February is Arizona’s birthday month, and a great time to explore Arizona history in Phoenix with your kids! Arizona is known as the Grand Canyon State, and became a state on February 14, 1912. It was the last of the lower 48 states to be admitted to the Union! The area was originally part of New Mexico, then became its own territory in 1863.
The beautifully colored flag of Arizona, pictured above, came into existence in 1917. The 13 red and yellow stripes at the top represent the vibrant colors of an Arizona sunset, along with the original 13 colonies. The yellow star in the center represents copper. Arizona produces more copper than any other state in the country! The blue below represents the Colorado River, which runs through the Grand Canyon.
There are also the popular Five C’s of Arizona (citrus, cotton, copper, cattle, and climate), and you can learn more about those unique historical aspects in an upcoming separate blog post. But what about the people of Arizona? Who lived here? And how did they live, especially before the modern invention of air conditioning?
Here are eight local options for exploring Arizona history in Phoenix with kids, ranging from hands on experiences to museums. Take a day or two this month and learn more about our diverse state!
Pueblo Grande Museum – we’ve visited this museum several times with out of town friends, and each time they have expressed how this place opened their eyes to the first people that lived right here in the now Phoenix area. It’s a mixture of indoor and outdoor exhibits, including some fascinating 800 year old ruins, and an explanation on how the Hohokum people built the first canal system. Don’t miss the indoor kid area too! This museum is very affordable, at $6/adult (18 and up), and $3/children (ages 6-17, under 6 is free).
Arizona Capitol Museum – this museum is located in the historical 1901 state capitol building near downtown Phoenix. While not geared for kids, this museum does an excellent job of including them by offering hands on activities in various rooms. Exhibits range from territorial days to statehood, and into how the Arizona legislative government is run today. Plus, where else can you see an Arizona flag created from 113,998 LEGO bricks? (That’s one for each mile in the state.) Visiting is free, but call ahead to for larger groups, and if you desire a guided tour.
Pioneer Living History Museum – step back in time to Arizona’s pioneer days! This musuem has almost 30 reconstructed buildings from the 1850s to the early 1900s. Some of these buildings include a sheriff’s office, a school, and a teacherage. On certain days, activities like gold panning and a hat maze are set up for children, and reenactors may be present. This is a mostly outdoor museum, so plan accordingly. Entrance fees are $10/person, adults and children ages 5 and up (under 5 is free).
Heard Museum – the Heard Museum celebrates American Indian culture, and also focuses on local tribes. Pottery, jewelry, textiles and more are on display along with information about how the people lived and worked. There are also rotating exhibits. We feel this museum is best enjoyed by the older crowd of children, maybe ages 10 and up. Admission is $22/adults, and $9/child ages 6-17 (under 6 is free). Free guided tours are available with paid admission, and we highly recommend securing a spot to enhance your experience.
Rosson House Museum at Heritage Square – have you seen the large Victorian style house in the plaza by the Arizona Science Museum? Well that is the Rosson House, and a must for learning about local history! The house is a fully restored 1895 home, with beautiful furniture and authentic items, offering guests a look back into a more refined way of Phoenix life. We took a tour with a homeschool group, and the kids loved checking out the rooms inside, and participating in the hands on activities like hand washing clothes, and early 1900’s games. There are also other buildings to tour on the property. Tour times and availability varies, so check the website for details. General pricing is $10/adults, and $5/children ages 5-12 (under 5 is free).
Arizona Heritage Center – for learning about Arizona history, this place really surprised us. The majority of the building will be most interesting to adults. But there is a fabulous kids area! There is a fun display about the cable car system that use to exist, rideable cars, and other hands on activities. We recommend taking two adults along with your kiddos, and trade off exploring the rest of the museum.
Goldfield’s Ghost Town – mining was a large part of Arizona’s history, and Goldfield’s offers a fun look back at the days of the old west, gold discovery, and the people and animals that lived there. Plus, the views of Lost Dutchman are beautiful! The mine tour is part simulated, but fun, and don’t miss the train tour, reptile exhibit, and crazy house! Kids will love panning for gold too. There are shops, restaurants, and re-enactments on the weekends. Entrance to the town is free, and you pay for what activities you wish to experience. An all day pass if $30/person and worth the price.
Sears Kay Ruins – whether a beginner or expert, hiking to see the Sears Kay Ruins is a different experience for Arizona history. The 1 mile loop trail, located northeast of Cave Creek, offers partially restored ruins of early 1600’s Hohokum people life, and a gorgeous view of North Scottsdale. There are plaques along the way for more information. And yes, you can walk among the ruins! Just be respectful. Our whole family really enjoyed the peaceful setting. A Tonto Day Pass ($8) is required.