We asked, you answered: Here are 8 of Arizona’s best lesser-known museums

Arizona museums

Frank Vasquez, of Phoenix, looks at Elvis Presley's last guitar he played live in concert, on display now at the Musical Instrument Museum on Aug. 10, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

By Robert Gundran

March 28, 2024

Arizona is home to more than 80 museums, according to the state’s Office of Tourism.

Places like the Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona Science Center, and Heard Museum are more well-known, but what about the lesser-known museums?

We asked The Copper Courier’s Instagram followers for their suggestions on where to find some of the best and most interesting museums across the state that might not be as popular. Here’s what they suggested:


Musical Instrument Museum

4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix

The Musical Instrument Museum was founded in 2010 by Bob Ulrich, the former CEO of Target. The museum has over 7,500 instruments from over 200 countries and territories.

The MIM is in north Phoenix, just off the Loop 101 and west of Mayo Clinic.

Tickets to the museum are $27 for most adults for access to all exhibits. The MIM also hosts concerts in its theater with 300 seats.


Tempe History Museum

809 E. Southern Ave., Tempe

The Tempe History Museum explores the history of the city across four thematic areas:

“College Town,” “Building Our Community,” “Living Together,” and “Surviving in the Desert.” Each exhibit dives into the history of Tempe from different angles.

The museum collects artifacts and works with members of the Hispanic, Southeast Asian, Muslim, and African American communities to represent many points of view of the history of the city.

You can also look at almost 60,000 items without leaving your home thanks to the online museum.

Admission to the museum is free.


Arizona Museum of Natural History

53 N. Macdonald, Mesa

The Arizona Museum of Natural History digs into what Arizona was before it was settled and became a state.

There are exhibits that feature dinosaurs that roamed the state millions of years ago.

Artifact collections feature ancient art, archaeological finds, fossils, and sculptures. Tickets for adults are $15.


READ MORE: Arizona’s best-kept secrets: The 30 museums that earned the highest ratings


Ignite Sign Art Museum

331 S. Olsen Ave., Tucson

The Ignite Sign Art Museum is home to hundreds of light-up and neon signs that once adorned the exteriors of businesses.

The museum often offers demonstrations that show how neon signs are made.

Every Saturday, museum owner Jude Cook and a team of volunteers work on sign restoration, and museum patrons can see what projects they are working on.

General admission is $14. Kids 6-17 are $8 and kids 5 and under are free.


Sonoran Desert Museum

2021 N. Kinney Road, Tucson

The Sonoran Desert Museum explores the desert from multiple perspectives. The zoo and aquarium feature wildlife that live on the land and in the waters of the desert. The zoo has a live animal theater program where employees teach the public about animals that live at the zoo.

Over 1,200 different types of plants live in the Sonoran Desert, according to the museum. The museum has plenty of these in its botanical garden.

The natural history museum has a geology overlook, earth sciences center, and mineral collection tour where visitors can see what makes up the land and geography of Arizona.

The Sonoran Desert Museum’s art institute has art and photography classes for adults alongside art exhibitions.

Tickets for anyone 13 or older are $29.95. Arizonans get a $5 discount.


Sharlot Hall Museum

415 W. Gurley St., Prescott

Sharlot Hall Museum has 11 exhibit buildings that showcase Arizona’s past.

Lawler Exhibit Center dives into the history of Arizona before it was a state. Other buildings showcase methods of transportation for getting across the state, rodeo, and murals across Prescott.

The museum offers lectures on the history of Prescott and Arizona as well as musical performances, and it can operate as a community center.

Tickets for adults are $12.


i.d.e.a. Museum

150 W. Pepper Place, Mesa

The i.d.e.a. Museum has plenty of hands-on activities for kids that support early learning.

ArtVille is an area in the museum for kids 4 and younger. The space has a library, cafe, play space, and performing arts center among other attractions. ArtVille offers classes and workshops for more structured play.

The i.d.e.a. Museum also has a new exhibit called “Luminous: The Art of Light.” It experiments with light to create art and includes multiple ways to interact with the exhibit.

Tickets for the museum are $9 per person and free for infants under 1.


Children’s Museum of Phoenix

215 N. Seventh St., Phoenix

The Children’s Museum of Phoenix was designed for kids 10 and under. There’s over 48,000 square feet of space and over 300 play experiences across three floors.

Exhibits touch on gardening, climbing, making art, reading, building, and making music among other things.

The museum hosts a summer camp that is open for kids ages 5-8 where they can interact with exhibits and participate in hands-on activities. Check out the calendar for a list of daily events and activities.

Tickets are $17 per person and admission is free for infants under 1. Admission is free from 5 to 9 p.m. every first Friday of the month.



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  • Robert Gundran

    Robert Gundran grew up in the Southwest, spending equal time in the Valley and Southern California throughout his life. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in 2018 and wrote for The Arizona Republic and The Orange County Register.


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