DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun is located on ten acres of land at 6300 North Swan Road. The setting itself is absolutely beautiful. The site sits at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia designed and built the gallery, mission, his home and other buildings using traditional adobe bricks that were crafted on site so that his paintings “would feel good inside” and indeed they do.

The Gallery in the Sun is truly a kaleidoscope of expressions with an aura of creativity.” ~Ted DeGrazia

The gallery is home to more than 15,000 DeGrazia originals including watercolors, oil paintings, ceramics and sculptures.

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

The interior of the gallery is beautiful.

It might seem like this isn’t a place for children – but notice all of the natural materials that are able to be touched and explored – floors, walls, plants and natural objects sitting throughout the gallery (pine cones, rocks, pieces of wood, etc.). All of the furniture is made from natural materials and some are child size. There are fountains, a wonderful courtyard and desert paths to explore. The whole place is a delight to the senses.

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

The light coming through marbles in the door was fascinating to J.

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

Sitting in one of the child size pieces of furniture.

There are six permanent collections and several rotating exhibits each year. Each collection reveals a subject that was of deep interest to DeGrazia.

Padre Kino Gallery

Padre Kino Gallery – Inspired by the life and times of Padre Kino.

Cabeza de Vaca

Cabeza de Vaca Gallery – DeGrazia read extensively about the adventures of Cabeza de Vaca, an explorer, which inspired this collection.

Papago Indian Legends

Papago Indians Legends Gallery – DeGrazia chose four legends of the Papago (Tohono O’odham) to depict their tradition of storytelling for this collection.

Retrospective Gallery

Retrospective Gallery – This collection represents more than five decades of DeGrazia’s developing style.

Yaqui Easter Ceremony

Yaqui Easter Ceremony Gallery – DeGrazia created this collection after observing the ceremonies with his Yaqui friends in 1967.


Bullfight Gallery – Illustrates the splendor and emotions of a bullfight from start to finish.

As you leave the last gallery you will walk into a shady courtyard that has paths, a fountain, a small bridge, benches and some interesting artwork hanging here and there.

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

The Courtyard

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

Back and forth, back and forth over the bridge.

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

Looking for fish in the Yaqui Deer Dancer fountain.

The Mission in the Sun was built in 1952 in honor of Father Kino. DeGrazia dedicated it to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico.

Mission in the Sun

Mission in the Sun

Mission in the Sun

“The roof is open to the sky, as it should be. You can’t close up God in a stuffy room!” ~Ted DeGrazia

The inside is covered in DeGrazia’s murals.

Mission in the Sun

Murals cover the walls.

DeGrazia’s home is also on the property.

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

DeGrazia’s small adobe home.

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

J loved going up and down the small step.

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

Checking out DeGrazia’s kitchen.

The property has paths that you can follow where you will encounter quite a variety of objects made from nature. There are also picnic tables and other areas to sit.

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

Making music!

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun was added to the National Register of Historic Places in October 2006. It is currently maintained by the DeGrazia Foundation, which was established by DeGrazia before his death to ensure the preservation of his gallery and artwork.

The gallery is open daily from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. There is no charge for admission.

J had a wonderful time and everyone was very friendly. While I browsed the gift shop J was given some crayons and a DeGrazia coloring sheet. Everyone seemed to enjoy having her there.

I think this is one of Tucson’s best kept secrets. Ted DeGrazia is a Tucson legend. If you haven’t visited yet it is well worth it!

Mount Lemmon Ski Valley Skyride

The Mount Lemmon ski lift becomes a skyride during the summer months. The ride to the summit takes about 15 minutes. You can get off to enjoy the view or take a hike before taking it back down to the base of the ski area. The lift departs at about an elevation of 8200 feet and climbs to 9100 feet.

Mount Lemmon Ski Valley Skyride

Heading up towards the summit.

It can be much cooler on Mount Lemmon than it is down in Tucson and during monsoon season it may be raining when it is perfectly sunny in Tucson.  We went on a day that was over 100 degrees in town but we were chilly and needed long sleeves.

The view from the summit is fantastic. It is definitely worth getting off the lift at the top.

