Top 7 Kid Exhibits at the Desert Museum (as told by kids!)

1. Packrat Playhouse: Hidden in the Midden


ASDM Photo

No surprise here, since opening Packrat Playhouse in April 2018 it’s been a popular spot for visitors of all ages! Kids get to get out of their strollers, run, learn, explore and play like a packrat. From sliding to climbing to learning, it’s fun plus education wrapped together. Parents have appreciated the opportunity to play alongside their kids or just take a nice break, coffee in hand, at the picnic tables.

Why do kids like it?

“I like Packrat Playhouse because you get to play and climb on obstacle thingies. I’ve been two times but I saw it when it was getting built, too. I learned they [packrats] really like shiny things like pennies, quarters, and people’s keys.”– Melkamie, age: “8 but I’m turning 9 soon.

“I like Packrat Playhouse mostly because I like running around and climbing. I also like to collect. I collect nerfs, rocks, and strange stuff like rusted nails.” – Jamey; age 9

“I go to Packrat Playhouse all the time. The ropes are the best part because I like to jump.” – Insee, age 7


2. Hummingbird Aviary


Photo: Liz Kemp

Our hummingbird aviary was built in 1980 and attracts visitors, photographers, and birders from all over the world. This truly immersive experience allows guests to get up close with these flying jewels and see them right before their eyes! With animals inspiring such awe and wonder, of course it’s a hit with kids, too. Did you know? Hummingbirds use spider webs to keep their nests together. That’s why there’s a poem out front written by Kobayashi Issa: Don’t worry spiders, I keep house casually.

Why do kids like it?

“I like hummingbirds because they’re cute and they hover and move around.”– Priya, age 8

“Hummingbirds! I get to see little hummingbirds zipping around and see them up close. Hummingbirds are so cute!”– Sonali, age: almost 11


3. Stingray Touch

Stingray_Touch_VisitTucson (5)

ASDM Photo

Stingray Touch helped the Desert Museum complete the story of the desert, as the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) to the south of the border is in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. This water mass provides essential moisture and is home to diverse array of marine life. At Stingray Touch, kids have the chance to be touched by a stingray, hand feed the fish, and get a photo with Stella, our Stingray mascot who guards the Gulf.

Why do kids like it?

“I like how they feel and look like underwater flying birds. And I like birds.”– Priya, age 8


4. The Turtle Part


Photo: Jonathan Anderson 

I interpret this to mean the Tortoise Exhibit near Stingray Touch. It’s always fun looking for our large reptilian resident in its enclosure!

Why do kids like it?

“I like it because there’s a turtle shell you can hop into and pretend to be a turtle.”– James, age 5


5. Prairie Dogs

Prairie_Dogs_VisitTucson (2).jpgPrairie_Dogs_VisitTucson (1).jpg

ASDM Photo               

Prairie dogs live in large family groups (coteries)and we have a group on exhibit in the Grasslands biome that houses about 10 individuals. They wrestle, play, talk, and eat. Rest assured, it’s always an adorable pit stop to watch the prairie dogs!

Why do kids like it?

“I like prairie dogs because they are REALLY cute and say hello with kisses.” -Priya, age 9

6. The Cave 


ASDM Photo

With its hidden passages, sense of mystery, and escape from the heat, the cave is ever popular. The twisting tunnels, stalactites and stalagmites, and bat ears are all fun experiences and the mineral collection totally rocks! Did you know? Outside at the “mine dump” children are welcome to search for their own mineral, identify it, and take it home to add to their collection.

Why do kids like it?

“Cave!!! (Gives thumbs up). Because it has lots of steps and I get to see a little river with fish.” – Kiran, age “In three months I’m going to turn six.”


7. The Butterfly Garden

Robert_Leaver_Tagged_Butterfly.jpgPhoto: Robert Leaver (tagged Monarch butterfly)

Located near the hummingbird aviary, the butterfly garden is filled with Lepidopteran-attracting plants like lantana, milkweed, and pipevine. Regular winged visitors include pipevine swallowtails, gulf fritillaries, queen butterflies, and seasonally even monarchs!

Why do kids like it?

“It’s not really an exhibit but I like to see all the butterflies. I really like to see them. I don’t know all the species, but I like it.” – Kyrie, age 9


Clearly exhibits at the museum are fun for all ages. Explore with your kids and students and let us know what the most memorable part of the day was. We love hearing from you!


Looking for something new to do? Join a Packrat Program! They’re offered at 9am every Friday (2-5 year olds) and Saturday (6-12 year olds). Children enjoy a 30-minute program led by Education Staff followed by 30 minutes of exclusive playtime before the Playhouse opens to the public. Developmentally appropriate STEAM activities focus on science, art, music, language, and movement. Learn, meet an animal, and go home with a fun prize! It’s a great way to start the day.

Why do parents like Packrat Programs?

“They’re a great combination of physical activity and education.”

“I loved that Ayden got to meet an animal and learn about animal nests and homes. It was very engaging. Allowing young kids exclusive playtime in the playhouse is important. They get scared when they climb with lots of big kids.”

“The instructors were well prepared and kept the kids engaged the whole time. I loved watching my grandchildren enjoy the experience!”



Written by: Catherine Bartlett, ASDM Education Specialist 

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