Escorted vacations through the American southwest can leave even the most seasoned traveler breathless: Deep reds rocks complemented by bright orange sunsets make this arid landscape one of the world's most humbling. Visitors who are finishing up any tours in Phoenix, however, may want to explore some particular indoor attractions that are often overshadowed by the city's awe-inspiring landscapes. Here are a few must-sees:
Musical Instrument Museum
As the favorite museum of singer great Tony Bennett, the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix is unlike anything most travelers have ever seen. Even musicians (and world travelers) will discover an array of instruments that they have likely never seen could exist. Best of all, this museum is interactive, allowing all patrons to try their hand at strumming a Gusle or tapping dunduns. The exhibits are broken up by geographic region, and each provides audio sound bites so you can discover just how that flute-guitar hybrid on display actually sounds.
MIM also regularly hosts concerts featuring artists from around the world, including everyone from a Balkan 12-piece ensemble to a South American solo guitarist. No matter who is playing, it is always a treat for the ears.
Hall of Flame Fire Museum
It is only fitting that a region where the land always looks like it could be on fire would also be home to the Hall of Flame Fire Museum. This surprisingly enthralling museum is has more than 400 fire helmets dating back to the 1800s. With designs ranging from gold-plated crested caps to those modeled after army helmets, the profession of firefighting truly comes alive. Exhibits include horse-drawn engines, restored engines from the 1930s, the Wildland Firefighting Gallery and the National Hall of Heroes.
Heard Museum: American Indian Art and History
Much of the culture of the American Southwest was, and continues to be, shaped by the Native American First Nations that reside here, so to truly dig into the region's creation, visitors must spend some time at the Heard Museum. Consisting of many types of functional art, this museum truly lives up to its name. The variety of beadwork and basketry is stunningly vibrant, while the pottery and textiles on display often straddle the line of sturdy intricacy and delicacy.
Visitors who are enjoying a group travel package that includes a stop in Phoenix should allocate at least a few hours for exploring this city's rich and varied exhibits. This city's unique array of museums warrants more than a glance.