These Are The 24 Museums In Tucson

Beautiful Downtown Tucson Arizona

Museums can be educational, fun, and unique destinations created for niche topics and commemorating historical events. Tucson, Arizona is a great place to visit some of the country’s best museums on the most interesting topics. Most of the museums are appropriate for all ages, and family-friendly.

Let’s take a closer look at the two dozen museums in Tucson, and see which one grabs your attention.

Tucson And Its Museums

Southern Arizona is rich in history, and Tucson is at the center of it all. Located in the Sonoran Desert, Tucson experiences a dry climate. However, the mountain ranges that surround the city do experience snow in the winter. 

The desert/mountain combo is home to many wild animals and a wide variety of wild museums. From war history to neon signs, there is something for everyone at Tucson museums.

Airplane Boneyard 

The Airplane Boneyard in Tucson is the largest in the world and the only one that is open to the public. The Airplane Boneyard is located on Davis-Monthan Airforce Base and has strict policies for visitors.

If you are planning to take a trip to see the Boneyard, you will need to make a reservation in advance. You must make your reservation 10 days prior to your visit. However, a security clearance is needed for all members of your party, so you should begin the process a month in advance. 

Admission is only $10, and includes a tour of the Boneyard which is an informational bus ride through the rows of old planes. If you are not able to secure a tour, the Boneyard is visible from the public road that runs alongside a chain link fence which you can see the planes through. 

Tucson’s weather is far from perfect. However, Tucson is an ideal Boneyard location due to its low humidity levels which help to keep rust at bay.

Retired airplanes Tucson Arizona

Pima Air and Space Museum

Pima is one of the world’s largest non-government funded aerospace museums, as they have over 400 historic aircraft on display. The Pima Air and Space Museum is an exciting museum with the option to participate in interactive air and space activities.

The museum covers 80 acres, and can barely be seen all in one day. It is recommended to purchase the two day pass, if you want to get the full Pima Air and Space Museum experience. Wonderful for any age, yet it can be too much to walk for some.

Take the local’s advice, and save this museum for any season besides summer. Since most of the museum is outdoors, with no shade cover, the intense Tucson sun can be overwhelming.

Tickets are $13-$17, and include the next museum on the list, as well. Two for the price of one!

390th Memorial Museum

The 390th Memorial Museum is on the same property, and included in the entrance fee of the Pima Air and Space Museum.

This memorial museum is focused on and dedicated to the 390th Bombardment group. The museum has displays of uniforms, equipment, and recorded stories from the war veterans of World War 2. These Veterans are known as the “Bomber Boys.”

Fort Lowell Museum

This is a museum that ranks especially high with war history buffs. Fort Lowell was an Army base from 1873-1891. 

Ruins of old buildings still stand on the site. Yet, there are replicas of the buildings which currently house the museum and its artifacts. Old tools, weapons, uniforms, and other items are on display

Admission is a small donation of $4 per person, and extra activities like candle making are available for just $3. Run by the Arizona Historical Society, this museum is small but rich in history, and worth the trip. Guests usually spend about 90 minutes here.

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area Museum

Unfortunately parts of the Sabino Canyon, and over 100,000 acres of surrounding area have been consumed by the Big Horn fire that burned for a month in the summer of 2020. Within the limits of Coronado National Forest is Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, and they have a small, yet surprisingly informational museum.

Other than getting an education at the museum, there is also a shuttle ride through the canyon, 30 miles of walking trails, and a book store. There is tons of fun to be had at Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, and also tons of wildlife. Be aware of your surroundings as bobcats, and other creatures crawl about the desert. 

General admission fee to enter the park is $8, and the museum is included in that price. However, if you wish to ride the shuttle through the canyon (which is definitely recommended) will be an additional fee.

Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum 

Considered the best museum in the area and tucked up in the Catalina Foothills the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum has the breathtaking backdrop of the mountains in the distance. It is the largest museum in Southern Arizona, and arguably one of the best things to do in the city of Tucson.

Covering almost 100 acres the Arizona-Sonoran is like a zoo, a museum, and a park all rolled into one. There is  a cool variety of live local wildlife including mountain lions and roadrunners. Of course there are rattlesnakes, scorpions, and tarantulas, too. Oh, my!

