The Arizona Museum of Natural History is your place for dinosaurs that roar and much more. The valley’s only natural history museum has the best dinosaurs in town, a history courtyard where visitors pan for gold, a native peoples’ gallery includes a replica village and pottery. Where else can you enjoy a cool indoor waterfall? Three changing exhibition galleries offer a variety of interesting subjects.
Kids under 3 get free admission.
The Arizona Natural History Museum looks small when you approach it from the front but small it is not! I was surprised by how deep this place went with exhibits that went into areas in the back and down in the basement of the place, giving the illusion of the museum being smaller than it really is.
Here are some of the things we checked out:
There's an amazing collection of fossils in the museum ---from Tyrannosaurus bataar and the Zuniceratops to Diatryma and Sauropods, there's an incredible collection of fossils in this place! My kids loved standing under these massive skeletons and looking up into them. This museum doesn't stop there with the dinosaur experience though. They offer an opportunity to see living dinosaurs with their Dinosaur Mountain. In this elaborate and authentic display, dinosaurs come to life, roaring and stretching as if to greet museum visitors.
This three story mountain animals and deposits on it that are representative of the Mesozoic Era, the Triassic Period, Cretaceous Period, Cenozoic Era, and modern day. The mountain is hit by a flash flood ( a challenging situation in many parts of Arizona) approximately every 20 minutes.
The extensive mineral collections in this museum include Copper, Lead, and Quartz Minerals.
We learned about early Arizona settlers like the Hohokam. We checked out where they lived and their daily living habits that included sporting recreation and crop growing. We also took the opportunity to learn about architecture in other early societies, many south of the border.
ARIZONA'S CONNECTION TO HOLLYWOOD
In the early days of the film industry, Arizona was a popular location for making westerns and other films. The museum houses an interesting exhibit of artifacts and even a way to see yourself in a classic Arizona flick!
PANNING FOR GOLD
On our way out to the area where the kids could pan for gold, we toured historic points of territorial Arizona that included information on mining and the law. We saw mining cars and equipment. There was even a jail cell to check out.
The kids loved capping off their visit making a mess and splashing around in the ample trough where they could pan for gold.
This was a terrific museum! It was so much fun to see the kids enjoying themselves, learning something, and interacting with educational materials that weren't on an iPad or other device!
From the moment we walked in my boys were in awe at the huge dino skeletons. Every room is full of hands on activities as well as no-touch displays. My 3 1/2 year old loved that there were giant floor puzzles. There were also more involved giant 3D puzzles that bigger kids would like. Down in the basement is a whole room where kids can just play. They have learning toys, more puzzles, dinosaur toys and books, coloring sheets, and more. The museum was stroller friendly. It was also safe for my almost 2-yr-old boy to run around in without worry of touching anything he shouldn't. There was a lot of interesting Arizona history there. I think I'm going to have to go without the kids one time so I can read all the signs!
Make sure you are in the Dinosaur Hall during a flash flood time (posted there). Also, if your kids are as little as mine, I would save the panning for gold for last. My boys were soaked when we were done (and I saw some bigger kids who were pretty wet as well). During the school year there are students on field trip for the first hour and a half the museum is open so if you want to avoid those crowds, come after 11:30a or noon.
There is no parking just for the museum. The best parking I think across the street just south of the museum. It is free for 3 hours and you will want to stay at least that long to enjoy the museum so avoid the 2 hrs free spaces.
**SAVINGS TIP FOR PHOENIX AREA RESIDENTS**Check your local library for a culture pass. You can check one out to get 2 free admissions here. More info on Culture Pass available here: http://phoenix.showup.com/page/culture_pass2
We loved visiting this place, they have plenty of activities that kids and adults will enjoy alike. My little boy loved seeing the dinosaurs, we played peek a boo on a green screen like they use for making tv shows. We panned for gold, used glow sticks to draw in a black lighted room. We pretended we were on an old black and white tv show and got to see our faces appear on screen! Good, cheap fun. Great for the summer months when you are forced to be inside out of the heat.
This is a wonderful museum for the whole family. It has a lot of very different exhibits for all ages and interests, and a lot of hands-on activities, including floor puzzles in many rooms. Its focus is definitely dinosaurs which particularly appeal to even the youngest children thanks to replicas and dioramas, inlcuding one over 3 floors which displays an actual flood hourly! It has a room dedicated to movies shot in Arizona with a lot of photos and posters. The Native American exhibit has recreations of ancient homes as well as artifacts and dioramas. There's also a small room, very atmospheric, about conquistadors, which lead to a recreated mine tunnel, and a jail with several cells the kids can go in and out of. If somehow, your children are still bored, there is a room with books, toys and art and crafts activities, and a courtyard with gold panning (free).
We visited this museum with grandma, and my 9 year old loved it! We didn't know about the indoor waterfall but we learned quickly and probably stayed watching that display for an hour easily. The kids enjoyed walking around and seeing everything else too, but all I heard about for a LONG time was the waterfall and dinosaurs!