out there annually, so it’s not like no one knows about the place, however, I’m of the opinion that everyone should know about it!

If you ever get within stopping distance of Tucson, Arizona, is there any reason at all why you would not want to spend a day in this most transcendent of places?


Arizona, Desert, Desert Life, Museums, Sonoran Desert, Travel, Travel Destination, United States, Zoos

Meet the author

author avatar Ken Painter
Retired Chicago public school teacher. Singer, songwriter, musician, author, & opinionated old curmudgeon. Married to my husband & living in Colorado, USA. Also a father & grandfather.

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