Oracle, Arizona: Biosphere 2Hi-tech sealed facility was supposed to prepare its inhabitants for trips to Mars. Didn't work.
- 32540 S. Biosphere Rd, Oracle, AZ
- I-10 exit 240. East on Tangerine Rd for 13.5 miles, then north on Hwy 77 for 14.5 miles, then right onto Biosphere Rd for 2.5 miles. The gate across the road closes at 4 PM.
- Tours daily 9:30-4 (Call to verify)
- Adults $20.00
- RA Rates:
- Worth a Detour
Visitor Tips and News About Biosphere 2
The University of Arizona in Tucson has completely taken over. The tour is a bit expensive, $16 adult, but it's a can't miss if you find yourself in the foothills north of the city. The tours last roughly an hour and a half, involve around 150 stairs, mostly getting from the Visitors Center to the facility itself. Don't watch the movie in the Visitor's Center, they have 2 slightly different versions on a loop, one of them kicks off the tour, if you are still intrigued, you can watch on the way out.
Make sure to get to the tour starting point early so you can explore the living quarters of the scientists that spent 2 years sealed inside -- this isn't part of the tour and something you explore on your own. The tour is a very nice mix of history, and why it's gotten a second life. Plan on spending roughly 3 hours, plenty of bathrooms, elevators for those needing them, and a cafe...however we did not venture inside to see the food or prices.
Apparently scientists from the University and elsewhere are currently conducting experiments; we saw equipment set up, but no scientists. A fascinating look into what it cost to build, why it was built, and why someone has to do something with it.[Jimmy G, 02/02/2016]
Biosphere 2 Lives Yet Again
On our last visit to the desert outskirts of Tucson, Arizona, we were thwarted in our efforts to visit Biosphere 2 -- the former hi-tech human fishbowl turned into a tourist attraction -- by a severe lack of Biosphere staff and a big steel gate across the access road.
It turned out that probably at that exact moment the Biosphere was being sold for $50 million to a real estate development company, which planned to build a resort hotel and luxury homes on the surrounding desert land. The University of Arizona was given the three-acre terrarium as a minicampus for its ecology program. This ended its brief, four-year stint as a roadside attraction, unsatisfying as it may have been to some of us.
Happily, the Biosphere was given a good scrubbing and quickly reopened for tours, under the stewardship of the University of Arizona. Visitors are again welcome, are encouraged to ask questions of the scientists, and are told to bring good walking shoes, a sun-protective hat, sunscreen, and a water bottle.[RoadsideAmerica.com Team, 10/02/2007]
Not far from Tucson, Biosphere 2 is a so called "engineering marvel" that in the eyes of this tourist fails to live up to its fame. For the hefty price of $20, you may take a guided tour around and inside Biosphere 2. Explore how the unique biomes, the human habitat and the inner workings hidden underground. The guided tour, while informative, is very brief and hurried, clocking in at about an hour. I had the luxury of taking the first tour of the day and found myself with only one other visitor, so thankfully our tour was far more relaxed than I expect a larger tour group would have been. On our tour we were able to see most of Biosphere 2, but to my disappointment we weren't able to see the rain forest biome. Overall, I did enjoy touring Biosphere 2, but consider the tour overpriced and not suitable for children.
For the casual tourist, I recommend skipping the tour and just walking the grounds of Biosphere 2. Then step inside the human habitat and look around free of charge (As far as I saw anyone is free to do this.). Finally, read up on the project's history at the visitor center and call it a day. Without spending a dime you'll take in 80% of what is there. For the more serious tourist, science buff or standard geek, pay for the tour and I'm sure you'll have a great time. That my two bits.[Sam Scholes, 09/05/2007]
This was not worth the trip from Tucson for a family of four. Since both our kids were over 12, we had to pay over $80 for what ended up being a 30-45 minute tour. The movie (a documentary prepared for tv) was ok, but only about 10 minutes, and the displays were also pretty nice. But we weren't given enough time to view them and weren't allowed back after the tour which could have been better. We only saw two of the five biomes, and never saw the rainforest or marsh even at a distance.
They really didn't go into the original biosphere experiment or how it relates to anything today - considering the global warming concerns, you would think they would.
It would have been fine for a $5 entry fee - but not $20.[Cathy, 04/24/2007]
Biosphere 2 is now owned by a new corporation. We went on a school field trip -- this is my 3rd visit and I was very happy to see that the tour now includes going into the Biosphere 2. We were able to go into the human habitat, the desert and savanna. Also we got a tour of the inside of one of the lungs. This was a very cool trip. I really enjoyed getting to go in.[Sandi, 12/19/2004]