Cool Summer Nights

May 20 - September 2, 2017
Saturday: 5:00 p.m. — 10:00 p.m.

Regular Admission Rates Apply

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.

Dining options

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 only upcoming Saturday schedules)

NOAO logo May 20 — Celestial Celebration

In partnership with the University of Arizona Skin Cancer Institute, we explore how to foster a healthy relationship with the sun and the great outdoors. You can also join the experts from the International Dark-Sky Association, National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), and Tucson Amateur Astronomers for a star-studded adventure with lots of Solar System hands-on activities.

Sponsored by the University of Arizona Skin Cancer Center


May 27 — Creatures of the Night

Want to know what creatures party in the nighttime? Here’s your chance to find out! Experience live animal interpretations on grounds, spend time with our animated animals, and enjoy our popular Fur, Feather, and Fangs show.

6:30-7:15 Fur, Feathers and Fangs
Listen and learn as Keepers share their expert knowledge and experiences in working with a variety of native Sonoran Desert animals.
8:00-8:45 Fur, Feathers and Fangs
Listen and learn as Keepers share their expert knowledge and experiences in working with a variety of native Sonoran Desert animals.

June 3 — Creatures of the Night

Want to know what creatures party in the nighttime? Here’s your chance to find out! Experience live animal interpretations on grounds, spend time with our animated animals, and enjoy our popular Desert Survivors show.

6:30-7:15 Desert Survivors
Discover the adaptations that living things use to survive and thrive in our desert climate.
8:00-8:45 Desert Survivors
Discover the adaptations that living things use to survive and thrive in our desert climate.

June 10 — World Oceans Night

Water is one of the most precious resources in the Sonoran Desert, which includes the Gulf of California - also known as the Sea of Cortez. Enjoy complimentary sustainable seafood tastings from Fini’s Landing, Hotel Congress, Maynards, Penca, Primo at Starr Pass, and Rojo Hospitality (see also the special Ocotillo Café menu for tonight (PDF)). You can also learn about the incredible biodiversity of this marine environment and how to protect it with Biosphere 2, CEDO, Marine Awareness and Conservation Society, The Dive Shop, The Fin Foundation, and the University of Arizona. Please wear blue in honor of World Oceans Day!

6:30-7:15 Fighting for Conservation - "A Shark's Story"
With Shaun Pipes of the Finn Foundation
8:00-8:45 Ancient Salt Trails and Oases: The Cultural Connection to the Gulf of California
With Jesus García

June 17 — Creatures of the Night

Want to know what creatures party in the nighttime? Here’s your chance to find out! Experience live animal interpretations on grounds, spend time with our animated animals, and enjoy our popular Desert Survivors show.

6:30-7:15 Desert Survivors
Discover the adaptations that living things use to survive and thrive in our desert climate.
8:00-8:45 Desert Survivors
Discover the adaptations that living things use to survive and thrive in our desert climate.

NOAO logo June 24 — Astronomy Night

Join the experts from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) for a star-studded adventure with lots of Solar System hands-on activities.


July 1 — Glitter & Glow

Spend time under the sparkling stars with our animated animals, enjoy a fascinating lightning photography presentation by Ralph Wetmore, and learn about fluorescent minerals from Museum staff. You can also “namaste” during Glow & Flow Yoga with Tiffany Georgia from Tucson Yoga.

6:00-9:00 Fluorescent Minerals
6:00-9:00 Docent Interpretive Stations
6:30-7:15 Catching The Flash - Lightning Photography
Presentation by Ralph Wetmore
7:00-7:45 Glow & Flow Yoga
With Tiffany Georgia from Tucson Yoga
8:00-8:45 Catching The Flash - Lightning Photography
Presentation by Ralph Wetmore
8:00-8:45 Glow & Flow Yoga
With Tiffany Georgia from Tucson Yoga

July 8 — Saving Species

Want to know what creatures party in the nighttime? Here’s your chance to find out! Experience live animal interpretations on grounds, spend time with our animated animals, engage in hands-on art activities, and enjoy our popular Desert Survivors show.

6:00-7:30 Joel Sartore Video Screening and Panel Discussion
Join the Desert Museum and Arizona Public Media for a sneak peek screening of RARE: Creatures of the Photo Ark. This documentary chronicles Sartore's photographic journey to save species around the world. Screening is free with Museum admission. Please RSVP.
6:00-9:00 Art Activities
6:00-9:00 Docent Interpretive Stations
6:00-9:00 Vaquitas
Learn more about this vanishing species and why we should work to save it. You can find activities in the Desert Garden.
6:00-9:00 Drink for a cause with 'Margaritas for Vaquitas!'
Rojo Hospitality will be donating a portion of drink proceeds to vaquita conservation.
8:00-8:30 Desert Survivors
Discover the adaptations that living things use to survive and thrive in our desert climate.

