Best Family-Friendly Museums in Phoenix

10 Best Family-Friendly Museums in Phoenix: Discover, Explore and Have Fun

Phoenix offers plenty of fun, educational museums that will appeal to both kids and adults. The Children's Museum of Phoenix, located in a conveniently in downtown Phoenix, is a two-story historic building that is jam-packed with fun activities. On the first floor, an enormous climber constructed from recycled materials invites children and their grown-ups to explore the whimsical structure and all its secret twists and turns. The museum also features an art studio, pretend grocery store, and popular noodle forest.

For more hands-on fun, head aross the street from the Children's Museum to the Arizona Science Center. This popular downtown attraction has more than 300 interactive exhibits that explore geology, physiology, weather, physical forces and much more. There is also a giant-screen IMAX theater and planetarium.

If your kids love trains, be sure to plan a stop at the Arizona Railway Museum in Chandler. The museum features restored train cars and a nice collection of railway lanterns.

The Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting, located in the Papago Park area, is another family-friendly destination that highlights more than 100 restored pieces of historic firefighting equipment. There's also a restored fire truck that children can explore and climb. Your young, would-be firefighter can even dress up in authentic firefighter garb during their visit!





Located at Tumbleweed Park, the Arizona Railway Museum is a fascinating storehouse of railroad history. The grounds are populated by restored train cars from all different time periods: a 1906 Baldwin steam locomotive, a 1943 US Army crane, a round end observation car from 1938, a 40-foot refrigerated car dating from 1920, a 1910 wooden Pullman coach, several cabooses and lots more. The museum also has an interesting collection of railroad lanterns, unique railroad china and other equipment. The rail car tour takes you inside the best examples of six different types of rail cars. Self-guided and guided tours are available for kids and families.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Arizona Railway Museum offers kids and families a unique opportunity to explore restored train cars.

Patricia's expert tip: Keep in mind the museum is closed during the hot summer months.

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Arizona Capitol Museum

Housed in an impressive stone building that once served as the state capitol, this museum documents Arizona's time as a territory and its early statehood. The structure itself is crowned with a copper dome and a 16-foot, zinc Winged Victory statue. Within the building are flags documenting the state's history, including ones representing Spain, Mexico, and the Confederacy. Offices and congressional chambers have been restored to period splendor, and Megargee paintings (with Arizona as their theme) grace the interior. World War II buffs can browse the USS Arizona display, which offers artifacts, recollections from survivors, and a specially commissioned silver service.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Arizona Capitol Museum is a great way for parents and kids to explore Arizona's territorial history.

Patricia's expert tip: Don't miss the U.S.S. Arizona display at this free museum, a can't-miss for history buffs.

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Arizona's territorial days are recreated on this 85-acre property, where costumed craftspeople work among authentic and reproduced buildings. Special events like a lively bluegrass festival, a Civil War reenactment, and an antique tractor show are held throughout the year. Adults and children of all ages are invited to stop by and enjoy an afternoon of family fun. The village is a mix of authentic buildings and historically accurate reproductions. You'll get to see the Opera House where Lilly Langtry sang and explore the real-life cabin that survived Arizona's bloodiest range war. There is also a blacksmith shop, sheriff's office and jail. Costumed interpreters bring the whole thing to life.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: This living museum brings Arizona's pioneer history to life.

Patricia's expert tip: When you get hungry, stop by the on-site restaurant, the Chuckwagon.

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Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park

This museum and its adjacent park are built on the site of 1500-year-old Hohokam Indian ruins. Exhibits showcase lifestyles of the Hohokam and of other Southwestern tribes, and visitors learn about Phoenix's cultural heritage through displays of arts and crafts created and used by Native Americans. An informative and fun hands-on exhibit encourages children to learn more about archaeology. A fully accessible 2/3 mile trail takes visitors through the prehistoric site, which includes a partially excavated platform mound, ballcourt, and replicated prehistoric houses. The site is conveniently located minutes from downtown Phoenix next to Sky Harbor International Airport. It's a National Historic Landmark and Phoenix Point of Pride site.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: Pueblo Grande is a fun way to explore Phoenix's prehistoric past with the whole family.

Patricia's expert tip: Pueblo Grande also hosts monthly lectures and demonstrations with local artists.

