Biosphere 2

When Is the Best Time

The best time to visit is summer, despite being the desert, this will be the least expensive time to travel, and you will encounter fewer tourists.

Is Biosphere 2 Worth It?

Biosphere 2 is worth seeing and worth driving and time for most adults. The entrance fee is reasonable, and the science experiments are truly fascinating: The largest indoor ocean with a coral reef, a fog desert, and the largest indoor rainforest.

It may even be worth it for kids if there is enough interest in scientific topics. The tour duration is definitely suitable for the younger ones.

Most visitors say that even the advanced tours are worth it since they provide an additional and intriguing insight into what it was like to live there for two years. The tour guides are extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

The only small downside is the many stairs to walk and that the many interesting parts are not accessible by wheelchair.

My Personal Experience

This isn’t just the set for the corny, 1996 movie,  Bio-Dome. This is one of the world’s most fascinating facilities dedicated to, “The research and understanding of global scientific issues” … as their website describes. Biosphere 2 was named giving a head nod to Earth (Biosphere 1 so to speak).

Personally, the most interesting aspect of exploring the Biosphere was witnessing the two massive ‘lungs’ connected via underground air tunnels used to maintain the pressure gradient inside Biosphere 2. It is crucial  for this structure to have these two variable expansion chambers.

Tickets are about $20 (subject to change) with tours daily, but make sure to check out their website ahead of time for exact info.

And since the days are scorchers, the Biosphere will allow for comfortable indoor exploration, then when the sun sets, be amazed by Tuscon’s famously starry skies.

If you head to Oracle State Park you can get to the American Avenue trailhead parking lot that is open seven days a week to access the National Scenic Arizona Trail, this accommodates after-hours use by stargazers.

A Brief History of Biosphere 2

Biosphere 2, a 3.14-acre facility, was initially constructed between 1987 and 1991. Its primary purpose was to explore the possibility of creating self-sustaining environments for human habitation on other planets. The name “Biosphere 2” refers to its role as an extension of Earth’s own biosphere, which is considered “Biosphere 1.”

Key events in Biosphere 2’s history include:

  • The first mission (1991-1993): Eight “biospherians” lived inside the sealed environment for two years, growing their own food and conducting various experiments.
  • The second mission (1994): A shorter, six-month endeavor with a new crew of seven members.
  • Acquisition by Columbia University (1996-2003): The facility was used for research and education purposes.
  • Management by the University of Arizona (2007-present): Biosphere 2 is now a leading research facility focusing on Earth system science, climate change, and sustainable solutions.

How to Get There

Biosphere 2 is located in Oracle, Arizona, about 35 miles north of Tucson and 100 miles south of Phoenix.

  • By car: From Tucson, take Highway 77 north, and turn right onto Biosphere Road. From Phoenix, take Highway 60 east, and then take Highway 79 south. Turn right onto Highway 77 and then left onto Biosphere Road.
  • By shuttle: Some hotels and tour companies in Tucson offer shuttle services to Biosphere 2. Check with your accommodation or tour operator for details.

Embark on a journey to Biosphere 2 and uncover the wonders of our planet. Whether you’re a science enthusiast or simply curious about the natural world, Biosphere 2 offers an unforgettable and inspiring experience for all.

Since it’s only a 45 minutes drive from Tucson Arizona: Google Maps Route – Tucson > Biosphere 2 , your best choice is to stay in Tucson for one night before heading to the site.


Exploring the Biomes

During my visit, I was astounded by the diverse ecosystems housed within Biosphere 2. Each biome replicates a distinct environment, showcasing the complexity and beauty of our planet:

  • Rainforest: This lush, tropical habitat is home to over 90 plant species and features a waterfall, as well as an underground “technosphere” showcasing the infrastructure supporting the rainforest.
  • Ocean: The 676,000-gallon ocean environment, complete with a coral reef, offers a glimpse into the delicate balance of marine ecosystems.
  • Savannah: A mix of grasslands, shrubs, and small trees, the Savannah biome represents the African savannah and its unique flora and fauna.
  • Desert: The Sonoran Desert ecosystem highlights the remarkable adaptations of desert plants and animals.
  • Mangrove Wetlands: A coastal habitat showcasing the importance of mangrove forests in protecting coastal ecosystems from erosion and providing a home for various species.
  • Fog Desert: This small, enclosed environment replicates the fog deserts of coastal Peru, where the mist provides moisture for unique plant life.

