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Docent interpreting to teen under lights

Children using black lights to search for scorpions in rock wall

Guests under floodlit canopy in the Desert Garden

Docent interpreting to young child

Children using black lights to search for scorpions in rock wall

Docent with raptor on the glove at twilight
Photos above by Rhonda Spencer and Josh Schachter

Beat the Heat with
Cool Summer Nights 2014

Saturday Evenings — May 31 through August 30
Open until 10:00 p.m.

Special Programming (usually begins at 6:00 p.m.)

As summer temperatures simmer in the 100s, Arizona residents seek to keep cool and still stay active. A visit to the Desert Museum on Saturday nights has become a Tucson tradition.

With stunning sunsets, clear desert skies, gourmet dining, and animals miraculously appearing from their heat-induced daytime estivation, it's understandable why the magical-like Saturday nights have become so popular. This year, by popular demand, the Cool Summer Nights schedule has been expanded offering 14 nights to enjoy beginning Saturday, May 31st.

On opening night, the Museum will also unveil a new reptile exhibit, Snake! Rattle & Roll, introducing intriguing and lesser-known Mexican rattlesnakes from Sonora and Baja California.

A nighttime visit is just downright different from a daytime visit. The desert's nocturnal animals become active, bats turn into insect-seeking missiles, and scorpions glow under black lights. The Museum's highly trained and dedicated docents provide Sonoran Desert insights at interpretative stations scattered throughout the grounds.

Dining on summer Saturday evenings at the Museum is a culinary delight as the upscale Ocotillo Café is open for dinner. The intimate desert garden setting is the perfect backdrop for savory Sonoran recipes. Reservations are strongly recommended by calling 520-883-5705.

For taste-temping treats visit the Cottonwood Snack Shack located near the Riparian Corridor's otters and beavers. Indulge in a "build-your-own" ice cream sandwich — sure to be a hit with families!

Also open for dinner is the Ironwood Terraces Restaurant, the largest dining venue at the Desert Museum which offers a more casual atmosphere, either inside or outside on one of the many patios overlooking the desert landscape and nighttime vistas.

And just in case you forgot your black light, both gift shops will be open. You might consider starting your holiday shopping early!

Each summer Saturday night has a unique theme and special activities typically begin at 6:00 PM, although some do start earlier. Check the schedule below for weekly themes and activities.

Ongoing Nightly Events on Cool Summer Nights

Look for Museum Docents and Jr. Docents interpreting live animals, celestial desert skies, fluorescent minerals, animal eye shine, Sonoran Desert insects, night sounds, bats, kissing bugs, scorpions, and/or rattlesnakes.

Check the Plan Your Visit board at the Entrance Patio for times and locations!


Weekly Themes & Activity Schedule

May 31st — Living in Harmony with the Sun

The Desert Museum, Skin Cancer Institute and University of Arizona Mount Lemon Sky Center team up to create this event which focuses attention on the Sun — its magnificence in the sky as well as its potential harm. The evening includes free skin cancer screenings, a sun-fact scavenger hunt for kids, and a presentation of the Museum's popular venomous reptile demonstration, Live and (sort of) on the Loose


Monterey Bay Aquarium Logo

June 7 — World Oceans Night

In partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, join the Desert Museum staff to celebrate and honor the bodies of water which link us all, for what they provide humans and what they represent. The evening includes sustainable seafood cooking demonstrations by Fini's Landing and Starr Pass Primo chefs and presentations on the world's oceans and the Gulf of California. A highlight of the evening will be hands-on experiences in the Warden Aquarium with docent interpretations at the Touch Tank.

Sponsored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.


June 14 — Conservation Chic and Comedy

Conservation takes many forms. Tonight, experience the latest trends in vintage fashion with Tucson's recycled fashion retailer, Buffalo Exchange, laugh-out-loud comedy, with the Tucson Improv Movement, and wine tasting under the stars featuring Southern Arizona wineries. The Museum's Jr. Docents and keepers will strut the runway pairing cutting edge style with accessories from the Museum's animal collection. See just how chic conservation can be!


