Gilbert and the towns that surround it are chock full of inspiring history, and you don’t have to stock your home with history books to enjoy it. Whether your family is interested in learning more about local history, culture, or architecture, you’ll find plenty of sites to explore close to home. From historical sites to museums and beyond, the area in and around Gilbert has it all.
Not sure where to start when you want to learn more about local history? Crème de la Crème of Gilbert has you covered. We’ve put together this list of some of our favorite museums and other sites for you to explore with the kids the next time you want to plan a fun and educational outing in the area.
Gilbert Historical Museum
“silhouette of child sitting behind tree during sunset” used with permission via Unsplash by Aaron Burden
Looking to explore history beyond the classroom with your kids? You don’t have to travel far to learn about local history with your family. Just visit the Gilbert Historical Museum, located within HD SOUTH at the vibrant Gilbert Heritage District’s southern end.
The museum makes the perfect way to cap off a fun day in the Heritage District with some learning. The HD SOUTH building was home to Gilbert Elementary School’s original building in 1913, and it’s the only building in Gilbert that sits on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum itself has been a fixture in the community since 1982.
A visit here lets the whole family explore our hometown’s history. The museum chronicles Gilbert’s past and present while imagining the future, displaying a repository of artifacts that offer a unique glimpse into what it means to be from Gilbert. Check out newly remodeled exhibits throughout the museum, and explore the courtyard with authentic farm equipment. Some of that equipment even dates back to the earliest days of the town.
You can visit the museum on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission costs $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $3 for kids between the ages of 5 and 12 years old. Kids under 5 years old can enter the museum for free.
Mesa Historical Museum
If your kids are in the mood to explore another museum after visiting the Gilbert Historical Museum, you’ll want to add the nearby Mesa Historical Museum to your list of places to check out. Originally, the museum sat in the old City Hall building in Mesa’s downtown. That site today houses the Arizona Museum of Natural History, which focuses on the region’s natural history.
The Mesa Historical Museum now operates out of the original Lehi School building, exploring and preserving the heritage of the region. This museum first opened to the public in 1987. You’ll find a range of permanent exhibitions, exploring everything from early Mesa history to baseball’s spring training in Mesa to the artwork of Karen Kuykendall and beyond.
You can visit the Mesa Historical Museum Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission costs $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and military personnel, and $4 for youth between the ages of 6 and 17. Members and children 5 years old and under can enjoy free admission.
Arizona Museum of Natural History
You’ll also have a chance to visit the Arizona Museum of Natural History while you’re in Mesa. This museum is sure to delight the kids thanks to roaring dinosaurs and other interactive experiences, and it’s also the place to go to get another look into local history. The Arizona Museum of Natural History interprets and preserves the record of the natural world, promoting an understanding and respect of the Southwest and how we can understand the area in a global context. In other words, this museum provides the perfect complement to other historical sites close to home.
So, what can you expect when you visit this museum? Start by stepping way, way back in time to 75,000,000 B.C. in an immerse gallery taking a look at what Arizona was like millions of years ago. Huge volcanoes and dinosaurs laid the foundation for the copper-rich state we live in today. You also won’t want to miss Dinosaur Mountain, complete with dinos, animals, and a real-life flash flood, then dig for fossils in the Paleo Dig Pit. This museum also offers unique insight into the cultures in the ancient Americas.
Whether you’re interested in archeology, paleontology, or just want an insightful look into local history, you’ll want to plan a visit here. Visit Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission costs $13 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for students with ID, $7 for kids between 3 and 12, and $2 for EBT cardholders. Museum members and kids 2 and younger can enter for free.
You’ll find the Goodyear-Ocotillo Cemetery in Chandler. The small plot of land hidden within Fulton Ranch dates back to 1916, when the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio, designated it as a cemetery. Goodyear owned and farmed the surrounding land from 1916 up until 1943, and workers and their families are buried here, including Mexican and Yaqui laborers.
The plaque at the cemetery entrance explains how this land became the birthplace of commercial cotton in the state. This labor laid the foundation for agriculture in the southeast Valley. Find the cemetery to the northwest of Arizona Avenue and Chandler Heights, west of Fulton Elementary School.
Gain another perspective of local history by visiting the Eisendrath House in Tempe. This historic house venue was restored by the City of Tempe and the Rio Salado Foundation. The majestic adobe home creates an impressive sight in the pristine Sonoran desert, offering a place to explore a two-story Pueblo Revival Style structure and period furniture along with educational panels that interpret its history. You can learn about builder Rose Eisendrath and Arizona architect Robert Thomas Evans as well as the overall importance of adobe revival in the 1930s and 1940s.
Docent-led tours are available by appointment. You can typically schedule tours on Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.There you have it, Crème de la Crème of Gilbert’s list of some amazing historical sites to explore close to home. Did we miss a local place you think every area family should visit? Let us know so we can add it!