How is it that we’ve never been to the Arizona Museum of Natural History? It’s pretty awesome. Like, really awesome. Located in the heart of downtown Mesa (a trek for us, but worth it) the museum sprawls over three sometimes confusing stories, wrapping around time itself to give you a look at what Arizona looked like over the millennia. You guys, there are DINOSAURS. Live action, moving, growling snarling dinosaurs. And a flash flood. And so much more. Ollie’s friend Alexander and his mommy, Arielle, our neighbors, joined us for this trip.
You can approach this museum a number of different ways. From the lobby, there’s a smaller display of flying dinos off to your left (they’re mind-bogglingly huge) and a couple of smaller rooms, one with a rocking horse/dinosaur and a slightly scary metal dinosaur that roars. This is also how you get to the exterior courtyard, where you can PAN FOR GOLD. Seriously. It’s so cool. Except that it was super hot (duh, Arizona in September is still like an oven) so we didn’t stay outside for long. There’s also an area where the kiddos can be miniature paleontologists and brush dirt off fossils on a little table on in the ground.
The main bulk of the museum is off to the right of the lobby, and it starts with the good stuff: dinosaurs! We started by looking at the fossils. Ollie zeroed in on the turtle shells. In several locations throughout the museum, volunteers were set up at tables with things the kids could touch, a great idea for grabby toddlers in a place where most things are off limits to touching. At the first station they got to touch a dinosaur tooth. The second station was the favorite because they got to touch dinosaur poop. Poop! So funny!
In between the dinosaurs and the poop, which was in a hall filled with gorgeous rocks, was a scene three stories tall that had a flash flood about every 20 minutes, complete with lightning and thunder and rushing water. A few animatronic dinos called this display home.
After the rocks (you can touch a meteorite!) you start to get to the human-habited part of Arizona’s history. There are great interactive displays of traditional homes, with something for the kids to do at every turn. Ollie enjoyed dancing on a giant wooden puzzle. I’m sure I’m leaving something out, but there was so much to see, trust me, it’s worth a trip to check it out yourself!
Kid rating: DINOSAURS! Of course they loved it.
Mom rating: I really liked it, too.There was so much to see, and even learn if you have time to stop and read while your little is running around.
One block north of Main Street in downtown Mesa. Take US 60 or 202 to Country Club Drive, go to Main Street, and proceed one-half mile east to Macdonald
It was $10 for the adults to get in, kids under three are free, kids 3-12 are $7, students with ID 13 and older are $8.
A membership might totally be worth it if you plan to go more than twice in a year. They have all the information here. Sounds like a great deal!