UA Day-Trip Destinations Roll Out Summer Programs to Beat the Heat

UA Day-Trip Destinations Roll Out Summer Programs to Beat the Heat

By Shelley SheltonUniversity Communications
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Biosphere 2
Biosphere 2
Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter
Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter
Boyce Thompson Arboretum
Boyce Thompson Arboretum
Steward Observatory Mirror Lab
Steward Observatory Mirror Lab

The summer heat is on. So why not use it as an opportunity to visit some of the University of Arizona's cool getaways, or even to stay right on or near campus and take in some air-conditioned sights?

Lower temperatures and fun family activities are just a short drive away at the following spots, perfect for a weekend retreat. And always be sure to ask about a UA employee discount.

Biosphere 2
Cool factor: 5-10 degrees cooler than Tucson

The Biosphere 2 research facility, located north of Tucson in Oracle, features a guided Under the Glass tour that takes guests inside the 3.14-acre glass-enclosed biosphere facility, where Biospherians resided in the early 1990s as part of a study on survivability in a sealed environment. Visitors can check out an apartment, a kitchen and the farm area where study participants grew their crops. The tour also takes guests through the Biosphere's engineered wilderness areas, including a tropical savanna, a 1 million-gallon tropical ocean, a desert, a tropical rain forest with more than 150 different species of plants, and more. Called "one of the 50 must-see wonders of the world" by Time-Life Books, Biosphere 2 is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. For more information on hours and special programming, visit the Biosphere 2 website.

Admission: Tour is $20 for people 13 and older; $18 for AAA members, military and seniors age 62 and up; $13 for children ages 6-12; free for children under 5; $10 for UA employees with a CatCard, and everyone with them.
Drive time:
About an hour
More information: 520-838-6200,,

Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter
Cool factor: 20-30 degrees cooler than Tucson

The UA's science learning facility atop Mount Lemmon offers a variety of public programming and workshops, including SummerNights, an evening program that lets visitors explore the skies with binoculars, star charts, a telescope and the help of a professional astronomer. Reservations are required. This program lets the public sign up on any night from July 1 through Aug. 31 and takes place if weather conditions are good. The program was started because stargazing in the summer can be difficult when there are afternoon thunderstorms that sometimes last into the early evening during July and August. The SkyCenter's popular June SkyNights program still has tickets available. For hours, reservations and programming details, visit the SkyCenter website.

Admission: $30 to $60. Cost includes a light dinner. There's a 20 percent discount Monday through Wednesday.
Drive time: About 90 minutes
More information: 520-626-8122,,

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
Cool factor: About 5 degrees cooler than Tucson, with lots of shade

Situated on 323 acres, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is Arizona's oldest and largest botanical garden. Trees, cacti, flowers and other plants from throughout the world create a shady oasis, complete with a lake, canyon and plenty of wildlife. Visitors can stroll on walking trails at their own pace or participate in the park's special summer events, including musical performances, classes and guided walking tours. Regular summer hours at the park are 6 a.m.-3 p.m. The park's "Summer Walks" monthly walking tour kicks off at 8 a.m. this Saturday with Mesa resident and Bible scholar Dave Oberprillerwith leading a tour on "Plants of the Bible." Details are available on the Boyce Thompson Arboretum website.

Admission: $9 adults; $4.50 children ages 5-12; children under 5 free; CatCard holders get $1 off admission. Admission increases July 1 to $10 for adults and $5 for children 5-12. Children under 5 will still get in free.
Drive time: About two hours
More information: Recorded event information line 520-689-2811, business office 520-689-2723,,

Kitt Peak National Observatory Visitor Center and Museum
Cool factor: 15-20 degrees cooler than Tucson

Guided tours and evening stargazing programs are available at Kitt Peak, home to the world's largest collection of optical telescopes. The observatory supports the most diverse collection of astronomical observatories on Earth for nighttime optical and infrared astronomy and daytime study of the sun. Located on the Tohono O'odham reservation, at an elevation of 6,875 feet, the observatory has 24 optical and two radio telescopes. Hourlong tours explore history and interesting facts about each telescope. The Nightly Observing Program, available through reservation only, allows guests to stargaze like the pros for about three hours after sunset. More information is available on the Kitt Peak website.