If you want to stretch your legs and get some exercise, you can take a hike through the desert trails that are full of saguaro and other cacti, making it picturesque, especially at sunset. There are also information plaques along the trails to tell you about the different plants that are growing out there, and the wildlife that inhabits the area.

Since the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum has so much to offer, the admission price is a bit higher than the rest of museums on our list. General admission is $23.95, and only $19.95 if you are a local resident with proof of address. 

Guests often spend several hours at the museum. Staying hydrated is encouraged, as most of the museum is outdoors, and Tucson can be extra hot/dry, especially in the summer.

Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson

Journey into the Japanese spirit of Tucson at this lovely garden & museum. There is also an art gallery, a gift shop, and classes offered here.

If you’re looking for a relaxing way to spend the afternoon, the Yume is the perfect place. The gardens are tranquil, and filled with Japanese sculptures, and vibrant koi ponds.

The gardens are only open to the public on weekends, yet there are workshops offered throughout the entire week. General admission tickets are $13.50 for adults, kids under 3 are free. Special events like an evening with the floating lanterns may be a different price.

Find out more on Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson.

International Wildlife Museum

Tucson continues its pleasant surprises with this wildlife museum. Enjoy a self guided tour, or kick it up by embarking on a scavenger hunt through the museum. There are over 400 permanent species from all around the world on display. So, there’s plenty of cool things to check out.

Learn more about what we can do to help our planet, and the other living beings on it. Conservation exhibits are presented on land, and water animals of all kinds.

Take a break from walking around the museum, and sit to watch one of the daily short films shown in the Wildlife Theater. Films are included in the admission price, and played every hour throughout the day.

Admission prices are very reasonable at just $7 for adults, and $3 for children. Discounts are given to seniors, veterans, and large groups like class field trips.

Presidio San Agustin Del Tucson Museum

This museum is a recreation of the presidio (or military base) that was built in 1775, and what became the founding structure of the city of Tucson. Most of the structures are new, yet there are remains of the old presidio that visitors can see.

To enhance the historic experience, the museum’s employees are dressed in costumes from that period, and they also perform reenactments, and accents. The staff offers walking tours of the museum. 

Every second Saturday of the month is Living History day at Presidio San Agustin Del Tucson Museum. Visitors get to see workers dressed in period clothes, firing muskets, and running military drills.

Renting the museum is available for weddings, birthdays, or events of other kinds. Admission is only $5, and $1 for children aged 6-13. Metered street parking is available surrounding the museum, and free on the weekends.

Tucson Museum of Art 

Collections of the Tucson Museum of Art vary from all across the globe, plus monthly features of other exhibits. One permanent series is Latin-American folk art, with a Latin influence on some of the other exhibits. 

Remember that Tucson is very close to the Mexico border, and has a huge Latin influence in the area. 

This art museum is located within a historic block of Tucson. It is kind of a big deal, and is often referred to as the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block. The block is full of the oldest homes in the city, some of which have been a variety of different shops over the years.

Every first Thursday of the month is free admission at the Tucson Museum of Art. The rest of the month admission is $8.

Tucson Desert Art Museum

This museum connects the city with the Native American Tucsonians that left behind the artifacts that you will find on display at the Desert Museum. 

One of the museum’s permanent exhibits is the Navajo textiles with story telling weavings. Another permanent exhibit at the Desert Art Museum is on Native American muralists. And, don’t miss the Desert Hollywood exhibit that shows local desert landscapes that have been used in Hollywood films for decades. 

Admission for adults is $10 per person, with a discount for students, seniors, and kids. Become a member of the Tucson Desert Art Museum to receive free admission. Members help to support the museum through donations and volunteering.

Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson 

The MOCA Tucson is located in an old Tucson fire station where contemporary art from around the world is on display. The building itself is on ancestral lands of the Tohono O’odham people.

One thing is for sure, the Museum of Contemporary Art can never be described as boring. The MOCA was created by artists and is a favorite of the locals of Tucson.The MOCA is always looking for volunteers.

There is plenty of metered street parking near the museum. However, the preferred mode of transportation to the MOCA Tucson is by bicycle. You will notice the plethora of bike racks around that you can chain your ride up securely before enjoying an afternoon at the museum. Admission is $3-$5.

