The Absolute Best Museums in Arizona – So much fun!

Museum AZ: Visiting the museums in Arizona is a must for anyone interested in history, art, and culture. With a rich and diverse collection of exhibits, these Arizona museums offer a unique opportunity to explore the state’s past and present.

Best Museums in Arizona
Aerial View Of Garden Of Heard Museum In Phoenix, Arizona, United States.

From the Arizona State Museum, which showcases the history and culture of Native American tribes, to the Phoenix Art Museum, which houses a vast collection of contemporary and classic artworks, there is something for everyone.

The Heard Museum, dedicated to the art and culture of Native American peoples, is another highlight. Additionally, the Musical Instrument Museum provides a fascinating look at the global history of music.

Overall, the museums in Arizona offer a captivating experience that is both educational and enjoyable.

15 Best Museums in Arizona

Heard Museum

The Heard Museum was established by Maie Heard a few months after her husband Dwight Heard passed away, and it is renowned as one of Phoenix’s first museums and cultural attractions.

The Heard Museum has seen a great deal of development since it first opened. It is now regarded as one of the best museums in the world for Native American art and is renowned for the caliber of its collections and shows.

Ancient antiquities, excellent art that has been gifted to the museum or is on loan to it, and even custom jewelry can all be found there.

A work of outdoor art uses stone, water, and vegetation. Libby, Scott L., Jr. A few hundred people can sit down in an amphitheater, which serves as a venue for music and dance performances.

Over 40,000 people visit the Heard Museum each year due to its events and festivals, which play a significant role in the museum’s ongoing legacy.

The Heard Museum has something for you to appreciate if you’re interested in the history of the people who lived in Arizona before and after the introduction of Europeans to this area of the American Southwest.

Musical Instrument Museum

There are 8,000 instruments in the MIM, as it is affectionately known, that come from more than 200 different nations.

It is one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of musical instruments, and it includes some extremely rare and expensive pieces.

The Musical Instrument Museum promotes the idea that music is the language of the soul by creating beautiful exhibitions, hosting musical events all year long, and hosting performances.

Famous artists and performers, including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Maroon 5, Buddy Rich, and Roberta Flack, have used the instruments on display at the Artist Gallery.

With obscure instruments from the farthest reaches of the world, The Geographic Gallery transports you on a musical journey across the entire world.

Anyone, musician or not, should visit the MIM since it is the best global instrument museum in the world.

Arizona History Museum – Tucson

Arizona’s history is rich with mining, whether it be for gold, silver, or copper. The Arizona History Museum allows you to delve deeply into the Wild West and mining eras.

The gallery of transportation features a variety of items, from carriages and horses to cars and railroads.

Famous weapons, recognizable jewelry, diamonds, and coins from the Spanish Colonial era, as well as uniforms from conflicts fought in the 1800s, are just a few of the most prized pieces in the collection of the Arizona History Museum.

You may also take a tour of a duplicate underground mine, which will help you understand the risks that these miners had to confront daily.

The Arizona History Museum does an excellent job of capturing the colorful and varied history of the Southwest.

Periodically, the museum offers workshops, field trips, educational classes, and classes in art history. Through the recounting of Arizona’s history, the museum’s curators want to bridge generational gaps.

Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum

You’ve come to the right place if you’ve ever wanted to see a World War II aircraft up close or perhaps have the chance to take a once-in-a-lifetime flight in one of these vintage aircraft.

The Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum is run by a dedicated team of volunteers knowledgeable about aviation history, and it is situated immediately next to Falcon Field Airport.

Visitors are permitted to enter the enormous passenger and cargo planes and go around a functional hangar. When you see these planes in person, they are stunning and filled with tales of the valiant pilots who flew them throughout the war.

At least 15 different aircraft, some of which are still in operation, from the Second World War through the Vietnam War are on display at the museum. You may purchase a seat on a flight on one of these amazing airplanes, and you’ll think you’ve gone back in time.

You can explore the museum at your own pace or join a volunteer for a one-hour guided tour to learn about the accomplishments of each of the collection’s aircraft. Any history buff or aviation enthusiast should pay a visit to the Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum.

Navajo Nation Museum

The Navajo people have historically made up the majority of all Indigenous people living in Arizona, and they have a lengthy and colorful history.

One of the few curated collections on Navajo territory is the Navajo Nation Museum, which features an exhibition of artifacts, photos, jewelry, and works of art by and for Navajo people.

Over 80 Navajo craftsmen from throughout the southwest have contributed handmade gems and jewelry to the Silver Stars jewelry exhibition. With more than 80 different hand-woven baskets on display, another exhibit showcases the amazing craftsmanship of Navajo basketry.