July 15 — Creatures of the Night

Want to know what creatures party in the nighttime? Here’s your chance to find out! Experience live animal interpretations on grounds, spend time with our animated animals, and enjoy our popular Fur, Feather, and Fangs show.

6:00-9:00 Docent Interpretive Stations
6:00-9:00 Sonoran Desert Pollinators
Come and meet our Sonoran Desert pollinators! Bees, butterflies and even the nocturnal ones like bats and moths, and the different flowers they like to visit. We will have games, gifts, and info on what you can do to invite pollinators to your home and create a garden. Get a picture with our Monarch Butterfly wings, or get a temporary tattoo, and share with your friends! The presentation is bilingual (English, Español). (Presented by Mexican Biology students) (Presented by northern Mexico's "Monarch Butterfly Alliance").
6:30-7:00 Fur, Feathers and Fangs
Listen and learn as Keepers share their expert knowledge and experiences in working with a variety of native Sonoran Desert animals.
8:00-8:30 Fur, Feathers and Fangs
Listen and learn as Keepers share their expert knowledge and experiences in working with a variety of native Sonoran Desert animals.

July 22 — 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.

6:00-9:00 Docent Interpretive Stations
6:00-9:00 Insect Activities
Discover your inner artist in the Baldwin Education Building
6:00-9:00 Sonoran Desert Pollinators
Come and meet our Sonoran Desert pollinators! Bees, butterflies and even the nocturnal ones like bats and moths, and the different flowers they like to visit. We will have games, gifts, and info on what you can do to invite pollinators to your home and create a garden. Get a picture with our Monarch Butterfly wings, or get a temporary tattoo, and share with your friends! The presentation is bilingual (English, Español). (Presented by Mexican Biology students) (Presented by northern Mexico's "Monarch Butterfly Alliance").
6:30-7:15 Weird and Wonderful Creatures from Around the World
A presentation by Carl "The Bug Man" Olson
8:00-8:45 Weird and Wonderful Creatures from Around the World
A presentation by Carl "The Bug Man" Olson

July 29 — Sharks and Rays: Busting Myths

Meet a real shark keeper, learn about the threats to shark populations from the Fin Foundation, and separate fact from fiction in an enthralling presentation by renowned shark expert Shaun Pipes. You can also relax to the soothing sounds of Native American flutes.

5:30 Meet a Shark Keeper
Come learn about the sharks we have on at the Desert Museum and find out how we care for sharks in aquariums.
6:00-9:00 Art Activities
Discover your inner artist in the Gallery Courtyard
6:00-9:00 Docent Interpretive Stations
6:00-9:00 Shark Finning Information Table
Learn how shark finning is impacting wild populations and what we can do to help sharks.
6:00-9:00 Hands-on Shark Exhibits
Find information from the Fin Foundation near Stingray Touch.
6:30 Meet a Shark Keeper
Come learn about the sharks we have on at the Desert Museum and find out how we care for sharks in aquariums.
6:30-7:15 Sharks and Rays: Busting Myths
To finish off Shark Week, we’ll separate fact from fiction about sharks and rays. Presented by Shaun Pipes
6:30-8:00 Native American Flutes
Relax in the Desert Garden and sample the soothing sounds of a Native American inspired flute circle.
7:30 Meet a Shark Keeper
Come learn about the sharks we have on at the Desert Museum and find out how we care for sharks in aquariums.
8:00-8:45 Sharks and Rays: Busting Myths
To finish off Shark Week, we’ll separate fact from fiction about sharks and rays. Presented by Shaun Pipes

August 5 — Full Moon Festival

Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the desert during Full Moon Festival, celebrating art and music, and engage in hands-on art activities. Enjoy music by Haboob, and a lively discussion with Dr. Kevin Hainline about the fascinating formation of our solar system and the wonders of the night sky.

