Have you ever thought about how great museums are? Well, here are a few that will make you say, WOW!
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These days, museums are not only great places to see awesome artwork and interesting exhibits. Many museums offer interactive displays, hands-on activities and special events with something for everyone. During the hot summer months, keep cool with a fun visit to a museum! 

Heard Museum

American Indian Arts at the Heard MuseumHave you heard about the Heard Museum? You can learn about American Indian arts and culture, see amazing collections of pottery, weavings, jewelry, rugs and more. 

You can tour the museum with a tour guide or explore on your own. A family guide is handed out at the front desk and you can look for various animals on baskets, pottery, canteens, rugs and other works of art throughout the museum. 

 A popular display in the museum is called “HOME: Native People in the Southwest.” You can see katsina dolls, jewelry, beadwork, and pottery. There are interactive displays that have a video to show you how some of these items were created.

A fun stop for kids is called “It’s Your Turn–Color!” This colorful and interactive gallery has many fun projects for kids to work on.  Kids get to spin a color wheel and follow their color throughout the room. They can make a sheep, play a matching game, color a postcard, learn to weave and explore lights and shadow.

Hands-on fun awaits kids at the Heard Museum

Hands-on fun awaits kids

at the Heard Museum.

Outside the museum is a ball court where Native American dances and performances are held. There are also many statues and the American Indian Veterans National Memorial. On the memorial wall are names of American Indians that fought as soldiers. Among the names is Ira Hayes who was born in Sacaton, AZ. He was one of the six Marines photographed while raising the American flag at Iwo Jima.

The Heard Museum has a gift shop and restaurant. It is located at 2301 N. Central Ave. in Phoenix. Visit www.heard.org for hours and more information.

Children’s Museum Tucson

The Children’s Museum Tucson will be open until 5 p.m. every day during summer. Make It Mondays! happen every Monday through Labor Day, Sept. 2. The museum will have special pricing and special guests for Mondays during the summer months, too.

MOCA will be at CMT on July 22 and Aug. 26.
Credit: Children’s Museum Tucson / Oro Valley

MOCA will be at CMT on July 22 and Aug. 26.

Regular admission is $9 for everyone 1 year and older. On Mondays admission is $3. Special guests—such as Arizona Project WET, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society and Brain STEM—will be at the museum from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Monday this summer. 

In mid June, look for a brand new creative space at the museum. Imagine It! will be a maker space/artist space that will let kids “make whatever they can imagine,” says Teresa Truelsen, director of marketing for Children’s Museum Tucson.

Imagine It! will have an entire wall that kids can paint, KEVA Planks for building projects, Rigamajig gears and parts, and newer tools and supplies to allow kids to make their imaginings take shape.

“It’s going to be this big, brightly-colored space that will draw kids in to create something,” explains Truelsen.

The Children’s Museum Tucson is located at 200 S. 6Ave. Check out  www.childrensmuseumtucson.org for the schedule of guests and other information.

Tucson Museum  of Art

Young artists get creative at TMA.
Young artists get creative at TMA.

Families can enjoy the Tucson Museum of Art for just $30 all summer! The SUMMERpass! will allow two adults and two kids under age 18 access to the museum and to special events through Labor Day. 

Artful kids can get creative at TMA! Pass holders will get a discount for the summer youth programs Little Tykes@TMA and Teens@TMA. Little Tykes is for preschoolers, ages 3–5, while Teens@TMA will appeal to teens with its wide range of weeklong workshops, including painting, printmaking, comics & anime, makerspace, zines, fiber arts and more.

Everyone can enjoy the museum and special activities on Second SundAZe. This free monthly event features hands-on art activities and education programs for kids. 

On June 9 participants will explore the geometric shapes, color and minimalism of artist Josef Albers. Family-focused tours of the exhibit “Learning to See: Josef Albers” will be offered at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. 

Second SundAZe on July 14 will coincide with the opening of the new exhibit “Harold Joe Waldrum: Las Sombras.” Art activities will be inspired by Waldrum’s prints and paintings—he is known for his depictions of Southwest buildings, especially adobe churches. Second SundAZe is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tucson Museum of Art is located at 140 N. Main Ave. Parking will be affected by construction this summer, so check the website or call 520-624-2333 for updates. For more information, visit tucsonmuseumofart.org.

Crayola Experience, Chandler

Kids try the Crayola Meltdown station
Kids try the Crayola Meltdown station

Are you ready for a colorful explosion of fun? The new Crayola Experience has just opened and has 65,000 square feet of hands-on activities that the whole family will enjoy.

You can name and wrap your own crayon, mold a wax souvenir, sculpt a fun creation and even scribble on the floor in the special Scribble Square. 

Have you ever wanted to be in a coloring book? You can visit the coloring page photo booth and create a picture of yourself or your family with a Crayola character. Once it prints you can color it. You can also take silly selfies in a special interactive room. You create your selfie and watch it come to life as you project it on the wall. 

Other fun activities are dancing in virtual wax rain, making a melted wax spin art picture or making a melted wax masterpiece. In the Color Playground you can climb a tower, cross a bridge and slide out of a giant crayon box. There is Toddler Town for smaller kids and a Stomp and Play area. All of the attractions are ADA certified.

