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Heard Museum in Phoenix: Showcasing the Best of American Indian Art

The Heard Museum in Phoenix is one of the most visited museums in the Valley of the Sun. Their exhibits focus on American Indian Art and its history. They feature everything ranging from as far back in history that can be traced up to newest and most contemporary works.

Both inside and out, you will see gorgeous jewelry, pottery, clothing, and other traditional art from several Native American Tribes.

Not only will you see the wonderful parts of Native peoples history, you will learn about the hardships that Native American children had to deal with including being forced to attend boarding schools, having their hair cut, and being forced to ignore own culture.

In addition to their permanent collection, you will also find two to three temporary exhibits on display at any given time.

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

Heard Museum Highlights

  • Open Tuesday - Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed on Monday
  • Features 12 exhibition galleries, plus special exhibits.
  • Free self-guided audio tours are available.
  • Features art from American Indians, and also quite a bit about their history and cultures.
  • Most special exhibits are included in the price of your admission ticket.
  • Masks are required throughout the museum during COVID.
  • To maintain social distancing, they have created a one-way path with arrows on the floor. Please follow this to ensure there is enough space between you and other museum guests.

Everything You Need to visit the Heard Museum

When is the Heard Museum open?

How much is admission? Do you need to book Heard Museum tickets in advance? What is the age for the senior discount

Are there any free days for admission? Is it free for Native Americans? Are there any other discounts

Where is it located? Is there parking around the museum and is there a cost? Can I get here on public transit

How long does it take to visit?

What are the must see exhibits or artwork? 

Is this good for children? What are the best exhibits for kids?

When is the restaurant open? Does the café serve beer or wine

When is the Heard Museum Indian Fair and Market? Do they have other events

Will they store my luggage for me during my visit? 

Is it ADA Accessible? Do they have wheelchairs available for rent? Are service dogs allowed?

What days do they do appraisals

What is the history of the Heard Museum? When did it first open? What are some fun facts?

Heard Museum Hours and Admissions

Outside the Heard Museum in Phoenix

The Heard Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They are closed every Monday.

Members can also visit between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

They are open New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. They close on the following holidays: Easter Sunday, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

Here are the current admission prices (subject to change at any time).

  • Adults: $20
  • Seniors (65+): $17
  • Students (18 + with ID): $9
  • Children (6 - 17): $9
  • Children 5 and Under: Free
  • American Indians (with tribal I.D.): Free

Do you need to book in advance? You are not required to book your tickets in advance.

You can either choose to book them in advance online or walk up to the museum on the day of your visit for your tickets. This gives you flexibility as you can plan ahead or just decide to show up anytime they are open.

Since senior discounts are available for anyone ages 65 and older. Make sure to have your ID to confirm your age.

Free Days & Other Discounts

Home of the Southwest People exhibit entry.

First Fridays

The Heard Museum offers free admission during First Fridays. These events take place on the first Friday of the month between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. This event does not run in March.

In addition to free entrance into the museum, this event also includes other activities such as live demonstrations, food, drinks, and more.

These are currently on hold as of September 2020. I will let you know when they plan to host these events again at the museum.

Free Entry with Tribal I.D.

All Native Americans get free entry with a valid tribal I.D. You can call ahead to secure your tickets or show your tribal I.D. at the door for entry. 

Other Discounts

Art in the Heard Museum

Here are a few additional ways to save on your admission to the Heard Museum.

AAA Card Members: Show you AAA card for $1 off. This is valid just on adult and senior admission tickets.

Act One Culture Pass: This is for locals only. You can check out an Act One Culture Pass at your Phoenix or Tucson library. It's available for all library cardholders. It offers free admission for two people. You cannot use this for entry during special events. You might also need to pay a fee for special exhibits.

North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) Association: The Heard Museum is part of the North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) Association. If you are a member of a reciprocal museum program, you will get free admission based on your membership. These tickets do not allow access to special events or exhibits.

Bank of America Museums on Us: This benefit is for anyone with a Bank of American or Merrill Lynch debit or credit card. They also accept Bank of America Corporation I.D.s. Show any of these at the door for one free general admission ticket on the first full weekend of the month (except March).

Blue Star Museum Discounts for Military Families: The Heard Museum also participates in the Blue Star Museum program which offers military members and their families free admissions between Memorial Day and Labor Day every year. 

Location, Parking, and Transit

Huge parking lot outside the Heard Museum in Phoenix

You will find the Heard Museum at 2301 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004. It's about two miles north of the heart of downtown Phoenix.

There is a large, dedicated parking lot for the museum right outside the entrance. There is no cost to park in their parking lot. In addition, you will also find plenty of handicap parking in their lot also with easy access to the Heard Museum entrance.

Public transit is another great option for you to easily get to the museum. The Encanto/Central Ave stop is right outside the entrance to the parking lot for the museum. It's about a 5-minute walk to the museum from this stop.