Mount Lemmon Ski Valley Skyride

The view from the summit.

We didn’t stay long since it was drizzling on us. We did see some colorful wildflowers and quite a few different birds.

Mount Lemmon Ski Valley Skyride

As you head down you can see the San Pedro Valley and the distant mountains near Globe and Phoenix.

Ski Valley hours for the skyride are as follows:

Monday – Thursday – Friday 10:30 – 4:30
Saturday and Sunday 9:00 – 4:30
Tuesday and Wednesday Closed

There is plenty of parking, a snack shop, a gift shop and a restaurant across from the parking lot.

Only two people are allowed on the lift at one time unless a mom has a baby in arms. This is important to consider if you have more than one child. Each lift has a bar that comes down in front but otherwise you are on your own to stay safe. There is no age minimum to ride.

Mount Lemmon Ski Valley Skyride

Looking at a ladybug outside the gift shop.

I was worried that J would get scared, but she had a blast. Riding the lift is definitely a fun way to escape the summer heat!

Kartchner Caverns State Park

Kartchner Caverns is over 200,000 years old and is considered to be one of the ten most mineralogically interesting caves in the world. It is located nine miles south of Benson. The cave is a living cave which means that the formations are still growing. It was discovered in 1974 by Randy Tufts and Gary Tenen and kept secret until 1988. It opened for tours in 1999. The full history is worth reading.

Kartchner Caverns State Park

Kartchner Caverns State Park

If you don’t purchase advance tickets online,  the Discovery Center is where to go first. The Discovery Center is full of information about the cave and surrounding area. You can watch a theater presentation, check out the museum exhibits, browse the gift shop, eat at the Bat Cave Cafe, use the restroom or just relax. The food at the Bat Cave Cafe is actually quite good!

Kartchner Caverns

Looking at animal tracks.

Shasta Ground Sloth

Looking at a Shasta Ground Sloth and its bones.

J really enjoyed this area of the exhibits.

Kartchner Caverns

Bugs and bats!

Kartchner Caverns

Checking out minerals through a magnifying glass.

The climb through cave wall was also a hit.

Kartchner Caverns

Climbing into the cave.

Kartchner Caverns

And out!

Older children can explore the exhibits and find the answers to the Discovery Center Scavenger Hunt. Children ages 6-12 can also become Junior Rangers.

After spending some time exploring the exhibits we went outside to wait for the tram. The view is fantastic and there are plenty of benches if you need to relax while you wait.

Kartchner Caverns State Park

Walking on the big rocks while waiting for the tram.

The tram takes you up to the cave. No photos are allowed at the cave but it is definitely impressive! You can see photos on the Kartchner Caverns State Park website. We took the Rotunda/Throne Room Tour because children under age seven are not allowed on the Big Room Tour and the Big Room Tour is currently closed for the season because of the bats.

Kartchner Caverns

The tram takes you up to the cave entrance.

The cave has a diverse amount of speleothems (cave formations) including stalagmites, stalactites, soda straws, columns, shields, draperies, popcorn, flowstone, helictites and boxwork.

Kartchner Caverns is also home to:

  • one of the world’s longest soda straw stalactites (21 feet, 3 inches)
  • the most massive and tallest column in Arizona, Kubla Khan (58 feet tall)
  • the world’s most extensive formation of brushite moonmilk
  • the first reported occurrence of turnip shields and birdsnest needle quartz formations
  • unusual formations such as rimstone dams, totems, shields and helictites

After our tour, we had lunch at the Bat Cave Cafe and then wandered around the Hummingbird Garden Walk which is located on the southwest side of the Discovery Center. The walk is lined with native vegetation that attracts bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other critters. The proximity to the riparian area of the San Pedro River, the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert and the canyons and arroyos of the Whetstone Mountains creates a unique opportunity to see species that are present in each of these habitats. A bird list is available.

There are plenty of shady spots and plenty of benches in this area. There are quiet, isolated corners and picnic tables as well.

Hummingbird Garden Walk

Hummingbird Garden Walk

We saw quite a few varieties of butterflies. I think the one J was fascinated with was an Elada Checkerspot.

