By Jill “MamaBug” Frier

Arizona is home to some of the most unique sights to see and places to visit in the world. The Sonoran Desert itself is one-of-a-kind, featuring the lushest desert in the world with distinct flora and fauna only found in our area. The arts and culture in the Valley of the Sun are no exception to this pattern. Many of our local galleries, theaters and museums are as unique to the Sonoran Desert as the giant Saguaro Cactus and the Gila Monster. Here are some of our favorite places to visit for a Phoenix twist on arts and culture.

Musical Instrument Museum
The Musical Instrument Museum, or the MIM as we affectionately call it, displays more than 6,800 instruments collected from around the world. This state-of-the-art facility showcases musical instruments from almost all cultures and civilizations in modern history, with high tech audio and video capabilities that allow guests to not only see the instruments, but also hear their sounds and observe them being played. The MIM opened it’s doors in 2010 to provide visitors with a unique experience by bringing their collection of instruments to life through technology that enables visitors to see and hear these instruments in their original cultural settings. It is truly like no other museum in the world.

The MIM hosts concert performances, events, children’s and educational programs that encourage all visitors to learn about and enjoy music. Visitors are also invited to play instruments from around the world in the Experience Gallery, where guests can try out everything from a guitar and banjo to drums or a giant gong. The Artist Gallery showcases contemporary musicians from around the world, with a collection of instruments from music icons such as John Lennon, Taylor Swift, Elvis Presley®, Carlos Santana, and many more.

Heard Museum
One of the most distinctive museums in the Valley of the Sun is the Heard Museum. Founded in 1929, the Heard is internationally recognized for the superior quality of its collections, world-class exhibitions, educational programming and unrivaled festivals. The museum has one of the largest and most outstanding collections of American Indian artwork in the country. It includes historic, cultural and fine art collections of more than 3600 pieces, and extensive documentation of the development of the American Indian Fine Art Movement, starting in the 20th century.

The Heard is dedicated to the advancement of American Indian art. The museum presents stories of American Indian people from a first-person perspective and exhibits that showcase the beauty and vitality of traditional and contemporary Native American art. The Heard Museum is a Phoenix treasure that provides visitors with a unique perspective of our cultural heritage in the Southwest.

Herberger Theater Center
The Herberger Theater Center was built in 1989 as a key component of downtown Phoenix redevelopment and revitalization efforts. The non-profit center supports and fosters the growth of performing arts in Phoenix, and has gone a long way toward contributing to the cultural and educational development of performing arts in the Valley of the Sun. The Herberger attracts around 120,000 patrons annually, including more than 30,000 school-aged children who get the opportunity to share the unique experience of live performing arts.

A hub of performing arts in Phoenix, the Herberger Theater Center is home to various resident and visiting companies, including: Arizona Theatre Company, Center Dance Ensemble, iTheatre Collaborative, Arizona Opera, Childsplay Theatre, Arizona Broadway Theatre, and Valley Youth Theatre.

The variety of performances and theater troupes and it’s place in the historic revitalization efforts of downtown Phoenix make a visit to the Herberger a great way to enjoy a performing arts experience unique to the Valley of the Sun.

Phoenix Art Museum
As the largest art museum in the Southwestern United States, the Phoenix Art Museum is a premier destination for world-class visual arts. The museum provides access to more than 19,000 works of American, Asian, European, Latin American, Western American, modern and contemporary art, and fashion design. Built in 1959, the Phoenix Art Museum has hosted more than 400 exhibitions and millions of visitors with the simple mission to be “a vibrant destination connecting people to great art from around the world to enrich their lives and communities.”

The museum provides a variety of exhibitions and public programs for visitors all year, including tours, lectures, films, special events and educational opportunities. Visitors can also enjoy photography exhibitions through the Museum’s landmark partnership with the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona.

Get your family out of the heat and visit one of these great cultural adventures near you. Each of these attractions provides you with an opportunity to keep cool and continue encouraging your kids’ interest in art and culture unique to our area. If you’re low on funds, check out a Culture Pass at your local library for free admission for two at participating arts and cultural institutions (available first come, first served). And be sure to check for more ideas for great places to get your kids out of the house to enjoy world-class arts and culture in the Valley of the Sun.