Science Museums

6 T Rex Museum
Although the T Rex Museum definitely strives to entertain and educate the under-12 set, there are plenty of adults who will find it engaging. The private museum is packed with cool stuff — fossils, dino replicas, displays of live insects and reptiles (for perspective), hands-on exhibits, and activities. At the end, venture in to the Paleo Pits where you get to dig for (and keep!) your very own dinosaur fossil. If you have kids, don't miss this one! (520-888-0746)

5 Pima Air and Space Museum
Aviation buffs, this one's for you. The Museum opened to the public in May, 1976, with 75 aircraft on display. Since then the collection has grown to over 250 aircraft occupying 80 acres of land. The entire museum property covers about 150 acres. One plane of interest is the Lockheed Tristar, used by John Kennedy as Air Force One on short flights or flights to small airports. This museum also operates the Titan Missile Museum. Package admissions to both sites are available. (520-574-0462)

4 Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is one of Tucson's star attractions, with good reason. Part zoo, part natural history museum, and part botanical garden, the facility is set on 21 acres and is home to numerous animals that roam freely within invisibly-fenced enclosures. After checking out the exhibits in the main visitor center, wander along two miles of paved pathways, where you can catch sight of endangered species such as the Mexican wolf, thick-billed parrot, ocelot, margay, jaguarundi, and the Gila topminnow; and not-so-endangered critters like leafcutter ants, black bears, river otters, bighorn sheep, coatis, beavers, coyote, javelinas, black-tailed prairie dogs, termites and roadrunners. And don't miss the captivating cactus garden or the Hummingbird Aviary! (520-883-2702)

3 International Wildlife Museum
It may seem a bit unorthodox these days to center a museum around a collection of stuffed and preserved animals and insects, but this one actually succeeds. Starting with the holdings of numerous educational institutions and individuals, the curators here have developed an engaging, hands-on learning experience. True, the taxidermists' craft is well represented, but where else can kids (and adults) touch and handle real skulls, fur and skin? And unless you see them up close, it's difficult at best to envision the size and mass of a rhino, a grizzly bear or an elephant. And while you've probably seen "Ice Age" at least once, there are only a handful of places to see a real saber-tooth cat, and this is one of them! Those are some mighty long fangs... (520-629-0100, 520-617-1439)

2 Kitt Peak National Observatory Visitor Center
Here you'll find research facilities for two divisions of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories. Located on an 80-acre mountaintop leased from the Tohono O'odam tribe for 200 years, the facility is 80 miles west of Tucson, but for those interested in astronomy, the top-of-the-line telescopes and exhibits are a must. Knowledgeable staff members can help you get a closer look at the mysteries of the universe. Reservations are required to participate in the nighttime observatory tour. (520-318-8726, 520-318-8200)

1 Tucson Children's Museum
This Tucson institution is brimming with fun learning activities that cover several topics. The Dinosaur World exhibits make this the perfect companion to the T Rex Museum for your little paleontologist. If you have a budding train engineer or firefighter on your hands, they'll love being able to dress up like their heroes and role play. Young scientists will be enamored of "ZOOM™ Into The Zone," which is based on the PBS show, and mini conservationists will appreciate the green approach in the "Electri-City" exhibit. The art studio appeals to petite Picassos, and the bakery and farmer's market are ideal for Julia Child wannabes. Whatever your little ones aspire to, they can try it out here first, and have a blast doing it! (520-792-9985)

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Maps and Directions

T Rex Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: Family Friendly, Museums, Science Museums
Neighborhood: NORTH TUCSON
Pima Air and Space Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: History Museums, Museums, Science Museums
Neighborhood: AIRPORT
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: Family Friendly, Gardens, Museums, Outdoor Activities, Science Museums, Sightseeing, Zoos
Neighborhood: West Tucson
International Wildlife Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: Family Friendly, Museums, Science Museums
Neighborhood: West Tucson
Kitt Peak National Observatory Visitor Center 10Best List Arrow
Type: Museums, Planetarium / Observatory, Science Museums
Neighborhood: Downtown
Tucson Children's Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: Children's Museums, Family Friendly, Museums, Science Museums
Neighborhood: Downtown
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