7 Stand Out Museums

By local contributor
JoAnne Zeterberg

Take any pre-conceived notion you have of a typical museum (dated, musty, maybe a little . . . yawn . . . boring) and set it aside. Scottsdale’s renowned museums are known for cutting-edge exhibits, film screenings, festive special events and interactive exhibits that will engage you from the moment you cross their thresholds. Here are seven of the best that you can’t afford to miss.

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West

This downtown gem, which debuted in January 2015, celebrates the spirit of the American West through changing exhibitions of fine art, rare historic artifacts and cultural treasures like Texas Ranger badges, hand-tooled saddles and Native American pottery. Step right into the West at the 3D mural “Western Spirit Trail” and take a selfie.

Heard Museum

Explore the Native American cultures of the Southwest at the world-renowned Heard Museum, where you can walk through a replica of a traditional Navajo hogan and explore a variety of exhibits and hands-on activities. The museum also hosts wildly popular annual events like the World Championship Hoop Dance Competition in February and the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market in March.

Musical Instrument Museum

See, hear and play instruments from around the world at the Musical Instrument Museum. More than 5,000 instruments and cultural artifacts are on display, including instruments played by icons like Eric Clapton, John Lennon and Carlos Santana. Don’t miss the Experience Gallery where you can unleash your inner musician on guitars, drums, gongs and other instruments.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

SMoCA celebrates modern art, architecture and design through thought-provoking, changing exhibitions. The museum, an ingenious renovation of an old movie theater by architect Will Bruder, also offers an events calendar chockful of mixers, film screenings, stand-up comedy and storytelling.

Phoenix Art Museum

The Phoenix Art Museum presents popular international exhibitions alongside its collection of more than 17,000 works of American, Asian, European, Latin American, Western American and contemporary art and fashion design. Lectures, live performances and film screenings round out the museum’s offerings.

Pueblo Grande Museum

You’ll feel like you’re on an archaeological dig at Pueblo Grande. Ruins of a Hohokam village and replicas of traditional houses are easily accessible along the museum’s 2/3-mile interpretive trail, while exhibits and hands-on activities provide insight into the Hohokam culture and lifestyle.

Airbase Arizona Commemorative Air Force Aviation Museum

This spacious museum includes approximately 30 historic aircraft and numerous exhibits celebrating America’s aviation history, including the Flying Tigers, Tuskegee Airmen and Women Airforce Service Pilots. Check the AZCAF website for flight schedules and see your favorite planes, like the B-17 “Sentimental Journey,” in action.