The Desert Museum and Old Tucson

Adventures, AZ Nature, Tucson Attractions, Guest Ranch, Special Events, Holidays, Kids, Family

There are a handful of activities to participate in outside of The Ranch that you may not know about. These locations are full of rich southwestern history to broaden your knowledge of Tucson, Arizona while having fun with your family. We are proud to present the Old Tucson desert museum.

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The Desert Museum

The Arizona-Sonoran Desert museum is widely recognized as a model institution for being innovative in presentation as well as interpretation of Native plants and animals within ecological exhibits. On this day in time, the museum, located just 12 miles west of Tucson, is the home of a living animal collection of 4,892 specimens of 252 species. Plants number around 56,445 specimens of 1,100 taxa; mineral and fossil collections include over 16,000 specimens. And, about 110-120 living specimen at this popular museum is considered to be of conservation concern.

In 1944, William H. Carr moved to Tucson and found there was a lack of knowledge of this vast stretch of land that covered parts of Arizona, California, and Northwestern Mexico. Also with Tucson being the largest city, in southern Arizona, with a metro population of around 1 million, he then inspired the museum, as it is known today.

According to, Carr’s vision set the tone for displays as we can understand from his first mammal enclosures which were designed to be, in his words, “as a balance between animal comfort, the ability for the visitor to see the animals and interiors that would be kept as much like the natural habitat possible.”

Now ranked often as one of the top museums in the world, founder, Carr, has proved the desire for knowledge of the Sonoran Desert.

The idea of having plants and animals on display from the region was enough to set the museum apart, but Carr didn’t stop there. He insisted that ethnology, the study of the characteristics of various peoples and the differences and relationships between them, as well as regions be displayed. Today, this continues to strengthen the museum.

The Desert Museum is now over 50 years old and the commitment to the founding ideals is as strong as ever. The spirit of innovation and excellence live on with the ever-improved exhibit. The Museum hours are 8:30am-5:pm everyday October-February, 7:30am-5:00pm March-September, and 7:30am-5:00pm June-August. Prices start at $20.50 for general admission but goes down for seniors, children, residents and military members.

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Old Tucson

Old Tucson is a movie studio and theme park just west of Tucson, Arizona, adjacent to the Tucson Mountains and close to the West Saguaro National Park. This is the perfect way to step back in time in the old Wild West and have a good Southern Arizona experience. Plus, it is located 27 short miles from Tanque Verde Ranch.

Load up the family and go into town to spend the day walking through the wild west mock-up, you will feel like you’re walking through a movie set.

The Arizona Sonora Western Heritage Foundation, located at Old Tucson, was founded to offer engaging educational programs about the people and cultures in the Arizona Sonora region from 1850-1912.

Old Tucson is designed like a historical outlet mall. You can walk from shop to shop, learn to use a lasso from employees, and try some traditional cuisine. There is always someone around to help you out, take your photo with or put on a good show. There are pony rides for the kiddos and theatrical plays that happen nightly.

Admission is $17.95 (+tax) for adults and $10.95 (+tax) for children, children 3 and under are free of charge. For information on group tours and events call 520-883-0100 Ext. 281. Find the hours of operation here – there is never a dull moment when you spend a day at Old Tucson.