Newcomers’ Guide to Arts & Culture in the East Valley

Editorial StaffOctober 31, 2022
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i.d.e.a. Museum

Interactive activities are a hallmark of this 20,000-square-foot facility, which is designed to inspire children of all ages to experience their world differently through art, creativity and imagination, with an emphasis on science and technology. 150 W. Pepper Pl., Mesa, 480-664-4332,

Arizona Museum of Natural History

The state’s premier museum of cultural and natural history and a must-see for dinosaur lovers, this 80,000-square-foot museum offers visitors a trip to the Southwest’s prehistoric – and more recent – past with a range of exhibits and activities that cover archaeology, paleontology, geology, art and more. A selfie with a life-sized dinosaur sculpture “bursting out” of the upper levels of the museum is worth the trip alone. 53 N. Macdonald St., Mesa, 480-644-2230,

ASU Art Museum

Founded in 1950, the contemporary museum is located in Antoine Predock’s award-winning Nelson Fine Arts Center on the western edge of the Tempe campus, boasting six expansive galleries and three sculpture courts. Best of all, it is the only major museum in the Valley that is always free. ASU Nelson Fine Arts Center, 51 E. 10th St., Tempe, 480-965-2787,

ASU Gammage Auditorium

Some of today’s biggest hits straight from Broadway highlight ASU Public Events’ Broadway Across America series. The historic hall was designed by internationally renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Highlights: Dance Theatre of Harlem, Nov. 18; To Kill a Mockingbird, Dec. 6-11; Jesus Christ Superstar, Jan. 31-Feb. 5; Frozen, Feb. 22-March 5; Kristina Wong for Public Office, March 18; Annie, March 24-26. 1200 S. Forest Ave., Tempe, 480-965-3434,

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Nestled against the base of Picketpost Mountain, this 392-acre museum of living plants features a system of nature trails that weaves throughout the botanical gardens, and demonstration gardens that provide inspiration for home landscapes. 37615 E. Arboretum Way, Superior, 520-689-2723,

Chandler Center for the Arts

Quality cultural programming at an affordable price is the hallmark of this venue, which opened in 1989. Highlights: North: The Musical, Nov. 4-5; Marc Broussard, Nov. 12; The Spirit of Christmas, Dec. 10-18; Lalah Hathaway, Jan. 28; Mwenso & The Shakes, Feb. 25; Los Lobos, March 11. 250 N. Arizona Ave., Chandler, 480-782-2680,

Chandler Museum

This 10,000-square-foot facility bridges Chandler’s history with its future through a mix of local displays and nationally traveling exhibits. 300 S. Chandler Village Dr., Chandler, 480-782-2717,

Commemorative Air Force Airbase Arizona

Get up close and personal with history at this combat aviation museum. Walk through a working hangar and watch aircraft mechanics bring muscular engines to life. Climb aboard one of the rarest B-17 bombers in the world or, better yet, book a once-in-a-lifetime flight in an authentic warbird. The gift shop offers unique finds and war memorabilia. 2017 N. Greenfield Rd., Mesa, 480-924-1940,

Hale Centre Theatre

This Gilbert theater provides family-friendly entertainment at an affordable price. Highlights: Waylon, Willie & Cash, Nov. 16-26; A Christmas Carol, Dec. 1-26; The Andrews Brothers, Jan. 17-March 7; and 42nd Street Man, Feb. 16-April 1. 50 W. Page Ave., Gilbert, 480-497-1181,

Historic Downtown Chandler

Eclectic art galleries, boutiques and restaurants surround Dr. A.J. Chandler Park, the city’s original town square. The National Historic District also boasts a microbrewery and numerous craft cocktail and wine bars. Arizona Avenue just south of Chandler Boulevard, Chandler, 480-782-3037,

Mesa Arts Center

This versatile arts and entertainment complex offers the finest live entertainment and performances, plus a variety of visual art exhibitions, arts education classes and annual festivals. Highlights: Lila Downs, Nov. 12; Blue Man Group, Nov. 21-22; Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis, Nov. 27; The Smothers Brothers, Jan. 20; Kathleen Turner: Finding My Voice, Feb. 18; Stomp, March 9-12; Black Violin, March 17. 1 E. Main St., Mesa, 480-644-6500,

Superstition Mountain Museum

Sprawling across 12.5 acres in the shadow of the storied mountains, the nonprofit museum is the keeper and purveyor of colorful tales of bygone days, with exhibits that examine the geology and native culture of the area, plus the legend of the mysterious Lost Dutchman Mine. The Apacheland Barn and Elvis Chapel are highlights. 4087 N. Apache Trail, Apache Junction, 480-983-4888,

Tempe Center for the Arts

This lakeside venue boasts two performance halls and a gallery, with local favorites including Arizona Wind Symphony, CONDER/dance, Desert Dance Theatre, Stray Cat Theatre and Tempe Winds gracing its stages. 700 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe, 480-350-2822,

Tempe History Museum

The museum shares the story of Tempe through a variety of media, including artifacts, video presentations and art displays. Check out its Performances at the Museum series this fall: live music with a Latin theme. 809 E. Southern Ave., Tempe, 480-350-5100,

This article first appeared in the 2023 City Guide, published by PHOENIX magazine in November 2022.