The desert might be known for its dry climate, but garden-like venues rich with native flora and fauna thrive in regions throughout the West. Following are five spots that give groups a chance to immerse themselves in the bounty of the desert.

Springs Preserve, Las Vegas

For a serene escape from Las Vegas’ non-stop action, groups can look to the Springs Preserve, which can host meetings, events and group tours. Just a few miles from the Strip and downtown Las Vegas, the property consists of 180 acres of green buildings, museums, galleries, botanical gardens, playgrounds, traveling science and nature exhibits, live animal exhibits and shows, and walking trails.

“The Springs Preserve is a great place to explore the natural side of Las Vegas and how water gives life to the desert,” explained Pietra Sardelli, group sales supervisor. “The Springs Preserve gives attendees an experience of connecting with the desert environment.”

The venue can work with both small groups and large conferences on group tickets or guided tours as well as teambuilding activities. The amphitheater can hold 1,800 people or 20 exhibitor tents.

“One of our favorite ways to really highlight the diversity of the site is to provide large groups (700-plus) a dine-around experience where different menu items are offered in several different venues throughout the Springs Preserve,” Sardelli said.

Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium, Palm Springs, Calif.

The Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium is a true oasis in Palm Springs, with 3,000 types of cacti and other desert plants in an intimate setting.

It’s a favorite hidden treasure of the destination, established in the 1930s by biologist Patricia and contortionist “Cactus Slim” Moorten. Nowadays, it’s still a family-owned establishment that welcomes visitors and groups to explore its interesting flora, as well as Native American artifacts and rock, crystal and wood forms.

Tours are given from late fall to mid-spring, and the secluded garden is available for private events of up to 100 people.

Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, Tucson, Ariz.

The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum includes a botanical garden, zoo, art gallery, aquarium and natural history museum, with 85 percent of the exhibits and experiences outdoors.

It was founded in 1952, and today, the 98-acre museum includes two miles of walking paths through different desert habitats, 230 animal species and 1,200 types of plants.  

Arizona-Sonoran  Desert Museum, Tucson, Ariz.
Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, Tucson, Ariz.

Groups can arrange for guided tours, behind-the-scene tours, private animal presentations, art experiences and even teambuilding options, such as a scavenger hunt through the grounds.

There are also multiple indoor and outdoor venues for meetings, receptions and events. Inside, the Warden Oasis Theater can accommodate 265 people and includes a glass-paneled foyer. Other indoor spaces that can be used for a private event include the Warden Aquarium; the Green Room, with floor-to-ceiling windows; Ironwood Terraces, the museum’s year-round restaurant; and the seasonal Ocotillo Cafe.

For outdoor events, options include Taylor Plaza and the Desert Garden, which offers shaded seating areas, native plants and two water features. The venue can be used for daytime or evening receptions of up to 250.

Santa Fe Botanical Garden, Santa Fe, N.M.

The Santa Fe Botanical Garden was founded to preserve natural spaces and beauty in New Mexico.

“There are multiple spaces for groups to convene, both covered and in open air,” said Lindsay Taylor, marketing and public relations director for the Santa Fe Botanical Garden. “Not only will guests enjoy the flora and fauna at the Botanical Garden, there are also year-long art exhibitions that add extra whimsy to the space.”

Santa Fe Botanical Garden, Santa Fe, N.M.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden, Santa Fe, N.M.

In May 2019, the Pinon-Juniper Woodland is set to open. It will feature natural walking paths, a new children’s learning area, and views of the Jemez Mountains, Sandia Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Albuquerque Garden Center, Albuquerque, N.M.

The Albuquerque Garden Center is home to one of New Mexico’s most extensive horticultural libraries and offers meeting rooms often used for classes, workshops private rentals. The center showcases native plants, cacti and perennial gardens as well as a Children’s Garden with a Japanese pavilion.

For events at the center, there is the Pinon Room, which can accommodate up to 200 guests and the Patio Room, for a smaller gathering of up to 60 people. Both rooms allow access to the on-site, full-service kitchen and the Marie Torrens Courtyard. The entire facility, including the private gardens and both rooms with direct access to the reception room from the gardens, is also available to groups.