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Heard Museum of Native Cultures and Art

The well-regarded, world-famous Heard Museum is one of the world's leading repositories of Native American art. It also features works by contemporary Southwestern artists, craft demonstrations, amphitheater performances, a caf--, and a gift shop. Paintings, drawings, and sculpture figure into the collection, along with domestic objects, textiles, pottery, dolls, and jewelry. The museum's revolving calendar of exhibitions offer new insight into Native American tradition, history and cultural trends. Anyone with even the slightest interest in Southwestern history and culture should make this a must-see destination when visiting the Valley of the Sun. Along with the original Heard Museum in central Phoenix, the museum also has branches established in other parts of the city, including Heard Museum North in Scottsdale, and Heard Museum West in Surprise.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Heard Museum is an award-winning living repository of authentic and rare Native American art.

Patricia's expert tip: Stop by the Heard Museum gift shop for a large collection of authentic, handmade artwork, Navajo rugs, Kachina dolls, jewelry, and home decor.

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Presenting the world's largest display of firefighting equipment, this museum highlights 100 restored pieces of hand-to-hand, horse-drawn, and mechanized firefighting equipment from 1725 to 1961. Additional exhibits include a fire truck for children to climb on and several other restored fire engines. A firefighter wannabe can dress up in official-looking coats, hats, and other gear, just like the real thing! The Hall of Flame is located near the borders of Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe in the Phoenix Papago Park area, across from the Phoenix Zoo and next door to Phoenix Municipal Stadium. It makes for a convenient stop if you're checking out these other attractions.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Hall of Flame offers a unique look at historic fire engines from around the country.

Patricia's expert tip: Check out the impressive collection of over 200 historic fire fighting helmets from around the world.

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Phoenix Art Museum
Photo courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum

Another institution growing by leaps and bounds, this museum's scope is indisputably international with works representing American, Asian, European and Latin American art. The museum also features exhibits on fashion and the Thorne miniature rooms (rooms from different historical periods, scaled down to hatbox size). With more than more than 18,000 works of American, Asian, European, Latin American, Western American, modern and contemporary art, expect to spend some time exploring the halls of this vibrant museum. Major exhibitions, film screenings and various cultural events fill the calendar at this popular attraction. Make sure to stop by the gift shop on your way out for unique, art-inspired items.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Phoenix Art Museum offers kid-friendly, hands-on displays and events.

Patricia's expert tip: Free admission/voluntary donation every Wednesday, 3-9pm.

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Housed in a dramatic building next to the city's historic Heritage Square, the Science Center offers well over 300 interactive exhibits. A giant-screen IMAX theater shows educational films, and the planetarium boasts one of the largest domes in the west. Exhibits are organized into galleries that explore human physiology, physical forces, transportation, geology, computers, and applied sciences. Most of exhibits are interactive and hands-on and cater to children of all ages. The Science Center also plays host to regular "Adults Night Out" nights, featuring special lectures, exhibits, and even adult beverages. Classes, camps and other learning programs are offered throughout the year.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Arizona Science Center offers hands-on educational fun for kids and adults of all ages.

Patricia's expert tip: Every first Tuesday of the month, visitors age 62+ are invited to visit Arizona Science Center for free.

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The Musical Instrument Museum, also known as the MIM, celebrates art, music and culture by documenting the history of musical instruments from around the world. Everyone from Carlos Santana to Tony Bennett have sung the praises of this bright, open museum, which also hosts a full calendar of live music events. The museum collection includes instruments from 200 countries from around the world, with emphasis on ethnic, folk, and tribal music. Guests are given wireless headsets so they can hear instruments being played at each display, and flat-panel monitors throughout the museum give guests the opportunity to see instruments being performed live. Whether you love Chinese opera or Big Band jazz, the MIM celebrates the joy of musical expression in all its forms.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: Kids and parents will love exploring this unique museum, which collects and displays musical instruments from every corner of the world.

Patricia's expert tip: Check the daily schedule for Museum Encounters, thirty-minute musical demonstrations that allow musician-teaching artists to perform for and interact with museum guests. Museum Encounters are free with admission.

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The Children's Museum of Phoenix, located in the 70,000 square foot historic Monroe School building in downtown Phoenix, offers three floors of exhibits designed to engage young children and the adults who love them. Exhibits are hands-on and interactive, making this a fun place to spend the day with the favorite child in your life. Kids will love exploring the nooks and crannies of The Climber, an amazing multi-storied exhibit created with recycled materials. The Noodle Forest gives kids a sensory adventure in a safe environment, while The Market allows kids to roleplay in a fun grocery store setting. An art studio, book loft, and designated tricycle area add to the fun at this colorful and always-busy museum.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Children's Museum of Phoenix is a fun, educational museum that appeals to kids and parents.

Patricia's expert tip: Admission to the Children's Museum of Phoenix is free every first Friday of the month.

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Meet Patricia Escarcega

Patricia Escarcega works as a writer and editor in Phoenix.