Phoenix Area Museums

With over 200 sunny days per year, Phoenix is a popular outdoor destination. However, even in this paradise, there are days best spent indoors. All that sun produces some scorching summer days. That is a perfect time to visit the wonderful selection of the Phoenix area museums.

Let’s Go! Learn Things in Phoenix Area Museums

Art in Phoenix area museums

Arizona is home to unique geological formations, breathtaking vistas and surreal sunsets. The American Southwest has inspired artists for generations. Phoenix area museums proudly display art that represents the beauty of Arizona across many mediums.

Phoenix Art Museum

Phoenix area museums

The Phoenix Art Museum has a collection of 19,000 works that represent  American, Asian, European, Latin American, Western American, and contemporary art, and fashion design.  In a collaboration with the Center for Creative Photography of University of Arizona, the museum offers impressive permanent and special photographic exhibits.

Hours of Operation:

Tuesday 10am-5pm
Wednesday 10am-9pm
Thursday, Friday & Saturday 10am-5pm
Sunday 12-5pm
First Friday every month 10am-10pm

Adult Admission Fee: $18

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

If you are looking for an innovative, interactive art experience, I highly recommend SMoCA, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. This museum believes that art has the power to engage our imaginations, challenge our perceptions, and inspire change. The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is a leader in the arts, presenting innovative exhibitions and educational programs. When I visited they had a tremendously fun exhibit in which the art responded to the motion of the visitors. They also had beautiful glass art pieces and an installation by a local Native American artist.

Hours of Operation:

Tuesday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Wednesday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Thursday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Free
Friday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Adult Admission Fee: $10

Mesa Arts Center

Phoenix area museums Mesa Contemporary Arts

I found the Mesa Arts Center on a city block of beautifully designed contemporary arts buildings. There is a Performing Arts Center, an artists studio/classroom and the gallery. This intimate museum selects curated and juried exhibitions of contemporary art by emerging and internationally recognized artists. The Mesa Arts Center Museum also offers lectures by significant artists and arts professionals, art workshops, and a myriad of studio classes. Their current fall kick-off exhibit of Flora and Fauna runs from through January 2020.

Hours of Operation:

Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat: 10am-5pm
Thu: 10am-8pm
Sun: Noon-5pm
[2nd Fri of the Month: 10am-10pm]

Adult Admission Fee: Free

Phoenix area museums Mesa Arts Center

History Museums

Arizona was the 48th state to join the United States in 1912. In the grand scheme of US history, it is relatively young. In contrast, the Native history of the region is literally ancient. The state’s history is replete with Wild West characters, from Apache warriors and Navajo weavers to ranchers, cowboys, gunslingers and prospectors. Plenty of material for history museums. Phoenix area musuems cover the gamut and offer some unique settings.

Scottsdale Museum of the West

Phoenix area museums Scottsdale Museum of the West

The Scottsdale Museum of the West exhibits a mix of art and history. It is carefully curated so that the art explains the history and vice versa. The eclectic style of the Scottsdale Museum of the West makes this one of my favorite Phoenix area museums.

Hours of Operation:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Thursday (November-April): 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
Thursday (May-October): 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Adult Admission Fee: $15

Scottsdale Museum of the West

Arizona Natural History Museum

Phoenix area museums Arizona Museum of Natural History

As you can see from the image above, the Arizona Museum of Natural History is designed for the “young at heart”. The four floors of this museum walk you up through the natural history of Arizona, from the prehistoric microbes to the massive dinosaurs and finally the human Native tribes of Arizona. My grandsons especially loved the “flash flood” demonstration and the gem mine walk-through.

Hours of Operation:

Tuesday-Friday 10am-5pm
Saturday 11am-5pm
Sunday 1pm-5pm

Adult Admission Fee: $12

Native American Museums

The stories of the indigenous peoples of the Americas plays a big part in history across the United States. For some reason, the Native American story seems better preserved in the Southwest than in my origial Midwest. Perhaps it is because of the rugged landscape that has escaped development. Maybe it is the youth of Arizona as a state. Whatever the reason, I am riveted by the stories, ruins, artifacts and arts of the Arizona Native Americans.

Huhugam Ki Musuem

Huhugam Ki Museum in Salt River Pima/Maricopa Indian Community

Early Spanish explorers and later European settlers assigned the name Hohokam to the tribes they encountered in the Sonoran desert region. You still see this name used frequently in the area around Phoenix and Tucson. Recently, I had the honor to visit with descendents of these tribes and they helped me understand what the name means to them.

The Huhugam Ki Museum has been lovingly curated by the small but proud Salt River Pima/Maricopa Indian Community. They explained that the word Huhugam means Ancestors in their Pima language. It is not the name of the tribe. The tribes of this region are a mingling of O’Odham and Piipaash. You might recognize these by the anglicized Pima and Maricopa.

Beyond the museum’s simple but informative displays, they also have some traditional outdoor structures, a museum store and seasonal celebrations open to the public

Hours of Operation:

  • Monday – Friday | 9:30am – 4:30pm
  • June – December | 2nd Saturdays | 9:30am – 3:00pm
  • Closed for Federal and Tribal holidays. Please call ahead to assure we are open.

Mesa Grande Cultural Park

Mesa Grande Cultural Park

The Mesa Grande Cultural Park is a preserved ancient ruins. It is maintained by the Arizona Museum of Natural History and has lots to teach about the ancient peoples of Arizona.

This ruins mound dates back to 1100 AD and sits right smack in the center of downtown Mesa, AZ. Dr. Emily Early, Palentologist/Anthropologist, explained that the name Hohokam is being corrected to Ancient Sonoran Desert Peoples.

Research has uncovered miles of intricate canal systems and similar mound sites all over the Phoenix and Tucson regions. It is believed that these were ceremonial mounds. I highly recommend a trip to this preserved and informative site.

Hours of Operation:

Tuesday-Friday 10am-5pm
Saturday 11am-5pm
Sunday 1pm-5pm

Adult Admission Fee: $5

Heard Museum

Phoenix area museums Heard Museum

The Heard Museum was the first Phoenix area museum I discovered and it remains one of my favorites. It takes on the mission of “advancing American Indian art”. This museum curates a vast collection of Native pottery, baskets, weaving, silver, kachinas and so much more. The Heard Museum is a great place to start learning about the 22 tribes that call Arizona home.

Hours of Operation:

Monday to Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
First Friday of each Month (except March) 6 p.m to 10 p.m.


Adult Admission Fee: $25

Go! Learn More: Heard Museum

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