The sprawling Superstition Mountain Range has been inhabited for more than 9,000 years, but its landscape has remained the same until relatively recently. In the 19th century American settlers moved in, driven by rumors of a bountiful gold mine. The Lost Dutchman Mine spawned a range of new settlements alongside existing American Indian sites here. Though the mine's inhabitants—and the cowboy hats they wore—are long gone, their story lives on at the Superstition Mountain Museum, a 12.5-acre interactive outdoor museum and nature walk dedicated to preserving the area's history. Full-scale recreations of 19th-century buildings include a stage-coach shop, barber shop, 20-stamp gold ore crusher, and the church-turned-film museum Elvis Memorial Chapel. Each building transports visitors back in time with the help of exhibits featuring authentic artifacts and documents such as ancient rock samples that reveal local geology, or art and household items depicting American Indian life.
Self-expression and imagination have no age limits. That's the idea behind Arizona Museum for Youth, a gathering place for youngsters to explore art and their own creativity. Rotating exhibitions, which have included glow-in-the-dark portraits and bead art, showcase that stimulate children's imaginations as well as the sense of sight. Guests can follow the spark of inspiration and create their own magnum opuses during art classes or in the museum's interactive play area, Artville. Decorated with giant-size paint brushes and other art equipment, Artville presents kids with a colorful array of play stations and even a performance arts center to stage productions of Waiting for Go Dog Go.
Today’s side deal gets you a $43 main floor ticket to see The Phoenix Symphony’s Argentine Tango! at the Mesa Arts Center on Sunday, January 24, at 2 p.m. for $25. Take in a sensual and sultry performance by bandoneón master Raul Jaurena and special guests as part of the Target World Music Festival.
Four-and-a-half billion. That’s how many years of history fits into the Arizona Museum of Natural History’s 80,000 square feet. The Origins gallery orients extremely disoriented visitors with a timeline that traces the most significant events in the history of the cosmos and planet Earth. From there, visitors browse the museum’s 60,000 artifacts, such as the Dinosaur Hall’s T-rex skull and full skeleton of an adolescent triceratops. On the three-story Dinosaur Mountain—flash floods gush every 23 minutes and endanger roaring replicas of dinosaurs such as a stegosaurus and tyrannosaurus.
Though chockfull of dinosaurs, not everything at the museum is saurian in nature. The museum’s Mesoamerica and South America section, for instance, focuses on artifacts from ancient cultures, such as the Maya and the early civilizations of Central Mexico.
In exhibitions on Arizona’s history, guests can explore the labyrinthine Lost Dutchman Mine, search for gold in the History Courtyard, and get locked away in an actual territorial jail that used to house outlaws, cattle rustlers, and a guy who said the jailer's chaps made his thighs look fat. In addition to all the museum’s historical relics, there are living creatures on display, including a Gila monster and a soft-shelled turtle named Tom.
Housing numerous artifacts and anecdotes that catalog Arizona's near-100-year statehood, the Arizona Historical Society Museum at Papago Park takes visitors on a voyage through pivotal moments in the state's history. The museum's exhibits, like flashlights swallowed by a history book, illuminate the narratives of famous Arizonans—including the first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor—and provide insight into Arizona's Japanese internment camps and Papago Park POW camps during World War II. With a mix of info-rich text, multimedia displays and hands-on learning, the exhibits keep visitors engaged and entertained, much like betrothals performed as rock ballads.
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.