Hummingbird Garden Walk

Watching a small butterfly.

Elada Checkerspot

A slightly tattered Elada Checkerspot.

We also saw some different insects, much to J’s delight. She’d take them all home if she could.

Hummingbird Garden Walk

Come here, little Robber Fly!

Hummingbird Garden Walk

Following a Carpenter Bee around.

Leaf-Footed Bug

She really liked this Leaf-Footed Bug.

There are some hiking trails at the park as well. They are moderate to difficult trails so if you plan on hiking be prepared. The views are magnificent so if you can get some hiking in I definitely recommend it! We didn’t do any hiking today because it was drizzling and the sky was darkening. Campsites are also available.

If you are heading out with little ones you will definitely want to read the Park Rules. Here are some that are good to know if you are taking the kiddos into the cave:

  • purses, handbags, backpacks, fanny packs, baby backpacks and other bags/items are not allowed
  • cameras, phones, camcorders and other electronic recording devices are not allowed
  • strollers and backpack carriers are not allowed (soft slings or carriers worn on the front are allowed for babies age birth to one year)
  • food and drinks (including water) are not allowed
  • the only things you are allowed to touch in the cave are the handrails

The website also states that it is not uncommon for young children (six and under) to become frightened or uncomfortable in the cave. J sure didn’t fit into that category!

Happy spelunking!

Insect Sensory Bin

Here’s a quick and easy sensory bin that you can make using things from our desert landscape. I went outside with J earlier today and she gathered some things from our yard for this one. Normally I would just use water but J wanted to use the decorative glass for water instead.

After setting up the bin we added the insects from the Safari Ltd.® Insects Toob® that you can get for about $6.00 at Jo-Ann if you use a coupon. Instant fun! It’s amazing how much she enjoys playing with something so simple.

Insect Sensory Bin

Insect Sensory Bin

We used:

  • sand
  • rocks
  • sticks
  • a large fossil type rock
  • mesquite beans
  • a palo verde branch
  • small gravel
  • blue decorative glass gems for water (for even more fun add a small bowl of water instead)

The container is an 18″ x 22″ photo developing tray. Very handy for sensory and discovery bins!

This is something that J kept going back to over and over again throughout the day. Today she was burying the insects, hiding them under rocks, putting them to bed, waking them up, giving them water, finding them food, flying the butterflies and dragonfly around and rearranging everything. I’m sure it will continue to keep her busy for at least another week before we switch to a new sensory bin.

Insect Sensory Bin

Reminding me about the scorpion that was on our back porch the other day.

Of course, you don’t have to use insects with this sensory bin. Anything will work!

Postal History Foundation and Peggy J. Slusser Memorial Philatelic Library

The Postal History Foundation’s mission is to promote an appreciation of stamp collecting and postal history through the preservation of philatelic and postal history collections, literature and documents and the encouragement of youth education using stamps as teaching tools. The journey from an idea to what exists today began in 1960 and over the course of 50 years the Postal History Foundation has become one of the top philatelic organizations in the United States.

The Postal History Foundation and Peggy J. Slusser Memorial Library

The Postal History Foundation and Peggy J. Slusser Memorial Philatelic Library

J is a collector of many things. Our library has a little basket of stamps that she enjoys digging through so we headed out to officially get started with her stamp collection. We have never seen so many stamps in one place! We also took a walk through the small museum and exhibits.

The first thing we noticed was the historic post office structure from Naco, Arizona which was the active post office there for about 30 years.

Naco, Arizona Historic Post Office Structure

This post office structure dates back to 1895.

Inside the historic post office you will find postal memorabilia such as: hand and electric cancellation machines, an automatic cashier device, a coin operated vending machine for stamps, a dispatch case, postal badges, padlocks, mailbags, delivery letter boxes and more.

Postal Delivery Boxes

Fascinated with the delivery letter boxes.

Historic Filing

Trying to open the drawers.

J’s favorite part of the museum area was an area of delivery boxes that opened, each with a piece of mail inside. She went through them all, inspecting each piece of mail.

Historic Mail Delivery Boxes

There’s mail in these delivery boxes!

