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(Original Article)

Family Fun in Tucson

From L.A. Parent
Published: 03/30/2013 by Jim Graves

Tucson, Ariz., is just a day's drive (or quick flight!) from Los Angeles. And if you go during the cooler months, it can be a great vacation experience for families.

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Another marvelous Tucson-area experience is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (www.desertmuseum.org). This is located through a mountain pass about 30 minutes west of Tucson. The museum might be better thought of as an outdoor zoo, featuring the animals that inhabit the region.

Walking through the park, you'll enjoy exhibits that feature the big cats (e.g. bobcats, mountain lions), coyotes (they were sleeping when we were there), bighorn sheep, black bears, beavers, otters, prairie dogs, snakes and much more (230 animal species in all). They had an aquarium area, as well as exhibits featuring many of the intimidating spiders you might meet in the area (both venomous and non-venomous). My girls loved the bird atriums, especially the one featuring hummingbirds (you can see their tiny nests). Check the website, as they have a variety of activities tailored just for kids.

If you like desert plants, there are some 1,200 on the museum's 21 acres, as well as two miles of walking paths. When we were there they had Raptor Free Flights, or live demonstrations of birds of prey. The birds are well trained, and swoop right down over your head.

Plan to have lunch there at one of the many restaurants. We tried the Ocotillo Café. It offered a wide variety of the regional cuisine; the fresh baked focaccia bread and garlic cilantro pesto starter that all diners received was delicious. They also have a wide selection of wines, and plenty for the kids to eat.