For many people, Arizona and the Grand Canyon are practically synonymous. Nobody would blame you if the first thing that comes to mind is the lacquer-blue Colorado river snaking between striated brown cliffs or the majestic desert view watch tower almost hovering over the South Rim. There are seemingly endless swaths of desert bathed in burnt sunset light. At 1,902 square miles, the Grand Canyon is difficult to ignore. Nature clearly dominates the cultural and scientific landscape.
But there’s more to science in Arizona than the aforementioned canyon. On the historic front, the once-a-planet-now-a-dwarf-planet Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh at the University of Arizona (unless you went to school in Arizona, you’re probably unaware of that fact). Even though the International Astronomical Union to vote in favor of demotion, it continues to be loved by stargazers and planet watchers far and wide.
When it comes to showcasing the wonders of the scientific world, you’d be hard pressed to find a proven quantity like the Arizona Science Center. Located in the Heritage and Science Park in downtown Phoenix, it’s close to Heritage Square, the oldest residential block in the city. Not only that, the center’s a stone’s throw from the eclectic offerings on offer in the picturesque area. Art galleries – check. Top-notch eateries – check. Coffee houses – check. All sorts of shopping possibilities – check check check.
You get the picture.
The science center features a carefully crafted mix of permanent and temporary exhibits that run the gamut from serious to hilarious. Regardless of tone, all of the installations in the Center are informative.
“We’re here to inspire, educate, engage, curious minds through science,” says Sari Custer, Chief of Science and Curiosity at the Arizona Science Center. “Guests experience the exhibits we have and get hands on with the science. We have seven permanent galleries over four floors, ranging in topics from Arizona homebuilding to biology, human biology and anatomy the brain, physics, or science, sustainability, digital technology.”
When your body needs refueling before or after a whirlwind tour of the Arizona Science Center.
Cocina Madrigal. Authentic Mexican food in the heart of Phoenix. Cited by numerous publications as one of the top places to eat locally and nationally. According to the Phoenix New Times, “For his green chile enchiladas, the Mexico City-born chef gives pork the slow-and-low barbacoa treatment. The pork is soft, yielding, and smothered in green chile with the same feel-good molten qualities of the pork itself. Sauce blankets the modest-size corn tortillas neatly, spilling a little onto the beans on one flank, the pico-topped rice on the other.
Bobby Q. Voted best fried chicken in all of Arizona. Various menus offer handcrafted drinks, buffet options, full service dinners. They even have a full gluten-free menu. BBQ and steaks at affordable prices. Can’t miss.
When you’re ready to recharge after a fun day at the Arizona Science Center.
Spring Hill Suites Phoenix Downtown. Affordable option without sacrificing quality. Save some money and spend it around town. Great location. Tripadvisor review: “It was a great bang for my buck! The rooms were updated, clean and spacious. I appreciated the mini kitchenette space, desk area, mini living room and 2 TV’s. Plus the free take away breakfast was a bonus that included hot and cold options. The front desk also felt safe with plexi glass and mandatory mask wearing (however I was disappointed to see some guests not adhering to their recommendations). They also had 2 disposable disinfecting wipes in the room which was nice to see because I always bring my own. This was a quick overnight stay but very convenient to downtown with free, easy parking.”
Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix. Upscale. Located in Downtown Phoenix. Sleek and stylish. Tripadvisor review: “Very fun, cool rooftop pool and bar. Great space, with two hip, comfortable, spacious sitting areas. Fantastic location across the street from Footprint Arena and Chase Field, and steps to the Cityscape area with its bars and restaurants. Very attentive, friendly staff. The Blue Hound restaurant off the lobby is an upscale restaurant in an awesome space, with good service and creative food choices.”
Their permanent exhibits range from biology to physics and engineering and are housed in the Steele Foundation Gallery. Wandering around the open floor, you encounter exhibits like “All About Me” which explains how the human body functions. “The Flight Zone” demonstrates the aerodynamics that makes commercial flight possible. Directly across from there, the Dorrance Planetarium invites visitors to shift their attention from the terrestrial to the celestial.
When it comes to fan favorites, however, size doesn’t always matter.
“We have our bed of nails which seems like you shouldn’t be able to lay on it, but people get to experience what it’s like to lay on a bed of nails and have a physics lesson at the same time. That’s extremely popular,” Custer says. “Our burping farting stomach slide where you learn about digestion, always gets a good laugh. It’s also a key staple of what guests want to see and interact with.”
Weather is also a popular topic at the Center. The Forces of Nature Gallery boasts an immersive theater where you can stand on a platform and get to experience different types of weather. Natural disaster themes also garner interest from visitors.
While it may seem like a lot is catered to the younger age groups, that’s not entirely the case at the Arizona Science Center. There’s actually some really fun activities available to adults which offer entirely different experiences.
“Science with a Twist is our adults program. We also have had 21 and over nights where we only allow adults to come in and enjoy the science center with an adult beverage,” says Custer. “There are other special events that we’ve had where adults can come and enjoy the center without other folks around or with a reduced audience and give them a chance to explore, have a drink, have something to eat. Sometimes the topics can be slightly more adult as well.”
More recently, the Arizona Science Center explored Halloween through the lens of science. Witches cauldrons bubbling over thanks to dry ice and electricity induced glowing pickles were just some of the Spooky Science on offer.
Currently, their temporary exhibit, Build It (Test It, Tinker It) offers some hands-on construction opportunities for the architect/engineer in all of us. According to their website,
Walkthrough the giant cardboard castle into a world that’s waiting to be built with nothing but your wild imagination and engineering skills. Practice the principles of innovating, designing, and constructing at this engaging exhibition. From buildings to bridges (and everything in between), Guests will be able to create their own unique experience. Build the ultimate cardboard fort, design sturdy bridges, or even create your dream house—it’s completely up to you and your wild imagination!
While there’s a slim chance we may be biased, one of the best ways of spending an afternoon out of the sun is definitely digging into some science. If you’re visiting Phoenix, the Arizona Science Center is a sure bet.
Tickets for “Build It (Test It, Tinker It)” are on sale until January 17, 2022. For more information about the Arizona Science Center and everything it has to offer, visit their website. You can also follow them on Twitter @azsciencecenter.
Build It (Test It, Tinker It) Images compliments of the Arizona Science Center.