Beautiful day at Wareham, Dorset, England.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Keinton Mandeville, Somerset, England.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Birmingham, England on May 19th!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

This is not really a "museum". It's kind of a cross between a museum, a zoo, a botanical garden, and an aquarium. Plus, 85% of it takes place outdoors.

The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum came highly recommended by a few of our readers, and it's one of the top attractions in the Tucson area. So, we decided to check it out.

We drove the 10 miles or so from where we had been parked for free at the Casino of the Sun, into the Tucson Mountain Park, just west of Tucson. From there, it was about 5 miles on a narrow paved road to the entrance way of the museum.

Heading into the Tucson Mountain Park.

The parking lot was busy! But then, it was a bit of a Monday holiday for some people because it was President's Day. We forgot about that, so perhaps we didn't plan that very well. But, the RV parking section was fairly quiet. We backed into a decent spot, and had an early lunch before heading inside.

As we were eating, we noticed cars and SUV's and pickup trucks begin to park in the RV section because the people were too lazy to park further away. Yes, the parking lot was busy, but if I were an RV'er who showed up and there weren't any spots because regular vehicles had parked there, I would not have been a happy camper. They need to regulate that a little better, but perhaps it's not often that busy.

The regular adult price is $19.95. I thought that was a little steep for a non profit entity, but we had a two for one coupon that made it reasonable.

You can purchase a Tucson attractions book for $18. Highly recommended if you're going to be in the area for any length of time.

We went straight to the help desk and asked what special attractions were on the go. There was an auditorium presentation at 12:30pm, so we headed there first. Then, there was a raptor bird open air flight show at 2:30pm, and she warned that it would be very busy.

The auditorium show turned out to be a full house.

Our speaker Ed, with a local quail that had been raised at the museum.

He then brought out Roo, the pocupine.

Roo loves corn!

It was a good show, and Ed was a good speaker. They brought out the quail, the porcupine, a macaw, and a lizard that only lives on an island in the Sea of Cortez. Interesting show, and a worthwhile part of our visit!

One of the very few birds that will use it's feet to eat!

From there, we wandered the different exhibits waiting for the 2:30pm raptor flight show. We actually passed by where the raptor show was taking place, but there was no way I was standing in the growing crowd for that long of a wait. We wandered over to the aviary to look at the birds.

Lots of nice desert scenery to view.

An interesting sculpture display.

Lots of pretty birds. Not the same as seeing them in the wild though.

"You lookin' at me?"

This little hummingbird was fun to watch.

It's only about the size of my thumb.

Since being in Africa and seeing so many animals out in the wild, I don't have much interest in zoos anymore. I think the displays are fine for birds, insects, and reptiles, but I don't like seeing mammals on display in relatively small enclosures. I just don't agree with it. The animals don't seem at all happy. And especially for the animals who's life it is to roam, they don't get anywhere near enough space. 

Bighorn sheep.


I love the photo of the bobcat, however it's sure not the same thrill that you get taking photos of animals in their natural environment.

The mountain lion. Just another day at the zoo. He looked bored.

There was a coyote enclosure with a lone coyote who paced the same path the whole time we watched him. He looked agitated, and it's probably the way he looks all the time. The path was well worn from his daily pacing. At the wolf enclosure, it looked the same, although the wolf was sleeping when we were there.

The bear enclosure was empty because the bear has recently passed away. They're trying to get another one.

More desert scenery.

A bird at it's cactus nest.

Closer to 2:30pm, we took a spot at the overlook area to view the raptor show. Better than standing with the crowd, although we didn't get to hear much of what was being said. 

The crowd at the raptor show.

A Harris's hawk.

I don't know how they do it, but the hawks fly free during the display. I expect they've been raised to do this, but it's still amazing how they don't simply take off into the wild. Even though I wasn't able to get a decent photo of them flying, I did get two pretty good shots.

They have a very stern look on their faces!

Even though we weren't that close, it was again a worthwhile display.

From there, it was off to the hummingbird aviary.

A tiny hummingbird.

This one, in her tiny nest.

And another, keeping her eggs warm.

We loved watching the hummingbirds. 

Despite my personal opinion regarding the mammals, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is very well done and it's a good way to spend four hours or so learning about the various plants, birds, animals, and reptiles that inhabit the desert. I still think its a little steep if you pay the full price of $19.95, however if you can take advantage of a half price coupon it's then a reasonably inexpensive outing.

From there, we drove down to Justin's Diamond J RV Park.

Huh? Us, at an RV park?

Yep...we wanted to visit Janie and John from Flamingo on a Stick and this is where they're parked up for the month. It was nearby anyhow, and we can dry camp here for $10 a night. We pulled in to pay, and the lady at the office is Vietnamese. Her name is Christine, and she had just finished cooking some spring rolls, and gave us a couple to try. They were delicious! 

And, we can use the facilities and we're about due to get laundry done again too.

We sat and had happy hour with Janie and John, and today we'll go for a local hike with them. 


