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Best Museums for Kids

Gone are the days of keeping quiet and not touching anything at a museum. I remember going on field trips to museums when I was a kid. They were fun, but I wouldn’t exactly say it was the best day of my life. It was hard to relate to and nothing felt like it was designed with kids in mind. Flash forward a few decades and there are both new museums to explore in metro Phoenix, and traditional museums that have put more thought into how children can experience their collections. While many items can’t be touched, they are interpreted in exciting new ways.

Here are some of my favorite museums for kids in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa. A few are along the Valley Metro Rail line and I’ve indicated the stops to get to those.

For even more activities and attractions for the whole family such as the The Phoenix Zoo, hiking information and a variety of family dining options, visit


LEGOLAND Discovery Center Arizona
Who doesn’t love playing with legos? Located inside Arizona Mills, LEGOLAND® Discovery Center is where families with children aged 3 to 10 can enjoy a world of creativity, color and building fun in the ultimate indoor LEGO playground. Get hands-on with the thousands of LEGO bricks in themed build and play areas where kids’ imaginations can run wild with the endless possibilities that LEGO offers. Kids (and adults too) will be endlessly entertained by two LEGO rides, a 4D Cinema, massive, large-scale models, building areas and a Model Builder Academy.
5000 S. Arizona Mills Cir., Tempe, AZ 85282
(877) 526-3960 

SEA LIFE Arizona Aquarium
Dive into SEA LIFE Arizona Aquarium for all kinds of fishy fun! Located inside Arizona Mills, across from LEGOLAND Discovery Center, it’s the perfect outing for family fun. Discover thousands of creatures, walk through the amazing 360-degree ocean tunnel and marvel at 30 incredible displays. 
5000 S. Arizona Mills Cir., Tempe, AZ 85282
(877) 526-3960

AZ Heritage Center at Papago Park
Formerly known as the Arizona Historical Society Museum, the AZ Heritage Center at Papago Park can teach the whole family about the contemporary development of Arizona. Learn about early settlements, life during World War II and the post-war housing boom. See a scale model of a copper mine and get an up-close look at minerals and gems. They also are home to changing exhibits.
1300 N. College Ave., Tempe, AZ 85281
(480) 929-0292

Tempe History Museum
This free museum is quite a gem. It explores the history of Tempe in four themed areas: Surviving the Desert, Building Our Community, College Town and Living Together. There’s also an area called Kids’ Place where children can play in a miniature Sun Devil Stadium, climb on a police motorcycle and hear music from bygone eras. There’s also an area with changing exhibits that relate to Tempe’s past.
809 E. Southern Ave., Tempe, AZ 85282
(480) 350-5100

ASU Art Museum
The largest of the museums on campus, ASU Art Museum provides a home for contemporary art that provides a commentary on society.
10th St. and Mill Ave., Tempe, AZ 85287
(480) 965-2787
Exhibitions – ASU Art Museum

Gallery of Scientific Exploration
Another free museum on the ASU Tempe Campus is the Gallery of Scientific Exploration. This gallery is dedicated to educating the public around earth and space with interactive displays, digital media and 3D planetarium shows (on a flat screen) in the Marston Exploration Theater. Entrance to the gallery is free and there is a small fee for the shows at the theater, which are held on Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons.
781 E. Terrace Rd., Tempe, AZ 85287
(480) 965-5081
Valley Metro Rail stop: Rural and Terrace


Arizona Science Center
The Arizona Science Center is a marvel with an IMAX theater, the Dorrance Planetarium, touring exhibits and permanent collections of scientific interactive displays. Learn how the human body works in the All About Me space, take a ride on the SkyCycle, explore the human brain at the W.O.N.D.E.R. Center, feel what it’s like in all types of weather conditions in the Immersion Theater. Your kids will learn so much and they’ll just think they’re having fun.
600 E. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85004
(602) 716-2000

Valley Metro Rail stop: exit at the 3rd Street/Washington station (westbound) or 3rd Street/Jefferson station (eastbound). The Arizona Science Center is on Washington between 5th and 7th Streets.

Children’s Museum of Phoenix
This place is a paradise for kids. It’s large, so plan to spend the whole day here. Appropriately housed in a historic school house, your experience at this museum will start with the Schuff-Perini Climber, a place where kids can climb, slide and crawl through a tower built out of building materials and found objects (like a flying bathtub). There’s the Pit Stop where kids can race toy cars down three levels of tracks, Pedal Power where bikes and trikes can be driven through a pretend car wash, the art studio with a rotating variety of craft projects and the Noodle Forest, a place where kids can wander through hundreds of foam noodles suspended from the ceiling.
215 N. 7th St., Phoenix, AZ 85034
(602) 253-0501 

Valley Metro Rail stop: exit at the 3rd Street/Washington station (westbound) or 3rd Street/Jefferson station (eastbound). It is about a 1/2 mile walk north on 7th Street to the Museum.

Desert Botanical Garden
Can a museum be outside? Yes, when it is a living museum like the Desert Botanical Garden. The Garden has more than 50,000 plants from arid climates around the world including Sonoran Desert gems like Saguaro cactus, cholla and mesquite trees. The Garden hosts numerous events throughout the year that kids love such as the summertime Flashlight Tours, Butterfly Walks, the Chilies and Chocolate Festival and the Great Pumpkin Festival.
1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, AZ 85008
(480) 941-1225

Hall of Flame Fire Museum
Do your kids dream of being a firefighter? Then the Hall of Flame Fire Museum is perfect for them. It includes more than 90 pieces of firefighting equipment and trucks dating from 1725 to 1960. There are also games and activities for kids.
6101 E. Van Buren St., Phoenix, AZ 85008
(602) 275-3473

Musical Instrument Museum
The Musical Instrument Museum will allow you to explore cultures from around the world through music. Their collection includes a variety of musical instruments and performance videos from every country. Every single one. Guests get a headset that is programmed to play the music from each display. There’s also an “Experience Gallery” where kids (and their parents) can play instruments and an “Artist Gallery” where you can see instruments played by legends such as John Lennon, Elvis and Taylor Swift.
4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85050
(480) 478-6000


i.d.e.a. Museum
The i.d.e.a. Museum in Downtown Mesa is a place where kids of all ages can use their imaginations by combining art, science and technology with hands-on fun. The HUB is a gallery with activities such as creating music and making artwork out of recycled materials. There are changing art exhibitions, with children’s curiosity in mind, in the Whiteman Family Exhibition Gallery. And, in Artville, toddlers can play with foam blocks, Legos, puppets and participate in story time.
150 W. Pepper Pl., Mesa, AZ 85201
(480) 644-4332

Valley Metro Rail stop: Center and Main

Arizona Museum of Natural History
Affectionately known locally as the “dinosaur museum,” the Arizona Museum of Natural History has the largest collection of dinosaur fossils in Arizona. On their Dinosaur Mountain exhibit, they even have a simulation of a flash flood, where water rushes down and the dinosaurs become animated. One of my daughter’s favorite activities is panning for gold in their outdoor courtyard and visiting the territorial jail cell. They have rotating gallery exhibitions that focus on Arizona history.
53 N. Macdonald, Mesa, AZ 85201
(480) 644-2230
Valley Metro Rail stop: Center and Main

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