10 attractions for big-time fun with no wallet required | By Teresa Bitler
Many of Greater Phoenix’s best museums and attractions offer free admission, or days when admission costs are waived. Here is just a short list of ones you won’t want to miss.
Arizona Capitol Museum
Located in the original state capitol building in downtown Phoenix, this museum traces Arizona history from Territorial times to present day. Popular exhibits include artifacts from the USS Arizona and a reproduction of the first governor’s office. (Read about the unusual resting place of the state’s first governor in “What We’re Loving Now” in our fall issue.) Admission is free; donations appreciated.
Cerreta Candy Company
The candy-making Cerreta family offers free 30-minute tours of their production process, Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Reservations aren’t necessary to see how chocolates, taffy, and even sugar-free candies are made in this Glendale shop, and you may even score a few samples.
Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum
Always free, this museum at the Mesa Arts Center showcases the works of renowned contemporary artists in its five galleries, including an experimental exhibition space called the Project Room. Visit on Wednesday at 1 p.m. for a free docent-led tour.
Two of the metro area’s most popular museums—the Phoenix Art Museum and the Heard Museum—offer free admission in conjunction with the Downtown Phoenix First Fridays art walk the first Friday of each month. In addition to opening their galleries for the evening, the museums also offer live music, lectures, food and drink, and other activities.
Desert Botanical Garden
Most days, general admission to this 140-acre botanical garden at the Phoenix-Tempe border is $24.95, but you can get in for free on the second Tuesday of every month to see more than 50,000 plants—including 400 rare, threatened, or endangered species—displayed along five thematic trails. Garden hours are seasonal, so check before you go.
Rawhide at Wild Horse Pass
There’s no charge to stroll amid the costumed cowboys and gunslingers on the dusty streets of this replica 1880s town or to browse its specialty shops. However, some activities, such as panning for gold, taking aim at the shooting gallery, and watching the gunfight at the Six Gun Theater, require a ticket.
Tempe History Museum
One of Greater Phoenix’s best small museums, the Tempe History Museum tells the city’s story from pioneer days and the founding of Arizona State University to its recent history. Kids love dressing up in period clothing, sitting on a police motorcycle, and climbing on a 1920s produce truck. Admission is always free.
McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
This 30-acre park features an exact 5:12 reproduction of a Colorado narrow gauge railroad, plus an antique carousel, historic railroad cars, and two play areas. Although there’s a charge to ride the train and carousel, playing in the park and viewing the trains displayed outside are free.
Sahuaro Ranch Park Historical Area
Built between 1891 and 1895, this 17-acre ranch in the heart of Glendale is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is free to visit. Watch for peacocks roaming the lawn as you tour the barnyard and rose garden. Free tours of the main house are available seasonally on Friday and Saturday.
Ellie and Michael Ziegler Fiesta Bowl Museum
College football fans will thrill at this free museum in Scottsdale celebrating the Fiesta Bowl events and games. On display are Fiesta Bowl teams’ helmets and uniforms, photographs, and award trophies, including the Heisman.