Clothing, artwork, tools, photographs, written histories, and stories that have been handed down through the centuries are among the other items on display throughout the museum. Families from the Four Corners area have contributed many of the items on display to the museum.

Despite being located in a very isolated part of Arizona, it is always worthwhile to stop by this museum to learn more about and pay respect to the Navajo people who have called the area home for many years.

Besh-Ba-Gowah Archeological Park

The Salado people’s ancient settlement’s ruins are on display at this museum, which is situated in the small Arizonan town of Globe (approximately 60 miles east of Phoenix).

When the town of Globe was first founded, the Apache people gave it the name “Besh-Ba-Gowah,” which is Apache for “place of metal.”

After being eroded and ruined by the elements for many years, the ruins have been largely rebuilt. This is a nice stop to make if you want to learn more about Arizona’s ancient past because of the ruins, the surrounding museum, the floral gardens, and a gift store.

The Salado people, who lived here two centuries before Columbus even set foot on the land, left behind some stunning ruins that give you a great idea of what life may have been like for them. You can find antiquities, pottery, woven blankets and baskets, and brief informative videos inside the museum.

The Besh-Ba-Gowah Archeological Park provides a look into the past, even though it is off the usual road and by far the smallest museum on our list. Very few artifacts from Arizona’s early inhabitants still exist today.

Arizona Museum of Natural History

The Arizona Museum of Natural History is an excellent place to spend an afternoon with the family and is situated in the center of Mesa.

The gigantic wooly mammoth fossil that towers over you as you enter the lobby is one of several ancient dinosaur and animal fossils that can be seen at the museum. He roamed the American continent thousands of years ago.

Arizona’s history also includes its human history in addition to its environmental history. A component of this museum is devoted to the Spanish conquistadors, the first Europeans to go through the area in the 1500s.

You’ll advance to the 1800s, the time of the Wild West and gold miners, in the next exhibit. The exhibit’s section on jail cells has actual jail cells from that period, which gives it a scary atmosphere.

The Arizona Museum of Natural History allows you to travel back to the days when dinosaurs and other enormous animals roamed the planet by displaying fossils from every period in Earth’s prehistoric past. There are both genuine fossils and several imitation skeletons among these exhibits.

Children particularly enjoy the Paleo dig pit because it allows them to play the role of paleontologists and search the ground for ancient fossils. The museum’s exhibits are interactive and interesting, and the gift shop contains toys and activities for kids with a dinosaur theme.

Pima Air & Space Museum

Over 300 aircraft are parked on 80 acres of this enormous museum’s 127 acres of land, which is primarily outside and exposed to the Arizona sun. In addition, there are six indoor hangers with exhibitions that can house an additional 20–30 aircraft.

These aircraft range from vintage World War II aircraft to vintage Boeing jetliners to smaller single-person craft. Each of the aircraft has a history and a unique set of circumstances. One of the largest air and space museums in the world, it first opened its doors in the 1970s.

80 acres of this massive museum’s 127 acres of land, most of which are outside and exposed to the Arizona sun, are used for parking more than 300 aircraft. Six indoor hangars with displays are also available, and they can hold an extra 20 to 30 aircraft.

Vintage World War II aircraft, vintage Boeing jetliners, and smaller single-person craft are all included on this list. Every aircraft has a distinct history and set of circumstances. It first opened its doors in the 1970s and is now one of the biggest aviation and space museums in the world.

Cocopah Museum and Cultural Center

For millennia, the Cocopah people of Arizona have resided close to Yuma along the Colorado River. Their cultural center and museum honor this lengthy heritage while preserving the local way of life.

A recreation of a traditional Cocopah home, constructed of sticks and wooden walls with grass and branches for the roof, can be found in the museum’s outdoor area. You may witness replicas of warrior attire, bark skirts, leather shoes, ceramics, beading, and even musical instruments when you enter this tiny but amazing museum.

The museum and the 1.5 acres surrounding it also function as a cultural center, hosting several cultural events each year. The Cocopah people place a high value on preserving their heritage through dance and stories. Their story is furthered by the Cocopah Museum.

Arizona Science Center

The Arizona Science Center, located in the center of Phoenix, is another wonderful museum for kids and families with over 350 interactive exhibits. It’s simple to spend a few hours here discovering everything there is to know about science.

The Build It! exhibit lets your kids get creative and build whatever their little minds can come up with using Legos, giant foam blocks, and cardboard boxes. They can use kid-sized bulldozers and diggers to excavate or create their buildings on a huge chalkboard wall.

