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The 7 Best Museums in Phoenix to Beat the Heat

Phoenix Museums
by Matador Creators Sep 8, 2023

Phoenix is smack in the middle of the Arizona desert, so it’s no secret that it can get quite hot — summer days well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit aren’t uncommon. But fortunately, the city has hundreds of great things to do indoors, including several great museums in Phoenix that give any more famous institutions in cities like Atlanta or Chicago a run for their money.

At the best museums in Phoenix, you can study fashion design, explore the cosmos, peek into an archeological dig, or hear what instruments from the 14th century sounded like. There’s a lot to keep both kids, families, and adults happy, whether you’re into art, music, science, history, or a little bit of everything.

The seven museums below are some of the best places to spend a free hour or a free day in Phoenix year-round.

Where to find the best museums in Phoenix

Phoenix is a huge city, but it’s easy to get around. It’s very driver friendly, so if you have a car, you’ll find parking near ever major museum. If you don’t have a car, either opt for rideshares, or see if there’s a rail stop near where you’re headed. Phoenix is pretty spread out, so unfortunately, it’s not a very pedestrian or bike-friendly city for most visitors.

Heard Museum


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The history of Indigenous peoples in the Phoenix area, specifically the Salt River Valley, spans thousands of years. The most well-known Indigenous group is the Hohokam, but other groups in the area include the Akimel O’odham (Pima), Pee Posh (Maricopa), Yavapai, and Apache. And the Heard Museum celebrates the art, culture, and history of these groups, as well as Indigenous peoples across the Americas.  It has an extensive collection of Native American art and artifacts, including pottery, textiles, jewelry, kachina dolls, and artwork.

The museum is also one of the best places in the American southwest to see current and contemporary art from Native American artists, much of which blends traditional crafts and skills with modern and avant-garde themes. The Heard Museum also has large outdoor spaces with traditional dwellings and gardens, providing visitors with a glimpse into the architectural and horticultural practices of various Indigenous communities.

Throughout the year, the museum has festivals and outdoor events, workshops, lectures, and performing arts events that aim to expose visitors and residents to Indigenous traditions,  cultures, and issues. There’s also a unique shop with thousands of artisan products, plus the highly rated “Courtyard Cafe” (which you can visit without actually going to the museum).

Buy your tickets in advance online, or you’ll pay about $2 more at the ticket window.

  • Address: 2301 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004
  • Hours: Daily, 10 AM-4 PM
  • Cost: Adults: $22.50, Children & students: $9, Seniors: $18

Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)

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The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) is one of the most unique museums in Phoenix, and probably in all of Arizona. It’s a one-of-a-kind artistic center, with 200,000 square feet of space dedicated to the world of music. It has more than 15,000 instruments and music-related artifacts from nearly every historical period and country in the world. A large number of them are playable and have interactive displays so you can hear them in real life.

MIM’s layout is organized by geographical regions and countries, with galleries representing each part of the world. But the Experience Gallery at MIM may be the most fun, with a large collection of instruments guests can play. So if you ever wanted to play the spooky-sounding theremin or learn how to wail on a didgeridoo, make sure to add this Phoenix museum to your list.

Beyond the instruments, MIM also celebrates the artists and musicians who have shaped the world of music. The Artist Gallery features memorabilia from iconic musicians like Johnny Cash and Ravi Shankar, including instruments they played and personal items related to their careers. The Phoenix Museum of Music also has a crowded scheduled of concerts and events, and tickets for events usually start around a reasonable $30 or so.

  • Address: 4725 E Mayo Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85050
  • Hours: Daily, 9 AM-5 PM
  • Cost: Adults: $20, Teens: $15, 12 & under: $10

Arizona Science Center


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The Arizona Science Center is one of the best hands-on museums in Phoenix, especially if you’re with kids. While it’s not a kids museum, it’s targeted to families, so a good deal of the exhibits are aimed at the elementary-school crowd.

One of the center’s standout features is the “Get Charged Up!” exhibit, focused on electricity and magnetism through hands-on experiments. There’s also a high-tech planetarium (which hosts the occasional laser night show set to artists like the Beastie Boys and Beyoncé), plus an IMAX 3D theater.

The museum’s permanent exhibits include sections on digital technology, the human brain, and the science of flight. It also frequently hosts traveling exhibits, including past exhibits on everything from the deep ocean to deep space and mosquitoes to dinosaurs. It also has a very extensive menu of ongoing events, from “Solar Month” every March to Halloween events, eclipse-viewing parties, and overnight sleepovers in the museum.

  • Address: 600 E Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
  • Hours: Daily, 10:30 AM-4:30 PM
  • Cost: Adults: $21.95, Kids: $15.95. Extra costs for planetarium and IMAX theater

Phoenix Art Museum

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The Phoenix Art Museum is a cultural center in Arizona, known for its diverse and expansive collection that spans various art forms and eras. It showcases both classic and contemporary art, with pieces from artists guests will surely recognize. That includes “Les arceaux fleuris, Giverny” by Claude Monet, dresses from designer Alexander McQueen, and “Pink Abstraction” by Georgia O’Keeffe. It includes art from European, American, Asian, Latin American, and contemporary artists, ranging from Renaissance oil work to cutting-edge installations. There’s also an outdoor sculpture garden, plus a cafe and a quirky museum store with all kinds of art-themed items and gifts.