6:00-9:00 Art Activities
6:00-9:00 Docent Interpretive Stations
6:30-7:15 Marvels and Wonders: Extraordinary Surprises in Astronomy
Enjoy a lively discussion with Dr. Kevin Hainline about the fascinating formation of our solar system and the wonders of the night sky. Dr. Hainline is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arizona and member of the James Webb Space Telescope NIRCam science team.
7:00-7:45 Music by Haboob
Haboob, with a recently released vinyl record, plays original music- music that uses popular forms such as jazz and pop. Fresh off a European visit, Haboob uses sax, bass, organ and drums to paint a vast and visceral landscape of love and hope. Jeff Grubic, Ryen Eggleston, Nick Letson and Dimitri Manos have been collaborating in the sonic realm for many years, developing a musical language that they hope anyone can understand.
8:00-8:45 Marvels and Wonders: Extraordinary Surprises in Astronomy
Enjoy a lively discussion with Dr. Kevin Hainline about the fascinating formation of our solar system and the wonders of the night sky. Dr. Hainline is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arizona and member of the James Webb Space Telescope NIRCam science team.
8:15-9:00 Music by Haboob
Haboob, with a recently released vinyl record, plays original music- music that uses popular forms such as jazz and pop. Fresh off a European visit, Haboob uses sax, bass, organ and drums to paint a vast and visceral landscape of love and hope. Jeff Grubic, Ryen Eggleston, Nick Letson and Dimitri Manos have been collaborating in the sonic realm for many years, developing a musical language that they hope anyone can understand.

August 12 — Creatures of the Night

Want to know what creatures party in the nighttime? Here’s your chance to find out! Experience live animal interpretations on grounds, spend time with our animated animals, and enjoy our popular Live and (sort of) On the Loose show.

6:00-9:00 Docent Interpretive Stations
6:30-7:15 Live and (sort of) on the Loose
Join staff members from the Herpetology Department for a live animal presentation featuring venomous reptiles of the Sonoran Desert Region.
8:00-8:45 Live and (sort of) on the Loose
Join staff members from the Herpetology Department for a live animal presentation featuring venomous reptiles of the Sonoran Desert Region.

August 19 — Teacher Appreciation Night

TEP Logo

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, the science of nature is on full display! PreK-12 teachers, in deep appreciation for their important work, will be admitted free. Please bring ID to show that you’re a teacher - there is no need to pre-register this year. Thank you to TEP for sponsoring teacher admissions!

6:00-9:00 Education Program Activities
6:00-9:00 Docent Interpretive Stations
6:30-7:00 Desert Survivors
Discover the adaptations that living things use to survive and thrive in our desert climate.
8:00-8:30 Desert Survivors
Discover the adaptations that living things use to survive and thrive in our desert climate.

August 26 — Creatures of the Night

Want to know what creatures party in the nighttime? Here’s your chance to find out! Experience live animal interpretations on grounds, spend time with our animated animals, and enjoy our popular Desert Survivors show.

6:00-9:00 Docent Interpretive Stations
6:30-8:00 Native American Flutes
Relax in the Desert Garden and sample the soothing sounds of a Native American inspired flute circle.
6:30-7:00 Desert Survivors
Discover the adaptations that living things use to survive and thrive in our desert climate.
8:00-8:30 Desert Survivors
Discover the adaptations that living things use to survive and thrive in our desert climate.

September 2 — Packrat Party

Packrat Playhouse: Hidden in the Midden. Coming Spring 2018!

Did you know that packrats were some of the very first curators? Much of our scientific knowledge about the Sonoran Desert can be attributed to packrats! And that alone is a reason to party! Need more reasons to party? In Spring 2018, the Museum is opening Packrat Playhouse - an indoor, family-friendly exhibit featuring climbing, building, and collecting activities (just like a packrat!) The Museum is also celebrating 65 years of wild fun! Make sure to stop by the Baldwin Education Building to see photos from our past.

6:00-6:30 Mr. Nature's Music Garden
A fun and engaging program for everyone, young and old.
6:00-9:00 Docent Interpretive Stations
6:00-9:00 Sweet Treats
From Mad Batter Bakery — while supplies last.
6:00-9:00 Face Painting
Freshen your face with some paint! Meg's Mugs will be face painting for FREE!
6:00-9:00 Hello Gorgeous Photo Booth
Strike a packrat pose with your posse!
6:30-7:00 Animals After Dark: Cats, Scats, and Tracks
Enjoy an engaging talk with one of our Conservation Research Scientists, Sergio Avila.
7:30-8:00 Mr. Nature's Music Garden
A fun and engaging program for everyone, young and old.
8:00-8:30 Animals After Dark: Cats, Scats, and Tracks
Enjoy an engaging talk with one of our Conservation Research Scientists, Sergio Avila.

Couple observing the sunset
Photo credit: Arizona Daily Star