Our first spring break adventure was to the Desert Botanical Garden. It’s funny: no matter how many times I go there, I always forget how BIG and genuinely cool that place is. And sometimes it’s years between visits. This one was definitely overdue, but our timing was pretty much perfect.
(As always, scroll to the bottom of this post for tips for visiting the Phoenix, Arizona Desert Botanical Garden, or read on to see photos + hear about our visit.)
I think maybe I get jaded because every other house in our neighborhood has a cactus or three out front. Like, desert plants are hardly a novelty anymore. You can only see so many saguaro before you just kind of stop seeing them.
Then I get there and see ALL THE CACTUS. Plus all the agave. And all the succulents. And all the weird stuff like boojum trees and yucca that make me feel pretty certain Dr. Seuss had a hand in designing them.
The desert is a weird, beautiful place, y’all.
What makes the Desert Botanical Garden even better is they always have some kind of integrated art exhibit that is equally weird and beautiful. I’ve seen everything from Chihuly’s blown glass sculptures to gigantic wooden insects to multicolored globes of light among the cactus. Every time there’s something new, and this visit was no exception.
Through mid-May, you can find giant ceramic and bronze sculptures by Jun Kaneko throughout the garden. That bear-pig-person-thing Margot is standing by in this post? It’s one of six human-sized Tanuki, and my kids were enamored with all of them.
Spring is, in my opinion, the best time to visit the Desert Botanical Garden. Yes, there will be larger crowds because of the nice weather and all the snowbirds + spring training visitors. But spring is when the butterfly pavilion is up!
I should’ve remembered to dress my kids in floral prints, because they so desperately wanted a butterfly to land on them…and we didn’t have any luck. Alas. Next time, though, we’ll go wild with flowers so we can attract as many butterflies as possible.
There are several trail loops you can take, depending on how far you want to walk and what you want to see. Mila chose the Plants & People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail for us.
Pros: not as hilly as the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail.
Cons: less shade than the Desert Wildflower Loop Trail.
Bonus: some (minimally) interactive exhibits about various Sonoran Desert peoples, such as the Akimel O’Odham and Apache households, and the Spanish garden.
We spent almost two hours at the Desert Botanical Garden before the kids were hungry + whining for lunch. Other than the butterfly pavilion being a little crowded, it was a perfect morning: lovely weather, something new + strange around every corner to keep the kids interested, and enough walking to wear everyone out.
Man I like that place. Maybe I need a season pass so I don’t wait so long before going again.
Tips for visiting the Desert Botanical Garden
- Location: 1201 N Galvin Parkway (which turns into 64th St north of McDowell and Priest south of Van Buren) just north of the Phoenix Zoo and Papago Park. Watch for signs for the turnoff.
- Hours: daily from 7 AM to 8 PM from May to September, and 8 AM to 8 PM from October to April. Be sure to check the DBG website for any early closures or holidays.
- Admission cost: $24.95 for adults, $12.95 for children ages 3-17. Children under 3 are free. Annual passes are available; see the website for details. Entry is free for everyone on the second Tuesday of every month. It tends to be crowded then, of course, so plan accordingly. You can also get free admission by checking out a Culture Pass from almost any local library. There are limited numbers and in high demand during good weather, so check your library frequently.
- The Spring Butterfly Exhibit runs through May 13 and is included with regular admission.
- The Spring Plant Sale starts TODAY for members and is open to the general public this weekend (3/17-18/2018).
- The garden hosts all kinds of special events and exhibits. I highly suggest checking their calendar for events that interest you. I’m already looking forward to Electric Desert in October!
- Bring water and make use of the drinking fountains around the garden. Hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses are always a good idea, no matter what time of year. That Arizona sun is no joke, guys.
- Along those lines, I recommend going as early in the day as you can. Even in spring, things heat up quickly around here.
- Wear comfortable, ideally closed-toed shoes. Many of the trails are sandy and few things are more annoying than rocks in your sandals.
- Strollers, electric scooters, wheelchairs, and umbrellas are available to rent at the visitor’s center.
- The only animals admitted are service dogs.