Desert Caballeros Western Museum traces its origins back to 1960, when local leaders including Barry Goldwater and H. K. MacLennan founded the non-profit "to collect and preserve the history, learning, lore and mementos incident to the development of Wickenburg and the Arizona Territory." What started as a small-town museum blossomed into a regional institution full of artifacts of the Old West and Arizona culture. Thanks to the tireless work of local historians and curators, as well as hundreds of volunteers, the Desert Caballeros Western Museum draws droves of visitors to Wickenburg with its insightful art collections, historical exhibits, and hands-on learning opportunities.
Visitors can take in the picturesque landscape of the nearby Boyd Ranch as they converse with real-life cowboys and horses, or decorate their homes with paintings and sculptures made by Western women at the Cowgirl Up! exhibition. Regular exhibits enrich minds of all ages, dazzling guests with intricate artwork and pottery, the natural beauty of the gem collection, and the tiny, tiny people living inside the historical dioramas.
Challenger Space Center and Museum is on a mission: to excite and educate its visitors about science and the vast wonders of outer space. That excitement starts as soon as guests walk onto the entrance's elevated gantry bridge to see a four-story, space-themed mural painted by Robert McCall. Then it's on to the museum, where the center's affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution enables it to offer top-notch exhibits, which range from a model of an Iridium satellite to three separate meteorite exhibits. Beneath the planetarium?s night sky, stargazers can learn about the stars or test their wishes out on different constellations. Regular Family Star Nights encourage families to bond over stargazing presentations, a simulated shuttle launch, and other activities.
To immerse themselves in the space experience, groups can also sign up for two-hour simulated space missions that unfold in three spaces: a mission control room designed after the Johnson Space Center; the Spacecraft, which simulates a room onboard the International Space Station; and the Earth Space Transit Module, which helps crew members dock there.
Step beneath the domed, packed-mud ceiling of a traditional Navajo family dwelling. Weave a Yavapi burden basket. Explore a secluded garden filled with bronze sculptures of women in prayer. By immersing visitors in Native American artifacts and artworks, the Heard Museum's exhibits strive to illuminate the cultural legacy of Arizona’s indigenous peoples. The collections emphasize first-person accounts of Native cultures, not only through artwork, but also in interviews with Native Americans, portraits by Navajo photographers, and monthly lectures. In addition to showcasing historical artifacts, the Heard Museum exhibits contemporary American Indian artwork. Like a ballerina trapped on a carousel, exhibits rotate often, and have included collections of Native American bolo ties, Hopi pottery, and 20th-century paintings depicting Native ceremony. Passing on cultural traditions to future generations, the staff educates children with tours, and brings Native American presentations and curricula to area schools.
The Hall of Flame Fire Museum showcases the history of firefighting with nearly an acre's worth of exhibits and restored pieces of firefighting equipment that date as far back as 1725. Visitors can check out a Rhode Island fire engine from 1844 that was capable of pumping 250 gallons of water per minute to put out fires or 250 gallons of sarsaparilla per minute to fuel citywide block parties. The Hall's 400 fire helmet collection presents 400 protective headpieces from around the world, and in the museum's sixth gallery, the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes honors firefighters who were decorated for heroism and those who have died in the line of duty.
At Deer Valley Rock Art Center, visitors walk a quarter-mile trail that leads to thousands of Native American carvings. The ancient artwork includes more than1,500 petroglyphs, which were created between 7,000 and 500 years ago. Inside, a museum teaches about the prehistoric population who once inhabited the area.
For lunch, visitors can head over to outdoor picnic tables or an amphitheater area. They might also spot local wildlife such as roadrunners, jackrabbits, and red-tailed hawks.
Although classrooms can be vibrant centers for learning, they’re usually stocked with pencils and notebooks instead of a forest of suspended green noodles or a flying bathtub with wings. At the Children's Museum of Phoenix, both of these engage young minds alongside other hands-on exhibits that have earned the museum a glut of awards, including a place among Parents magazine’s 10 Best Children’s Museums in 2011. The museum fosters creativity and skill development in children from birth to age 10 with open-ended play activities that range from bouncing orbs in the Grand Ballroom to building forts with a wealth of safe construction materials, instead of mom’s favorite sheets and a nail gun.
Perhaps the most eye-catching feature of the museum can be found in the atrium, where the Schuff-Perini Climber soars high into the air. Created from standard building materials, found objects, and out-of-context items such as its flying bathtub, the structure entices youths and inspires their imaginations. Another impressive contraption makes up the Whoosh! exhibit, where children feed scarves into a jumble of tubes that suck the fabrics up to heights of 20 feet before spitting them out to float gently down and be caught in waiting fingers. At each of these exhibits, a baby zone keeps the tiniest museum-goers safe, and they can find a space especially for them in the Place for Threes & Younger.