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Musical Instrument Museum: Tips to Visit this Phoenix Gem

The Musical Instrument Museum is a true jewel in the Valley of the Sun. Located in a gorgeous building, both inside and out, you will be able to venture around the musical world.

There are over 8,000 instruments, in the 80,000 square feet of this museum, and it encompasses the instruments, music, and cultures of more than 200 people.

With interactive displays, and instruments you can play with, you will be amazed at everything this museum has to offer you.

Musical Instrument Museum Highlights

  • Open 7 days a week. They are closed on Thanksgiving and have limited hours on Christmas Day.
  • Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for teens ages 13 - 19, $10 for children ages 4 - 12, and children 3 and under are free. There are no discounts or free days.
  • The address is 4725 East Mayo Boulevard. It's on the northeastern side of Phoenix.
  • Plan to spend anywhere from 2 to 3 hours here. You could easily spend 5 or more hours here if you want to see all the exhibits and displays.
  • COVID - 19 requirements are in place. Masks are required for anyone aged 2 years and older (they have complimentary masks if you forgot yours). Always follow the markers and signs to stay socially distanced by at least 6 feet at all times. Wash your hands for 30 seconds after using the restroom. Use the hand sanitizing lotion stations around the museum as often as possible.

Everything You Need to Visit the Musical Instrument Museum

Elvis Costello's Guitar at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix

How much does it cost to go to the Musical Instrument Museum? Are there any discounts or discounted passes? Does the museum offer free days?

What are the hours? Which days are the museum closed? What holidays is it open?

What are the best times to visit? How long should I plan to visit?

Are there permanent exhibits?

What are some of the must-see pieces?

Are there self-guided tours? Do I need to use the museums headphones or can I bring in my own?

Are there docent led tours and do I need to reserve a spot?

How many instruments are in the museum? How many nations and cultures instruments are on exhibit here?

Can I play the instruments? Is there a special area for kids or is this only for adults?

Are there any concerts at the museum?

What type of special events are at the museum.

Do they have a restaurant? What are the hours? Can I bring in my water bottle or food? Find answers to all of these questions here

Do they have a gift shop? Do I need to purchase a ticket to enter the gift shop? More on the gift shop here.

Can I take photos?

Is it ADA compliant? Is there special parking near the entrance? Are there elevators? Can I rent a wheelchair or stroller for kids? More on ADA accessibility here.

Is there parking for RVs?

Are there any COVID restriction?

What is the history of the museum?

Museum of Musical Instruments Visiting Details

Rated as one of the top attractions in Phoenix by Tripadvisor, this museum is a gem and a must see for all music and history lovers.

It is beautiful, both inside and out, and has many interactive displays, exhibits about musicians and their lives, and about other cultures and what inspired them and their music.

Find out more information about this amazing museum below.

Part of the display about China's musical history at the MIM in Phoenix

Tickets & Admission Fees

At this time, we recommend you purchase your tickets online. They have limited entry and you want to make sure you get a ticket before you arrive. The cost to visit the museum is as follows:

  • Adult: $20
  • Teens (ages 13-19): $15
  • Children (ages 4 -12): $10
  • Children under 3 are free
  • The museum does not offer discounts of any type. The museums also does not have any free days.

Note: Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult at all time.

Hours

The Musical Instrument Museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. Because of COVID, it has timed limited entry from November 1st, 2020 until January 2, 2021. Therefore, you can buy your tickets at the door, but we suggest you buy your tickets online since the museum may sell out on busier days.

Holiday Hours

The museum is open on all holidays except Thanksgiving. It also has limited hours of 10 am to 5 pm on Christmas Day.

Best Times to Visit

Blue and green ceremonial wear for the Lesser Antilles at the Musical Museum in PHX.

When is the best time to visit the Musical Instrument Museum? 

We recommend both Tuesday and Wednesday. These are their least busy days and it will allow you plenty of room to explore without as many other visitors.

We also recommend arriving first thing in the morning. This is when fewer people are around on any given day. 

The busiest times are on the weekends and holidays.

However, this Phoenix museum is MASSIVE, so it doesn't every feel too crowded. 

How Long Does It Take to Visit

This museum is huge. It covers over 80,000 square feet. It has over 15,000 instruments and exhibits from almost 200 different countries and territories.

This means that you could easily spend all day here if you wanted to see everything and learn about each of them. However, Jill and I would suggest about 3 - 4 hours since trying to see it all in one day might wear you out. And if you bring children, it could easily be a shorter visit since many of the exhibits are focused for adults that love music.

Permanent Exhibits

The Musical Instrument Museum has over 8,000 instruments inside it. That is the heart of the permanent museum exhibits.

There are also many interactive audio and video displays that will help you understand more about what inspired the music, how the musicians lived, and what was happening during the times.

First Floor Exhibits

One of the barrels players on display at the MIM

On the first floor, you will find several smaller exhibits. These include: 

Popular Musicians: This exhibit showcases music, instruments, and other musical pieces from top performers from around the world. Some of the most popular sections include spaces dedicates to Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Buddy Rich. Others you will find in here include Carlos Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Ravi Shankar.

