We're sure this has happened to many travelers... You line up a side-stop at a landmark or popular attraction that you know nothing about and then it completely blows your mind. That's exactly what happened to us at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, en route to Saguaro National Park in Arizona.
Living in DC, we had the lion's share of top-tier museums that we patronized a lot. And this adventure is about parks, not so much about museums, so we were kind of in the casual "sure, let's check it out" mode when we went there. We left so happy that we went back again the following day because we wanted to explore it more... that says a lot considering the scarcity of free time we have this year.
This isn't your typical museum—it reminded us both a lot of the Smithsonian National Zoo, which was our outdoor haven while living in DC. It has 2 miles of outdoor walking paths that glide along 21 acres of natural habitat where desert wildlife thrives. Mountain lion, coyotes, javelina, grey fox, snakes, lizards, honey bees, and hummingbirds—all of which are naturally found in this biodiverse desert landscape in a slightly more concentrated area.
From the museum website: …not a “museum” in the usual sense, it is an unparalleled composite of plant, animal, and geologic collections with the goal of making the Sonoran Desert accessible, understandable, and valued.
Goal achieved. In a short amount of time we easily visited, learned about, and appreciated at a higher level the natural makeup of this region. It is no wonder that this museum is consistently marked as one of the top ten best museums in the country and the top site to visit in Tucson (not to mention one of the stand out stops along our road trip this year.) Amazing!!