Best Museums to Visit in Phoenix, Arizona

Although Phoenix is in the middle of the desert, with seemingly not much to do, especially in the heat of the summer, we have some of the best museums in the world. From music to art, science, Native culture and archaeology, you and your children can learn about anything through a fun environment, by visiting some of these.

The Musical Instrument Museum

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The Musical Instrument Museum is the only one of its kind in the world. A relatively recent addition to the Phoenix landscape, even the architecture of it reminds you of a musical instrument, a piano. With thousands of instruments displayed from all over the world, with music and videos of them being played, you need at least a full day to experience it all.

Travel the world and learn about different cultures through their music, when you walk through the Geographic Galleries, from Africa and the Middle East through Asia and Oceania, Europe, Latin America, to the US and Canada. Marvel at the engineering that created instruments that play themselves in the Mechanical Music Gallery, and learn about some of the most influential musicians in the Artist Gallery.

The highlight of your visit, especially if you bring kids, will most likely be the Experience Gallery, where you can try different instruments, from all over the world, and make your own music with them.
Open daily from 9am-5pm

General Admission: $20; teens: $15, children 4 and over: $10, 3 and under free.

Arizona Science Center

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Five stories high, the Arizona Science Center is one of the greatest displays of hands-on science exhibits, a planetarium, and a large IMAX theater. From exploring the human body and mind through interactive exhibits, through experiencing the works of science by playing with mechanical, electric and electromagnetic displays, to understanding the forces of nature by playing with sand, water, wind and standing in a hurricane, tornado and a volcanic eruption, as well as experimenting with the digital world, you can experience it all. If you are able, ride the SkyCycle on a 90 foot cable suspended 15 feet in the air, to learn about the center of gravity. You should plan on spending a full day there, especially if you visit it with kids, who will play, while learning.

Open daily: 10am - 5pm

General admission (includes admission to the permanent exhibits, the Theater and Seasonal Exhibits are extra): Adults: $18; Children 3-17: $13, under 3 free

Phoenix Art Museum

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The Phoenix Art Museum is another great place to visit, especially in the summer, when temperatures rise to above 110 degrees and there is not much to do outside. Opened in 1959, over the years it has become the biggest art museum in the Southwestern US. The permanent collections include the
Western American Art Collection, featuring diverse artists from our region, the American Art Collection with art pieces dating from the late 18th to the early 20th century, the Latin American Exhibit featuring Spanish colonial to modern Mexican art, the European collection with diverse works dating from the 14th to the 19th century, and the Asian Collection with sculptures, paintings, religious art, porcelain and archaeological pieces from Asian countries. The museum also houses a Fashion and a Photography Collection, as well as a Contemporary and a Modern Collection representing the more progressive art trends. Children can enjoy their own interactive exhibit in the PhxArtKids gallery.

Open: Wednesday to Sunday, Wed: 10am - 9pm, Thurs-Sat: 10am - 5pm, Sun: 12am - 5pm

General Admission: Adults: $18; Seniors: $15; Students: $13; Children 6-17: $9, under 6: free

The Heard Museum


One of the greatest local museum, the Heard Museum, is dedicated to the Native Americans of the Southwest and other indigenous people around the world. The highlight of the museum, HOME, includes cultural pieces of the Southwest, Hopi Katsinas, Navajo textiles, Zuni and Navajo jewelry, Southwestern ceramics, baskets from the Southwest, California and the Northwest, even a full-size Navajo hogan, a Hopi piki room, Yaqui ramada, and Pueblo oven. Through the exhibit listen to the stories of the Native People, learn about their traditions and definition of home. Leaving this exhibit, you have a chance to deepen your knowledge by hands-on activities in the It's Your Turn: A Home Studio, a favorite of all visiting children, and make Zuni jewelry, a dragonfly, a 3-D Navajo hogan, and a calendar stick.

Another permanent exhibit is the Around the World Collection, displaying works by indigenous people from other countries. The museum also hosts temporary exhibits, and Native American shows and dances.

Hours: Mon-Sat: 9:30am - 5pm; Sunday: 11am - 5pm

General Admission: Adults: $18; Seniors: $13.50; Students and children 6-17: $7.50, children under 5 free

Pueblo Grande Museum


After learning about the present-day Native Americans, visit the Pueblo Grande Museum to learn about the ancient ones who have inhabited Phoenix about 1,500 years ago. The museum and archaeological site is dedicated to the Hohokam, who have lived in the arid place that is Phoenix today, without air conditioning, and running water. You will have a great appreciation for their skills as engineers, as you learn about their canal system, that extends for miles all over the Valley. The museum has two permanent galleries, the Main Gallery, where you learn about the Canal builders, marvel at their pottery, tools, shell and stone jewelry and the hands-on Children's Gallery, where they can build a miniature Hohokam village or dig through an archaeological site. The highlight of this museum is the outdoor trail, taking you through the archaeological site, through adobe buildings, a ball court and a garden, irrigated the way they have done it in the past.

Open: Tuesday - Saturday: 9am - 4:45pm

General Admission: Adults: $6; Seniors: $5; Children6-17: $3, under 6 free

The above mentioned museums are the highlights of Phoenix, however, the city has many more museums that you will find enjoyable, like the I.D.E.A. Museum in Mesa for kids 12 and under or the Arizona Capitol Museum, among others.

Emese Fromm is a writer and translator who has been calling Phoenix her home for over twenty years. Member of the International Association of Professional Writers and Editors, she specializes mostly in travel writing. In addition to Parachute, her work has appeared in publications like Travellady, Travel thru History, InTravel Magazine, Skipping Stones, among others.