Keep Tucson weird, even in the summer ... It may be brutally hot outside, but our city has an eclectic selection of quirky museums with cool, air-conditioned rooms.
Spend an afternoon looking at shimmering gemstones, or revel at an incredible collection of miniature doll houses. The campus area even has a fully-reconstructed drug store hidden in the basement of its College of Pharmacy.
On one very hot June day, we spent an afternoon embracing the whimsical side of Tucson. Here are some of the offbeat museums we visited. For even more options, check out this article that Johanna Willett wrote last year ...
DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun
6300 N. Swan Road, 520-299-9191
Tucked into a serene desert landscape at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun is a glimpse into the life and work of Tucson's most famous artist. Ettore "Ted" DeGrazia built the Spanish-style adobe home and gallery in the early 1950s.
The compound has six permanent collections featuring thousands of his original works, from watercolors, sketches, lithographs, sculptures and more. It also houses his most famous work, Los Niños, which was featured on a UNICEF Christmas card in 1960.
While you're there, also make sure to visit the iconic DeGrazia chapel, which survived a fire in 2017. You can view the original paintings from the doorway, but much of it has been damaged by the fire.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
Cost: $8 adults, $5 kids 12-18, free for kids under 12
Ignite Sign Art Museum
331 S. Olsen Ave., 520-319-0888
Located in a warehouse district south of Broadway, the Ignite Sign Art Museum features vintage and neon signs from the personal collection of Jude Cook. The local Tucsonan has built and repaired signs for 40 years through his company, Cook & Company Signmakers. He's also collected many of the local signs you may remember from Tucson's past, like the ones from De Anza Drive-In, the Saint House and the ABC Market.
In addition to looking at the old signs, you can also participate in several interactive activities like coloring and playing with a wall-sized Lite-Brite. The museum also have one of the best gift shops in Tucson, if you're into retro stuff.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday
Cost: $12 general admission, $10 senior and military, $8 kids and students, children under 6 free
History of Pharmacy Museum
Located at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, 1295 N. Martin Ave., 520-626-1042
This is one of UA's hidden campus gems; The University of Arizona College of Pharmacy has one of the world's largest collections of vintage pharmaceutical artifacts. The items are spread throughout two separate buildings at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. Stop by the main lobby of Drachman Hall and pick up a pamphlet for a self-guided tour. (Or ask for a guided tour, if you like!)
The main point of interest is a full-scale replica of an old drug store, complete with 19th century elixirs, a vintage scale and an ice cream maker. You can find the Willis R. Brewer room on the basement level of the Skaggs Pharmaceutical Sciences Center building. The museum also holds the former collection from Disneyland's Upjohn Pharmacy, which you could find at Main Street in Disneyland until it closed in 1970.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday
University of Arizona Gem and Mineral Museum
In the basement of the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium, 1601 E. University Blvd., 520-621-7827
In the basement of the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium, there's a dazzling collection of donated minerals from Arizona and around the world.
The Gem and Mineral Museum has currently has about 35,000 specimens, many of them on display in this hidden little museum. You'll find meteorites used in UA research, azurite minerals that were donated from Princeton and various minerals discovered in Arizona mines.
The museum's home base won't be the basement of Flandrau for munch longer. Plans to move the mineral museum to the Old Pima County Courthouse are underway, with a UA geoscience campus expected to be completed in 2020. The new facility will feature state-of-the-art geoscience laboratories and a 7,500-square-foot exhibition hall. Some of the mineral collection will stay at the UA.
Hours: Open Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, 1-5 p.m.
Cost: $16 general admission, $12 for children 4-17 years old, college students, military and seniors. Kids under three get in free. Price also gets you into Flandrau
Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures
4455 E. Camp Lowell Drive, 520-881-0606
Immerse yourself into the wonderful world of crazy tiny stuff at the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures. This museum was founded by Patricia and Walter Arnell as a way showcase their extensive collection of miniatures and love of the craft.
Today, visitors can walk through exhibits like "The Enchanted Realm," complete with a giant tree sculpture and miniature renditions of haunted houses. There's also a winter village you can walk on top of, and tiny scenes fit for a fairy tale.
Hours: Open Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Closed on Monday.
Cost: $10.50 general admission, $8.50 for seniors and military, $7 for kids ages 4-17, kids under 3 get in free.