Explore Tucson

Explore Tucson’s Gardens and Art Museums

Ideal wandering and pondering at three outdoor gardens and three indoor art museums

Tranquil landscapes and thought-provoking collections in the forms of outdoor gardens and indoor art museums are relaxing ways to fill days in Tucson.

While the weather is beautiful, wander the paths and explore the earthly collections at three well-manicured gardens, spanning desert flora and traditional Japanese shrubbery. When the temps begin to rise above your comfort level, step inside and ponder contemporary Western and modern works of art at Tucson Museum of Art & Historic Block, 13th- to 19th-century European collections at University of Arizona Museum of Art, and American Indian textiles at Tucson Desert Art Museum. 


Tucson Botanical Gardens: Springtime provides the perfect weather for strolling along the paths at Tucson Botanical Gardens, where cacti bloom within the Cactus & Succulent Garden, hummingbirds flutter through the Backyard Bird Garden and butterflies roam the Butterfly & Orchid Pavilion (open 9:30 am-3 pm October through May). The gardens and on-site Café Botanica are open year-round.

Tucson Botanical Gardens
Tucson Botanical Gardens (Courtesy Tucson Botanical Gardens)

Tohono Chul Park: At Tohono Chul Park, several short nature trails wind through the desert gardens within the park, water features in the Riparian Habitat provide a sense of serenity, the Sonoran Seasons Garden reflects seasonal adaptations of native plants and the Desert Palm Oasis incorporates palms found along the Sea of Cortez. Lounge on the patio of the Garden Bistro before or after your visit and enjoy a seasonal dish prepared with local and often organic ingredients. Tohono Chul Park is open year-round with discounted admission May-September Check online for tours and events. 

Tohono Chul Park
The Garden Bistro offers a sweet refuge even for those without enough time to wander the park. (Courtesy Tohono Chul Park)

Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson: For a stronger sense of zen, visit Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson, an organization founded to bring the Japanese culture to Tucson. Only three years old, the gardens continue to mature and replicate gardens typical to those of everyday people living in Japan. Walking paths connect each garden and overlook features like a “dry river,” similar to what is found in urban garden settings, and a koi pond. Rotating exhibits are displayed in three small galleries, and a small house, much like a traditional dwelling in Japan, sits next to a zen garden towards the back of the property. The gardens are open October through the beginning of May.

Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson
Keep to the walking paths and observe the traditional Japanese gardens at Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson. (©Patricia Deridder)

Art Museums 

Tucson Museum of Art & Historic Block: Anchored in the heart of downtown Tucson is an art museum exhibiting contemporary Western to modern works. Eight to nine temporary exhibits are on display at any given time ranging Western works, fiber art, Asian-influenced pieces and ceramics. An exhibit titled “El Nacimiento,” located inside an adjacent building on the property called La Casa Cordova displays an extensive traditional Mexican nativity scene, and is open for viewing mid-November through mid-March. The Café a la C’Art patio is an ideal spot to take a lunch break between gallery roaming.

Tucson Museum of Art
Visitors can easily spend a full day exploring Tucson Museum of Art. (Courtesy Tucson Museum of Art)

University of Arizona Museum of Art: Showcasing nearly 20 exhibits per year, this on-campus art museum has two permanent installations. One of which is the Samuel H. Kress Collection of 13th- through 19th-century European works, including a stunning 26-panel alterpiece of the Spanish Cathedral of Cuidad Rodrigo. Rotating exhibits often display collections that feature an art and science crossover.

University of Arizona Museum of Art
Spend some time admiring The Altarpiece of Ciudad Rodrigo at the University of Arizona Museum of Art. (Courtesy University of Arizona Art Museum)

Tucson Desert Art Museum: American Indian textiles are explored at Tucson Desert Art Museum through exhibits chronicling blanket and basket weaving patterns, colors and storytelling methodology. Rotating photography exhibits may feature the Dirty Thirties/Dust Bowl era, desert still-life and such.

Tucson Desert Art Museum
Gain insight into American Indian textiles at the Tucson Desert Art Museum. (©Robin Stancliff)