Everybody was super friendly and we were led back to gather some stamps. There are two chests full of stamps to dig though. Envelopes are provided and we ended up with quite a few! J was also given a beginner’s stamp album.


So many stamps! This one has a traffic light on it.

It is suggested that when starting a stamp collection you choose a specific topic that you would like to collect. There are so many stamps that it is overwhelming if you don’t narrow it down somewhat. I hope that J eventually chooses a few topics to focus on but for now she likes just about everything.

J was asked what kinds of things she enjoys and she was given some stamps from the file cabinets that are organized by topic for her collection. She now has cat stamps, dog stamps, bird stamps, bug stamps, train stamps, stamps from Brazil and all the stamps that she chose from the chest. There are drawers and drawers of stamps organized by topic. It is pretty impressive! She was also given an activity sheet. There are more educational resources for older children available, too.


Putting all the cat stamps into an envelope. The file cabinets are full of stamps organized by topic.

After stashing all of the stamps safely into my bag we signed the guest book then headed across the courtyard to the library. I was also given a bag of imperfect stamps (tears, smeared ink, etc.) to use for crafts after I mentioned that it would be fun to Mod Podge something with stamps. Everyone gave us a friendly good-bye and told us to come back soon.

Postal History Foundation Courtyard

Climbing up for a rest.

The Peggy J. Slusser Memorial Philatelic Library is home to a collection of over 30,000 books, catalogs, journals, maps, photos and other reference items related to postal history and philately. There is also a small kids’ corner with books, another stamp chest, a Melissa and Doug mailbox toy and some stamp activities for older children.

Peggy J. Slusser Memorial Philatelic Library Kid Zone

What to do first? More stamps!

There are picture books, chapter books and books about stamp collecting.

Peggy J. Slusser Memorial Philatelic Library Kid Zone

Looking at books.

The Postal History Foundation is located at 920 North 1st Avenue. There is plenty of parking in the lot and there is also a full service post office in the building. There are bathrooms and the courtyard has plenty of shade if you need some time outdoors. Admission is free.

Once we got home J wanted to sort through her stamps. The starter album has pages organized by topic so tomorrow we will get to work adding the stamps. We will definitely need to get another album though.


Sorting all her new stamps.

There are quite a few activities for toddlers that you could do involving stamps.

  • make a matching or memory game with pairs of stamps
  • sorting, categorizing and classifying
  • make a stamp discovery or sensory bin
  • storytelling with stamps
  • use them in post office role play
  • make bookmarks or other pieces of art
  • using stamps when learning about colors, the alphabet and numbers

There are even more ways to incorporate stamps into learning for older children. There are plenty of ideas on the PHF website.

And of course, this is a hobby that you might enjoy right along with the kiddos! I gathered a few for myself but I think I need to narrow my collection down to a specific topic, too!

Here is a page of stamp collecting resources, including some for children.

If you are interested in postal history, there’s quite a bit of historical information about Arizona’s Postal History on the PHF website.

There is also an Annual Tucson Birthday Stamp Design Contest for Kids going on right now. Entries are due by August 1st, 2013.

If you are a stamp collector, please tell us about your collection! Any advice for newbies? Any other ideas for toddler activities or crafts?

The Red Barn Country Store…and More

The Red Barn Country Store, located at 11011 East Tanque Verde Road, is more than just a store. It was developed by Old Pueblo Children’s Services (a non-profit 501(c)3 organization) to financially assist their care homes for children ages 3-17 and to provide a unique setting for Tanque Verde area residents and others to gather and enjoy each other’s company in a village type atmosphere.

The Red Barn Country Store

The Red Barn Country Store

We start to go stir crazy during these hot summer months. Some days we just need to get outside for a little while in the middle of the day. We have driven by here a few times so today we decided to check it out.

There are two acres of interesting things to explore. Outside you will find antiques, old cars, tractors, statues, flowers, boats, fountains, bird baths, old wheels, birdhouses and more.

The huge trees offer a decent amount of shade. The two ponds were a hit with J.

The Red Barn Country Store

The little pond.

The Red Barn Country Store

The large pond.

The playground area has a little bit of shade around it.

