As they enter the massive brick building, visitors pass the Watercarrier, a curved bronze statue that lends a first glimpse at a staggering collection of ancient and modern Native American works. Established in 1893, the Arizona State Museum celebrates and records Southwest Indian cultural history with more than 3 million objects, including a collection electrified with more than 25,000 pieces of woven basketry, more than 300,000 catalogued artifacts, 500,000 photographic negatives and original prints, 90,000 volumes of rare titles, 6,000 maps, 1,500 feet of archival documents, and more than 1,000 sound recordings. The collection forays out onto the museum floor in exhibitions such as Ancient Architecture of the Southwest, where striking photographs frame some of the crumbling archaeological ruins of 1,000-year-old cliff dwellings set against a rugged desert landscape while tastefully photoshopping out the ancient satellite dishes. The Pottery Project spans 2,000 years of Native ceramics with more than 20,000 whole pieces and a lab for hands-on pottery testing. Using artifacts, life-size dioramas, and film, Paths of Life explores the history and contemporary lifeways of ten Native cultures, including those of the Yaqui, O’odham, Apache, Navajo, and Hopi.
Museum staff further engage visitors in events that range from talks with museum curators and Native artisans to learning expeditions, which invite guests to tag along with museum and university archaeologists to survey nearby sites, immersing them in the scientific dig experience nearly as effectively as watching Indiana Jones with your nose to the screen. Educational outreach for public-school and university students immerses them in camps and workshops. At the Native Goods museum store, visitors browse a stock of books alongside basketry, jewelry, carvings, and textiles crafted by artists from Yaqui, Hopi, and other nations.
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.
A diverse array of evocative and provocative pieces adorn the hallowed halls at the Tucson Museum of Art, which has served up a sensory feast to art-hungry hominids for more than 85 years. Armed with a year-long membership, budding art archivists can light their Blackberry torches to explore the museum's cavernous archives of current and permanent exhibitions, eventually discovering the wormhole that thrusts them forward to upcoming exhibitions. More than 1,900 works representing approximately 2,000 years of pre-Columbian art populate the Art of Latin America collection, including some galleries hosted in the historic Stevens/Duffield House, and the Art of the American West collection showcases expressions of the regional landscape and cultures. Perched atop the former Presidio of San Agustín del Tucson, the museum complex includes access to five restored historic homes donned in distinct styles that span centuries of architecture, décor, and La-Z-Boy upholstery.
This museum of pint-sized pieces showcases more than 275 miniature houses, room boxes, and other collectibles that are organized into three categories: Enchanted Realm, History and Antiques Gallery, and Exploring the World. Leave the girth of planet Earth and enter the whimsical fantasyland of a tiny-sized Enchanted Realm. Interactive exhibits allow you to search for an elusive fairy within the goblets of a sentient tree showpiece or unearth scattered woodland creatures, snow villages, fairy castles, and witch compounds. Teleport through the blue, arched rotunda to the History and Antiques Gallery, which chronicles the significance of miniature relics throughout history and displays one of the oldest mini houses in the United States, dating back to 1775. Travel the floor as a nephilim Magellan in the Exploring the World section, which surveys the cultural value of miniatures from other countries.
The International Wildlife Museum is a nonprofit institution that works to support various worldwide conservation efforts. More than 400 living and taxidermy-sustained species, plus illuminating exhibits and habitat re-creations, wow crowds of mammal fans and reptile skeptics alike. Visit the Scaly, Not Slimy! reptile exhibit with a significant other to bask in the romantic aura of the naturally top-hatted debonair tortoise, or pick up a family membership to get a year of unlimited museum access, two complimentary guest passes, and discounts on everything from museum programs to items in the gift shop.
Tohono Chul Park is an oasis of botanical gardens where guests can learn about the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert. With a double dose of general admission, two friends or inseparable enemies get a whole day to enjoy debating philosophy with saguaros and jackrabbits while wandering along scenic trails, exploring beautiful gardens, and viewing art exhibits that represent the Southwest’s nature and culture. Discover closely guarded ecological secrets during tours such as the Walk in the Park, pal around with non-poisonous snakes and lizards in the Reptile Ramble, or release an inner child from your knapsack while listening to traditional tales during Stories in the Garden for Children.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum encourages conservation of the Sonoran region’s wildlife, facilitating human contact with as many 300 animal species and 1,200 types of plants. The museum, which is approximately 85% outdoors, features living exhibits that recreate the Sonoran Desert region’s natural landscape. Nearly two miles of paths spread across 21 acres of desert, letting you search for mountain lions, prairie dogs, men wearing bear costumes, and even endangered animals such as the Mexican wolf, ocelot, and Gila topminnow. The exhibits provide an accurate representation of the ecosystem by incorporating animals, plants, geological specimens, and actors playing drifters who only yell about wanting to eat pie.