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.
If you listen carefully on the grounds of Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum, the air holds whispers from the past that come to life through the mouths of costumed interpreters from the late 19th century. The 90-acre town is rife with both authentic buildings and accurate reproductions that host guest adventurers and Western-style dramas several times a week. Visitors mosey through a blacksmith shop and an 1890s-era dress shop. There's even a sheriff's office complete with jail for old-timey scofflaws who committed crimes of the day, like horse theft or saloon theft. Fixtures of Arizona history feature throughout the village, from a cabin that survived the state's bloodiest range war to the opera house where famed chanteuse Lilly Langtry sang. Regular events in the village include sheriff and bandit shows, Civil War reenactments, and gun fight reenactments that replicate historic "BANG" signs popping out from the muzzle of a rifle.
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.
When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, reports The Arizona Republic, it sparked John Edwards' passion for Star Trek. He began amassing action figures and memorabilia into a collection that has since mushroomed into the more than 13,000 toys, comic books, and posters that put the experience into the Arizona Pop Culture Experience. According to the Phoenix New Times, the nonprofit museum is divided into rooms based on heroes and stories, such as the DC room and the Marvel room. Hundreds of action figures, custom-made for John, have earned the museum top honors in the _ Phoenix New Times’_ 2010 “Best Places to See Action Figures”, and the only spot on The Action Figure Makers’ Guild Magazine’s list, “Where are All my Action Figures?”
The rest of the space covers the last 50 to 60 years of popular culture, from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and the music of The Doors to current crazes such as Twilight and Harry Potter, the saga of a wizard who relinquishes his wand to make earthenware. The museum also doubles as a comic book store where new issues hit the shelves every week.