Home to cacti, coyotes and palm-sized hummingbirds, this 98-acre ode to the Sonoran Desert is one part zoo, one part botanical garden and one part museum – a trifecta that'll entertain young and old for easily half a day. Desert denizens, from precocious coatis to playful prairie dogs, inhabit natural enclosures, the grounds are thick with desert plants, and docents give demonstrations. Strollers and wheelchairs are available, and there's a gift shop, art gallery, restaurant and cafe.
There are two walk-through aviaries, a mineral exhibit inside a cave, a half-mile desert trail and an underground exhibit with windows into ponds where beavers and otters frolic. Wear a hat and walking shoes, and remember that the big cats are most active in the morning. The museum is off Hwy 86, about 12 miles west of Tucson, near the western section of Saguaro National Park.