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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

Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans Logo Monterey Bay Aquarium Logo

June 6 — World Oceans Night

The Desert Museum partners with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to join in this global event honoring the world's oceans, celebrating the products the ocean provides and the marine life the oceans support. The evening’s activities include sustainable seafood tastings by Fini’s Landing and Starr Pass Primo restaurants and presentations about the Gulf of California and the world’s most threatened marine mammal, the vaquita porpoise. Children will especially enjoy the Warden Aquarium’s hands-on touch tank and ocean activity stations in the Desert Garden.


June 13 — Living in Harmony with the Sun

The Desert Museum, University of Arizona Skin Cancer Institute and Mount Lemon Sky Center team up for this event all about the Sun — its magnificence as well as its potential harm. View the sun (and stars) through high-powered telescopes, learn about sun safety and the importance of skin cancer checks. See birds, reptiles and spiders and learn about special adaptations that protect them from the sun. Kids will love meeting “Ray” the Skin Cancer Institute mascot and the sun fact scavenger hunt. Plus, two presentations of the venomous reptile demonstration, Live and (sort of) on the Loose are planned.

UA Skin Cancer Institute Logo Mount Lemmon Sky Center Logo
Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans Logo

June 20 — Saving Species Night

In a night dedicated to the incredible diversity of Sonoran Desert plants and animals, watch live animal presentations featuring threatened and endangered species of the Sonoran Desert . Experts from the Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans (CEDO) will present the Vanishing Vaquita, highlighting the world’s most threatened marine mammal. Hear real-life stories about jaguars and ocelots in the Arizona-Sonora borderlands. Plus, learn about the threatened and endangered plants of the Sonoran Desert region in a special exhibit in the Desert Garden.


June 27 — Bat Night

Bats rank among the planet’s most misunderstood and intensely persecuted mammals. It may be simply because they are active only at night and difficult to observe. Learn about the myriad of bat myths and gain a better understanding of these fascinating flying mammals as the Museum’s expert shares her knowledge and insights. Observe live bats up close & personal.


July 4 — 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. Enjoy live musical performances in three unique venues, including one especially for children!


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.


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!


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.


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!


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!