There’s a café if you get hungry, a souvenir shop and meet and greets with Crayola characters. The Crayola Experience is located at 3111 W. Chandler Rd., Suite 2154. Visit www.crayolaexperience.com for more information.

Rewriting History: Far Out Fun at The Thing?

Far Out Fun at The Thing?The Thing? roadside attraction has used dozens of bright yellow billboards along I-10 since the 1960s to entice curious travelers.

Kids and families can be wowed by a dramatically revamped and expanded The Thing? It’s a walk through history, weaving a far-fetched conspiracy theory—that rival groups of aliens altered the natural progression of the planet since the time of the dinosaurs! 

The aggressive aliens used mind-control to rule dinosaurs until the dinos evolved and revolted. These aliens were at war with more peaceful aliens.

It’s Aliens vs. Dinosaurs, and kids will be amazed! Guests learn of many other alien-related conspiracies.

The improvements to The Thing? have been in the works for years. Once Bowlin’s creative department came up with a storyline, a Dallas company designed the new museum as a Tucson company expanded and improved the old building.

“We more than doubled the size of the retail area. In addition, the new museum is about 11,000 to 12,000  sq. ft. as well,” says Kit Johnson, director of operations for Bowlin. Now the climate, life-size dinos and aliens, graphics and lighting are great. If your parents and grandparents are worried that The Thing? is a thing of the past, tell them that it remains the same—it’s just part of the story!

Johnson says the changes are a hit, and that The Thing? has become more of a destination for guests. Bowlin still promotes The Thing? with bright billboards but also has expanded its marketing with print and social media.

“We get a huge amount of families and children coming in there,” Johnson notes. The Thing? costs $5 per person, but it’s just $10 for families, no matter how many are in your family! There’s a group rate for schools, which includes discounts at the Dairy Queen right next to the curio area.

“I really enjoyed it—it was really, really cool,” says Diego, a fourth-grader visiting from New Mexico. “They made everything seem so real because they backed it up with things that actually (happened).” Still, he remains skeptical “because they don’t have that much proof.”

The Thing? is 45 minutes east of Tucson, right off of Exit 322.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Worth the drive, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is one of the top nature museums in the country, if not the world! 

Bring your curiosity about our desert to this 98-acre wonder, covering everything from the nearby sky islands (isolated mountain habitat) down to the desert floor and the Sea of Cortez. This combination zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, natural history and mineral museum is home to more than 230 native species and 1,200 plant varieties! There are indoor and outdoor displays, two miles of paths, restaurants and an art gallery.

This summer, check out Packrat Playhouse: Hidden in the Midden and ASDM’s special offering: Cool Summer Nights.

Packrat Playhouse is 4,000 square feet of air-conditioned fun, where kids learn about the desert by pretending to be packrats! They can climb through a tower of prickly pear pads, slide down a gila monster tail and even crawl through a giant rattlesnake. Plus there are all sorts of items for them to discover. It’s open from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m.

Cool Summer Nights are every Saturday through Aug. 31, offering thematic special evening events to beat the summer heat while learning something neat! The desert comes alive at night as nocturnal animals awake. Regular admission applies, but ASDM members get in for free. The Packrat Playhouse and Stingray Touch stay open for Cool Summer Nights, too!

ASDM is west of Tucson at 2021 N. Kinney Rd. For more information, visit www.desertmuseum.org.

The Mini Time Machine

When you visit The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures your imagination will take over as you explore different time eras, fairies, dragons and other creatures from fantasy worlds.

As you enter the Enchanted Realm, you will notice the enchanted willow tree. The tree has three faces and each face looks in the direction of particular displays. The spooky face looks in the direction of the Halloween display with haunted mansions and witches’ cauldrons. The smiling face looks in the direction of Kewpie dolls, playful mice and fairy tales. The winter face has a long flowing beard and looks in the direction of snowy villages and Christmas decorations.

A section of the floor in the Enchanted Realm is made of glass and under the glass is a miniature village. Both children and adults can sit or stretch out on the floor to get a better view.

The Exploring the World Gallery features miniatures of Japanese, European, Mexican and other cultures from around the world. The History Gallery has miniatures from the 18th–20th century depicting what life was like during those time periods.

The museum offers summer camps, summer movies, tinker workshops and a family summer pass that allows you to visit the museum all summer long. The museum is located at 4455 E. Camp Lowell Dr. in Tucson. For more information visit www.theminitimemachine.org.

Pangaea Land of the Dinosaurs

Go back in time and walk among giants at Pangaea Land of the Dinosaurs at OdySea in the Desert. Kids will be in awe of the larger-than-life exhibits featuring 80 animatronic dinosaurs! They can climb through the inflatable T-Rex obstacle course, do the fossil dig, make their own dinosaur park on the magnet wall and more.

Pangaea offers upgrade activities for an additional fee—kids can etch, sift or excavate for fossil finds, get a glitter tattoo or go on a dinosaur ride. Birthdays are great at Pangaea, too. Party packages include all of the upgrade activities, a guided tour through the Land of the Dinosaurs, soft drinks, invitations and dino-themed tableware.

Pangaea is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. It is located at 9500 E. Via de Ventura in Scottsdale. Visit pangaealandofthedinosaurs.com for more information.