For those of us born and raised in the desert, this attraction quenches years of soul thirst. The self-guided aquarium tour begins with a beautifully produced 9-minute film that describes the course of the Rio Grande from its origin to the Gulf Coast. Then, you'll move on to the touch pool, where at certain times of day you can gently touch hermit crabs and starfish. Next comes the eel tank, an arched aquarium you get to walk through, and a colorful coral-reef exhibit. Finally, culminating the show, is a 285,000-gallon shark tank.

Within a state-of-the-art 10,000-square-foot conservatory, you'll find the botanical garden, split into two sections. The smaller one houses the desert collection and features plants from the lower Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts, including unique species from Baja, California. The larger pavilion exhibits the Mediterranean collection and includes many exotic species native to the Mediterranean climates of southern California, South Africa, Australia, and the Mediterranean Basin. Allow at least 2 hours to see both parks. There is a restaurant on the premises. May to September, the PNM Butterfly Pavilion fills with the colors of several hundred North American butterflies.

In December, you can see the "River of Lights Holiday Light Display" Tuesday through Sunday; and June through August you can attend Thursday evening concerts.