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The Desert Botanical Garden was opened in 1939 to preserve the area's pristine desert environment. Today, the garden helps save endangered plants, with the focus still on native flora and special emphasis on succulents. The cactus collection is world-renowned and between the months of March through May, the seasonal blooms are spectacular. The garden hosts several events throughout the year, some of which include the popular 'Butterfly Habitat' during the spring and the 'Luminarias' during the holiday season. If you come during the summer months, don't forget your hat and sunscreen!
Founded in 1929 by Dwight B. and Marie Bartlett Heard, this museum houses tributes to American Indian art and culture. At the Heard Museum, permanent displays are showcased along with traveling exhibits displaying the rich heritage of the people. Home of approximately 40,000 artifacts, the museum has on display American Indian jewelry and more than four hundred Hopi katsina dolls. Heard Museum also has an exhibition that narrates the stories of Native Americans in 19th-century boarding schools.
One of the largest in the Southwest, the Phoenix Art Museum includes a staggering collection of exhibits from the world over. Permanent displays in this facility include miniature interiors as well as 20th-century art. Featured pieces cover contemporary art and fashion design with international exhibits from Europe, Asia, Latin America as well as Western America. Interactive, hands-on activities are featured for kids at the PhxArtKids space. Traveling displays are often included in the museum's highlights. Exhibits include popular works by Ubertini, Nicolas Lepicie, Max Beckmann, Robert Henri, Eugène Boudin and many more.
The Phoenix Zoo offers a plethora of activities for family recreation. Sprawling over 125 acres (50 hectares), this privately-owned leisure facility is a must-visit when in the Valley. It is home to over 1,300 exotic species including lions, giraffes, baboons and meerkats, making it one of the country's largest zoos. Explore the verdant labyrinth of the Forest of Uco, take a hike along the African Trail and enjoy a tractor ride at the Harmony Farm. Also, the interactive programs on offer are both educational and entertaining.
Children and adults alike will adore this museum that explores the past and present of firefighting. Marvel at restored firefighting equipment, including artifacts from the 1700s and fully restored firefighting trucks. Pose for a photo by the horse-drawn fire engine then check out old firefighting helmets. Kids will love the parts of the museum that allow you to interact with the displays, including trying on a uniform and climbing aboard a firetruck. Although the museum mainly focuses on firefighting in the United States, it also has international artifacts. A must-visit museum for people interested in something unique.
Drive through one of the largest parks in the United States that covers over 16,000 acres (6474 hectares). With many lookout points, South Mountain Park, offers fantastic views of Phoenix and the surrounding valley. Summit Lookout is at 2,330 feet (710.18 meters) and highlights the enormity of this sprawling desert area. For visitors, the Interpretive Center takes you through the heritage of the area including mining and botanical history. If you prefer an experience out of the car, hike by the marked trails and study the preserved petroglyphs. Carry lunch and enjoy the park's picnic areas with kids in tow. Remember your sunscreen, hat and drinking water when visiting Arizona's best park.
Located close to the city of Scottsdale, the Camelback Mountain watches over Phoenix, Arizona's sweeping semi-arid plains from a spectacular elevation of nearly 1,400 feet (426.72 meters). The mountain gets its name from the resemblance it bears to the unmistakable shape of a camel's hump. The north trailhead offers views of red cliffs rising 200 feet (61 meters) in some areas, beckoning rock climbers with its challenges. Antelope squirrels, lizards, and snakes are the landscape's most widely-spread inhabitants. The Praying Monk red sandstone formation is arguably the site's most noticeable sight.
The Arizona Science Center features the futuristic architecture of Antoine Predock and aims to turn science into something fun for kids. Permanent exhibits include Evans Family Skycycle, Forces of Nature, Get Charged Up, My Digital World and Solarville. Take in the clear night sky or the fantastic laser light show under the dome of the Dorrance Planetarium or if that doesn't work for you, watch a film in the Irene P. Flinn Theater with its five-story-high IMAX screen. It's not all for kids though as the many interactive exhibits have grown-ups asking questions too. Drop by for a fun, family day out.
If you are in Phoenix and enjoy going on easy treks, then Papago Park is the place for you. With its sandstone buttes, marked paths and slight elevation, it is perfect for family hiking trips and there are plenty of easy mountain bike paths. The most notable attraction of the park is the hole in the rock formation, which formed over thousands of years most likely from water erosion. For the more adventurous, visitors can climb the face of the rock for an unparalleled view of Phoenix. Additionally, the park is close to famous attractions such as the Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo.
Music lovers should head to the Musical Instrument Museum which has a collection of 15,000 musical instruments as well as multimedia exhibits. The collection of musical instruments comes from every corner of the world. Many so strange, they are exhibited along with an instructional video. Visitors get the opportunity to learn diverse music styles that exist around the globe. The museum also has live performances held at its theater.