Educational science centers in Tucson, Arizona.

Tucson’s Natural Science Parks
Credit: Courtesy of CDO Ranching and Development LLP

Science-loving kids (and parents) get their fix in this Arizona hub. With two environmentally focused centers that examine the surrounding desert, as well as other wilderness zones—not to mention access to the real thing via biking, hiking, and horseback riding—the bustling city is a good fit for nature-loving families.

Tanque Verde Ranch

An upscale, 60,000-acre resort near Tucson, Tanque Verde is best visited in spring or fall, when temperatures are cooler and the desert more lush. The surrounding Sonoran Desert landscape, strewn with saguaro and prickly pear cacti, is a world away from that of the typical Rocky Mountain ranch, but horseback riding reigns equally supreme.

Riding: Guests have the choice of three 90-minute rides daily through the countryside, a six-hour all-day ride, or the combination of rides and a group arena lesson to hone techniques (sunset rides and private lessons cost extra).

Capacity: 200 guests; 180 horses.

Biosphere 2

Guided tours at the Biosphere 2 give families an insider view into the world’s largest glass-enclosed environmental lab—with wilderness zones ranging from lower savanna to tropical, as well as a million-gallon “ocean” viewed from a 40-foot cliff.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The property features a zoo, natural history museum, and botanical garden all in one venue.

Zona 78

The artisanal, wood-fired pizzas (which come with toppings like rainbow trout and aged New York steak) strike the perfect balance between family-casual and creative cuisine.