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Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona: What to See and Do

Arizona is a fabulous state filled with beauty and natural wonders. Amazing canyons (Grand!), mountains, and desert scenery await visitors.

Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona

Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona

Papago Park in Phoenix

Papago Park is a huge place located minutes from downtown Phoenix. It contains impressive sandstone buttes which jut up out of the ground making for a great focal point of reference and interest.

In addition to the Desert Botanical Garden, this large park contains other recreational sites such as:

  • golf courses,
  • The Phoenix Zoo,
  • hiking paths,
  • a baseball stadium,
  • softball fields,
  • a fishing lagoon,
  • an archery range,
  • and The Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

This part of the country was the location for quite a few general manager meetings of the paper distribution company where my husband worked for many years in various capacities. On three different occasions, spouses were included and after the meetings commenced, my husband and I generally took a bit of vacation time and explored some more of what the beautiful state of Arizona had to offer.

When looking locally, we discovered the Desert Botanical Garden right in the City of Phoenix and were very happy with the experience. Anyone looking for things to do should check out this gorgeous desert garden set in Papago Park. The address is 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, Arizona 85008.

Desert Botanical Garden sign

Desert Botanical Garden sign

Phoenix, Arizona

The capital city of Arizona is also known as the "Valley of the Sun" and is situated in the northeastern parts of the Sonoran Desert. For certain, the sun shines often in Phoenix!

In the summer, the temperatures can often exceed 100˚F, but in February, which was the time of our visit, the subtropical arid climate is most pleasant as it is for most of the winter months.

Desert Botanical Garden

While taking up only a portion of Papago Park, the Desert Botanical Garden is still a large place consisting of about fifty acres of plants under cultivation, thus it takes some time to wander through the pathways to see it all.

Some of the plants were very familiar to me as I had lived in the Rio Grande Valley in the town of McAllen, Texas, during my teenage years which is a subtropical climate. But others (which come from places all around the world) were unfamiliar and it was a treat to get to see them growing altogether in one place. Some of these desert plants are quite rare. Some are even threatened or endangered.

Because the botanical garden houses some plants not native to the area and some that are not used to growing in the extreme temperatures of the Phoenix area, the more tender ones are situated under shade canopies which help to protect them.

Some of these plants come from distant places such as Australia. Others come from South America or from places like Baja, California where people go to enjoy warm temperatures, beaches and perhaps experience some whale watching.

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Seasonal Exhibits

This living museum is not static. The people who run and maintain this desert botanical garden which was first established in 1939 make it a fun place to visit and to come back and revisit at different times of the year because of their seasonal exhibits and special events.

During the holidays it must be fun for the people of the Phoenix area to stroll through the grounds which are lit up with luminarias brightening the pathways and lights strung into some of the trees.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a luminaria is typically a paper bag with some sand in the bottom which anchors a candle. When it is dark, the candle is lit and the bag becomes a source of light. Carolers occasionally add to the festivities.

Sculptures and art are at times intermixed with the desert plants and blooming cactus. Several YouTube videos show what these special exhibits look like and obviously they add to the overall enjoyment of visiting this garden.

I would have loved to have gotten to see the Chihuly blown glass exhibit when my husband and I were there. What fantastic colors and shapes they were blended into the desert landscape!

Things to Do in This Desert Garden

  • Specialized tours can be arranged at the Desert Botanical Garden.
  • It is a great place to teach children as well as adults about plants and nature.
  • Attending concerts there would be a fun family activity.
  • There is an outdoor cafe for people who wish to dine or take some liquid refreshments.
  • If one wishes to try one's hand at growing some of these desert specimens, there is the plant and gift shop.
  • It is a great place to capture beautiful photographs. Visiting the garden in the early morning light and also at sunset would be fun. It is not surprising that many wedding photos are shot in that location.

Considering that Phoenix is the 6th largest city in the United States (as of the last census), one seems far removed from that sized population as one communes with nature in this Desert Botanical Garden.

My husband and I truly enjoyed our visit to this specialty garden, and if we lived in the Phoenix area, we would surely return for the exciting seasonal and special events they routinely hold there. If you are ever seeking fun things to do while in Phoenix, Arizona, I would heartily recommend visiting the Desert Botanical Garden.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Peggy Woods

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