Mechanical Music Gallery: This section features some old time music players, instruments, and automations. It includes everything from player piano rolls to barrels to folding books that play music. It's also home to the "Apollonia" dance organ. They offer live demonstrations of this huge musical instrument twice daily at noon and at 3 p.m.

Experience Gallery: This is a hands-on experience for kids of all ages. They can play a variety of musical instruments to learn more about how easy or difficult each one is to play. 

Musical Instruments: There is also an exhibit on the first floor that shows a variety of musical instruments side-by-side. One part of it shows a variety of guitars. Another one shows some of the more unique and historic instruments in the museum.

Video: There is also a small theater with a short video on the history of music. It's only a few minutes long, but offers some great insights into what you will see in the museum. 

Traveling Exhibits: The first floor is also where you will find their traveling exhibits. These often require an additional ticket, so make sure to check at the front desk if you want to visit these special exhibits.

Second Floor Exhibits

Oceania section with traditional music, instruments and clothing.

When you head up the stairs, you will find a huge area that covers musical instruments organized by continent. Inside each of those sections, the exhibits are organize by country or culture. Within that country or culture's section, you will find a video with some of their most famous music, typical instruments, clothing, and anything else related to their traditional music.

An example of this would be the USA music room. It starts with instruments from the early days of blues and jazz, moves up to rock and folk music, then to more modern music like rap and hip hop. Not only are there instruments, but there are also exhibits explaining why the musicians and their music were so influential for their times. You can hear examples of all of them here also.

In the Asian section, you will find instruments by country for places such as Japan, China, and Malaysia. The larger the country, the larger the section they have dedicated to their music both past and present. 

Almost every country in the world is covered in this vast museum space. 

Must See Exhibits

Presley's Army Jacket at a museum in Phoenix

Some of our favorite pieces come from all over the world. One of these is Elvis Presley's uniform that he wore when he was in the army. Another is the massive gong in the hallway on the second floor from Thailand. It will tower over you and the artwork in it is amazing.

Another of our can't miss pieces is a drum from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Not only is it beautiful, but there is a audio and visual display from the Olympics where you can see thousands of them being played at one time.

Trying to choose our favorites from around 15,000 instruments is very difficult, but for a one-of-a-kind experience, you need to watch the "Apollonia" dance organ.

This organ covers the entire wall. It is about 15 feet tall, 30 feet wide, and when it is playing, it has all kinds of moving pieces creating music. All of this is being run by a massive machine in the back of it.

It is like one of those 1900s music making machines, but on a scale you can't imagine. And it is also incredibly loud, so you might want to stand back or cover your ears. It is almost impossible to explain how magnificent it is, but you will know it when you see it.

They play it for a few minutes daily at noon and at 3 p.m. The demonstration is free to watch, but get there early on busy days so you can get in the front row to really enjoy it's magic!

Self-Guided Tours

Haiti display at the MIM

Something we both love is that the self-guided tours here are unlike anywhere else. The museum has about 1,800 Sennheiser guidePORT transmitters throughout the Musical Instrument Museum. 

When you arrive, you will be given a receiver and a set of headphones. The receiver is about the size of an iPod and you can wear them like a necklace for ease. As you get close to each exhibit that has a transmitter installed, the video in the display will automatically start playing for you through your receiver and headphones. 

You usually have to be within about 2 feet of the transmitter for it to start playing. We love these because you don't have to punch in a number since your receiver will automatically pick up the signal from the display you are near.

All of these receivers are wireless, so you don't have to worry about finding a port to plug into if there are a lot of people near an exhibit.

Transcripts are for English language displays with some narration. Captioning is also provided.

Also, they do request that you mute your cell phone while in the museum so as not to disturb other visitors.

Can I bring my own headphones? Yes, you can bring your own headphones if you don't want to use their receivers and headphones. However, you must bring an audio jack to plug it into the display directly. This will slow you down quite a bit, so keep that in mind if you plan to bring along your own headphones. 

Docent Led Tours

Docent led tours are given on a limited basis at the museum. They usually focus on three specific areas and last anywhere between 30 - 45 minutes. These tours typically focus on the Geographic Galleries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Reservations are not required, and they are free with your paid general admission.

These are offered at:

  • Monday and Friday starting at 2pm
  • Saturday and Sunday starting at 11 am and a second tour at 2 pm

*Tours are subject to museum guide availability. If your group is 10 people or more, you must call ahead and schedule it.

Instruments and Cultures

Central African Republic at the MIM

This museum has over 8,000 instruments, and exhibits relating to the instruments, from almost 200 nations and cultures. These range from ones that are long gone, such as the Paigu goblet drum from China's Neolithic period that was made between 4,000 to 5,000 years ago to guitars from artists such as Maroon 5. There are conch shell horns from islands like Tonga, steel drums from the West Indies, and so much more.

Here is a list of the galleries on the second floor of the museum:

  • The Africa and Middle East Gallery
  • The Asia and Oceania Gallery
  • The Europe Gallery
  • The Latin Gallery
  • The United States & Canada Gallery

During your visit, you will also see exhibits that include the clothing that people from each culture wear, displays on how they make their instruments, and presentation on dancing and more.

