11 tips for visiting the desert botanical garden

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When I think of botanical gardens, I default to winding paths lined with shade trees, vast green spaces, soothing water features and bursts of color that change with the seasons. But over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the unique beauty of the Sonoran Desert with its palette of sandy browns and olive greens accented with soaring saguaro, golden-tipped cacti, and fuzzy chollas.

One of the best places to appreciate North America’s most intricate desert dusty landscape is the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. These 11 tips will help you get the most out of your visit and ensure you have a memorable time.

Sage Scott

1. It’s near the airport

If you’re arriving or departing from Grand Canyon State, the Desert Botanical Garden is just 10 minutes northeast of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The garden is a fantastic place to stretch your legs after a long flight or the perfect place to soak up that last ray of sunshine before returning home from Phoenix.

A hummingbird at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona.

Sage Scott

2. How to Save on Desert Botanical Garden Admission

A full-day adult admission ticket to the Desert Botanical Garden currently costs around $ 30, but there are several ways to save on admission. You can visit the garden absolutely free on Community Day, the second Tuesday of each month. Another great way to stretch your budget is to use a Culture Pass. Through a partnership between the Phoenix Metro Public Libraries and a selection of museums in the area, the Culture Pass offers cardholders two free admissions to participating attractions when they “buy” a library pass.

Pro tip: In addition to the Desert Botanical Garden, the Culture Pass will allow you to explore the Phoenix Art Museum, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, the Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve and several other destinations in the Phoenix metro area.

Cactus with a mosaic at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona.

Sage Scott

3. Membership has its privileges

If you plan to visit the Desert Botanical Garden more than three times a year, you may want to purchase a membership. Starting at $ 79, several membership levels are available. Nonetheless, all members enjoy year-round unlimited entry to the garden, early entry on Wednesdays and Sundays, reciprocal entry to over 300 related attractions across North America and others. advantages.

Pro tip: If you’re visiting Phoenix in December, don’t miss Las Noches de las Luminarias when the garden paths are lined with thousands of glittering light bags while the ceiling lights twinkle like stars in the desert night. And if you’re a member, you can enjoy that vacation experience at exclusive member-only events.

A sign for Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden.

Sage Scott

4. The best time to visit the Desert Botanical Garden

The garden is generally open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. To avoid the crowds, arrive as soon as the garden opens or later in the afternoon. Note that the Desert Botanical Garden is closed on July 4, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. The garden also sometimes closes early for special events throughout the year, such as Las Noches de las Luminarias.

While the garden is a gorgeous destination all year round, you might want to avoid going there from June through August, when America’s hottest city has consistently high triple-digit temperatures. My favorite time to visit the Desert Botanical Garden is in the spring when the cacti and wildflowers are in bloom. Take a walk along the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail and watch hummingbirds flutter around the bright flowers.

Pro tip: Besides the Desert Botanical Garden, these are the best places to see Arizona wildflowers, and this guide will help you identify Arizona wildflowers.

Red tipped cactus at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona.

Sage Scott

5. Stay hydrated

Whether you’re visiting Phoenix in December or January (when the high temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit) or summer (when the average temperature is around 105 degrees Fahrenheit), be sure to stay hydrated. The Mayo Clinic recommends drinking 11 to 15 cups of water a day, but in Phoenix, you’ll want to increase your intake to avoid dehydration.

Be sure to take a reusable water bottle with you out into the garden and refill it often at one of the many hydration stations on site. Drink water regularly throughout your visit, especially before you feel thirsty.

A mountain aster flower at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona.

Sage Scott

6. Be careful with the sun

In addition to staying hydrated, pay attention to sun protection when visiting the Desert Botanical Garden. Especially in the desert, sunscreen is an absolute must to protect your skin from sunburn and skin cancer. Sunglasses are also recommended to protect your eyes. And whether it’s a baseball cap supporting your favorite spring training team or a cute, wide-brimmed straw hat, it’s surprising how much a little shade makes a difference. in an arid environment.

A desert cottontail rabbit at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona.

Sage Scott

7. Good sports walking shoes

While the garden trails are all easy to navigate (and fully wheelchair accessible), make sure you wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting dusty or dirty. I love my Keen hiking sandals. Of course, they are made to walk, but they are also washable! After exploring the garden, I can throw them in the washing machine with a splash of detergent to remove any dirt. Once air-dry, they are like new!

When combined, the trails in the 55-acre garden add up to about 1.5 miles. A series of quarter mile loops connect to a main trail which is crossed by Quail Run Path. I recommend allowing at least 2 hours to explore the Desert Botanical Garden.

Pro tip: Download a guide and a trail map before you go.

A prickly pear with red buds at the Desert Botanical Garden.

Sage Scott

8. Pets (and picnics) are prohibited

Unless you are visiting on a designated “dog day” at the Desert Botanical Garden, you will need to leave your furry best friend at home. (However, assistance dogs are always welcome.)

Picnics are also prohibited in the garden, but you can grab a quick bite at the Patio Cafe or sit and enjoy a seasonally inspired farm-to-table meal at Gertrude’s.

Pro tip: For other great places to dine al fresco in Phoenix, check out this article.

A cactus at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona.

Sage Scott

9. Select a memory

From desert-inspired art to prickly pear treats and beyond, you’re sure to find the perfect keepsake at the Garden Shop. And at the Desert Botanical Garden’s Plant Sale, which is offered at certain times of the year, you can also purchase cacti, succulents, trees, shrubs, and other plants that can thrive in a garden at the Desert Botanical Garden. Arizona.

Fun fact: Rising 40 feet above the desert, the saguaro cactus is the tallest cactus in the United States. But before you think about picking one in the Sonoran Desert as a DIY souvenir, know that cutting or removing a saguaro cactus is illegal. Arizona is so determined to protect its natural beauty that destroying or removing a native plant is considered a Class Four crime. This crime is comparable to arson, kidnapping and credit card fraud.

Saguaro cactus at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona.

Sage Scott

10. Don’t miss the desert landscape at sunset

Whether the sun is setting while you are in the garden or after you are gone, don’t miss the opportunity to see a majestic silhouette of saguaro cacti against the backdrop of the stunning sky. Inside the garden, one of the best places to watch the sunset is the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail. But even if you end your stay in the garden before the sun goes out, the roads surrounding the Desert Botanical Garden are teeming with saguaros and other desert plants that look beautiful at sunset.

Because the state of Arizona does not observe daylight saving time, the sun sets relatively early during most of the months in Phoenix. Look for bright rays of red and orange around 5:30 p.m. on the shortest day of the year and around 7:30 a.m. on the longest day of the year.

Pro tip: If your visit to Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden makes you crave more flora, check out the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park. About an hour east of downtown Phoenix, this is a great day trip from Phoenix.

A cactus wren at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona.

Sage Scott

11. There are several other things to do in Papago Park

Papago Park, the 1,500-acre reserve surrounding the Desert Botanical Garden, has even more to offer. If you have more time to spend in Papago Park after visiting the garden, be sure to visit the Phoenix Zoo or take a hike. The trails range from 0.2 to 3.1 miles in length, and all are rated as easy, meaning they are accessible, paved or hard, and have minimal elevation change. One of my favorite trails in Papago Park is the Hole-in-the-Rock Trail. At just 0.2 mile long it’s hard to call it a hike, but this path leads to a large viewing hole in a red sandstone cliff that frames the desert sunset in a truly unique way. .

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