First stop, Oracle, home of world-renowned Biosphere 2.
Heading toward Tucson in the city of Oracle, this futuristic glass and steel structure looked like an intriguing place to explore, so we strapped on our tennis shoes and took the tour. Modeled after our Earth, or Biosphere 1, Biosphere 2 is an engineering marvel that houses a variety of ecosystems in an enclosed environment. Scientists from the University of Arizona study how natural environments generate conditions that can sustain life here. In the early 90s it even had sealed human missions—one of which lasted a full two years. Can anyone say claustrophobia?
Our tour guide led us through the Biospherians’ living quarters, the tropical rainforest, the ocean viewing gallery, the upper savanna and the coastal fog desert. It was really interesting to experience temperature and humidity changes as we entered each area. We also got to see the “technosphere”—the basement where Biosphere 2’s mechanical systems are housed, and the south lung, where air is displaced so that the building doesn’t explode or implode. Even if you’re not a science nerd, Biosphere 2 is a pretty cool place to visit.
Second stop, Loew’s Ventana Canyon in East Tucson.
Nestled in the foothills of Tucson’s spectacular Catalina Mountains sits the luxurious Lowes Ventana Canyon Resort. Driving into the property, we were struck by the stunning beauty of the High Sonoran Desert and the hotel itself. Our guest room was spacious and comfortable, with a private viewing balcony that afforded great views of the night sky and resort property.
During our stay, we played tennis, strolled the resort’s Window Walk Nature Trail to view an 80-foot waterfall located on the property and went to a poolside stargazing event with a local astronomer. While my husband hiked, I booked myself into the Lakeside Spa and had a very relaxing facial, including a head and neck massage that put me into a blissful coma. It was so relaxing that I barely made it back to the room for a quick nap before dinner. At the Flying V Bar & Grill, my husband and I had margaritas and guacamole prepared tableside that was the best I’ve ever had.
Third (and last) stop, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.
Before heading home, we decided to spend a half-day at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, ranked by TripAdvisor.com as one of the Top 10 Museums in the World. Located in southwestern Tucson, exhibits here showcase the Sonoran Desert region, known as the lushest desert on earth. We explored a cave exhibit and mineral collection, saw lots of varieties of rattlesnakes and lizards (yuck), really cute prairie dogs, stately bighorn sheep, mischievous beavers and otters, a wolf, mountain lion and bobcat. We also got to view some birds of prey and talk to their handlers. The hummingbird aviary was really fun because the birds are so used to people, you can get really close to them. Photo opp! Lots of paths also wind through the desert, providing encounters with native flora.
The trip was very relaxing and an easy drive south from Phoenix. Tucson is a great weekend getaway even with no special event involved, but for us, it’s certain to be one birthday celebration we’ll both remember.
Michigan-native D.D. Kullman was roped and dragged to Arizona in 1978 when her mother got a hankering to be a cowgirl. While a cattle feed lot was the closest her mom came to that dream, D.D. found the state wide open for exploration and opportunity and has been enjoying its people and points of interest ever since.