If you’re a family that avoids museums on vacation, take note— Phoenix’ newest museum strikes a major chord with kids of all ages.
This architecturally stunning new building on 20 acres in Northern Phoenix hits plenty of high notes, but the most noteworthy element of the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) is its innovative use of new technology.
Every visitor gets a set of headphones. Okay, you say, you can find that at almost any museum. Not like this. Most museums require you repeatedly punch in a code to hear commentary about different paintings or displays—cumbersome for adults, confusing for kids. MIM has done the work for you. No special codes to type in— you just step in front of an instrument and the audio starts playing automatically on your headset. It makes for a much more relaxing and enjoyable museum experience.
With your headphones on, MIM curators know they have your full attention, and they make great use of it, bringing the sounds of the world right to you. The museum is home to over 12,000 instruments, categorized by nationality. You not only feel like you’re getting a music lesson, but a history and anthropology lesson as well.
There are so many instruments on display that you’ve never heard of, made of everything you can imagine— bones, hides, gourds, antlers. You name it and it seems someone’s tried to make music with it.
Who wouldn’t get a kick out of this massive organ we discovered in the Mechanical Music Gallery?
Although ethnomusicologists will have a field day here, you’ll find the heart of rock-n-roll is still beating as well. Eric Clapton and Paul Simon’s guitars are on display, as well as John Lennon’s piano and other rock-n-roll memorabilia.
Touch and Go
Thankfully our last stop was the Experience Gallery, where you’re invited to finally touch and play the instruments. You can pluck a harp, bang a gong, or get a charge out of a truly bizarre electronic instrument. I’d save this gallery for last so kids aren’t disappointed not being able to touch everything else.
I can’t sing the praises of the Musical Instrument Museum enough. I’d recommend it for kids over 5. My 3 year old daughter wanted to touch everything, which can be a problem, but my 11 and 13 year old boys had a great time.
The next time you’re in the Valley of the Sun, take a break from the heat and take note of the Musical Instrument Museum.
Admission price: Adults $15, kids $10, 5 and under free
Andrea Guthmann is a freelance journalist focusing on family travel. She spent many years as a writer/producer for WTTW-TV, the PBS station in Chicago. Here travel stories have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Parent and on-line travel sites.
A native Floridian, Andrea’s now a big (windy) city mom of 3, who range in age from tot to teen. After giving birth to two beautiful children she’s had the joy of becoming a mom again through adoption. She loves sailing Lake Michigan and visiting the world class museums and restaurants in her sweet home Chicago. Being a scenery starved city girl she loves escaping to the outdoors during vacations and is working hard to raise 3 happy campers.
Disclosure: The Musical Instrument Museum provided my family with tickets for review purposes, but the thoughts expressed are my own.