  1. I had no idea it cost that much to get into the museum. I've usually had some kind of pass when I went. I'm so glad you had the coupon! All the times I've been there, I did not know about the auditorium show. Sheesh! I have to learn to start asking about these things. Your photos are amazing! Those birds don't sit still for long. I painted that bighorn sheep from one of my photos and actually won an award! It looks like another lovely day in the desert. Have a great hike with Janie and John! Grace (in Tucson)

    1. That passport book is great. It just about pays for itself in one outing especially at the museum. We highly recommend to anyone staying in the area for any length of time that wants to see any other the sights around Tucson and the surrounding area. Well worth the money.

      I bet that painting you did of the bighorn sheep turned out amazing!

  2. Yep the museum is pricey but a must do at least once... glad you got to meet Janie and John as we enjoyed their company in Florida

    1. Totally agree, the museum is very well done. Definitely recommend people buy the passport book though especially if they want to see any other attractions in the area.

      We had a great day with Janie and John yesterday!

  3. It was the price that kept us away in the past and some other attractions as well.
    But looks like you had a nice day there.

    1. Buy the passport book if you are in the area next time George, then you can see several of the attractions. Most of the coupons are two for one. The museum is excellent and it is easy to spend a good portion of the day there.

  4. We really enjoy that Museum. A bit pricey but we don't spend much money on attractions so this was a treat.

    We saw the morning and afternoon raptor shows. Both are excellent.

    1. We agree, it is an excellent museum but we would still have to think twice about spending the full price for the two of us to visit. With the coupon it was two for one so that made the price much more reasonable.

      We only saw the afternoon raptor show and thought that it was fantastic, and the fact that the birds are able to fly freely was amazing.

  5. We enjoyed this museum, my favorite part was the room with all the different types of snakes of the desert. I couldn't get Marti to go in, though, even if I tried to drag her in. :c)

    1. We love looking at the snakes and spiders but always hope that we never see them on any of our hikes unless it is from a distance.

  6. Over the years we have found some interesting talks at parks and museums. You learn quite a bit about things around you. The egg rolls sound yummy!

    1. We agree, we have learned a lot already just from our few guided tours in the last few weeks. It is one of the best ways to learn about the area. At the museum both shows taught us about a number of the birds and animals in the desert and how they survive out there.

      The spring rolls were yummy, now I need to learn how to make them! ;-)

  7. What I took away from the raptor show... Harris hawks are unique in that they are the only raptors that hunt as a group. The young stay with the parents up to 3 years. They are easily trained by falconers. :-)
    We enjoyed the museum/zoo/botanical garden

    1. We thought that was interesting as well. It's funny though, we still have yet seen a group (cast) of hawks out there together. I guess the ones we have seen haven't been Harris's Hawks.

      The museum is very well done and we had no problem spending our 4 hours there.

  8. We saw the raptor show last year and one of the female Harris hawks did take off. When last seen she was headed toward Saguaro NP. She probably went home for dinner. We are back in the area, at a small park off of Kinney. Love it.

    1. I wonder if she ever came back on her own later that day, week, or month? That is the risk that they take and I am happy to see that they have a choice to leave if they choose to escape.

      You aren't too far down the road from where we are right now but we are heading out this morning towards Tonto National Forest.

  9. Saw a similar raptor show at the San Diego aquarium. The raptors were in an enclosure pulled up in the air with a helium baloon and the guy used a remote control to let them out one by one. They would fly around a while and then come in for a landing near him and get a tasty treat.

    1. It was certainly interesting watching them fly around untethered and watch them flying and hunting as they would in the wild. They had several handlers in various sections to attracted the hawks so that the visitors all had a chance to see them up close. They knew where the food was, that is for sure!

  10. We went the museum a year ago when we were in Tucson for the month of Feb. I went back and read our blog post about it (, and interestingly, I didn't even mention the cost. I wonder if it's gone up since we were there, as I don't recall paying $19.95 each, and I don't think we had a coupon. We really enjoyed it, but we missed the raptor show and the auditorium presentation, and I agree with you about the mammals. Glad you got to go, though; it is the #1 rated attraction in the Tucson area on Tripadvisor -- or at least it was a year ago!

    1. Yep, your visit was almost exactly a year ago. It is a great museum and very well laid out. They did a fantastic job on making that "cave" look real. Loved all the minerals they had displayed there too. Sure wish we could find some like that out on our hikes.

  11. I would pay $19.95 to see the birds and animals set free.

    1. Agreed! Most of the larger animals didn't look so happy to be there. I can understand if the animals are brought there because they are injured or for some reason couldn't be released back into the wild safely or if they are near extinction or endangered and are brought there for breeding but if not, then we feel they shouldn't be there. It was really sad watching that coyote pace around. He was definitely not a happy camper!

  12. So glad you found this somewhat interesting as I was one of those readers who recommended it. My favourite was the hummingbird aviary as well as the prairie dogs - LOVE those little guys. I don't remember the larger animals, but agree with you re zoos...they're just not a great place for any creature. 20 Years From Now

    1. We found the museum very interesting and thought that they did a fantastic job on it but we weren't happy seeing some of the larger mammals there, they just didn't seem happy, some even seems agitated. If they are bought there because they can't for some reason or another be returned to the wild then we can more or less understand.

      We loved the humming bird aviary as well. They are so totally fascinating.


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