Housing thousands of artifacts in an area, museums preserve history and culture, offering visitors a window into the past, insight into the depth of human emotion and creativity, and sometimes even a glimpse into the future.

Built upon the ruins of a former Hohokam civilization, Phoenix is a city that boasts not only a rich heritage but also a vibrant and diverse present-day culture, with sizable Hispanic and Native American populations.

From providing a look into the city’s past to offering a fun, enriching experience for children, these are ten of the best museums in Phoenix, Arizona. They’re all family friendly and offer numerous opportunities to learn about the city’s history, play educational games and find out where we may be headed. 

1. S’edav Va’aki Museum

The S’edav Va’aki Museum, formerly called the Pueblo Grande Museum, is the largest preserved archaeological site in the city showcasing the 1500-year-old civilization populated by the Ancestral Sonoran Desert People, or the Hohokam. 

The site is accessible through a 1-kilometer walking trail, which explores the platform mound (Va’aki), life-size Hohokam model houses, their irrigation canal system, and a garden featuring the crops grown by the Hohokam people in the area. These sophisticated features provide a fascinating insight into the advanced engineering and agricultural practices of the Hohokam. 

For art and history lovers, the museum displays artifacts, including jewelry, pottery, and tools that reflect the life, art, and technology of the area’s prehistoric inhabitants.

The S’edav Va’aki Museum takes the visitor back several hundred years, offering a glimpse into one of the most complex and advanced societies inhabiting the Southwest.

2. Heard Museum

Aiming to tell the stories of American Indian people from a first-person perspective, The Heard Museum displays over 40,000 items of American Indian art in 12 galleries. These items include Hopi katsina dolls (representations of the universe’s spirit messengers), Southwestern ceramics and baskets, and Navajo textiles.

The museum acknowledges that despite annexation, the land on which the museum stands is the homeland of the Akimel O’othem and maintains a moral obligation to the owners of the land. Therefore, it works collaboratively with American Indian artists and tribal communities, paying tribute to the 22 Native American tribes of the state.

With this cultural sensitivity, the Heard Museum distinguishes itself as an organization that honors the Native American population through authentic representation.

3. Arizona Science Center

The Arizona Science Center promises to “inspire and engage curious minds” through its fascinating exhibits and exciting programs.

The museum’s first thing that catches your eye is its futuristic spaceship-like structure designed by renowned architect Antoine Predock.

As you step inside, your senses are stimulated by immersive experiences at the Dorrance Planetarium and the 5-story screen at the Irene P. Flinn Theatre.

In addition to its captivating temporary exhibitions that will enthrall even the most “unscientific” of us, the Arizona Science Center features a maker space for all visitors to share ideas and collaborate on projects.

4. Children’s Museum of Phoenix

The Children’s Museum of Phoenix is designed especially for children; it’s in the name. But the colors, textures, activities, and games may be just as exciting for parents and caregivers!

From encouraging creative expression in the art studio to roleplaying at The Market, the Children’s Museum stimulates your child’s imagination and builds curiosity. The museum offers over 300 interactive play areas for kids under 10.

And for caregivers, the museum offers some respite as the children engage in story time in the cozy Book Loft.

5. Musical Instrument Museum

Experience music in a way you never have at the Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix. The museum features over 7500 musical instruments, many of which you may never have heard of before (the Japanese sho, for instance) from more than 200 countries worldwide.

Through the interactive exhibits in the museum, you may experience strange, fascinating sounds through foreign and sometimes obscure musical instruments.

The 300-seat MIM Music Theatre is excellent for acoustic performances and often hosts concerts of renowned artists worldwide.

The MIM aims to send one message through its culturally diverse galleries and instruments on display: music is the language of the soul.

6. Phoenix Art Museum

From encapsulating the spirit of the Renaissance period through its displays to providing a look into contemporary art, the Phoenix Art Museum is the largest in the southwestern USA.

In addition to spanning across time, the approximately 20,000 objects displayed in the museum are collected from artists around the world. From Frida Kahlo’s exuberant self-portraits to Yayoi Kusama’s abstract impressionist pieces, the museum features something for every art lover.

Among the most notable installations are the surrealist images of the desert by Arizona’s very own Philip C. Curtis, inspired by the Arizona landscape seen through the lens of magical realism.

7. Hall of Flame Fire Museum

Firefighters have neverbeen fantastic. There is something audacious and admirable about risking your life to fight against one of the elements to save people and property.

The Hall of Flame Fire Museum, officially known as the National Historical Fire Foundation, provides a closer look into firefighting.

In five extensive galleries, the museum preserves historical firefighting equipment worldwide. The museum also features a video theater that plays informative videos about firefighting and a National Firefighting Hall of Heroes to commemorate American firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The museum pays tribute to American firefighting heroes and provides a unique experience for those interested in firefighting and its history.

8. Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum

Escape the chaos of the city and step into the Wild West at the Pioneer Living History Museum. A 90-acre open-air museum in the quiet foothills of Northern Phoenix, the Living History Museum offers a walk through a 19th-century Pioneer Village.

Featuring buildings from that era, most notably the childhood home of Arizona’s first senator, the museum transports you back in time, giving you an intimate look at the life and times of the Pioneers.

You can also explore the Carpenter Shop, Dress Shop, and Blacksmith Shop to immerse yourself in the era and check out the evolution of the phone at the Telephone History Museum.

9. Penske Racing Museum

Car and racing enthusiasts are in for a treat at the Penske Racing Museum. Visitors embark on a thrilling journey of the history of motorsports and, more specifically, the history of Penske’s innovations and victories.

From Formula 1 to NASCAR, the museum’s collection of legendary racing cars across eras showcases the evolution of racing technology. The trophies and racing memorabilia stand as a testament to the inspirational legacy of Penske’s five decades of racing experience and 500 significant wins.

10. The Rosson House

Standing tall in Downtown Phoenix, the Rosson House is a beautiful souvenir of 19th-century Victorian-style architecture. Designed by architect A.P. Petit for the influential Rosson family, this restored house provides a glimpse into the life of a typical wealthy family in the late 19th century.

In addition to its alluring Gothic turrets and Italianate hooded windows, perhaps most interesting is the presence of modern amenities in the house. The house had electric lights, hot and cold running water, and a telephone.

A house as beautiful as it is livable even in modern times, the Rosson House apprises visitors of the technological advancements of time.