We’re lucky we live in an incredible state like Arizona. To prove it, go outside in January and, while lounging in the 75-degree temperature, check the weather in New York and Chicago.
Arizona is also a state with a rich and diverse history, steeped in the art, clothing, beliefs, and stories of the various peoples who have lived here, from Native Americans to cowboys to university students.
It’s no surprise that metropolitan areas such as Phoenix, as well as smaller communities such as Williams and Douglas, have museums that display and promote various aspects of life in Arizona through the centuries.
Students will soon have some time off for Thanksgiving and, at the end of the year, for winter break. It’s a good time to take the kids to a few of Arizona’s many museums to see the history, art, science, and technology of our state.
We’ve compiled a list of kid-friendly museums that are bound to get youngsters enthused and keep them entertained over their break from school. They’ll even learn a lot—just don’t tell them that.
- Museum of Northern Arizona – Free for children under 10, this museum has collections in archaeology, paleontology, geology, entomology, zoology, botany, and fine arts. It also has outdoor learning experiences and a number of other programs geared toward kids.
- Coconino Center for the Arts – Paintings, photographs, sculptures, and an art walk through the galleries of historic downtown Flagstaff, occurring on the first Friday of every month, this diverse museum also has a number of regularly scheduled concerts.
- Arizona State Capitol Museum – Visit the building that was the seat of Arizona’s territorial government before becoming a state. The museum has four floors of exhibits that tell the story of Arizona from territorial days to the present. The best part? It’s always free.
- Arizona Science Center – Learning about science can be fun and interesting at the Arizona Science Center. With a number of events and programs that are targeted to age groups from preschool to adult, it’s easy to spend the day here. Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Children’s Museum of Phoenix – As the name says, this museum is specifically designed for kids with exhibitions and activities that are both educational and fun. From toddlers to teens to adults, there’s something fun going on here every day of the week.
- Kid 101 has a list of the top ten FREE museums in Phoenix.
- Children’s Museum of Tucson/Oro Valley – With two locations, the Tucson museum specializes in kids 0-10 years, while Oro Valley is geared toward a slightly younger crowd, 0-5 years. Both locations have exhibits, events, and programs kids will love.
- Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium – Kids are usually awestruck their first time at a planetarium, and Flandrau offers all that plus a great science center with a lot of events and programs targeted at kids. All ages will enjoy seeing Mars, discovering black holes, observing the night sky or watching a laser show.
- International Wildlife Museum – To give children a greater appreciation for wildlife, the museum has dioramas depicting wild animals in their natural settings, videos, interactive computers, and hands-on exhibits promoting wildlife appreciation and conservation.
- Museum of the Horse Soldier – Did someone call in the cavalry? Here’s a hidden gem that we bet you didn’t even know about! This museum was created to preserve the history and heritage of the U.S. military’s mounted services and recognize the horses who served. Afterward, the kids can explore Trail Dust Town, ride a vintage carousel and miniature train or watch a stunt show.
Flagstaff, Phoenix, and Tucson
Arizona Historical Society – Happily, this museum has branches convenient to several communities. In Flagstaff, there’s the Pioneer Museum and the Riordan Mansion Historic State Park; in Tempe, visit the Arizona Heritage Center; and Tucson residents can visit the Arizona History Museum, Downtown History Museum, Fort Lowell Museum, and Sosa-Carrillo-Frémont House.
- Border Air Museum – Back in the early days of aviation, Douglas Municipal Airport was at the epicenter of flight, achieving more than its share of firsts, including its designation in 1933 as the first international airport in the United States. Kids will love reliving the earliest days of flight.
- Slaughter Ranch Museum – Kids can learn about Arizona’s rough territorial days at this museum. John Slaughter was the Sherriff of Cochise County just five years after the shootout at the OK Corral. He fiercely upheld the law, running outlaws out of southern Arizona and making it a safer place.
- Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum – Arizona has its famous “Five Cs” – copper, cattle, cotton, citrus and climate. Bisbee, which was once known as “The Queen of the Copper Camps,” has a terrific mining museum, where kids can learn how important copper mining has been to the state.
Mohave Museum, Bonelli House, Powerhouse/Route 66 – If you find yourself up in Kingman, take time to explore this trio of museums. The Mohave Museum focuses on the pioneer past of the area, with an impressive collection of portraits of many presidents and first ladies to boot. The Bonelli House is a historic home that will show kids how people lived “back in the day.” The Powerhouse is a historic museum that now features a great display of Route 66 exhibits that attracts people the world over.
Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park – Kids love visiting this notorious, historic jail, where they can even get their “mug shot” taken! On the same property is the Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park, where kids can learn about how important the Colorado River was to early settlers and Native American dwellers.
A 2014 study showed that children who regularly visit museums show higher achievement in reading, math, and science. This year, over Thanksgiving and winter break, pull the kids away from their phones and tablets, and visit a local museum or two. It’ll be a great experience for the whole family.