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Local Attractions

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Local Attractions

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The Sonoran Desert offers many opportunities for fun and adventure!

Grand Canyon:  The Grand Canyon is truly a spectacular sight to see, no matter how many times you may have seen it before! This natural wonder is located in Northern Arizona and the south rim is a beautiful 3.5 hour drive from Tempe. The canyon is 277 miles long, 1 mile deep, and varies in width from 600 feet to 18 miles. Their Web site offers information on planning a trip to the south and north rims, and east and west sides of the canyon. Lodging information is also available if an overnight trip is planned.

Desert Botanical Garden:  The Desert Botanical Garden is one of the best-maintained gardens in the world. It holds one of the world's foremost collections of desert plants with detailed records on all plants in the collection, information that is of both horticultural and botanical value. The purpose of the Desert Botanical Garden is to exhibit, conserve, study and disseminate knowledge of arid-land plants of the world, with a particular emphasis on succulents and the native flora of the Southwestern United States. The Garden provides audio tours.

Musical Instrument Museum (MIM):  The MIM is an extraordinary encounter where more than 6,000 instruments collected from around 200 of the world’s countries and territories are displayed. Most displays are enhanced by state-of-the-art audio and video technologies that allow guests to see the instruments, hear their sounds, and observe them being played in their original contexts—performances that are often as spectacular as the instruments themselves. What’s more, all guests are invited to play instruments from around the world in the Experience Gallery.

Kartchner Caverns:  This impressive "live" limestone cave was discovered in 1974 and boasts the world’s longest stalactite formation. It contains many remarkable minerals and formations. Kartchner Caverns is approximately 2.5 hours south of Tempe. The tour is 1.5 hours and reservations are highly recommended.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum:  This arboretum is a lush desert garden featuring arid-region plants and trees from around the world among scenic walks through the garden's 35-acre grounds. Here you will find countless examples of native vegetation from the Sonoran Desert, in addition to vegetation from arid and semi-arid regions of North America, South America, the Near East, Africa, Central Asia, and Australia.

Butterfly Wonderland:  Butterfly Wonderland is one of the newest attractions in the Phoenix area with a highly innovative, indoor rainforest environment featuring the largest butterfly pavilion in America. You will be welcomed into a magnificent rainforest environment where thousands of butterflies from around the world fly freely, alighting on fragrant flowering plants and, quite possibly, on you!

Sea Life Aquarium:  A wonder for all ages, the Sea Life Arizona aquarium is home to more than 5,000 sea creatures. This aquarium offers a 360 degree underwater tunnel, a close-up look at 5,000 fresh water and ocean sea creatures, and interactive touch pools with live creatures. Take an underwater journey from freshwater streams and lakes, through sea caves, and out to the shorelines of the Pacific Ocean. Continue on to interactive touch pools, a shipwreck and ocean exhibit, and the spectacular ocean tunnel, all while marveling at colorful marine life.

OdySea Aquarium: We follow the journey of a drop of water as it falls from the sky into the lakes and rivers. The rivers wind their way to the shores and down to the vast ocean. At each stage of the drop's journey you experience a unique environment teeming with animal and plant life to explore. From fresh water to salt water, bayous to swamps, and coral reefs to the ocean's deep abyss, your adventure awaits! OdySea Aquarium is committed to supporting a variety of programs at the local, regional, and global level to educate and inspire guests about aquatic life and conservation. It is the largest aquarium in the Southwest, spanning 200,000 square feet. The two-level, state-of-the-art facility holds more than 2 million gallons of water. With over 50 exhibits and 500 distinct species, there are more than 30,000 animals that call OdySea home.

Heard Museum:  The mission of the Heard Museum is to educate visitors and promote greater public understanding of the arts, heritage, and life ways of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, with an emphasis on American Indian tribes and other cultures of the Southwest. Dedicated to the accurate portrayal of Native arts and cultures, the Heard Museum is an institution that combines the stories of American Indian people from a personal perspective with the beauty of art. Through ground-breaking programs, world-class exhibitions, and unrivaled festivals, the Heard Museum sets the standard nationally for collaborating with Native people to present first-person voices. Partnerships with American Indian artists and tribal communities provide visitors with a distinctive perspective about the art and cultures of Native people, especially those from the Southwest.

Horseback Riding:  View the beautiful Sonoran desert by horseback!! Your guide will take you to see a great variety of plants native to the region, from the pincushion and hedgehog cactus, prickly pear, barrel cactus, ocotillo, mesquite, palo verde, to the giant saguaro cactus. Come see us!

Trails/Hiking:  If you are the outdoorsy-type or just enjoy a quiet stroll, there are more than 33,000 acres of Sonoran Desert preserves, 7,300 acres of desert parks, and 40 trails totaling approximately 200 miles. Parking lots for most preserve areas are open daily from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Trail MapsPapago ParkCamelback MountainSouth MountainSonoran Preserve)