connect: Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow Dot the Otter on Twitter Follow us on Instagram SeeTucson Read about us on Trip Advisor

Cool Summer Nights - June 6 through September 5 - A New Theme Every Saturday Night! - Open 5:00 to 10:00 p.m.

Children using black lights to search for scorpions in rock wall

Guests under floodlit canopy in the Desert Garden

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

Children using black lights to search for scorpions in rock wall

Photos above by Rhonda Spencer and Josh Schachter

Beat the heat and enjoy refreshing summer evening breezes during Cool Summer Nights. With stunning sunsets, star-lit skies, gourmet dining, and animals reappearing from their daytime estivation, it is understandable why these enchanting Saturday nights have become so popular.

Plan your escape from the city with a scenic drive through the Tucson Mountains. Relax. Unwind. And unplug! A visit to the desert at night is transforming as the desert’s ethereal aura saturates your senses. The desert’s nocturnal animals become active, bats turn into insect-seeking missiles, and scorpions glow under black lights.

Each summer Saturday night has a unique theme, special programs and family activities. Plan to arrive early for the best parking! 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

Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans Logo Monterey Bay Aquarium Logo

June 6 — World Oceans Night

The Desert Museum partners with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to join in this global event honoring the world's oceans, celebrating the products the ocean provides and the marine life the oceans support. The evening’s activities include sustainable seafood tastings by Fini’s Landing and Starr Pass Primo restaurants and presentations about the Gulf of California and the world’s most threatened marine mammal, the vaquita porpoise. Children will especially enjoy the Warden Aquarium’s hands-on touch tank and ocean activity stations in the Desert Garden.

Scheduled Activities:

6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Sustainable Seafood Tastings
...by local Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch partners, Fini’s Landing and Starr Pass Primo
6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Hands-on Activities for Children
Fin Foundation Great White shark jaws and Saw Fish Bill, Desert Dolphins create plankton station, and the build-a-fish station presented by U of A’s Marine Awareness and Conservation Society (MACS). Plus, learn from Dive Shop divers about experiencing the underwater world.
6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Butterfly Whirl: Contemporary Quilt Art
Check out the Ironwood Gallery’s latest art exhibition and join in the family art activities.
6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Fur, Feathers & Fangs
Animal experts share their experience in working with a variety of native birds, mammals and reptiles.
7:00 to 7:45 p.m.
Get “hands-on” with marine invertebrates.
7:00 to 7:45 p.m. Conservation & Fisheries in the Sea of Cortez
Gain an understanding its biodiversity and major conservation issues facing the region as presented by Dr. Rick Brusca.
7:45 to 8:00 p.m. Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Video Presentation
Can the world’s oceans keep up with the hunt?
8:00 to 8:45 p.m. Fur, Feathers & Fangs
Animal experts share their experience in working with a variety of native birds, mammals and reptiles.
8:00 to 8:45 p.m.
Get “hands-on” with marine invertebrates.
8:00 to 8:45 p.m. Vanishing Vaquita Presentation
The world’s smallest porpoise lives in the Northern end of the Gulf of California. Learn about this most endangered marine mammal and efforts to save it from extinction from Peggy Turks-Boyer of the Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans (CEDO).

June 13 — Living in Harmony with the Sun

The Desert Museum, University of Arizona Skin Cancer Institute and Mount Lemmon Sky Center team up for this event all about the Sun — its magnificence as well as its potential harm. View the sun (and stars) through high-powered telescopes, learn about sun safety and the importance of skin cancer checks. See birds, reptiles and spiders and learn about special adaptations that protect them from the sun. Kids will love meeting “Ray” the Skin Cancer Institute mascot and the sun fact scavenger hunt. Plus, two presentations of the venomous reptile demonstration, Live and (sort of) on the Loose are planned.

UA Skin Cancer Institute Logo Mount Lemmon Sky Center Logo

Scheduled Activities:

5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Meet “Ray”
...the Skin Cancer Institute mascot and pick up the Sun Scavenger Hunt game cards.
5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Telescope Station
Meet the experts from the Mt. Lemmon Sky Center and view the sun and stars through high-powered telescopes.
5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Skin Analyzer Machines
Check out your skin with this state-of-the-art technology to see if your skin has any sun damage.
5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Sun Safety
Information stations and Sun Scavenger Hunt finish.
6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Butterfly Whirl: Contemporary Quilt Art
Check out the Ironwood Gallery’s latest art exhibition and join in the family art activities.
6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Live and (sort of) on the Loose
See rattlesnakes and Gila monsters up close & personal and learn about these most misunderstood reptiles.
8:00 to 8:45 p.m. Live and (sort of) on the Loose
See rattlesnakes and Gila monsters up close & personal and learn about these most misunderstood reptiles.

Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans Logo

June 20 — Saving Species Night

In a night dedicated to the incredible diversity of Sonoran Desert plants and animals, watch live animal presentations featuring threatened and endangered species of the Sonoran Desert . Experts from the Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans (CEDO) will present the Vanishing Vaquita, highlighting the world’s most threatened marine mammal. Hear real-life stories about jaguars and ocelots in the Arizona-Sonora borderlands. Plus, learn about the threatened and endangered plants of the Sonoran Desert region in a special exhibit in the Desert Garden.

Scheduled Activities:

6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
View the threatened & endangered plant exhibit, learn about saving the vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise and most endangered marine mammal. (CEDO)
6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Children’s Activities
Including the By-Catch game and Saving Species craft project presented by U of A’s Marine Awareness and Conservation Society (MACS). Plus, learn about the threatened and endangered plants of the Sonoran Desert Region and the Desert Museum’s Pollination Hot Spots program.
6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Butterfly Whirl: Contemporary Quilt Art
Check out the Ironwood Gallery’s latest art exhibition and join in the family art activities.
6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Live Animal Presentations
Featuring threatened and endangered species of the Sonora Desert.
7:00 to 7:45 p.m. Vanishing Vaquita Presentation
The world’s smallest porpoise lives in the Northern end of the Gulf of California. Learn about this most endangered marine mammal and efforts to save it from extinction from Peggy Turks-Boyer of the Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans (CEDO).
8:00 to 8:45 p.m. Live Animal Presentations
Featuring threatened and endangered species of the Sonora Desert.
8:00 to 8:45 p.m. The Real Wildcats Presentation
Listen as the Desert Museum’s expert shares his real-life stories studying jaguars, mountain lions and ocelots of the Arizona-Sonora borderlands. Discover how many animals currently live in the region, how to identify them in the field, their role in the environment and conservation efforts to protect them.

June 27 — Bat Night

Bats rank among the planet’s most misunderstood and intensely persecuted mammals. It may be simply because they are active only at night and difficult to observe. Learn about the myriad of bat myths and gain a better understanding of these fascinating flying mammals as the Museum’s expert shares her knowledge and insights. Observe live bats up close & personal.

Scheduled Activities:

6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Join experts from Kartchner Caverns as they share their research and knowledge about the bats that use the cave’s Big Room as a bat nursery. Learn about the Desert Museum’s Pollination Hot Spots program and sign up to become a Citizen Scientist. Plus, families will enjoy special bat activities and “bat crafts” for kids.
6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Butterfly Whirl: Contemporary Quilt Art
Check out the Ironwood Gallery’s latest art exhibition and join in the family art activities.
6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Going Batty for Bats Presentation
See live bats and gain a better understanding of these fascinating and misunderstood flying mammals.
7:00 to 7:45 p.m.
Get “hands-on” with marine invertebrates.
8:00 to 8:45 p.m. Going Batty for Bats Presentation
See live bats and gain a better understanding of these fascinating and misunderstood flying mammals.

July 4 — Full Moon Festival

The moon has long been an inspiration for artists from all different cultures and tonight the Arts — visual art, music, and poetry — take center stage. As the sun sets and the moon rises, take a leisurely stroll around the grounds. Enjoy live musical performances in three unique venues, including one especially for children!

Scheduled Activities:

5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Poetry Scavenger Hunt
Pick up your poetry scavenger hunt guide. Follow the clues to complete your poem. Then get in touch with your inner artist by decorating the cover in the Baldwin Building art activity center. (materials provided)
6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Butterfly Whirl: Contemporary Quilt Art
Check out the Ironwood Gallery’s latest art exhibition and join in the family art activities.
6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Art Activities
Free, fun, & friendly desert-at-night-inspired art activities and crafts-in-a-jiffy - for all ages and skill levels.
6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Joe Pena
Liven up your night with this eclectic blend of alternative, blues and acoustic rock music.
6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Live and (sort of) on the Loose
See rattlesnakes and Gila monsters up close & personal and learn about these most misunderstood reptiles.
6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Live Musical Performance
For children & families.
7:15 to 8:00 p.m. Hot Club of Tucson
Sit back, relax and enjoy gypsy jazz and gypsy folk music performed by this talented Tucson trio.
8:00 to 8:45 p.m. Joe Pena
Liven up your night with this eclectic blend of alternative, blues and acoustic rock music.
8:00 to 8:45 p.m. Live and (sort of) on the Loose
See rattlesnakes and Gila monsters up close & personal and learn about these most misunderstood reptiles.
8:00 to 9:00 p.m. Live Musical Performance
For children & families.
8:45 to 9:30 p.m. Hot Club of Tucson
Sit back, relax and enjoy gypsy jazz and gypsy folk music performed by this talented Tucson trio.