Admission: Visitor Center and self-guided walking tours are free. Guided tours are $7.75 for adults, $3 for children ages 7-12. All-day tour passes are $9.75 for adults, $3.25 for children ages 7-12. Children 6 and under are free. The public Nightly Observing Program is $49 for adults, $45 for students and seniors over 62. Ask about discounts for UA employees.
Drive time:
About 1 hour and 10 minutes
More information: 520-318-8726,,

Arizona State Museum
Cool factor: 0 degrees difference, but it's air-conditioned

Located on the UA campus just northeast of the main gate at Park Avenue and University Boulevard, the Arizona State Museum is a Smithsonian Institution affiliate and is the oldest and largest anthropology museum in the Southwest. It hosts researchers from around the world who use the collections to expand the frontiers of knowledge in archaeology, ethnology and ethnohistory. In addition to several ongoing exhibits, the museum currently features "A World Separated by Borders" through Oct. 19 and "Basketry Treasured" through Jan. 4. More information is available on the Arizona State Museum website. 

Admission: $5 for adults; free for children, UA and Pima Community College employees and students, researchers and scholars with appointments, library visitors, store visitors and, through Labor Day, active duty military and their families.
Drive time: The length of your daily commute
More information: 520-621-6302,

Main Gate Square
Cool factor: 0 degrees difference but most places are air-conditioned or cooled

Main Gate Square is a pedestrian-friendly dining and shopping destination featuring more than 20 retailers and 30 restaurants near the University of Arizona and Tucson's historic neighborhoods. Merchants include fashion retailers, salons, and restaurants with foods representing all the corners of the world. Ben's Bells also has a storefront in the square where visitors can pop in and volunteer by painting chimes. A "Friday Night LIVE!" jazz concert series is held the first and third Fridays of the month in the square. The free events are sponsored by the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance and Main Gate Square. More information about the performances can be found on the Main Gate Square website. 

Admission: The concerts are free. Shopping, eating and spoiling yourself depend on your personal budget.
Drive time: The length of your daily commute
More information: 520-622-8613,,

Mirror Lab Tours
Cool factor: 0 degrees difference, but it's air-conditioned

The UA's Steward Observatory Mirror Lab is where scientists and engineers build giant, lightweight mirrors for the latest generation of optical and infrared telescopes. A tour offers a unique opportunity to experience how UA innovations are producing the world's largest telescope mirrors right on campus. It provides visitors with a behind-the-scenes look at the groundbreaking work being done under the UA football stadium. Cutting-edge optical technology and the revolutionary spin-casting processes are making telescope mirrors that will produce images never before seen with such power and clarity. Reservations are required. More information can be found on the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab website. 

Admission: $15 for adults, $8 for students ages 7-22, nobody younger than 7 admitted. CatCard holders pay $8.
Drive time: The length of your daily commute
More information: 520-626-8792,,

Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium
Cool factor: 0 degrees difference, but it's air-conditioned

Flandrau brings together the University of Arizona and regional communities to inspire the teaching and learning of science and technology and to create pathways to lifelong learning. Current exhibits include "Exploring Sky Islands," which features information about the mountains surrounding Tucson and runs through the summer, and "Crystalline Treasures: The Mineral Heritage of China." A new planetarium show, "Exploring Saturn's Mysteries," runs at 1:30 pm. Monday through Friday. Hang out with a Skywatchers Guide for free from 7-10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and use Flandrau's public 16-inch telescope to enjoy the sky. Check out a planetarium show, where you'll get to tour the night sky with the help of staff astronomers and Hector Vector Star Projector. Each month features a matinee laser. More information can be found on the Flandrau Science Center website.

Admission: $12 for adults, $11 for seniors and $10 for children. Group rates begin at $5 per person. CatCard holders pay $4.
Drive time:
The length of your daily commute
More information: 520-621-STAR (7827),

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