Tohono Chul – Still Growing In All Directions

With roots, so to speak, going back to the 20s and 30s, Tohono Chul Gardens, Galleries and Bistro, located at the western edge of the Catalina Foothills, first started taking its current form in the late 60s when benefactors Richard and Jean Wilson began turning this desert green space into what is today almost 50 acres of Tucson’s most popular and charming attractions for locals and out-of-towners alike.

In addition to 11 identified garden areas, guests can also visit onsite shops and galleries that include a permanent collection of over 450 Southwest-themed items, works of contemporary local artists, regional cookbooks, spicy Southwest foods and condiments, Native American crafts, and a Greenhouse and retail shop featuring hardy desert and arid-adapted plants, decorative planters and yard art.

Although open to all, park guests can take a break from the delight of strolling through acres of languid, landscaped pathways to have a snack, coffee or brunch at the charming Garden Bistro located near the entrance. Featuring both indoor and outdoor seating and open from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., the eaterie features creative versions of Sonorazona specialties like short rib flautas with, “Red Chile Sauce, Avocado Crema, Cotija, Local Micro Greens & House Salsa” as an example. More traditional brunch items, like salads and egg dishes, are also on the extensive menu. 

The current park was formally dedicated in April of 1985 and continues to grow and expand, as it will again beginning in 2023 with the addition of the Children’s Museum Oro Valley (see box). For locals, don’t forget their hugely successful twice-a-year plant sales held in spring and fall, featuring local, desert-tolerant and cold-hardy plants propagated especially for our unique Tucson climate.

As landscape architect and executive director Jamie Maslyn Larson describes it, “I see Tohono Chul as not just a garden showcasing beauty, but also as a place of community for a common purpose: to share and preserve the authenticity of the Sonoran Desert and its culture. Thinking of the garden as a venue in this way redefines “must see” into something we hope feels more welcoming, participatory, and engaging.” Authentic, must-see are both descriptions many feel after their most recent visit to Tohono Chul, whether it be for the first time, or as a repeat fan introducing new inductees into the club.

Tohono Chul Gardens, Galleries and Bistro, 7366 Paseo del Norte, open daily from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July). Hours may vary, so be sure to check their website at www.TOHONOCHUL.org or call 520-742-6455 to confirm.

Children’s Museum Oro Valley moves to Tohono Chul!

Beginning in January, 2023, the Children’s Museum of Oro Valley (CMOV) will take up permanent residence embedded on the grounds of Tohono Chul, featuring indoor and outdoor exhibits, daily activities and programming designed specifically for kids and their families. Entry into the museum is included in regular garden admission. Current CMOV membership will be honored through June, 2023. For more information, visit their website at http://www.ChildrensMuseumTucson.org or call them at 520-792-9985.

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