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 | Phoenix
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 | Glendale
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. Learn more about Glendale’s many attractions, free and otherwise, here.
ASU Art Museum | Tempe
Designed by the Albuquerque-based architect Antione Predock, the Nelson Fine Arts Center is a hub of creative energy. In addition to dance labs, theater labs, and the Galvin Playhouse, the Center is home to a three-story museum facility. The museum features year-round, seasonally rotated exhibits, an award winning store, and, best of all, free admission.
First Fridays | Phoenix
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.
Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum | Mesa
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.
Desert Botanical Garden | Phoenix
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.
Sahuaro Ranch Park Historical Area | Glendale
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.
Tempe History Museum | Tempe
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 | Scottsdale
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.
Ellie and Michael Ziegler Fiesta Bowl Museum | Scottsdale
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.