National Optical Astronomy Observatory Logo

July 11 — Astronomy Night

Join the experts from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) for a start-studded adventure : Solar Systems of the Universe. Learn about the formation our own solar system and discover the wonders surrounding newly discovered solar systems of distant stars. Take time out to star-gaze through telescopes. And don’t miss the live animal presentation, Fur, Feathers & Fangs.

Scheduled Activities:

6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Solar System Activities
With the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) Kitt Peak
6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Glow in the Dark
Painting activity for all ages
6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Vanishing Circles
Check out the Ironwood Gallery's latest art exhibition and join in the family art activities.
6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Fur, Feather & Fangs
Animal experts share their knowledge and experiences in working with a variety of native animals.
6:45 to 7:30 p.m. Native American Flutes Musical Performances
7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Star Gazing
Enjoy star gazing in Tucson’s “dark skies” presented by the International Dark Sky Association (Southern Arizona Chapter).
8:00 to 8:45 p.m. Fur, Feather & Fangs
Animal experts share their knowledge and experiences in working with a variety of native animals.
8:00 to 8:45 p.m. Native American Flutes Musical Performances

July 18 — Insect Insanity

It’s back by popular demand! Let’s celebrate Incredible Insects and Amazing Arthropods! The Sonoran Desert is a hot spot of insect diversity and this is your chance to meet them! Tonight, get a bugs-eye view of many of the million species of arthropods that make the Sonoran Desert their home. Learn new facts and dispel old myths. Attend an enlightened lecture by the University of Arizona’s amazing “Bugman”, Dr. Carl Olson. Get a hands-on experience with arthropods! Craft antennae! Attend this Arthro-Party for all ages!

Scheduled Activities:

6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Explore the World of Creepy-crawlies
Entomologists, insect lovers and arthro-philes share their collections for up close and personal guest experiences. Great photo ops!
6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Vanishing Circles
Check out the Ironwood Gallery’s latest art exhibition and join in the family art activities.
6:00 to 9:30 p.m. Antennae Crafting and Spider Drawing Activities
Join the Museum’s Jr. Docents for crafting and drawing activities. Then learn from the Museum’s education specialists how to draw tarantulas using scientific observation. Find out about the Desert Museum’s Pollination Hot Spots program and sign up to become a Citizen Scientist.
6:30 to 7:15 p.m. The Amazing, Awe-Inspiring World of Entomology
The UofA’s “Bugman”, Dr. Carl Olson, will enlighten audiences about the 6-, 8-, and more-legged creatures of the desert.
7:00 to 7:45 p.m.
Get “hands-on” with marine invertebrates in the touch tank!
8:00 to 8:45 p.m. The Amazing, Awe-Inspiring World of Entomology
The UofA’s “Bugman”, Dr. Carl Olson, will enlighten audiences about the 6-, 8-, and more-legged creatures of the desert.

July 25 — Creatures of the Night

The desert is the place to be for lively nightlife! From bats, to owls to kangaroo rats, meet the creatures that wake up once the sun sets. Discover adaptations these animals have evolved for nocturnal living at live animal presentations by Museum’s educators. Kartchner Caverns State Park rangers will be on hand to share stories about the bats that make their home in the caverns.

Scheduled Activities:

6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Great activities for families!
See if you can identify animals by the way their eyes shine in light. Plus make your very own tarantulas bat to take home or complete a bat-themed word search puzzle.
6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Vanishing Circles
Check out the Ironwood Gallery’s latest art exhibition and join in the family art activities.
6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Creatures of the Night
Live animal presentation featuring animals that come to life once the sun sets.
6:45 to 7:30 p.m. Bat Nurseries
Join experts from Kartchner Caverns as they share their research and knowledge about the bats that use the cave’s Big Room as a bat nursery. Plus, families will enjoy special bat activities and “bat crafts” for kids
7:30 to 8:15 p.m. Bat Homes
Join the Kartchner Caverns State Park Rangers to learn all about the bats that call the caverns home. Discover the important role that these “mysterious” creatures play in nature and discuss common myths.
8:00 to 8:45 p.m. Creatures of the Night
Live animal presentation featuring animals that come to life once the sun sets.
8:00 to 8:45 p.m. Bat Nurseries
Join experts from Kartchner Caverns as they share their research and knowledge about the bats that use the cave’s Big Room as a bat nursery. Plus, families will enjoy special bat activities and “bat crafts” for kids

August 1 — Full Moon Festival

The moon has long been an inspiration for artists from all different cultures and tonight the Arts — visual art, music, and poetry — take center stage. As the sun sets and the moon rises, take a leisurely stroll around the grounds. Experience “black light” poetry, participate in hands-on art activities or a free photography workshop. Enjoy live musical performances in three unique venues, including one especially for children!

