My kids wanted dinosaurs. It was all they could talk about since watching The Land Before Time for the first time. We saw them at the San Diego Wild Animal Park during the summer but months had past and the overwhelming call for dinosaurs (mostly in the form of ROARS!) once again filled our house. After a little bit of internet research I came across the Arizona Natural History Museum in Mesa. I will be honest. I wasn’t expecting much. But I can’t tell you how pleasantly surprised I was. The Arizona Natural History Museum provided us with over two hours of entertainment and I literally had to drag my kids out of there!
The first stop on our museum tour had to be the dinosaurs. The kids went over the moon when they stepped inside Dinosaur Hall and were immediately encountered by life size skeletal replicas of the animals they had been so excited to see. Dinosaur Hall, I expected. Dinosaur Mountain, I did not. There were replicas of dinosaurs from different geological periods in different areas of the “mountain”. Many of the dinosaurs moved and made sounds. The best part was every 23 minutes a flash flood occurred on the mountain. You can see Dinosaur Mountain from many different levels inside the museum and your kids are bound to discover something new when they visit each floor.
Sorry about the quality of my photos of the dinosaurs. It was very hard to watch two very excited three year olds in a museum and take pictures at the same time!
The Arizona Through Time area of the museum includes gem collections, asteroids, some interesting reptiles like the snapping turtle, fossils from the days when parts of Arizona were inland seas, and a special exhibit about the evolution of the pronghorn antelope.
The Southwest Gallery had some very nice exhibits about traditional southwestern cultures complete with replica villages, historical artifacts, and a place where kids can move discs to make their own examples of coil pots.
Another really cool part of the museum is the jail. The museum was built on the original grounds of the Mesa Jail. The actual cells are still available and open for tour. It is amazing just how tiny and uncomfortable those cells are! This jail was so secure that no prisoners ever escaped. If the jail conditions today were as bad as they were back then, maybe people would be less willing to commit crimes!
In addition to the pioneer jail, there is a replica mine that you can walk through and a place for gold panning outside. I think my kids could have done that all day long. Water, sand, and bowls to put water and sand into. What’s not to love?
After a couple hours of exploring, I literally had to drag my kids out of this museum. If you are in the Phoenix/Mesa area I highly encourage you to check this museum out.
The Arizona Natural History Museum is located at 53 N. Macdonald in Mesa, Arizona. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 10-5, Saturday from 11-5, Sunday from 1-5 and closed Mondays. Adults are $10, kids 3-12 are $6 and students 13 and up are $8 with ID. For more information and current exhibitions click here.