National Optical Astronomy Observatory Logo

June 21 — Astronomy Night

Join the experts from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) for a star-studded adventure. Enjoy special astronomy presentations in the Warden Oasis Theater and take time out to star-gaze through telescopes at a variety of locations throughout the grounds. Guests will also enjoy presentations of Creatures of the Night featuring nocturnal Sonoran Desert animals.


June 28 — Native American Cultural Night

Native American communities are deeply connected to the land and have a great appreciation and knowledge of the plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert region. Enjoy a very special evening of learning about the Sonoran Desert from a traditional ecological knowledge perspective, cultural sharing, stories, and cultural performances. Interpretations from a Native voice and worldview perspective will be showcased throughout the evening.


July 5 — Desert Electric

No one can doubt the power of lightning after experiencing a monsoon in Tucson! Tonight, it's all about lightening and energy. Special guest presentations in the Warden Oasis Theater and docent interpretations throughout the grounds.


July 12 — Full Moon Festival — Art and Music

Light from a full moon offers a distinctive perspective from an artistic point of view. Tonight the Arts take center stage with a complimentary photography workshop and a unique art class, Drawing by the Light of the Moon, hosted by the Museum's Art Institute. Kids will enjoy black light art activities designed just for them. Then infuse the evening with music from the Tucson Pops Orchestra and original music by the Tucson Young Musicians. Add a pinch of poetry and the moonlit night exudes an aura all its own.


July 19 — Insect Insanity

It's back by popular demand! Who would have thought those pesky bugs could be so appealing? But it's true. Tonight, get a bugs-eye view of many of the million species of arthropods who make the Sonoran Desert their home. Learn new facts and dispel old myths. The University of Arizona's "Bugman", Dr. Carl Olsen will enlighten audiences about the 60, 8-, and more-legged creatures of the desert.


National Optical Astronomy Observatory Logo

July 26 — Astronomy Night

Join the experts from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) for a star-studded adventure. Enjoy special astronomy presentations in the Warden Oasis Theater and take time out to star-gaze through telescopes at a variety of locations throughout the grounds. Guests will also enjoy presentations of Creatures of the Night featuring nocturnal Sonoran Desert animals.


August 2 — Conservation Night

Join the Museum in recognizing significant conservation achievements as it presents its annual Conservation Awards. Award recipients will share highlights of their conservation projects. Be inspired. A variety of local conservation organizations will be on hand to show how to get involved.


August 9 — Full Moon Festival — Poetry and Music

Light from a full moon offers a distinctive perspective from an artistic point of view. Tonight the Arts take center stage. In collaboration with the University of Arizona's Poetry Center, the Museum will unveil the first of its new poetry installations and present the winners of the University's corrido contest, featuring performances combining poetry with music. The Museum's Art Institute will host a complimentary photography workshop and a unique art class, Drawing by the Light of the Moon. Guests can also partake in a variety of family poetry and art activities, including black light painting for children.


August 16 — Desert Harmonies

Tonight is all about making music in the desert! No matter what your musical taste, there's no better place to indulge in it! Listen and enjoy a variety of musical performances including some just for kids, like the Nap Skipper Trio. Some of the performances will be by children and everyone will enjoy making instruments at a special build-your-own instrument activity station.


August 23 — Science Rocks! and Teacher Appreciation Night

In time for back-to-school, the Museum hosts an evening of science encounters. From mineral and rock interpretive stations to science demonstrations, the museum will demonstrate that science isn't static — it rocks! Enjoy presentations by the Physics Factory, a team of scientists and educators with a common goal: to share their enthusiasm for physics with students, teachers and the community. From hands-on learning to eye-popping stage shows, The Physics Factory demonstrates that physics is an exciting discovery process!


August 30 — Go Batty for the Museum's Birthday!

Although the Museum turns 62 this year, it's not contemplating retirement! Tonight's festivities embrace everything that infuses the Museum with its unique approach to learning and loving the Sonoran Desert region. From a complimentary photography class, to "bat talks" from experts, to watching bats communicate on echolocation video screens, to bat-themed birthday cakes, this night will be a fabulous fiesta of fun!