The museum covers close to 300,000 square feet across three floors, so you’ll definitely want to pick up a map when you enter and prioritize what you want to see. It also has rotating specie exhibits, plus events ranging from art-making workshops to lectures and discussions. Phoenix Art Museum tours are complimentary with admission and offered Wednesday through Sunday, starting at 11:30 AM. There’s also “pay what you wish” admission every Wednesday from 3 to 9 PM.

  • Address: 1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004
  • Hours: Wednesday, 10 AM-9 PM; Thursday-Sunday, 10 AM-5 PM. Closed Monday & Tuesday
  • Cost: Adults: $24, Seniors: $21, Under 17: $5

Desert Botanical Garden

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While not a traditional museum, this garden showcases the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. What makes this garden truly unique is its unwavering focus on showcasing the breathtaking flora that thrives in some of the harshest environments on Earth. This outdoor museum covers about 140 acres and has more than 50,000 desert plants from thousands of species. It highlights plants from arid regions around the world, not just the southwestern US.

The garden has a variety of meandering trails, including the Desert Wildflower Trail, which showcases the vibrant colors that emerge after seasonal rains, and the Sonoran Desert Trail, lined with towering cacti and other impressive succulents. Many of the plants at the botanical garden are quite old, while others are rare and endangered.

Throughout the year, the Desert Botanical Garden hosts various events and programs, including art exhibitions, horticultural workshops, and concerts. One of the most popular is the Christmastime “Las Noches de las Luminarias” event, where the garden is adorned with thousands of luminaria bags and twinkling lights.

  • Address: 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008
  • Hours: May-September, 7 AM-8 PM; October-April, 8 AM-8 PM
  • Cost: Adults: $24.95-$29.95 (depending on day), children 3-17: $14.96-$16.95

Children’s Museum of Phoenix

The Phoenix Children’s Museum is an unbeatable place to take kids in the city, especially when they have lots of energy and it’s too hot for them to play and run around outside. It’s the preeminent museum in Phoenix for kids, offering a hands-on, interactive approach to discovery and exploration. Exhibits are designed to inspired creativity, covering a range of topics from art and science to everyday life through children’s eyes. The museum focuses on early learning for little kids, with most activities suited to children in the 3-5 year range — though there are baby and toddler-focused activities in most exhibits.

One of the highlights is the Art Studio, where young artists can experiment with a variety of materials and techniques to create their own masterpieces. The “Noodle Forest” is also an especially popular feature in the museum, as is “The Climber,” where kids can get a birds-eye view of the museum and feel like they’re climbing a tree.

One of the best things about this museum is that it host multiple daily events, from foam pools kids can jump in to guided garden tours where kids can help water and tend to the growing vegetables. Most events and tours are free. And speaking of free: the museum has free entry on the first Friday of every month, starting at 5 PM.

  • Address: 215 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85034
  • Hours: Daily, 9 AM-4 PM
  • Cost: $17 per person, kids under 1 are free

S’edav Va’aki Museum

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The S’edav Va’aki Museum was formerly known as the Pueblo Grande Museum, but was renamed in early 2023 to honor the Indigenous people of the area. It’s a great place to delve into the very history of Phoenix and its Hohokam people, who inhabited the Phoenix area centuries ago. The museum showcases ancient artifacts, pottery, and a partially excavated Hohokam village. The Hohakam inhabited the region from approximately 450 to 1450 AD, and it’s one of the best museums in Phoenix if you’re interested in ancient cultures, especially given the large collection of artifacts.

The main feature of the museum is the archaeological site, where visitors can see the remnants of a Hohokam platform mound (likely used for ceremonial purposes) and irrigation canals, which allowed the town to grow and practice agriculture. The museum exhibits display what archeologists know so far about the Hohakam through artifacts like pottery, tools, and jewelry. Remember that much of this particular museum is outdoors, so you’ll want sunscreen and a hat when you’re walking around the excavation sites.

  • Address: 4619 E Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85034
  • Hours: Mon-Sat, 9 AM-4:45 PM. Between October and April, it’s also open on Sunday, 1 PM-4:45 PM
  • Cost: Adults: $6; Seniors: $5; Children under 18: $3

Where to stay in Phoenix

We hope you love the spaces and stays we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.

Phoenix is quite large, with about 1.6 million residents, and quite spread out. While that means you ‘ll have to drive to most museums, a perk is that there are lots and lots of hotels, which helps keep prices low. You can stay at tried-and-true chain hotels, boutique desert hotels, Wild West-themed inns, or modern and trendy hotels that look like they should be in San Francisco.

There are also some very cool Airbnbs in Phoenix, almost all of which have private pools, plus plenty of availability in nearby cities like Scottsdale, which is a bit closer to some of the city’s best outdoor recreation.

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