Looking for places to explore with your family that are not only fun, but also educational? You’ll have a wealth of places you can visit in or just a short trip from Mesa. Whether your kids are into reading, science, or interactive play, there are so many must-visit destinations close to home.

If you’re struggling to identify cool places your family will love, though, planning an outing can feel more stressful than it needs to. So, Crème de la Crème of Mesa decided to take the guesswork out of finding cool educational destinations to explore! This list will have you inspired to keep learning.

Arizona Museum of Natural History

Mesa is home to the Arizona Museum of Natural History, so you can easily plan a fun and educational day with the whole family whenever you’re in the mood. Kiddos are sure to find the array of exhibits here enthralling. You can’t go wrong by checking out Dinosaur Mountain, where prehistoric dinos and modern-day mammals come to life. Every 23 minutes or so, the mountain even features a flash flood with water cascading down the three stories. Then there’s Dinosaur Hall, filled with towering examples of various types of dinosaurs.

While getting up close and personal with dinosaurs makes this museum a surefire favorite for kids, there’s also a ton of other exhibits you’ll want to explore together. The museum features collections on everything from archeology to art, ethnology to geology, and beyond. Together with the Southwest Archeology Team, the Arizona Museum of Natural History has conducted many excavations and studied the Hohokam, a unique group living in the ancient Salt River Valley. The Hohokam was the only society in North America to rely on irrigation agriculture, and learning more is sure to inspire the whole family.

The museum is open on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Make sure you purchase timed tickets in advance, as timed tickets are required and the tickets do often sell out.

Book Gallery

A child reads a poem at a book gallery in Mesa, AZ

person reading book” used with permission via Unsplash by anniespratt

Looking to pick up new reading material or find a cool, educational gift for someone you love? Then it’s time to stop by Book Gallery, a unique bookstore located right here in Mesa.

This downtown spot boasts a comfortable environment complete with antique and modern oak bookcases. You’ll have lots of room to walk around checking out the books and vintage and collectible bookends, not to mention access to knowledgeable staff that can help with your reading picks. If you have book lovers in your brood, this is one Mesa location you absolutely have to visit.

Arizona Science Center

Make the short trip into Phoenix to pay a visit to the Arizona Science Center. This amazing museum seeks to inspire, educate, and engage curious museum-goers through a range of exhibits focused on science, making it the perfect place to go when you’re in the mood for learning beyond the classroom.

First up on your list of things to check out when you visit this museum? Dorrance Planetarium, one of the largest and most technologically advanced planetariums in the whole country. You can enjoy immersive experiences sure to spark curiosity about the sky and beyond. The museum also features a range of permanent exhibitions, many designed especially with kids in mind. From the hands-on Get Charged Up exhibit to the immersion theater in the Forces of Nature exhibit that lets you feel what it’s like to be in tornados, volcanic eruptions, and more, there’s truly something for everyone here.

You’ll need to purchase timed tickets in advance of your visit, and you can choose from self-guided or guided experiences when you do. This museum is open Wednesday through Monday, from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Arizona Worm Farm

Phoenix is also home to Arizona Worm Farm, a family-owned, sustainable farm using insects to turn waste into produce, gardening products, and vegetable starts. The circular process helps divert waste from landfills and tackle climate change, making this the perfect place to visit if your kids are interested in helping the environment — or learning more about crawly critters!

The team here is on hand to help Southwest gardeners, so you can learn more about carbon capture in soil, regenerative agriculture, and waste reduction techniques. You can take a tour of this unique farm Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Kids are sure to love seeing how they raise worms, grow vegetables, and transform garbage into food. Oh, and visitors can also touch or even buy worms at the “worm orphanage,” which will certainly delight kids who like to get hands-on with their learning.

Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Children’s Museum of Phoenix is another great easy-to-access destination in Phoenix. If you’re looking for a learning experience tailored to young minds, this museum is the place to go. It offers various exhibits concentrating on the developing minds of kids between the ages of 0 and 5 years old, with an array of programs focusing on early childhood education and getting ready for school.

Place for Threes & Younger is a play space created for kids 3 years old and below, and it makes the ideal, sun-lit spot to bond with your young kids as they socialize and meet new friends. The museum also offers Baby Zones in exhibits throughout the museum to make sure families with the youngest visitors can spend time together while having space to explore. Then there’s Adventure Play, an environment that gets kids learning through play and movement.

That’s just the start of the amazing, kid-friendly opportunities the Children’s Museum of Phoenix offers, so you’ll likely want to keep coming back for more fun and learning with the kids! This museum also requires advanced reservations, so book in advance and then plan your trip.

That wraps up Crème de la Crème of Mesa’s list of nearby destinations that are equal parts cool and educational. Does your family love to learn at a place we didn’t include? Let us know so we can add your go-to spot to our list!