We all know that Phoenix is the Valley of the Sun but did you know there’s a little spot in Arizona that’s called the Valley of the Moon? The name suggests a place that is simultaneously enchanting, whimsical, and mysterious.
Sitting in the middle of a neighborhood just south of the Rio Vista Natural Resource Park, the Valley of the Moon is a storybook land created with the purpose of kindling the imagination in children of all ages. Its origins date back to the 1920s and while it suffered from neglect in the decades following its initial opening, the park has remained a relatively unknown mainstay even to many Tucson natives.
Visits to the park usually happen near twilight, when the lighting softens to create a more intimate setting and twinkle lights filter behind the mesquite leaves and bounce off the smooth stones. In addition to being a space to walk through, the park also regularly hosts plays, storytelling events, and workshops.
Valley of the Moon was the brainchild of creator George Legler, who moved from Indiana to Tucson with his family in 1917. Shortly after the move, Legler met a girl who was dying from tuberculosis and sought ways to console her. His solution: to build a small fairy land to sit outside her window so that she could thrive in her imagination despite her illness. The little cement-made creation featured a mountain scene with a lake, a waterfall, and a path winding up the side of the mountain.
A few years after the girl died, Legler began creating a much larger version in 1923 at the park’s current site. He went to work designing a place where fairies might live, where the imagination could thrive, and where visitors may find a sense of healing. Legler operated the park through the 1960s, offering tours and hosting small plays that featured his pet rabbit.
Until the 1970s, the Valley of the Moon was a Tucson childhood must-visit. Legler personally operated the park through the 1960s, offering tours and hosting small plays, but old age eventually brought this to an end. The park sat in neglect, local kids vandalized it, and it almost became a forgotten icon until a group of high school boys stumbled upon the park and found Legler living on the property.
The boys had visited the park years earlier but remembered little about it other than it was a place where an “old wizard told stories and did magic tricks” (per the website). They hopped the property fence and, after the old man decided they weren’t up to trouble, Legler gave them a tour of the park. The boys were enamored with this place from their childhood imagination and eventually this led to the formation of a volunteer restoration association in 1973.
Over the years, the Valley of the Moon has seen a slow restoration. In 2011 is was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and it was declared a Tucson Historic Landmark in 2015. Both of these have helped bring in additional resources to preserve and restore the small park while maintaining its connection to community.
Valley of the Moon is located at 2544 East Allen Road in Tucson. It is free to attend on the first Saturday each month and during special events. Visit their
Facebook page or website for details about upcoming events.