Biosphere 2 offers new nighttime driving tours this summer. Here’s what to expect

In the COVID-19 era, many people are seeking socially distanced activities where the risk of transmitting the coronavirus is minimal.

Here’s a new, limited-time-only experience that could alleviate the mundaneness of self-isolation and quarantine: a driving tour of a facility that once effectively quarantined eight people for two years.

Biosphere 2, a 3-acre scientific research center about 110 miles southeast of Phoenix in Oracle, has temporarily discontinued its indoor walking tours. But as of Aug. 7, the domed ecosystem and its various habitats can be seen from your car.

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On Fridays and Saturdays in August and September (plus Labor Day), Biosphere 2 will be open for drive-by tours from 6 to 10 p.m. A limited number of tickets are available per day and must be reserved online. Reservations for September dates will be added later.



a close up of a garden: Exterior shot of Biosphere 2.


© Library of Congress
Exterior shot of Biosphere 2.

“This is phase one of our reopening process,” Deputy Director John Adams said in a statement. “We hope to be able to continue to host people on our property, but future opportunities for visitation may look very different.”

MORE: ‘Spaceship Earth’ explores the mystery of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 and the people behind it

What is Biosphere 2?

Biosphere 2 was built as a closed ecosystem to host novel and controversial experiments in 1991 and 1994, during which a group of humans lived inside, subsisting on what was available to them within the environment.

The initial goal was to learn about how to support human life in outer space. 

Now owned by the University of Arizona, Biosphere 2 “serves as a laboratory for controlled scientific studies (and) an arena for scientific discovery and discussion” as well as “a center for research, outreach, teaching and lifelong learning about Earth, its living systems, and its place in the universe,” according to its website.

Biosphere 2 is named as such because Earth is “Biosphere 1.”

There are seven model ecosystems within Biosphere 2: rainforest, ocean, swamps surrounded by mangrove trees, savanna grassland, fog desert, desert grass-shrubland landscapes and model city.

Biosphere 2 driving tour: What to expect

On the approximately 25-minute tour, visitors will drive along a well-marked course while listening to a guide on the new Biosphere app created for the tour.

Downloading the app before your visit is recommended due to spotty network access.

The tour guide will explain current research at the rainforest, ocean, savanna and desert habitats. The route will allow for a look at the “lungs,” which were engineered to regulate air pressure and facilitate air exchange within the closed space during the experiments.

“As part of our phased reopening process, we are continuing to look to new and innovative ways to allow the public to explore this remarkable facility,” Adams said. “During this driving tour, guests will learn some really interesting history of how Biosphere 2 came to be, but also how the University of Arizona is using it today, an angle we haven’t offered until now.”

Tips for visitors

  • Visitors must stay in their vehicles at all times.
  • Driving a convertible with the top down is permitted, but guests should not ride in the beds of pickup trucks.
  • Vehicles larger than a full-size long-bed truck, motorcycles and bicycles are not allowed.
  • The $20 admission fee covers a maximum of six people inside each car.
  • Tickets must be purchased online in advance and can be used any time between 6 and 10 p.m. on the reserved date. You must be in line by 9:30 p.m.
  • Throughout August, get $5 off admission with the discount code LIGHTS on the Biosphere 2 ticketing website: https://tickets.b2.arizona.edu.

New Biosphere 2 tour

What: An app-guided driving tour outside Biosphere 2, a research center operated by the University of Arizona dedicated to understanding global scientific issues on Earth.

When: 6-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays in August and September, plus Labor Day.

Where: 32540 S. Biosphere Road, Oracle.

Admission: $20 per vehicle for up to six people.

Details: 520-621-4800, https://biosphere2.org.

Reach the reporter at kimi.robinson@gannett.com or at 602-444-4968. Follow her on Twitter @kimirobin and Instagram @ReporterKiMi.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Biosphere 2 offers new nighttime driving tours this summer. Here’s what to expect

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