Art adventures: Arizona Museum of Natural History

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When the rain started falling last Thursday, I knew it would be the perfect day to hit a museum or two. I headed out with my 21-year-old son, Christopher, to explore two Mesa museums — including the Arizona Museum of Natural History.

We first explored the museum when Christopher was a very young child, so I was eager to see how he’d enjoy it as an adult. Turns out we weren’t the only grown child and parent pairing at the museum that day — but there were also younger children and what appeared to be a group of students enjoying a field trip.

I always seem to make the funky finds first, as evidenced by the first picture I’ll share below — capturing one of three metal dinosaur sculptures you’ll find outside one side of the museum. Once you enter the museum, you’re greeted by those giant dinosaur skeletons that kids find so fascinating.

Here’s a photo essay of sorts that’ll give you a glimpse into the diverse nature of the exhibits at the Arizona Museum of Natural History…

An outside sculpture garden features whimsical dinosaur art
This might explain why some folks simply call it "the dinosaur museum"
This baby hangs from the ceiling just over the entrance to the main exhibits
Turns out this museum boasts much more than an impressive dinosaur collection
Bronze casting of a Tucson meteorite relocated to the Smithsonian in 1863
One of three paleographic maps exhibited in "Origins" courtesy of Ron Blakey
Crystal displayed in an area featuring minerals and cool Arizona mineral facts
These babies look a lot like bookends I admired in the museum shop
This area experiences "flash floods" complete with thunder & lightning
This dinosaur femur looked to be nearly as long as my son is tall
Baskets of giant puzzle pieces help children enjoy hands-on learning
This would be fun for children to replicate at home with clay and found objects
Several areas in the museum replicate prehistoric habitats and extinct creatures
Pieces like this petrified wood blur the line between nature and art
'Buettneria perfecta' lived in Arizona during the late Triassic period
Christopher was delighted to find (and photograph) this 'Mesozoic' gar fish on exhibit
There's a spacious area for children to read and create museum-inspired artwork
Some of the dinosaur images colored by young visitors to the museum
If your child enjoys reading dinosaur books, consider a trip to the museum gift shop
The museum store has affordable books, toys, jewelry & other gift options
Other fun finds at this museum include this stagecoach
We also stumbled on an exhibit about Arizona and the movies
Check out the old-time jail cell -- always a favorite during field trips
I found this Santa impersonator hanging in the museum gift shop

Remember the many fine museums of Mesa, and the rest of the Valley of the Sun, as you’re enjoying time with friends and family this holiday season.

Today’s museums are anything but boring and stuffy. They’re full of hands-on activities, creative uses of new technology and spaces that keep learning fun.

— Lynn

Note: If you have a favorite Valley museum you’d like us to explore, just drop a line to rakstagemom@gmail.com. Stay tuned for news of the Tolerance and Holocaust Museum coming to Chandler. Click these links to learn more about the Arizona Museum Association and the Central Arizona Museum Association.

Coming up: The fine art of acrobatics

Photos: Lynn Trimble, Christopher Trimble (meteorite, crystal, shark and gar fish)

1 COMMENT

  1. AZMNH is worthwhile on its own. My older daughter calls it “the dinosaur museum,” but also enjoys the territorial jail and the room devoted to movies made in Arizona. Because it’s situated in Mesa’s compact, walkable downtown, AZMNH combines well with a visit to the Arizona Museum for Youth (AMY), which is only a block away. In addition, on most Saturdays there’s MACfest one block over on Main Street. There are also plenty of good, family-friendly independent restaurants on Main that provide options for a lunch break in between these activities. Even more impressive, the City of Mesa is now moving forward with the extension of light rail from its current terminus near Dobson Road into Downtown Mesa. That project will make all that Downtown Mesa has to offer even more accessible. Five years ago, I would have told you that Mesa had little to offer, but the combination of seeing the city’s center through a dad’s eyes and the city’s surprisingly forward-looking embrace of light rail has changed my mind.

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