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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

(See previous Saturday schedules)

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:

5:00 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. 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
6:30 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:

5:00 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. 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 9:30 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:

5:00 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. 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.
6:30 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.
5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Vanishing Circles
Check out the Ironwood Gallery’s latest art exhibition and join in the family art activities.
5:00 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.
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.
6:30 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!


September 5 — End of Summer Party / Fiesta de Fin de Verano

Celebrate the Mexican heritage of the Sonoran Desert region! As the sun sets behind the mountains and the stars come out, experience the magic of the desert at night. Take a relaxing stroll of the grounds, explore the animal exhibits, and enjoy four unique venues featuring musicians influenced by our Spanish culture. We are proud to partner with the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for this very special night.

¡Celebre la diversidad cultural y la herencia Mexicana del Desierto Sonorense! ¡Disfrute del desierto al atardecer y mientras las estrellas salen; visite los jardines del Museo, vea los animales en sus exhibiciones, y disfrute de la música con influencia Española en cuatro sitios únicos! Estamos orgullosos de asociarnos con la Cámara de Comercio Hispana de Tucson.