More Visiting Tips

Sonoran Desert Homeland Section in the Museum

I usually spend about two to three hours in this museum. There is so much to see and you will want to slowly work your way through the thousands of pieces on display.

They also have a number of wonderful information signs on the walls. They give you an overview of the exhibit you are about to enter. That way you can know more about either the tribe or the pieces on display before you view the exhibit.

Must See Exhibits

Away from Home exhibit with American Indian Stories about boarding schools.

If you are short on time, or just want to spend an hour here, these are just a few of the must see exhibits in the Heard Museum.

Art Fence: Indigenous Evolution, the art fence, is a reference to the Southwest and the fences built by the Native American people. It's a colorful work of art with materials often used by Native Americans for their fences. It offers an array of colors with both clay and glass mixed in. On one end, you will find darker colors and they will brighten up as you walk along the fence. It shows the colors of both the land and the sky.

You will find this piece just as you are entering the Native People in the Southwest exhibit.

Hopi Section in Native People in the Southwest: Walk through the Native People in the Southwest exhibit to the section dedicated to the Hopi people. Here you will find wonderful works of art including a large collection of Kachina (also known as Katsina) dolls on display. You will learn all about the role these dolls play in the Hopi culture and the Hopi Ceremonial Cycle.

Navajo Nation Section in Native People in the Southwest: Another wonderful section within the Native People in the Southwest exhibit is the Navajo Nation area. My favorite part about this area is the jewelry. Most pieces include turquoise, which holds quite a bit of significance to the Navajo people. Admire their jewelry and learn all about the importance of this mineral in their culture.

Away from Home, American Indian Boarding School Stories: The final exhibit that I recommend if you only have a short time to visit is Away from Home. This interactive exhibit includes photos, informational signs, and televisions that talk about the story of when American Indian children were forced to go to boarding schools.

You will hear stories in their own words. You will also see pictures of how they were treated, forced to cut their hair, give up their traditions, and other actions to make them fit into the white, Christian culture at the time. You will find this on the second floor of the Heard Museum.

It's informative and heartbreaking to see how they were taken from their homes and forced into a culture that was not their own. Most likely, you will end up spending about half of your time in this exhibit.

Children at the Heard Museum

You may be wondering if the Heard Museum is good for kids. It definitely is as it's a fantastic place to help them learn all about the Native American Indians that live in and around the Southwest. There is so much to see and experience about the culture, art, and how they lived, and continue to live, their way of life.

Children's Guide for the Heard Museum

The museum does a great job of keeping kids entertained also. The map that you see above is called the "Family Guide." It tells kids where to find all of the piece that will interest them.

It's set up as a sort of scavenger hunt. All of the objects on the map include some sort of animal. They will search for rock carvings, paintings, and other interesting pieces. The brochure tells them exactly where to find them and a small image of what it looks like. 

The Family Guide also includes a nice overview which tells them a little about each animal and the work of art near it. It will help them feel more engaged while in the Heard Museum and allow them to enjoy the magnificent works of art in their own way.

Make sure to pick up one of these guides as you enter the museum.

Heard Museum Dining Options

You will find two dining options at the Heard Museum.

You are allowed to go to either of them without buying a ticket to the Heard Museum.

Cafe Cantina Specials

The Courtyard Cafe

The Courtyard Café offers Southwestern inspired dishes. You will find everything from salads to sandwiches. You will also find some tasting entrees.

What's really cool about this café is that the menu is also inspired by one of their current exhibits. Their dishes feature many American Indian and locally sourced ingredients. The menu changes twice a year and some of their ongoing, popular dishes have been nationally recognized.

You can also grab a glass of wine or some beer with your meal.

You can either sit in their courtyard or in their indoor dining room. It is open from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

Coffee Cantina

More Specials at the Museum

The Coffee Cantina is a grab and go café that features a variety of options. You can enjoy a coffee or their special of the day. They also have smoothies, some tasty baked goods, or a glass of wine or beer. 

You can then either take it with you or enjoy it in their lovely, shaded courtyard. 

The picture above shows their special of the day during our last visit. On another board they were featuring their cocktail of the day, which was a Prickly Pear Margarita. YUM!!!!

They are open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on First Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Indian Fair & Market

The Indian Fair and Market is one of the biggest annual events at the Heard Museum.

Over three days in early March, you can check out handmade goods, enjoy artist demonstrations, and several cultural performances. You can also see the winners of the Best in Show Awards, watch the fashion show, and meet authors of American Indian related books.

All artists are required to prove both their American Indian heritage and tribal affiliation before they are approved to sell their goods at the Indian Fair and Market.

We love seeing everything it has to offer and that it's also one of the best ways to support the local Native American communities and people. If you happen to be in The Valley during the month of March, you definitely will want to go and see it.