The Red Barn Country Store

Heading for the swings.

There is a livestock area but right now there isn’t any livestock to see. J did enjoy checking out the tractor and the old car though.

The Red Barn Country Store

Riding the metal bull.

There are quite a few covered areas where you can sit and relax or throw down a blanket.

The Red Barn Country Store

J thought the boat on the roof was funny.

The Red Barn Country Store

A large shady spot.

The Red Barn Country Store

Another shady spot.

The patio of The Red Barn Country Store also has plenty of seating and all kinds of nifty items to look at.

The Red Barn Country Store

J had fun checking out all the stuff on the patio.

Inside you will find antiques, collectables, hand-made soaps, lotions, baked goods, jams, spices, old-fashioned candies and all kinds of random items for sale. All profits from the store go directly to the non-profit. There’s also a small snack bar.

The Red Barn Country Store

An odd assortment!

I enjoyed poking around inside (I didn’t mind the AC either) but J quickly wanted to go back outside to see what else she could find that interested her.

The Red Barn Country Store

Hey, this shovel has eyes!

The Red Barn Country Store

This frog has golf ball eyes!

The Red Barn Country Store

Big spoons!

The Red Barn Country Store

Whoa! That’s a big wheel!

Everyone was very friendly and nobody minded that J was poking around and touching everything. There are future plans to have a farmers’ market, arts and crafts for children and special events. Pets are welcome, too!

If you are in the area, stop by and check out The Red Barn Country Store. Who knows, you might find something you just can’t leave without!

Art Sprouts at The University of Arizona Museum of Art

The University of Arizona Museum of Art (UAMA) recently introduced a new program called Art Sprouts that includes story time and art making for children ages two to five years old.

“Children will read a story, explore priceless works of art, move their bodies and make hands on activities. All of these components are designed to not only inspire, but to also foster cognitive, fine and gross motor skills, which are essential to child development. It’s also a great bonding experience for families.” ~Art Sprouts

The first session was Lines, Shapes and Oops!

If you arrive early, no worries! There is an area set up with activities pertaining to the topic of the session.

Art Sprouts

Plenty to do while you wait.

Magnetic Shapes

Working with magnetic shapes.

The program started with a quick review of museum etiquette, then we headed upstairs for story time. The book read was Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg, an interactive book that explores the endless possibilities that mistakes can be transformed into. I definitely recommend adding this book to your collection if you don’t have it already. It is a fun book!

Art Sprouts

Story time is always more fun when you are surrounded by art.

After the story we explored two paintings that look like they might contain some “oops!” The first was Number 20, 1950 by Jackson Pollock. The kids explored lines, shapes, colors and whatever else they noticed.

Jackson Pollock

Exploring Number 20, 1950 by Jackson Pollock.

After a little bit of visual exploration, the kids were inspired to stand up and draw lines in the air with their fingers. Then they were given a piece of string so they could make their own lines on the ground.

Art Sprouts

Creating lines with string.

Next, we explored Berkeley #19 by Richard Diebenkorn. The kids were given paper shapes to match up to the painting.

Art Sprouts

Looking for the shape in the painting.

After this we all headed back downstairs so the kids could create some of their own art. The tables were set up with papers that had some form of “oops!” on them (paint drips, holes, smudges, etc.). The kids were then able to turn the “oops!” into their own works of art using different materials. I loved that this wasn’t a step-by-step craft. The kids were able to create on their own using the available materials, with plenty of time to really get absorbed into what they were working on.

Art Sprouts

Creating with shapes, markers and pastels.

Art Sprouts

Making a collage with contact paper and shapes.

Art Sprouts

Two new masterpieces to hang up at home!

J definitely enjoyed this program and we will definitely be going to the rest of the sessions. I hope it continues.

Art Sprouts is free with regular admission ($5.00 for adults, students and children are free). The next session is on June 19th. Schedule and contact information can be found here. Reserve your spot soon because space is limited! If you do go, parking is easiest at the Park Avenue/Speedway Boulevard parking garage. The museum is located on the southeast corner of the intersection.

“Let’s inspire the new generation of art lovers!” ~Art Sprouts