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The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson
I visited Tucson with the goal of exploring its natural attractions during the day and enjoying a leisurely, lively city experience centered on viewing and shopping for art. It turned out to be the ideal combination I hoped for, and a wonderful weekend visit I wished had been longer.
One reason I would like to return to Tucson is to visit the many natural attractions I didn't get to see, but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the place I did visit - the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
I started out on my first day in Tucson intending to visit both the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Saguaro National Park, but I only managed to visit the first on my list. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum was so entertaining, I decided to just spend a few extra hours there. I arrived in the morning, and by the time early afternoon arrived, it seemed too hot to leave to visit Saguaro National Park. I visited Tucson in late May, and if you aren't accustomed to a lot of sun and heat, you may wish to plan limited afternoon excursions, too.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum was about a half hour drive from the city center where I stayed. It is easy to forget (or fail to realize) you are in a desert area when you are moving from one air-conditioned place to another in Tucson. It was almost stunning to see the desert landscape on the drive to the Museum, and the view of the surrounding mountain ranges at the Museum is incredible.
Natural Habitat Exhibits
If you don't know much about the Arizona-Sonora Desert, the Museum is an ideal place to learn all about the plants and animals that live there. The exhibits feature real animals and plants in specially re-created, natural habitat environments. There are many fascinating exhibits to see here and an incredible array of wildlife, cactuses, succulents and other plants.
One of my favorite exhibits was the shady area near the center of the Museum, the Riparian Corridor. I was captivated by the Bighorn Sheep, river otter display and beautiful parrots here. Cat Canyon was another highlight of my visit, as I had never seen a Mountain Lion up close and in person. I found the walk-in Aviary to be the best exhibit at the Museum by far. The variety of birds and the beautiful setting were so captivating, I sat down to relax for a few minutes and a half hour quickly passed.
Desert Loop Trail
The Museum's Desert Loop Trail is only about a half mile, but it is a fascinating hike. You will see and learn about lizards, coyotes, and many interesting trees like the palo verdes. If you are like me and you have never heard of a javelina, much less seen one, you will be enlightened on this trail.
Desert-themed Art Exhibits
I was surprised and delighted to find that in addition to viewing desert wildlife and plants at the Museum, I could see some incredible art, too. There were exhibits at both the Ironwood Gallery and the Baldwin Education Building, and this was a great way to get out of the heat and relax indoors after the Desert Loop Trail hike. Exhibits change at these galleries, but they focus on the Arizona landscape, wildlife and plants. Touring the galleries was an ideal compliment to the wildlife and plant exhibits at the Museum.
A Great Choice for Tucson Accommodations
If you're interested in visiting the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and staying at an affordable, comfortable hotel, try the Best Western Royal Sun Inn and Suites. I booked this hotel through HotelsCombined.com and got such a great rate, I opted for a jacuzzi room. It was spectacular, and I was as delighted with the customer service at the hotel as I was with my room. Free wireless Internet is available, and there is a decent fitness center, too.
Even though there are quite a few restaurants within close proximity of the hotel, I found it incredibly convenient to have a restaurant and lounge right on site. I only ate at the restaurant mornings, as guests are served a great hot breakfast, but the food was fine. I also stopped in at KG's Cantina and Bar on site the two evenings I stayed here for the complimentary drink they offer guests daily. I will definitely be staying at this hotel again on my next visit.
The Best Western Royal Sun is in a great location for visiting attractions, and it's only a mile from downtown Tucson. When you arrive and start exploring the area, it suddenly seems like there's a tremendous amount to do and see in Tucson, especially if you are interested in art and exploring desert and outdoors attractions.