The number one attraction in the Tucson area is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a private zoo and museum which tries to interprets the desert.
Since it’s located only a few miles east of Saguaro National Park (Western unit), it has the same environment as the park. But where in a national park, you have to find your flora and especially fauna, here the cacti and animals are all labeled and caged for us. The Museum has native plants and animals but the area that it draws from is very wide. That explains the stingrays.
When we paid our admission fee (not cheap – almost $40 for Hannah and me), we were encouraged to pay another three dollars each to see the stingrays. We put our hand in the water to allow the stingrays to touch you or even take food out of your hand (another three dollars).
So what is the attraction?
Coyotes, javelinas (native pigs), deer, raptors,bears… all in their own areas. Toward the top, they had a half-mile of “desert experience” where they warned you that “the trail is hot, dry, dusty, and bumpy – a half-mile long and uphill on the way back”. Still I was gratified to see people walking the “desert experience” trail. See the top photo taken at the desert experience trail.
I loved the hummingbird aviary. The birds flew around with gay abandonment . They didn’t stop long enough so I could take a picture but they were a happy bunch. Some were sitting on their nest too far away for photos.
The Desert Museum is well-funded, with admission fees and donor contributions.
At the museum, contributors are recognized everywhere – benches, buildings, signs on plants… This is one of the many ways that private zoos and museums are different from national parks. See the plaque on the side of this picture.
They also had silly, amusement park-like features.
Hannah turned herself into a vulture. Children could buy a book and then stop at stamping stations for various attractions. There were several restaurants, snack bars and gift stores.
But “How are you going to get them back on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?”
I no longer worry about that. My grandchildren know the difference between a zoo/museum and a national park.
Today, we went back to Saguaro National Park (eastern site) for another hike. The animals weren’t labeled and the snacks were limited to what we had in our packs but we saw a roadrunner and he wasn’t labeled.