Ignite Sign Art Museum

How cool are neon lights? How does a museum full of antique neon signs sound? Ignite Sign Art Museum in Tucson restores, and displays them in addition to some that have not yet been restored.

Throughout Tucson there are a bunch of classic original neon signs at places like the old hotels on the Miracle Mile, and the big green neon cactus that is an iconic symbol of Tucson that Jude Cook (the museum’s owner and founder) services to keep them shining bright.

Jude’s collection began with a couple of small neon signs, but quickly grew into something much bigger, and brighter.The educational value of the museum comes from the owner’s desire to raise awareness on how signs influence our daily lives, and the importance of signs. 

If you didn’t already guess, Jude owned and operated a sign business for over 40 years before opening the museum. He is obviously very passionate about the subject, and hopes that you will share in his enthusiasm. 

Tickets are $12 for general admission, $10 seniors/military, and $8 for kids 6-17, under 6 are free.

Arizona State Museum

Established in 1893, the Arizona State Museum is the oldest and the largest anthropological research museum in the region. This museum is part of the University of Arizona campus. 

The Arizona State Museum has rotating exhibits, and an extensive library and archives. Due to its huge anthropological department, the museum has an extensive collection with over 300,000,000 pieces in it. 

Amongst the museum’s astounding collection are some 7,000 year old baskets, a collection of journals, and many many other items. Zoo archaeology is also a major part of the Arizona State Museum with over 4,000 specimens including birds, fish, and mammals.

The Arizona State Museum is closed on all major holidays, as it is part of the state college and follows their schedule. Museum members, children under 18, Native Americans, and college students get free admission. All others pay $8, and senior citizens are $6.

Arizona History Museum 

Located close to the University of Arizona, traffic can be high in the area. The Arizona History Museum is great for all ages, and can accommodate large groups. Learn about a wide variety of topics on Arizona’s history.

One of the most popular exhibits on display at the Arizona History Museum is the Mining Hall. Tucson, and Southern Arizona continue to be huge mining areas. In this immersive exhibit, visitors can go down into a two story deep mine pit, to get a gist of what life was like for a miner in the 1800’s.

There is a dedication which is a permanent display at the Arizona History Museum, and that is a tribute to those that died in the tragic shooting in January of 2011(the one involving U.S. Representative Gabrielle Gifford). This tribute is touching, and holds a special place in the hearts of the locals, and family members of those involved.

Admission is $10 for adults, with discounts for seniors, students, and children.

Downtown History Museum 

This small museum in downtown Tucson is run by the Arizona Historical Society. Located in the Wells Fargo building in the heart of downtown Tucson. Historic artifacts, and exhibits showcasing local history are on display.

The downtown museum will give you a good taste of what Tucson once was like, and how it came to be what it is today. Information and pictures are presented on the businesses, people, cars and etc of historic Tucson. 

Don’t pass up all of the interactive stuff provided, that is the best part. Interactive activities for kids of all ages help to make the museum experience more interesting.

Admission is free, yet they do accept donations. The Downtown History Museum is family friendly, and usually takes about one hour to see, but can take several more if you want it to last longer, or have small children with you.

City of Tucson Arizona

Postal History Foundation

The post office and mail delivery is not something that we put much thought into on a daily basis, though it is quite important to our history, and our future. Learn more about stamps and the postal service at the Postal History Foundation in Tucson, AZ.

There is a library that you can visit, as well as educational classes offered, and a gift shop. Admission to this museum is free, but donations are appreciated. Visit the Postal History Foundation online to learn more.

Jewish History Museum

Tucson’s Jewish History Museum is located in the oldest Jewish synagogue in the state of Arizona. The synagogue was also the first to be built in the state back in 1910.

The museum presents the Holocaust through the eyes of 260 survivors that later became residents of Southern Arizona. The Holocaust survivors also describe their journey to America, and how they helped shape Tucson’s Jewish community into what it is today.

Surrounding the museum is a sculpture garden that you can walk through. The museum is a popular school field trip destination, yet is appropriate for adults, as well. General admission to the Jewish History Museum is $7. The museum is kept open by its members, and generous donations.