Other Events at the Heard Museum

Here are just a few of their other events.

First Fridays: This is a monthly event that runs on the first Friday of the month from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. It includes activities, food, and entertainment. Everyone also receives free admission into the museum. This event does not run in March, which is when their annual Indian Fair & Market runs.

World Hoop Dance Contest: Held in March every year, this event features some of the top Hoop Dancers from both the U.S. and Canada. 

What is hoop dancing? It's a traditional dance in many Native cultures. Participants create their own dancing routines which can include up to 50 hoops. This type of dancing has been passed down from generation to generation and this contest selects the World Hoop Dance winner for the year. 

You will see more than 90 competitions within five different age groups. This two-day event features First Round Competition on the first day. Day two includes both the Second Round Competition as well as the Finals for all five age groups. 

American Indian Art & Artifacts Appraisal Day: Twice a year, the Heard Museum hosts a day where you can bring in your Native American pieces for appraisal. It's a great way to see how much those items are worth or get a new appraisal for those items that you know have increased in value.

They charge you for each piece they appraisal with a limit of 10 per person. There is a cost for each piece that you have appraised with Heard members saving $5 per item. The event runs every spring and fall. 

Other Events: Depending on the time of the year, you will also find some other fun events throughout the year including Yoga on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., annual holiday events, and more.

Luggage Storage

Are you at the beginning or end of your visit to Phoenix and need to bring your luggage with you?

The museum only allows you to visit with bags and backpacks that are smaller than 13" x 17". 

If your luggage or bags are larger than this, you are not allowed to bring them into the museum. However, you can use their free lockers. You are free to store anything in them during your visit. You can also store smaller bags here if you don't feel like carrying them with you during your visit.

ADA Accessibility at the Heard Museum

The Heard Museum is fully wheelchair accessible. The floors around the exhibits are flat and wide which easily allows for wheelchair access.

You can also use the elevator to access the exhibits on the second floor and lower levels. There are a couple of areas that are about a half floor below and all feature wheelchair ramps, so you can easily access those also. 

If you have any trouble finding the elevators, just ask the staff for assistance. The elevators are located in the back of the museum and can be a bit difficult to find. So, if you can't find them, the staff will show you where to find them.

If you need a wheelchair and did not bring one with you, the front desk does have some available and they are happy to loan them out to anyone that needs one. You might want to call ahead to make sure they aren't all in use before your visit to the museum.

At the admissions desk, you can also check out other devices to help you with your visit. They offer an Assisted Listening System and both audio and video transcripts. Just ask and they are happy to provide you with any of these helpful options. 

Are Service Dogs Allowed?

Yes, the Heard Museum does allow service dogs into their museum. They do not allow emotional support or any other animals into the museum.

What Days Do They Do Appraisals?

The Heard Museum does not do appraisals at the museum. However, they have two appraisal events each year as mention previously on this page. 

Once in the spring and once in the fall, you can bring up to 10 items for appraisal at their American Indian Art & Artifacts Appraisal Days. Knowledgeable Native art traders will examine your piece, or pieces, of art and give you an estimated value.

They charge by the piece, so make sure you only bring along the items that you really need to understand better or get a current value on.

History of the Heard Museum

Kachina Dolls in the Heard Museum

The Heard Museum was founded in 1929. Dwight and Maie Heard founded the museum to share their large collection of American Indian artifacts and art with the public. Dwight died shortly before the museum opened.

Maie continued to manage the facility until her death in 1951. At this point, the Board of Trustees made sure the museum would continue on so people could see it and everything it had to offer regarding Native American Indians.

During the 1950s, the museum grew significantly. In addition to adding staff, they also established the Heard Museum Auxiliary which created and assisted with educational programs about American Indian life, culture, and their art.

In order to help raise money for the museum, they started the Indian Fair and Market in 1958. This same year was when they started the shop and bookstore. Both of these endeavors continue to help support this popular Phoenix museum.

As more and more people found about this incredible historical art museum, the Heard Museum continued to expand. They added new space, more events to their calendar, and continued to increase their staff (both paid and volunteer). 

All of this combined effort helps maintain what is the best museum dedicated to American Indian arts, culture, and history in the world.

Fun Facts about the Heard Museum

Here are a few fun facts about the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

  • Covers 130,000 square feet of space including the galleries, classrooms, and performance spaces.

  • Current space is more than 8 times larger than the original museum.

  • HOME: Native People in the Southwest opened in 2011 after a $7.6 million expansion.

  • The museum used to operate two other branches, one called Heard Museum West in Surprise (it closed in 2009) and a second called Heard Museum North Scottsdale (it closed in 2014).

  • More than 250,000 people visit the museum each year.

  • They are part of Smithsonian Affiliations, which is a program with the Smithsonian to share collections and exhibitions with other non-Smithsonian institutions.

  • There are more than 40,000 pieces on their permanent collection.

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