Most of us hear the word “desert” and think dead, lifeless. True, the desert is a harsh landscape. But it’s far from dead. Need proof? Head over to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. Over 50,000 plants are blooming on 145 acres, including many threatened and endangered species from around the Southwest. Here’s the essential guide for families who want to visit this desert oasis.
There’s good reason Phoenix has earned the nickname Valley of the Sun. You can count on warm weather, and sun… lots of it. You can also count on cactus and the arid desert landscape. At Phoenix’ Desert Botanical Garden you’ll see the desert in all its glory and diversity.
Ready for Their Close-Up
I recently shot some of my favorite plants with a macro camera lens, loaned to me by Canon. A macro lens is designed for photographing small subjects at very close distances. Perfect for shooting flowers.
It was my first time using a macro lens and I loved how it let me capture every detail of the plants. It felt like the photographic version of a Georgia O’Keefe painting.
All these photos were shot with the Canon macro 100 mm lens on my Canon DSLR camera. Sure, it’s easier to just use my phone’s camera, but I’d never get these crisp, clear close ups.
Don’t expect to see manicured flower beds filled with tulips or other planted flowers at Phoenix’s Desert Botanic Garden. Instead you’ll find native plants and ones uniquely suited to this dry climate. Hike the peaceful paths, enjoy the Sonoran desert setting, and get ready to see agave, cacti, and other succulents.
TravelingMom Tip: to truly capture the best macro shots, the camera needs to be perfectly still. That means you’ll need to bring along a tripod. Good tripods can be purchased for less than $40.
Guide for Families
Families will find kid-friendly activities as well. Choices include the spring butterfly exhibit, one of the $7 classes you can sign up for, or one of the free monthly family play times. Check the website for the calendar. General admission to the Desert Botanical Garden is $25 for adults, $13 for kids 17 and under. Kids under three are free. Parking is free and the well paved walking paths are perfect for strollers.
Electric Desert Exhibit
Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden is incredible during the day. But did you know it’s also quite the spectacle at night?! Through May of 2019, dusk brings drama to the Desert Botanical Garden. As the sun goes down, the technicolor lights go on. Pair that with the space-aged music piped in along the paved pathways, and you’ve got a one-of-a-kind experience. Tickets for the Electric Desert exhibit are $25-$30 for adults (depending on the date) and $13-$16 for kids under 17. Kids under three are free.
Dining in the Desert
When it’s time for a break, stop for lunch or dinner at Gertrude’s, the Desert Botanical Garden’s farm-to-table restaurant. Enjoy a glass of wine or a craft cocktail like the Cactus Cosmo on the patio while you wait for a table.You can also make a reservation. Drink in the view as the sun sinks behind the surrounding red rock of the Papago Mountains and the colors of the sunset light the sky. It’s a restaurant that’s anything but garden variety.
Springtime in the Desert
The Desert Botanical Garden is pleasant in the fall and winter, but the springtime desert in bloom is a sight to behold. March and April are peak season for wildflowers such as poppies and desert lupine.
March and April are also when you can enjoy the Phoenix Valley’s other favorite cacti— Cactus League spring training baseball. Baseball is a favorite pastime for generations of families traveling to Arizona for spring break. Half of the MLB teams train in the greater Phoenix area. On any day in March, you’ll have several different games to choose from.
Our family’s own perennial favorite, the Chicago Cubs, have been major players in Arizona’s Cactus League since spring training baseball first came to the Valley of the Sun in the 1950’s.
Tickets to spring training are less expensive than regular season games, ranging from $6 to $40. Combine that with the opportunity to see your favorite players up close and get autographs, and you’ve scored a home run.
Plenty of sun, the spectacular Sonoran desert, plus it’s home to the MLB’s Cactus League! Arizona’s a home run for the whole family.