Southern Arizona Transportation Museum

A Southern Arizona Transportation Museum is a railway museum that appeals to train  enthusiasts, and history buffs of all ages. The renovated depot is always buzzing with different activities. 

Whether you have come to the museum just to look and learn, or you came to get more interactive with the experience, the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum is sure to please. Old trains are on display to check out, and plenty of historical facts about our country’s relationship with the railway systems is provided.

Admission to the museum is free, but donations are appreciated. There is a gift shop, and restaurant on site. Plus, this museum is conveniently located in a downtown area that you can further explore after your museum trip is over.

Franklin Auto Museum 

This museum is dedicated to the Franklin Automobile Company which created cars from 1902-1934. In that span of 32 years they built 150,000 cars that helped revolutionize the way we manufacture vehicles today.

Production of Franklin automobiles stopped in 1934 due to financial collapse after the Great Depression. 26 Franklin cars are on display at the Franklin Auto Museum, as well as an extensive collection of books, magazines, and other interesting memorabilia.

General admission to the museum is $10, and children under 12 are free. The Franklin Auto Museum is a step back in time that the entire family can enjoy.

Gadsden-Pacific Division Toy Train Operating Museum

What a nostalgic feeling toy trains can evoke, especially when there is a 6,000 sq ft museum dedicated to them that you can visit in Tucson. This museum’s mission is not only to showcase antique trains, and offer an education on them. 

The museum also strives to promote the future of toy trains. With a passion for model railroading, the museum started as a club of enthusiasts in 1980, eventually it grew into a place where the collections could be on display for the public. 

The Gadsen-Pacific Division Toy Train Operating Museum is appropriate for all ages, and is free admission. The museum runs on generous donations, and sales from their gift shop. 

Time Machine Museum of Miniatures

If you are a miniature enthusiast, or just someone looking for a unique museum, you will love what the Time Machine Museum of Miniatures has to offer. There are museum collections that date back to the 2930’s, and are always on display.

The museum also has exhibits that rotate through the seasons. Guests typically spend 1-2 hours admiring the intricate miniatures of buildings, monuments, cities, and so much more. You could spend all day there, if you have the time. General admission is $9.

Tucson Children’s Museum 

The Tucson Children’s Museum is a hands-on sensory and learning experience that is geared towards a younger crowd, and families. Though the museum is relatively small, it can take a few hours to get through if young children want to do all of the activities.

There are no age restrictions, yet the museum appeals to children 6 and under. An educational wonderland for growing minds, that entertains the big kids (adults), too. 

At the Tucson Children’s Museum kids can learn about fun subjects such as gravity, music, the human body, and even wander around the butterfly garden.

For a fun summer, the Tucson Children’s Museum offers a summer camp for kids. There is never a dull moment at the Children’s Museum. Admission is discounted on the third day of every month from $9 to $3.

Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium

Located on the campus of the University of Arizona, the Flandreau Science Center and Planetarium offers the public a chance to see the stars, and get a fun lesson on them at the same time.

Visit the planetarium theater for an out of this world 360 laser show experience. Admission is $16 with reduced rates for students and senior citizens.


Warning: Not museums. 

Though they technically do not belong in a list of museums, there are a few long running events that Tucson is famous for, and  worthy of a mention.

  • Tucson Gem And Mineral Show- Tucson holds the record for the oldest, and largest gem and mineral show in the world. The first year it was held in an elementary school auditorium. Since 1955 it has grown immensely. And, is now spread out over the city of Tucson. Admission to the three day event is free, and family friendly.
  • Tucson Rodeo- The Tucson rodeo has been put on for almost 100 years. Every year in February it kicks off with a grand parade through the town, and lasts 9 days.

Participants, and fans, come from all over the United States, and Canada to compete and spectate this spectacular series of events.Children are even given a few days off from school to attend this long running annual event.

There is a small local museum dedicated to the Tucson Rodeo Parade. Click here for details and ticket prices.

In Conclusion

Which of the museums is at the top of your list? Take your pick from the wide variety of museums in Tucson, Arizona. Get an education while having a ton of fun! Tucson is way more than just a desert.  Here’s another article you may enjoy if you’re visiting Tucson Top 10 – Fun Things to Do in Tucson.