Museums

Visiting a museum is always a unique experience, as each one has its own distinct characteristics, style, and of course, content. Museum subjects vary greatly from city to city, and can range from firefighter's museums to fine art, to sports. If you need help making a selection, our 10Best list highlights the top spots to visit in Tucson.

10 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)

9 Arizona State Museum
Since 1893, the Arizona State Museum has been collecting, preserving, researching and interpreting the cultures of the Greater Southwest, including Arizona and northern Mexico. It is the oldest and largest anthropological museum in the region, was one of the very first departments at the University of Arizona, and houses absolutely vast collections of pottery, textiles, photographs and documents — only a fraction of which can be displayed at any given time. Fans of the history, anthropology and Native American culture will be in awe. (520-621-6302, 520-626-5886)

8 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)

7 Arizona Historical Society Museum
The Arizona Historical Society's museum adjacent to the University of Arizona campus offers information about the development of Arizona from the first arrival of Europeans in 1540 through the times under Spain and Mexico, to territorial Arizona in the 1800s and beyond. Branch museums at Fort Lowell on the east side, and at the Sosa-Carillo-Fremont House in the Convention Center complex give looks at military and civilian life during the Mexican and territorial periods. (520-628-5774)

6 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)

5 Center for Creative Photography
A major addition to the arts complex at the University of Arizona, the Center for Creative Photography was conceived by Ansel Adams and is now the chief repository for his work. The photograph collection of the Center is one of the finest and largest in the world, with more than 60,000 photographs. Although the collection's main strength is photography by 20th-century American and Mexican artists, the Center holds significant collections of 19th and 20th century photography from around the world. In addition to Ansel Adams, the Center also contains the works of Richard Avedon, Edward Weston and Louise Dahl-Wolfe. A unique feature of the Center is print viewing. The public can view up to three boxes of prints from several thousand photographers by calling for reservations. (520-621-7968)

4 University of Arizona Poetry Center
The remarkable collection at this campus library/museum includes multiple titles for most of the major poets of the 20th century: Robert Frost, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Lowell, Marianne Moore and numerous others. The Poetry Center also holds photographs, records, audiotapes, and CDs, videos, periodicals and ephemera. All told, there are over 30,000 items in its collections, many of which are exhibited for the public and others that are available only for research through its library. The center hosts a full schedule of readings throughout the year. (520-626-3765)

3 University of Arizona Museum of Art
The University of Arizona Art Museum's collection is wide-ranging and impressive, to say the least. From 15th century Spanish master Fernando Gallego to European renaissance paintings to modern masters such as Pollock, O'Keeffe and Kandinsky, there are pieces here that will appeal to virtually everyone. Other artists represented in the collection include Albrecht Durer, James McNeill Whistler, Frank Stella, John Cage, Helen Frankenthaler, Auguste Rodin, Isamu Noguchi, Francisco Goya, Jean Arp and Edouard Manet. That's quite a list! (520-621-7567)

2 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)

1 Amerind Foundation, Inc
The name "Amerind," a contraction of American Indian, illustrates the purpose of this Foundation, which is devoted to the study of Native American cultures. Located an hour's drive from Tucson in the rural and beautiful southeastern corner of Arizona, the research facility and museum focus on American Indian history. Here you can view some of the country's finest Native American ethnographic and archaeological collections. The permanent collection includes tens of thousands of objects from the Arctic and the Americas. Picnic areas and a gift shop are on the premises. (520-586-3666)


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Maps and Directions

1
International Wildlife Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: Family Friendly, Museums, Science Museums
Neighborhood: West Tucson
2
Arizona State Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: History Museums, Museums
Neighborhood: Downtown
3
Pima Air and Space Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: History Museums, Museums, Science Museums
Neighborhood: AIRPORT
4
Arizona Historical Society Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: Historic Sites, History Museums, Museums
Neighborhood: Downtown
5
Tucson Children's Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: Children's Museums, Family Friendly, Museums, Science Museums
Neighborhood: Downtown
6
Center for Creative Photography 10Best List Arrow
Type: Art Museums, Museums
Neighborhood: Downtown
7
University of Arizona Poetry Center 10Best List Arrow
Type: History Museums, Libraries / Archives, Museums
Neighborhood: Downtown
8
University of Arizona Museum of Art 10Best List Arrow
Type: Art Museums, Museums
Neighborhood: Downtown
9
T Rex Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: Family Friendly, Museums, Science Museums
Neighborhood: NORTH TUCSON
10
Amerind Foundation, Inc 10Best List Arrow
Type: History Museums, Museums
Neighborhood: SOUTHEAST ARIZONA