(Insert Pauly Shore Bio-Dome Joke here.)
My friend Max came across a Groupon for Biosphere 2 while back and since I've never been, of course I said, "Heck yeah! Let's go!"
For almost all kids in Arizona school system, Biosphere 2 is usually a field trip location you hit at least once. (Sadly I never got to go through.)
Sadly, I wasn't very impressed with the facility.
The site is off the beaten path, about an hour away from the interstate, and you can't even see it from the main road. It's tucked away and you can sense its history as a former government facility just in the drive to it. That feeling is reaffirmed when you see the guard station at the front gate.
Once you park and get into the main office where you purchase your tickets, you still need to trek to get to the actual site. You have to take a five minute walk through a small maze of student/researcher housing to get to the stair case leading down to the facility. All the while you'll see ominous signs about being vigilant about the local wild life in the area.
Now, I will admit that the outside structure is pretty impressive. It's large, futuristic looking and very photogenic. In fact most of the advertising for the facility is a shot of the exterior.
Once you join up with your tour group, you'll have to sit through an instructional video about the site and its history/mission. The one good thing about the tour is that they give you a portable headset that allows you to hear your guide no matter where you are in line.
Sadly, the tour will only take you to three bio domes; the rainforest, the ocean and the desert. The rest of the tour is through the belly of the beast, down into their vent work underground. I will admit that I wasn't really into the engineering portion of the tour. The entire time, all I could think was, "Dang, they need to film a horror movie down here."
A side note here: the tour is hot. All the rooms you venture into are slightly uncomfortable temperature wise and with all the walking and stairs, you can get overheated quickly. (Granted I was there in the middle of June.)
If you intend on going here, I highly recommend November through March. The heat does zap a lot of your energy, there is a LOT of walking (indoor, outdoor and stairs), and in particular the rain forest biosphere can get to you with its humidity if you are not used to it. (The rain forest is also the first bio dome they take you to. I'm an AZ native, so the humidity gave me a bit of a head ache.)
The walking platforms are also narrow and the tour groups can be pretty large. There are points in the tour where you have to double back, which causes a few hiccups in the tour flow; particularly with the front of the tour transitioning back so that rear of the tour can transition forward to see things.
The tours pace is also pretty fast. So don't expect your tour guide to lag so you can take photos. You are also highly encouraged to keep up with the group and not fall back for photos. There are doors that will automatically lock once the tour guide closes them. (And apparently they don't have keys and need to call someone to come and get you? I'm not sure if this was true or just a warning to keep up.)
The end of the tour spits you out of the lung (see photo below of large round room with the pool in the middle) and your guide will leave you on the outside of the rain forest biosphere.
Though you're given some instructions on what you can do from there, it's all a bit confusing. I think my guide wanted his lunch break or something because he skedaddled out of there really quickly.
Basically my group just wandered around, finding the viewing room for the ocean biosphere. Key word is ocean, not aquarium here; since it's just a viewing area for the water. (And maybe a star fish or two.)
After that we wandered back to the main building, which doesn't really offer anything except for a small room with some models about colonizing Mars. (The original purpose of Biosphere.)
Other than that, there isn't much here. I'd say it isn't really an exciting destination, unless you're part of the university and you're working towards your degree in a related field. As a tourist, I'd say skip it. As a photographer though, if you can get a private tour and are allowed to take your time, I'd say jump on it and go. There are some interesting areas, but you're rushed through them too quickly as a regular attendee.