Bringing the kiddos for a summer stay in Arizona is cooler than you think. Many museums have child-centric activities, refreshing air conditioning and opportunities to play. Plus, adults can join in the fun, too.

Younger Crowd

“Touch everything” is the rule at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. Build forts, ride a toddler car or tricycle, shop at the market, paint a masterpiece, get lost in the foam noodle forest and race cars and balls.

Wee World at the Children’s Museum Tucson offers climbing and sliding fun, a carrot car to sit in and mirrors for gazing. School-aged kids can float balls on air, build a fort or a rocket, make sparks, look up a giant nose, shop for groceries, and sit on a police motorcycle with buttons for wailing sirens and flashing lights.

The Children’s Museum Oro Valley caters to youngsters up to five years old. Visitors can climb, slide, crawl, read and pretend to be a farmer, grocer or artist.

Artville at the i.d.e.a. Museum in Mesa lets preschoolers play cook, gardener and artist with costumes, a light pixel wall and puppets. For all ages, Rigamajigs, blocks, Legos, computers and recycled material encourage building and creating.

Older Crowd

Games and puzzles at the Flandrau Science Center on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson reveal secrets of mathematics, the planets and marine biology. After a renovation, the popular planetarium will open in September.

An underground attraction in Sahuarita preserves the only Titan II nuclear missile site of the Cold War. The Titan Missile Museum tour features the rocket in a silo, work spaces and crew quarters. Lucky youngsters can simulate a missile launch, complete with bells and lights. 

NASA buffs can visit the Challenger Space Center Arizona in Peoria to participate in a simulated space mission, learn about light and see U.S. mission patches and other pieces from space flight.

Mounted animals populate the International Wildlife Museum in Tucson. Visitors can touch a bear, alligator or musk ox. Walk under the giraffe and through a nocturnal desert. Closely examine horns, skulls, fur and insects and see animals in dioramas.

Fun for All Ages

Fossils, dinosaurs and ancient artifacts fill Mesa’s Arizona Museum of Natural History. A noisy flash flood simulation uses real water. The Dino Zone features a dinosaur to sit on and a log slide. 

Dozens of activities fill the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix. A few examples: lie on a bed of nails, walk through a “working” stomach, create digital art, launch a paper airplane and ride a skycycle, pulley chair and wheelchair racer.

Visitors can hear and see performances of instruments through history and from around the world on display at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. The artist gallery includes exhibits on pop stars Taylor Swift and Maroon 5. Percussion and string instruments allow visitors to make their own music.

Sea Life Arizona in Tempe reveals the earth’s watery realms with creature-filled aquariums. Touch a sea star, hermit crab and sea urchin. Walk the ocean tube through a tank or pop into an underwater dome for a close look.

Get close enough to touch hundreds of aircraft at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson. Kids can climb into a control tower model or sit in the cockpit of a few planes. Soaring Saturdays activities include building model planes and experimenting with rockets.

The unusual art collection that is The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures in Tucson present homes, towns and fantastical places created in miniature. Some exhibits include buttons to activate sounds. Regularly scheduled kids programs include story time, arts and crafts.