Arizona-Sonora Museum offers cool summer nights

Rosemary Prawdzik

Beat the heat and enjoy refreshing summer night breezes at the Desert Museum’s Cool Summer Nights. These popular annual events run every Saturday night from June 6 through September 5 from 5:00-10:00 p.m.

Each of the Cool Summer Nights features a special theme and relative activities throughout the Museum grounds. All of the programming is in keeping with the Museum’s mission: to instill understanding, appreciation, and conservation of the Sonoran Desert region.

“There are three great reasons to visit during Cool Summer Nights,” states Craig Ivanyi, the Museum’s Executive Director. “First, the temperatures are cooler and animals become more active. Second, experiencing the desert at night is completely different than visiting during the day. And third, since each week is themed, there are a variety of activities that are not offered during a normal daytime visit.”

This year’s Cool Summer Nights series opened on June 6 with World Oceans Night–part of a worldwide campaign promoting conservation of marine environments. Special activities included presentations about the Gulf of California, which comprises 50 percent of the Sonoran Desert region, and the vanishing Vaquita, a rare species of porpoise living in the Gulf that is in imminent danger of extinction. In addition to these presentations, chefs from Fini’s Landing and Starr Pass Primo prepared sustainable seafood treats for sampling.

Themes for the subsequent Cool Summer Nights include Living in Harmony with the Sun, Saving Species, Bats, Astronomy, Insect Insanity, Creatures of the Night, Conservation Comedy, Science Rocks! (Teacher Appreciation Night), and three Full Moon Festivals where art, music and poetry take center stage. Each night of the Full Moon Festivals will feature three venues with live music, one of which will be specifically for children. Several nights will include complimentary photography and art workshops hosted by the Museum’s Art Institute.

“This event has become a popular tradition in Tucson, so we encourage guests to arrive early to get a good parking spot and enjoy dinner before the evening’s festivities,” says Ivanyi. “The Museum is home to several restaurants that range from casual dining to a more upscale, fine-dining experience,” he added.

For a true culinary experience, the prestigious Ocotillo Café offers a sophisticated ambience in a desert garden setting highlighted by original works of art. The chef creates recipes featuring innovative Sonoran Desert cuisine. Reservations are strongly recommended. Call 520-883-5705 to reserve a table.

Also open for dinner is the Ironwood Terraces Restaurant, the largest dining venue at the Desert Museum. The casual atmosphere has air-conditioned seating inside and also offers outside dining on patios overlooking the natural desert landscape and nighttime vistas.

For a complete schedule of each week’s theme and activity times, please visit All of the added activities are included in museum admission. Regular admission rates apply. Members are admitted free.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is one of the nation’s leading outdoor, living museums, featuring more than 230 animals and 1,200 varieties of desert plants. Its purpose is to inspire people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering love, appreciation, and understanding of the bi-national, Sonoran Desert region. The museum is located at 2021 N. Kinney Road, in Tucson Mountain Park adjacent to Saguaro National Park (West). It is open daily year round with operating hours varying by season. Call 520-883-2702 or visit for more information.