Tours and Experiences

Biosphere 2 offers a variety of guided tours and educational experiences:

  • General Admission Tour: A 90-minute guided tour that takes visitors through the biomes and the technosphere. Suitable for all ages.
  • Under the Glass Tour: A more in-depth, 2.5-hour exploration, offering exclusive access to areas not included in the General Admission Tour. Recommended for ages 12 and up.
  • Field Trips and Educational Programs: Customizable programs for school groups and educators, focusing on various topics related to ecology, sustainability, and climate change.
  • Scientist-led Specialty Tours: Periodically, Biosphere 2 offers specialty tours led by scientists, providing insights into ongoing research projects and deeper understanding of the facility’s scientific importance.
  • Virtual Tours: For those unable to visit in person, Biosphere 2 provides virtual tour options, which give a comprehensive overview of the facility and its biomes.

Visiting Tips

To make the most of your visit to Biosphere 2, consider these helpful tips:

  • Plan ahead: Tours can fill up quickly, so it’s best to book your tickets in advance online.
  • Dress comfortably: Wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll be walking and standing throughout the tour. The facility is climate-controlled, but temperatures can vary between biomes, so dressing in layers is recommended.
  • Bring water and snacks: Food and beverages are not allowed inside Biosphere 2, but you can enjoy them in designated areas outside the facility.
  • Photography: Photography is permitted inside Biosphere 2, so bring your camera or smartphone to capture memorable moments.
  • Accessibility: The General Admission Tour is wheelchair accessible; however, the Under the Glass Tour has some areas that are not easily accessible. Contact Biosphere 2 for further information on accessibility.
  • Gift shop: Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop for unique souvenirs, educational materials, and local products.

Is it Worth Visiting With Kids?

Biosphere 2 offers a unique and engaging experience for visitors of all ages, including children. Visiting with kids can be both entertaining and educational, as they’ll have the opportunity to explore diverse ecosystems, learn about sustainability, and develop a deeper understanding of our planet’s environmental challenges.

Here are a few points to consider when visiting Biosphere 2 with kids:

  • Age-appropriate tours: The General Admission Tour is suitable for all ages and provides an excellent introduction to the facility and its biomes. The Under the Glass Tour, however, is recommended for ages 12 and up due to its more in-depth nature and longer duration.
  • Interactive exhibits: Throughout the tour, there are interactive displays and exhibits that help explain complex concepts in a way that is engaging and accessible for younger visitors.
  • Educational programs: Biosphere 2 offers a variety of customizable educational programs and field trips for school groups, scout troops, and homeschoolers, which can be tailored to different age groups and learning objectives.
  • Inspiring curiosity: A visit to Biosphere 2 can spark children’s curiosity about science, ecology, and the environment, encouraging them to ask questions, explore, and learn more about the world around them.
  • Plan for breaks: Younger children may need breaks during the tour, so be prepared to pause and rest when necessary. It’s also a good idea to bring snacks and water to keep them energized and hydrated throughout the visit.

In conclusion, Biosphere 2 is definitely worth visiting with kids, as it provides an enjoyable, educational, and thought-provoking experience for the entire family. By introducing children to the wonders of our planet and the importance of sustainability, you’ll be nurturing the next generation of environmental stewards.

Nearby Attractions

If you’re looking to explore more of Arizona, consider visiting these nearby attractions:

  • Oracle State Park: A 4,000-acre wildlife refuge, perfect for hiking, picnicking, and wildlife viewing.
  • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: A fusion of a zoo, botanical garden, and natural history museum, showcasing the beauty and diversity of the Sonoran Desert.
  • Saguaro National Park: Home to the nation’s largest cacti, this park offers a glimpse into the desert’s unique flora and fauna, as well as scenic drives and hiking trails.

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