Scheduled Activities:

5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Black Light Poetry Hunt
Bring a black light with you or purchase one in the gift shop to participate in the black light poetry scavenger hunt! Pick up a guide as you enter. Search the grounds for words only visible in UV light and use them to complete your poem. Then decorate the poetry guide cover in the Baldwin Building art activity center.
5:30 to 6:15 p.m. Free Photography Workshop
Photowalk on the Wild Side presented by Art Institute instructors Jay Pierstorff and Rhonda Spencer. Learn the secrets to taking images that stand out and the keys to winning photo contests. This event launches the Desert Museum Art Institute Cool Summer Night photo contest.
6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Vanishing Circles
Check out the Ironwood Gallery’s latest art exhibition and join in the family art activities.
6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Art Activities
Free, fun, and friendly desert-at-night-inspired art activities and crafts-in-a-jiffy - for all ages and skill levels.
6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Saguaro Sunset Bluegrass Trio
Ease into your evening with this trio’s smooth bluegrass, country and folk music.
6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Fur, Feather & Fangs
Animal experts share their knowledge and experiences in working with a variety of native animals.
6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sticks & Fingers
Experience this dynamic percussion group that produces a joyful Afro-Caribbean sound. Great for kids!
7:15 to 8:00 p.m. Robb & Marshall
Enjoy the classic sounds of this violin and guitar duo.
8:00 to 8:45 p.m. Fur, Feather & Fangs
Animal experts share their knowledge and experiences in working with a variety of native animals.
8:00 to 8:45 p.m. Saguaro Sunset Bluegrass Trio
Ease into your evening with this trio’s smooth bluegrass, country and folk music.
8:00 to 8:45 p.m. Youth Poetry Readings
By Earth Day Poetry Contest winners!
8:00 to 9:00 p.m. Sticks & Fingers
Experience this dynamic percussion group that produces a joyful Afro-Caribbean sound. Great for kids!
8:45 to 9:30 p.m. Robb & Marshall
Enjoy the classic sounds of this violin and guitar duo.

Tucson Improv Movement

August 8 — Conservation & Comedy: The Joke's On Us!

Conservation is no laughing matter and if we don’t take it seriously, the joke really will be on us. But that doesn’t mean conservation can’t be fun! Join this celebration of nature and learn more about protecting it for future generations. The evening’s activities will include live animal presentations about threatened and endangered species, conservation activity stations and a fast-paced, gut-bursting, laugh-riot of a good time inspired by the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert! Tucson’s own, Tucson Improv Movement, will lead the charge with freestyle rapping, comedy challenges, stand-up on-the-spot jokes, and a chance for the audience to participate.


National Optical Astronomy Observatory Logo

August 15 — Astronomy Night

Join the experts from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) for a start-studded adventure : Solar Systems of the Universe. Learn about the formation our own solar system and discover the wonders surrounding newly discovered solar systems of distant stars. Take time out to star-gaze through telescopes. And you won’t want to miss the live Physics Factory presentations.


A volunteer helps children collect mineral specimens in egg cartons

August 22 — Science Rocks! & Teacher Appreciation Night

It’s back-to-school time and the Museum is a great place to bone up on biology, rock out with geology and take off with astronomy. From mineral and rock activities to live animal presentations, to great views of the night sky or monsoon weather, the science of nature is on full display! Enjoy Creatures of the Night featuring nocturnal desert animals. PreK-12 teachers, in deep appreciation for their important work, will get in free this evening.


August 29 — Full "Blue Moon" Festival

The moon has long been an inspiration for artists from all different cultures and tonight the Arts — visual art, music, and poetry — take center stage. Tonight’s “blue moon” is particularly special and happens when there are two full moons in one month. As the sun sets and the moon rises, take a leisurely stroll around the grounds. Experience hands-on art activities or a free photography workshop. Enjoy live musical performances in three unique venues, including one especially for children!