Can I Play the Instruments?

Experience Gallery where kids can play and try out a variety of musical instruments.

Yes, there are several options for both kids and adults.

For adults, there is a Steinway piano in the lobby which you can play.

There is also the Experience Gallery, where you can play with other instruments. This area allows you to play instruments from around the world and see what it is like to be a musician.

This area is especially wonderful for kids (of all ages), since they have a nice assortment of instruments around the world. These include a Javanese gamelan, a Peruvian harp, a theremin (it makes music as you move your hand around it, kids will think it is almost magic!), and more. It is also decorated with art from around the world.

Concerts

Depending on when you visit the Musical Instrument Museum, you may be able to go to a concert or special event. Many of the concerts are performed either by locally known or internationally famous artists. Some of these artists have included Esteban, Lee Perreira, Jim Brickman, Loudon Wainwright III, and others.

There are around 200 concerts a year and the music hall has 300 seats, all of which have incredible sight lines and the acoustics are amazing.

*The concert hall is open currently but under restrictions because of COVID. Please check the schedule or call the museum for more information. At this point, they are restricting the amount of attendees for social distancing requirements.

Events

The museum's "Signature Events" collection include programs where you can learn about the different cultural and geographic regions. One is the Musical Icon Program, where you can learn more about specific artists who have influenced music from around the world. Another is the Celebrate Programs, where you learn how different traditions, musical styles, and what made them popular through people's culture.

There are also special events, such as traveling exhibits, classes on how to make instruments, and more that include guest speakers.

There are also traveling exhibits from all over the world which are usually on display for a few months or more.

Restaurants and Food

Cafe Allegro grab and go food

If you get hungry during your stay at the Musical Instrument Museum, there is the Café Allegro. Right now, this café is grab and go and they have seating both inside and outside on a patio.

The sit down option for this café is currently closed due to COVID, but you can still grab something and sit down at one of their outside tables. 

You are not allowed to bring in outside food or drinks.

However, if you want something more filling, there are also restaurants close by in the Desert Ridge Marketplace.. If you want to go a bit farther, downtown Phoenix or Scottsdale are both about 20 to 25 minutes away.

The Musical Instrument Museum Gift Shop

Entrance to the Museum Gift Shop

This gift shop is a wonderful place to buy something for yourself, or for someone else, to celebrate this amazing museum. The artwork is created by artists from all around the world and many pieces are one of a kind.

There are also beautiful pieces made by local Native American jewelers and crafts people.

You are welcome to visit the gift shop even if you do not buy a ticket to the museum.

It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Photos and Videos

You are encouraged to bring you cell phone, camera or any other recording device. However, the museum does not allow backpacks larger than 18 inches by 18 inches inside, so make sure you can carry everything you need in your hands.

To maintain the integrity of the pieces on display, the museum does not allow flash photography.

ADA Accessibility

The parking lot has numerous handicapped spots very close to the entrance of the museum. The entire museum is wheelchair accessible and has an elevator for you to be able to go up or down to the 1st or 2nd level.

All service dogs are welcome to visit the museum with you.

To make your visit more enjoyable, they have complimentary wheelchairs, walkers, and even baby strollers if needed. These are on a first-come, first-served basis and are located at the Guest Service counter.

The museum is happy to assist you in any requests you have, and requests. You will need to call them at least one week in advance so they have time to make arrangements for special requests.

Parking Information

The parking at the Musical Instrument Museum is free. There are a fair number of spots available with handicapped spots directly in front of the entrance.

There is room for RVs to park, but you might want to call ahead and make sure that the parking lots is not full.

COVID Restrictions

The Musical Instrument Museum has instituted restrictions because of COVID.

These restrictions and safety measures include:

  • Wearing Masks: Ages 2 years old and up must wear masks at all times. Complimentary masks are available at entry if you did not bring one yourself.
  • Hand Sanitization Stations: Use the museum's hand sanitizing stations as often as possible.
  • Washing Your Hands: Wash your hands thoroughly in the restrooms.
  • Social Distancing: Use the 6-foot social distancing signs and markers on the floor to keep your distance from other visitors.
  • Touchless Scanning: The museum requests you use your smartphone or a printout for touchless scanning.

History of the Musical Instrument Museum

Buddy Rich, Glen Campbell, and Maroon 5 displays on the first floor in the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Musical Instrument Museum was originally founded by Bob Ulrich, was who the CEO of Target, and was primarily focused on Western classic musical instruments. When Mr. Ulrich visited the Musical Instrument Museum in Brussels, he decided he wanted to build one here in the United States.

Mr. Ulrich decided that Phoenix would be the perfect location for the museum since it has a population that is growing and includes people of many different cultures. The musical and artistic scene is also very vibrant here, and it is close to many gorgeous natural locations such as the Grand Canyon.

Since Phoenix is one of the top 5 populated cities in the USA, many people fly through here or have conventions. Having the museum here allows for more exploration and enjoyment even if you are just on a short layover or a long stay.


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