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Tucson Botanical Gardens
2150 N. Alvernon Way

READERS' PICK: The Tucson Botanical Gardens occupy only five acres, nestled behind a supermarket parking lot. But they encapsulate whole ecosystems, illustrating the rich biological diversity of the Sonoran Desert. Staffed by knowledgeable plant specialists and sporting a leisurely paced, self-guided nature tour, TBG makes for an ideal place to learn more about where we live.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Tohono Chul Park, 7366 N. Paseo Del Norte. The Midwestern relatives are on their way to the Old Pueblo to sleep in your bed, use your towels, and fill your fridge with jello molds and casseroles that feature cream-of-something soup and Miracle Whip. If that's not enough, they want to see the desert, but they don't want to get back into the Chevy Malibu after that long drive west. Buck up little Tucsonan, and coax 'em back into the car for a quick journey just five minutes up the road from the Tucson Mall to Tohono Chul Park. After they humiliate themselves trying to pronounce the name, take them on a tour of the Exhibit House, the Demonstration Garden, the Greenhouse, the Ethnobotanical Garden, the Children's Garden, and the gift shop. It's up to you to explain that Tohono Chul Park is a non-profit, public haven that was donated by the family that once resided in the lush desert garden. Just for fun, make them say "Tohono Chul Park Ethnobotanical Garden" three times fast before you'll take them to the park's Tea Room for lunch.

A REAL SCREAM: The Native Seeds/SEARCH demonstration garden at Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way, is the place to see some of Southern Arizona's most distinguished and ancient vegetable varieties in a lovely setting. Settle in under the shade of the pomegranates that came from an O'odham garden at Quitobaquito springs. Consider the wisdom in growing crops indigenous plant breeders have been adapting to Tucson's climate and soils for hundreds of years. The best time to come here is at sunrise on June 24, the morning of Fiesta de San Juan, when the gardens are blessed by O'odham, Yaqui and Apache medicine men. That reverent ceremony is followed by the traditional raucous water fight, and a feast of native foods. Don't forget to bring a bucket, the better to soak friends and strangers.

Case History

1998 Winner: Tucson Botanical Gardens
1996 Winner: Tucson Botanical Gardens
1995 Winner: Tucson Botanical Gardens

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