Tucked away just south of a giant Fry's on Alvernon, Tucson Botanical Gardens never fails to astonish. Driving by, you may have noticed blooming crepe myrtle, but that's the barest hint at what lies behind the big walls. Sixteen individual-themed gardens, ranging from a shady, old-fashioned rose garden to austerely xeric landscapes, give way one into the next under the big trees on the old Porter property. Appropriately enough, the place is a hive of activity: Classes, tours, plant sales, programs for children and special events keep this secret heart of Tucson humming. The magical Luminaria Nights in December are the true pinnacle of the TBC year. There's a swell gift shop, too.
2. Tohono Chul Park, 7366 N. Paseo Del Norte, 575-8468; www.tohonochulpark.org
3. Reid Park Rose Garden, Country Club Road, just north of 22nd Street; www.tucsonaz.gov/parksandrec/Special_Places/special_places.html