Spring ha always been one of my favorite times of year (which is the same thing I say about summer…and fall…and even winter when I’m in a good mood). But flowers are beautiful and the colors in spring are unbeatable, even in the desert! There’s nothing quite like seeing the desert in bloom, which is why for this post, I’m talking about the Tucson Botanical Gardens.
Maybe it’s just me, but for the longest time I had this idea in my head that places called “Botanical Gardens” were like fancy, kind of fake versions of real parks – like a park for people who are afraid to get dirty. And on the one hand, you probably could make an argument for that since these are planned gardens with clear, generally wide paths. However, I actually really like visiting the Tucson Botanical Gardens, and it’s not just a park for adults – both my trips were with Parks in Focus groups of kids.
When to go: Springtime is the best, hands down. The whole place is devoted to flowers, and seeing them in bloom is fantastic!
How long to stay: You could honestly walk through the whole place in an hour, but you really don’t experience it that way. I would recommend about half a day, maybe 9 am – 12 pm to avoid the heat. There’s also a café in the gardens if you want to try that out for lunch, but keep in mind that the prices are a little steep.
What to do: This is a pretty relaxed place to visit. You get to go outside, but there are plenty of places to sit and relax or to take awesome pictures. Start off by just picking a direction and walking. Take your time and smell the flowers! There are several different parts to the garden, so if you really like a planned space, spend some time in the Exhibit Garden. If that’s not your thing, wander through the wilder Cactus and Succulent Garden. If you want to see some creative planning, check out the Prehistoric Garden, and visit the Bird Garden to learn how to attract birds to your own yard. Whatever you do though, make sure you see the butterflies! The Butterfly Greenhouse is a highlight of the park, and you’ll wish you had gone if you skip it.
With kids, pick up the free scavenger hunt when you purchase admission. This will guide you through the gardens, but encourage the kids to take their time and not just run through looking for specific plants (honestly, they will miss half of them doing this). There’s also a lot for kids to do here. Just past the section of Native American crops garden, you’ll find a puppet theater and several compost demos that are more fun than they sound. For younger kids, check out the Children’s Discovery Garden, which is a lot more hands-on. Even older kids (and adults) will enjoy digging for worms here too.
Keep in mind though, that there are more rules to visiting the Botanical Gardens than visiting another park. For example, pets are only allowed during specific summer dates, and you aren’t allowed to pick any flowers. You can take as many pictures as you want though, and honestly, even with a cell phone, you can get some impressive shots! This is one of the top places to see on a trip to Tucson, and it’s also just great if you’re nearby and need a way to spend a spring Saturday.
Bonus Tip: There are a few places in the gardens to see some impressive art/photography. The Friends House Gallery is right across from the café, and the Porter Hall Gallery is just past the Historic Gardens, or if you want to see what I do with Parks in Focus, see about going to the Education building to check out the PIF photos!