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Cool Summer Nights goes Coastal!

May 21 - September 3, 2016
Saturday: 5:00 p.m. — 10:00 p.m.

Regular Admission Rates Apply

Note: The Ironwood Terraces Restaurant and Cottonwood Café will be open for Cool Summer Nights beginning May 21. The Ocotillo Café will open for Cool Summer Nights beginning June 4.

Familes enjoying the treehouse at dusk
Photo credit: Arizona Daily Star

Guests under floodlit canopy in the Desert Garden
Photo credit: Rhonda Spencer

Children using black lights to search for scorpions in rock wall
Photo credit: Rhonda Spencer

Beat the Arizona heat and enjoy a family-friendly outing during our popular Cool Summer Nights. So what makes these Saturday evenings so enchanting? The stunning sunsets, skies speckled with stars, night-blooming plants, and animals reappearing from their daytime naps.

The desert comes alive at night as nocturnal animals awake. Bats perform aerial acrobatics in pursuit of dinner, beavers splash around in their pond, and scorpions glow green under black light. Bring your flashlight and explore, experience a live animal encounter, or participate in special nightly activities. See the schedule below for weekly themes and activities.

Pro tip? Arrive early for the best parking!

Mother and child in pushchair, walking the grounds
Photo credit: Arizona Daily Star

Weekly Themes & Activity Schedule

(See previous Saturday schedules)

June 4 — World Ocean Night

What does the Sonoran Desert and World Oceans Night have in common? The Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) is within the borders of the Sonoran Desert. So join the Desert Museum and Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood for a celebration. Honor the world’s oceans by wearing blue and dive into the incredible variety of marine life and how we can protect it.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Logo

Seafood Watch Logo


June 11 — Living in Harmony with the Sun

In partnership with the University of Arizona Skin Cancer Institute and Mount Lemmon Sky Center, we explore how to foster a healthy relationship with the sun and the great outdoors. View the sun (and stars) through high-powered telescopes, learn about sun safety and the importance of skin cancer checks.

Sponsored by the University of Arizona Skin Cancer Center


June 18 — Full Moon Festival

Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the desert during Full Moon Festival, celebrating art and music.


June 25 — Monsoon Madness

Monsoon. The time of the year when the skies turn dark, thousands of rain droplets descend from ominous clouds, and lightning speckles the sky. Learn about these powerful forces of nature and how to take the best photographs during the season (safely, of course).


July 2 — Creatures of the Night

Want to know what creatures party in the nighttime? Here’s your chance to find out!


July 9 — Volcanoes & Vaquitas

All interesting things start with the letter V, right? Learn more about Earth’s fiery power forces (volcanoes) and the rare, yet adorable, species of porpoise endemic to the northern part of the Gulf of California (vaquitas).


July 16 — Full Moon Festival

Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the desert during Full Moon Festival, celebrating art and music.


July 23 — Astronomy Night

NOAO Logo Join the experts from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) for a star-studded adventure with lots of Solar System hands-on activities. Learn about the formation our own solar system and discover the wonders surrounding newly discovered solar systems of distant stars.


July 30 — Creatures of the Night

Want to know what creatures party in the nighttime? Here’s your chance to find out!


August 6 — Insect Insanity

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.


August 13 — Astronomy Night

NOAO Logo Join the experts from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) for a star-studded adventure with lots of Solar System hands-on activities. Learn about the formation our own solar system and discover the wonders surrounding newly discovered solar systems of distant stars.


August 20 — Full Moon Festival

Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the desert during Full Moon Festival, celebrating art and music.

How to take Great Photos with any Camera with Jay Pierstorff and Rhonda Spencer

August 27 — Teacher Appreciation Night

It’s back-to-school time and the Desert 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, the science of nature is on full display! PreK-12 teachers, in deep appreciation for their important work, will be admitted free with ID showing that you’re a teacher.


September 3 — Pollinator Party (Bats)

Bats rank among the planet’s most misunderstood and unappreciated animals. It may simply be because they are only active at night and difficult to observe. Learn about the multitude of bat myths and gain a better understanding of these fascinating flying mammals. Observe live bats up close & personal.

  • Bat Natural History presentation
  • Visits with these curious creatures
  • Discussions and interpretations with educational docents
  • Native American Flutes

Couple observing the sunset
Photo credit: Arizona Daily Star