Whenever my kids have a half day of school, I try to come up with a fun afternoon adventure to make the day extra special. This time I thought we’d go to the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Scottsdale. None of the kids had ever been and I figured that it wouldn’t be too busy on a random Thursday afternoon. Turns out it was the perfect choice; my kids still talk about it more than a month later.
I think I’ve been to the MIM three times now, and every time I’m blown away by the sheer scope of it. I’d never taken children before, so that added an extra challenge.
See, here’s how the MIM works:
- Upon purchasing your ticket (see the bottom of this post of admission info) you are given a headset + the connected box, which easily slips onto a pocket or belt loop.
- Nearly all the displays within the museum have actual instruments, regalia + other relevant artifacts, and a small video screen with performers playing on short loops.
- Exhibits are categorized primarily by geography, and by music style or chronology within each region. So the North America section contains a whole heap of genres, from folk to rock to hip hop and more, and you can listen to samples of each as you move through the exhibit.
- As you approach a display, your box will automatically connect to the video being played so you can hear the audio. You can adjust your own volume. This allows for multiple kinds of music to play in close proximity to each other without being cacophonous for visitors.
It’s such a unique museum experience!
We visit museums often, so my kids are familiar with how to behave there. They know not to touch things, to be quiet and respectful of other visitors, and to take their time looking at whatever interests them. They don’t, however, wear headphones very often. It took some adjusting, but once my girls figured out how they worked, they could move through the exhibits and find music that interested them without much help from me.
My two-and-a-half-year-old got pretty frustrated with his headphones, though. When I could convince him to wear them, he was entranced by all the music he could listen to and would dance happily. When he eventually pulled them off again, he was still pretty happy to look at all the pretty colors and interesting designs of the instruments, but it took more effort to keep him engaged.
After exploring the global exhibits upstairs for well over an hour, we can downstairs to play in the hands-on exhibit for a while. That was a welcome change for my younger two; my seven-year-old was disappointed that we rushed through the last of the upstairs stuff and wanted to go back. The little ones were pretty maxed out, though, so we skipped the special exhibits.
So while all three of my kids enjoyed our time there, I’d say the MIM is definitely better suited to older kids…probably 6 or 7 and up. And part of that is just because there is SO MUCH to see. It takes time to see everything, and little ones get bored faster.
Speaking from past experience, if you don’t have kids in tow, the MIM makes for an unusual but super fun day date. There’s a cafe on site, and it’s located not too far from tons of restaurant options.
All told, it’s well worth the 45 minute drive from our part of town. I hope to go back again soon!
Tips for Visiting MIM:
- Location: just south of loop 101 at Mayo Blvd and Tatum Blvd
- Hours: daily from 9AM to 5PM, closed on Thanksgiving but open 10-5 on Christmas Day
- Admission: $20 for adults, $15 ages 13-19, $10 ages 4-12, free for 3 + under. Parking is free. Two-day passes and memberships are available. See the MIM website for details.
- Plan to spend a minimum of two hours exploring. Don’t rush yourself, but keep in mind that there’s probably WAY more to see than you expect…the galleries just keep on going!
- Weekday mornings tend to be busiest because of school field trips.
- The entire museum is wheelchair and stroller accessible. We took a sit-and-stand stroller and had no trouble moving through the galleries while leaving room for other visitors.
- The MIM hosts lots of concerts and other events. One time we went, a fashion show was being set up as we left around closing. It’s a gorgeous venue, so I highly recommend checking their calendar for more reasons to visit.