Ever since we moved to Arizona in 2012, we have been wanting to visit the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, Arizona. We heard so many good things about how beautiful it was but in our working-professionals-life fashion, we never found time to go: until last week, that is. We made it to the gardens to celebrate a romantic date day together. The Desert Botanical Gardens lived up to their name and awed us in so many ways.
The Desert Botanical Gardens here are more desert-based in nature. Duh, it’s in Arizona. You aren’t going to find tons of bright flowers. Instead, plan to see 55,000 desert plants and cacti that are commonly found here in Arizona. The gardens are immaculate and well kept. You can tell the staff are doing a great job because there wasn’t a speck of trash anywhere.
As you walk along the five different trails, most of the plants have a sign next to them with the plant name and information so you can learn about different species. One of our absolute favorite cacti we came across was called the Prickly pear. It was a beautiful green and purple toned cactus that can grow cactus fruit on them. Prickly pear fruit is a common ingredient used in restaurant beverages here like prickly pear margaritas! You can also get prickly pear jam which is super yummy! (See Related: Desert Botanical Gardens Trail Map)
Then we stumbled upon another version of these cacti- the Opuntia microdasys which is the Bunny Ear Prickly pear. It was so adorable and the cacti truly look like bunny ears! They are native to Mexico and their pad-like stems are so cute. Check them out.
Our second favorite plant we came across was this massive and unique cactus we named Archibald. Why? It looked similar to the Archibald Asparagus in the cartoon “Veggie Tales”! His asparagus head was so crazy to see in person. We literally stood there staring at it for at least five minutes. And taking cactuselfies with it of course.
Overall, the gardens entertained us for two and a half hours as we strolled down each well-groomed path. Because it was fall, they also had an area with a fall butterfly exhibit you can walk into! The butterflies are flying all around you and will even land on you. They were beautiful up close and we saw many of the Monarch butterflies.
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While we were visiting the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, there was a Chiles & Chocolate festival going on. They had vendors selling their edible products in street vendor fashion. We got to try things like goat milk chocolate, white chocolate peanut butter, and toffee! We didn’t try the chile products...we’re babies when it comes to spicy food. But it was fun to try new things.
The gardens always have special events going on like “Music in the Gardens” concerts, “Dog’s Day”, and “Las Noches de Las Luminarias”. They really know how to keep things exciting here. They also change their exhibitions frequently to feature different artists and sculptures.
The best part: we went to the Desert Botanical Gardens for free. As a member of the Scottsdale Library system, we took advantage of their wonderful program called “Culture Pass”. This is a program that allows locals to check-out local gardens and museums absolutely free. You can check the library’s website to see which library location has the tickets you’re wanting. Be aware, the Desert Botanical Gardens are probably their most popular one to check-out. So get your free pass to the desert botanical gardens early- they’re good for a week. One pass gives you two free tickets.
The normal admission price for adults is $24.95 or you can become a member for unlimited entry to the gardens. If you really love it, they also accept volunteers to help maintain the gardens.
They are open daily 8 A.M. - 8 P.M. (7 A.M. for members Wed. & Sun.)
Although we didn’t go, they have an excellent restaurant on site called “Gertrude’s” that is known for its fresh ingredients directly from the farm. They have a great Libations menu with cocktails that use some unique ingredients like cactus water, prickly pear nectar, and fresh cilantro. Finish your visit with a few cocktails you won’t find anywhere else. And then be sure to get home safe using Uber.
All in all, we loved the Desert Botanical Gardens so much. It was a relaxing and educational day for us youngins and we hope to go back again for a special event like the Luminaries around Christmas time. This is definitely a must-do if you’re a Phoenician and a great place to bring family and friends when they are visiting.