While watching informative films about our solar system, you will feel as though you are in the center of space (just with more oxygen!). Kids will particularly love experiencing the sensation of flying through the stars.

While watching captivating films that include actual meteorologists explaining the science of weather and natural disasters, you can experience what it would be like to be in some of the most extreme weather conditions on Earth at the Forces of Nature exhibit.

You and your child can also learn about physics, weather, chemistry, and other scientific topics through additional exhibits and displays. You might easily spend many hours here, and when you’re done, your brain will be brimming with fresh information.

Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum

This museum, which is situated on 90 acres of land inside the boundaries of Phoenix, is distinctive in that it displays 30 structures, all of which are either authentic or replicas from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The Pioneer Village houses the log cabin where Arizona’s first senator was raised, as well as a blacksmith shop, a fashion store, a stunning Victorian home, and numerous other amazing Wild West artifacts.

Arizona was a hard area for pioneers to dwell in, yet they were quite proficient at subsisting off the soil. Adobe or mud bricks were used in some of the structures, while shiplap, brick, and log cabins were used in others.

As you visit the city, the volunteers who operate this museum will be pleased to tell you more about each of the structures. When you visit the Pioneer Living Museum, remember to bring a hat, water, and sunglasses because you’ll be wandering outside in the heat.

Fort Huachuca Historical Museum

The 6th Calvary of the United States Army established a defense system against nearby Indigenous groups at Fort Huachuca during the 19th century. Only a few miles outside of modern-day Sierra Vista, this fort was established in 1877, and it now functions as a museum.

You may find thousands of items and images that tell the tale of that turbulent period in Arizona history at the Fort Huachuca Historical Museum. The fort, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977, has over the years been utilized for a variety of military training and exercises.

The stunning adobe facade pays homage to the design of the Spanish missions that were erected nearby at about the same time. Photographs of the soldiers who built the fort and the people who maintained it throughout the years can be found inside.

The Fort Huachuca Museum houses a variety of relics, including army uniforms, muskets and other weapons, tools, saddles, and reproductions of wagons and stagecoaches. This museum won’t let people who enjoy military history down.

 I.d.e.a. Museum

This museum is entirely focused on children, with interactive exhibits and displays that help your kids develop critical thinking and early cognitive skills while still letting them have fun! Take-home activity sets make it easier to continue the fun once your visit is over.

Since exhibitions are always changing, every trip you take with your family to one is different. A current display called “Robo Art” offers kids the chance to learn about robots, how to build them, and the technology and engineering behind them in a way that is fun and simple for them to understand.

After visiting the museum, there is an entire page on the i.d.e.a. website dedicated to at-home activities that foster learning and creativity. The ultimate objective of the i.d.e.a. Museum is to revive children’s early creativity and learning, which they believe are in decline.

The majority of families come time and time again to this museum to appreciate the variety of constantly changing exhibitions, which are enjoyable and interesting for the whole family.

Tucson Museum of Art and History Block

There are more than enough exhibits on three floors to keep you occupied for a few hours. The Tucson Museum of Art and History transports you across time by displaying centuries’ worth of artwork from all over the world.

Some extraordinary and uncommon paintings and sculptures created by artists in Central and South America are on display in the museum’s Latin American Art Department. This museum pays careful homage to the legacy of the creators who influenced the Southwest’s art scene. You can take your time and savor the detailed artwork because of how the museum is set up.

The Historic Block, where the museum is situated in downtown Tucson, is home to historic buildings from the late 19th century. The historical education you will receive from touring this area of Tucson is enhanced by visiting any of these residences or structures.

Asian art, Indigenous art, works by women artists, modern Latino art, colonial art, and much more are all featured in the current shows. One of the top museums in the Southwest for art lovers is the Tucson Museum of Art and the Historic Block.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West

World-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright is known for creating amazing homes with stunningly original designs. Taliesin West, his winter residence, is a masterwork of architecture that seems to emerge from the desert floor without detracting from the surrounding splendor.

With the aid of apprentices, Wright began construction on this house in 1937, and it offers a personal insight into his life and work. Near Scottsdale, in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains, he discovered the ideal piece of property, and the house, now a museum, has views over the Valley.

This home is so cherished that it has been named both a National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Only guided tours are permitted within the house and on the grounds, and the volunteers who lead these tours are well-versed in and enthusiastic about Frank Lloyd Wright and his creations.

Nicole LaBarge

Nicole is a travel expert who has been traveling to the American Southwest since 1992. There is so much to see and do in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and California. I spend part of the year in Phoenix and travel around the area visiting all the best places and going on the best hikes. Check out my detailed destination guides, the best hiking in each state guides, and the travel gear you need for your next trip.

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