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Hidden Gems: Unexplored Spots on Arizona University Campus

Hidden Gems: Unexplored Spots on Arizona University Campus

The University of Arizona, located in Tucson, is known for its vibrant campus life, top-tier academic programs, and strong athletic traditions. However, beyond the well-trodden paths and popular landmarks, there exist hidden gems that many students, faculty, and visitors often overlook. These lesser-known spots offer unique experiences and tranquil retreats, adding to the university’s charm and richness. In this article, we will explore some of these unexplored places that make the University of Arizona a truly special place.

1. The Poetry Center

Tucked away on Helen Street, the University of Arizona Poetry Center is a haven for literary enthusiasts. Established in 1960 by Ruth Stephan, this center houses one of the largest collections of contemporary poetry in the nation. The library contains over 70,000 items, including books, periodicals, audio, and visual recordings.

What makes the Poetry Center a hidden gem is its peaceful ambiance. The architecture itself is inspiring, with high ceilings and large windows that allow natural light to pour in, creating a serene environment perfect for reading or quiet contemplation. The center also hosts numerous events, including poetry readings, lectures, and workshops, which are open to the public. It’s a perfect spot for anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of campus life.

2. Boyce Thompson Arboretum

While not directly on campus, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, located about an hour’s drive from Tucson, is affiliated with the University of Arizona and is well worth the trip. This 392-acre botanical garden is Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden, featuring a wide variety of plants from the world’s deserts.

The arboretum offers a refreshing change of pace from the traditional campus environment. Visitors can explore numerous trails that wind through diverse plant collections, including cacti, succulents, and other desert flora. The arboretum also serves as a living laboratory for students and researchers studying botany, ecology, and conservation. For those seeking a deeper connection with nature, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is an essential, albeit often overlooked, destination.

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3. The Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium

The Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium, located on Cherry Avenue, is a treasure trove of scientific discovery and education. While it’s a popular destination for school field trips and astronomy enthusiasts, it remains underappreciated by many university students.

The center features interactive exhibits on various scientific topics, including geology, marine biology, and space science. The planetarium offers breathtaking shows that explore the night sky, providing a fascinating educational experience. Additionally, the Flandrau hosts stargazing events, where visitors can use telescopes to observe celestial bodies. This blend of education and entertainment makes the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium a fantastic yet often overlooked spot on campus.

4. Joseph Wood Krutch Garden

Named after the renowned naturalist and author, the Joseph Wood Krutch Garden is a peaceful oasis in the heart of the University of Arizona campus. Located near the Arizona State Museum, this garden features a diverse collection of desert plants, providing a quiet retreat for reflection and relaxation.

The garden’s design emphasizes water conservation, showcasing plants that thrive in the arid conditions of the Southwest. Walking through the garden, visitors can see various cacti, succulents, and native wildflowers. Informational plaques provide insight into the plants’ ecological roles and adaptations. The Joseph Wood Krutch Garden is an excellent place for students to unwind between classes and connect with the natural beauty of the desert.

5. The Steward Observatory Mirror Lab

Hidden beneath the east stands of Arizona Stadium lies one of the most advanced astronomical facilities in the world: the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab. This unique laboratory specializes in producing large, precision mirrors for telescopes used in astronomical research.

The Mirror Lab is an engineering marvel, where cutting-edge technology and craftsmanship come together to create mirrors that are crucial for exploring the universe. Tours of the lab offer a fascinating glimpse into the process of mirror making, from casting and grinding to polishing and testing. For anyone interested in astronomy or engineering, the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab is a hidden gem that reveals the incredible behind-the-scenes work that goes into modern astronomical discoveries.

6. The Main Library’s Special Collections

The Main Library at the University of Arizona is a bustling hub of student activity, but hidden within its walls is a treasure trove of rare and unique materials: the Special Collections. This department houses an extensive array of rare books, manuscripts, photographs, and archival materials, focusing on the history and culture of the American Southwest and Latin America.

Special Collections offers a quiet and contemplative space for research and study. Highlights of the collection include original manuscripts of renowned authors, historical maps, and documents related to the region’s indigenous cultures. The collection is accessible to students, faculty, and the public, providing a valuable resource for those interested in delving into the rich history and heritage of the Southwest.

7. Turtle Pond

Situated near the Arizona State Museum, the Turtle Pond is a charming and often overlooked spot on campus. This small, tranquil pond is home to several species of turtles and provides a peaceful setting for students and visitors to relax and observe wildlife.

The Turtle Pond is surrounded by lush greenery and shaded benches, making it an ideal spot for a quiet break between classes or a peaceful place to read a book. The presence of turtles adds a unique and endearing touch to this serene location. It’s a delightful hidden gem that offers a moment of tranquility amid the busy campus life.

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8. The Labyrinth at the Health Sciences Education Building

Located on the north side of campus, the Labyrinth at the Health Sciences Education Building is a lesser-known spot designed for meditation and contemplation. This beautiful labyrinth is a winding path set in a peaceful garden, encouraging mindfulness and relaxation.

Walking the labyrinth is a meditative experience, providing an opportunity to slow down, reflect, and find inner peace. The design is inspired by ancient labyrinths, offering a sense of connection to history and tradition. It’s a perfect place for students and faculty to take a moment to clear their minds and reduce stress.

9. The Center for Creative Photography

The Center for Creative Photography (CCP), located on the University of Arizona campus, is a hidden gem for art and photography enthusiasts. Founded in 1975 by renowned photographer Ansel Adams and then-university president John P. Schaefer, the CCP houses an extensive collection of photographs, archives, and research materials.

The center’s collection includes over 80,000 works by more than 2,200 photographers, spanning the history of photography. Visitors can explore rotating exhibitions that showcase both historical and contemporary photography, offering a rich and immersive visual experience. The CCP also provides resources for students and researchers, making it an invaluable asset to the university community.

10. The Anthropology Building Rooftop Garden

A true hidden gem, the rooftop garden on the Anthropology Building is an unexpected oasis that offers stunning views of the campus and surrounding Tucson landscape. This garden is not widely known, even among students and faculty, but it provides a serene escape from the academic pressures below.

The garden features a variety of plants, including succulents and other desert flora, arranged in an aesthetically pleasing layout. It’s a perfect spot for quiet reflection, study sessions, or simply enjoying the beauty of the campus from a different perspective. The rooftop garden exemplifies how even within a busy university, there are spaces designed for tranquility and contemplation.


The University of Arizona is rich with hidden gems that offer unique experiences beyond the well-known landmarks and bustling student areas. From tranquil gardens and inspiring architectural marvels to fascinating scientific facilities and cultural treasures, these unexplored spots add depth and character to the campus. Whether you’re a student, faculty member, or visitor, taking the time to discover these hidden gems can enhance your appreciation of the university’s diverse and vibrant environment. So, next time you find yourself on the University of Arizona campus, venture off the beaten path and explore the hidden treasures that make this place truly special.


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