A Midwesterner’s Trip to the Desert Botanical Garden

A large cactus near the sidewalk in Phoenix, Arizona

I’ve lived in the Cincinnati, OH area my entire life. While I’ve visited most of the eastern United States, the first time I traveled farther west was to Phoenix, AZ a few months ago.

The most intriguing part of Phoenix for me was how different the plant life is from the foresty area I’m used to. Instead of pine trees and shrubs in front yards, huge aloe plants and cacti line the sidewalks. While this is completely normal for many people, the closest I had been to desert plants this large was at the local conservatory.

The weekend trip to Arizona was for a film festival my partner participated in. Of course I supported him and stayed for his film. However the festival was two days of 12 hour long sittings of back to back films. Sitting in a theater for 12 hours straight while in a place I’d never traveled to before didn’t seem ideal. So I left him with his friend and went to see what I could in the short time we were there.

The Desert Botanical Garden

I ended up at Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden by a strange act of fate. I had seen it listed as a top tourist attraction for Phoenix online and was definitely interested. But their closing hours were approaching. Money was also a concern, since not having a vehicle with us meant paying for a Lyft on top of admission.

I checked the Lyft app to see how much the ride would cost. Leaving my phone to charge, I took a quick shower while trying to make a decision. Still unsure, I checked the app again to if the prices changed at all. My charger gives my phone a glitch that makes the touchscreen finicky. So it made the decision for me. Without pressing any buttons, my phone ordered the ride and the driver was only a couple of minutes away.

I was worried about having enough time to spend at the Botanical Garden. At sunset they switch to their Electric Desert light and sound show which costs an additional fee. However arriving right at the cusp of event admissions, I was charged the standard amount and got to see garden both in the sunlight and in the nighttime show!

The garden was incredible. As shown here, there were cacti so tall I had to stand far away or look straight up to see the tops. There were trails leading in several directions with easily a couple of miles to walk full of incredible desert plants. I was in complete awe at these thriving foreign living beings.

Electric Desert

As the sun started setting, colorful lights were projected onto the plants. There were speakers throughout the garden playing music matching the rhythm of the lights. The experience felt like a sober acid trip. I tried to capture a video of the changing lights, but my phone camera didn’t even begin to do it justice. The Desert Botanical Garden in the daytime versus at night felt like two very different environments.


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