After visitors to Tucson have seen, hiked or biked the stunning desert and mountain landscapes and made the requisite stop at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, what next? Here are some suggestions about lesser-known Tucson attractions:
Mini-Time Machine: A Museum of Miniatures … 4455 E Camp Lowell Dr.
Phone: (520) 881-0606
Admission- General admission $9, Senior 65+ or Military $8, Youth ages 4-17 is $6 and anyone under the age of 3 free.
“Unique, immensely creative, and just breathtaking” said Betsy Frasure, visiting from Akron, Ohio.
The Mini-Time Machine Museum is a museum of miniatures — replicas on a tiny scale.
You’ll see a retrospective of Madelyn Cook, a renowned miniature artist. You will also see miniature houses and room-boxes. The museum features close to 300 exhibits, including a history gallery and an “exploring the world” gallery, as well as a fantasy area called “Enchanted Realm.”
Enter and you are in a world within a world. The museum is “truly amazing” said Frasure. It’s “quite better than I thought” with “impeccable craftsmanship,” said Kim Tracey, of San Diego. Her husband, George, added that he was impressed by the multicultural sweep. “It’s an unbelievable experience, with such vast variety,” he said.
Marilyn Corcie, from Oregon, said she could “spend days in here, there are so many cultures in one place.” Visitors to Tucson shouldn’t miss it, she suggested, but added: “No one I know has ever heard of it. The complexity is overwhelming; there is no detail missing.”
Patricia and Walter Arnell created the museum in the 1930’s. Tucson’s Swaim Associates Architects did the architecture, Claro Creative Studios, of Glendale, Calif., did the exhibit designs.
The Mini-Time Machine Museum is a “501(c)(3) board-only nonprofit organization, classified as a private foundation with a long-term goal of achieving public charity status.” according to the museum’s website. Revenues go towards funding the museums operations.
Robert Sanderson, a former art teacher, of Tombstone, Ariz., said: “I did not expect this; the precision needed to create these miniatures is amazing. This museum takes more than one visit — you just can’t take it all in at once.” He added, “Everything you look at, look deeper and you’ll see so much more. If you don’t appreciate this, you’re crazy.”
International Wildlife Museum … 4800 W. Gates Pass Rd.
Phone: (520) 629-0100
Admission- Adults $9, seniors (62+) $7, military $7, children 4-12, $4; 3 or younger, free.
The International Wildlife Museum was founded in 1988 and has an immense collection of mammals, birds and insects from all over the world.
They’re all taxidermy exhibits, of course.
The southeastern swamp-stomp exhibit is devoted to plants and animals in southeastern swamps, and there’s a 14-foot alligator on hand.
Prehistoric mammals include a full-sized mammoth.
The museum has an insects-of-the-world area. The museum’s McElroy Hall has two large giraffes and numerous species, including moose and deer.
“My kids were slightly scared at first” said Brain Klontz a Tucson native who visited the museum recently with his wife and three children. “But now they love it and are able to get up close and personal with all these different creatures.”
Collen Bridges was visiting with her two nieces — who were enthralled with the cockroach display, including the somewhat unique experience of a cockroach giving birth. Both young girls were running from one species to the next with uncertainty and excitement in their voices. “Kids love this, where else can you get something like this?” Bridges said. “Its both educational and fun.”
The museum grounds are “so relaxing,” said Frank Figueroa, who visits frequently on Saturdays with his children. “My kids love the museum, and we like to just hang outside by the pond after we have gone through,” Figueroa said.
“The International Wildlife Museum is an educational program of the Safari Club International Foundation. The foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that funds and manages worldwide programs dedicated to wildlife conservation, outdoor education and humanitarian services” according to the museum’s website.
Tucson Museum of Art … 140 N Main Ave
Phone: (520) 624-2333
Admission- Adult $10, senior (65+) $8, college Student $5; 18 and under, military and veterans free.
“The Tucson Museum of Art is the best kept secret in Tucson,” said Judith Tracey.
The architecture is art itself. The circular descending design in the main building allows you to flow into your own world, walking from painting to painting — and then you encounter a completely different form of art, like the talented ceramics pieces of Rose Cabat. Cabat’s work is on exhibit in honor of her 100th birthday.
Other exhibits include the “Renaissance of China” featuring scenic paintings, porcelain vessels and unique carvings with jade, lacquer, wood and bronze pieces.
The museum also features a collection of Miradas paintings — modern Mexican art. These are paintings that pop, and can be interpreted in many ways. Each artist is of Mexican decent and works within the idea of “culture without borders.”
Another popular exhibit is the circle game, inspired by the 1960’s song “The Circle Game” by Joni Mitchell. This exhibit features the circle as a unique and powerful symbol found in each work.
“Modern and enriching” Roberta Callahan said of the circle game. “I also love the sculptures — and the unusual building”, which is quite different than the museums she is used to in Chicago. Callahan, a winter visitor, said she always comes back to check out the special exhibits.
Ann Kronenwetter, of Seattle, said the “museum has a great feel, and the architecture really fits an art museum. My favorite exhibit is the western section, which really seems to fit the Tucson culture.”
Jamey Sharp, an art student from Portland, enthused about the “low-key feel” of the museum, which he was visiting for the third time. “I feel like there is a connection between the displays and Tucson, and I really enjoy that, plus I always leave here with ideas for my own work,” Sharp said.
Charley Peckham, visiting from San Francisco, said the museum had a “nice representation of the Southwest. You don’t have to like western art to find these interesting.”
For lunch, the Tucson Museum of Art offers Café a la C’Art.
Tohono Chul Park … 7366 North Paseo Del Norte.
Phone: (520) 742-6455
Admission- Adult $10, senior (62+) $8, student $5, military $5, children 5-12 years old $3; under 5 free.
“ It restores my soul,” Ginger Jones said of this 49-acre preserve, which she described as “a place of peace and rest” that helps “balance oneself.”
“Beauty and tranquility,” said Jim Jennings, “those are the two words I would use to describe this park.”
Jim and Helen Jennings describe themselves as snowbirds who first visited the park 20 years ago and have been members ever since. “It is so quiet and peaceful, a great place to enjoy the cacti, planet without clipping, the natural beauty of the desert.” Helen Jennings said.
“I like getting ideas for my own yard” Jim Jennings added. “We also really enjoy the art galleries here,” his wife said.
Tohono Chul offers a plethora of gardens, including an ethno botanical garden, a performance garden, a garden for children, a SIN AGUA garden, a Sonoran seasons garden, and demonstration gardens.
The park also has a beautiful riparian habitat, a tortoise enclosure, a geology wall, cactus/succulent ramada, a pincushion ramada, and a desert living courtyard. Tohono Chul also offers a Wells Fargo Foyer Gallery, a desert-discovery education center. plus the exhibit house and la galleria museum shop, the la entrada greenhouse and garden shop, la fuente museum shop and the Tohono Chul Park Tea Room.
During a recent visit there, a large group of almost 40 photographers was on hand to take pictures throughout the park. Barbara Hustler comes to Tohono Chul whenever she visits Tucson, “because of the beauty. It’s so peaceful,” she said.
“It can give you ideas of what to put in your own backyard,” said Jill Wheatley a docent. Wheatley noted “educational signs throughout the park” and its “great children’s area.” Tohono Chul park is “less crowded and more personal than the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum,” Wheatley said.
Tohono Chul was formally created in 1985. “The park is 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization managed by a board” according to Marcia Ring, the marketing director.