Heritage Square (115 N. 6th St., 602/262-5071, www.phoenix.gov/parks ) is a bit of an anomaly in car-loving, tear-it-down-and-build-something-new Phoenix . The historic park protects the only remaining residential buildings from Phoenix ’s original 1870 townsite. Today, the eight historic structures house small museums, offices, shops, and restaurants.
Rosson House (115 N. 6th St., 602/262-5029, www.phoenix.gov/parks , 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Wed., 1–4 p.m. Thurs., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Fri.–Sat., noon–4 p.m. Sun., $5 adults, $2 children 6–12) is the most ornate, and even when it was built in 1895 by Roland and Flora Rosson for $7,525, the Victorian home’s octagonal turret and shaded veranda were considered extravagant. Flora, who came from a wealthy family, had bought the entire city block, allowing plenty of space for the 2,800-square-foot home’s 10 rooms, which have been restored with period furnishings and pressed-tin ceilings. Docent-guided tours are available.
Nearby, the 1901 Stevens House is now home of the Arizona Doll & Toy Museum (602 E. Adams, 602/253-9337, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Tues.–Sat., noon–4 p.m. Sun., $3 adults, $1 children under 12), which showcases antique dolls, vintage toys, and a reproduction of a turn-of-the-20th-century one-room schoolhouse.
It can be easy to forget that Phoenix  began as a small, dusty frontier town no bigger than Tombstone or Jerome . The Phoenix Museum of History (105 N. 5th St., 602/253-2734, www.pmoh.org , 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sat., $6 adults, $3 children 7–12) traces the city’s evolution from Victorian settlement to the fifth-largest city in the country, with interactive exhibitions on everyday life for early pioneers, as well as the Latinos and Native American people who helped shape the city.
The 40,000-item collection of costumes, paintings, household items, transportation materials, tools and equipment, and personal artifacts is an important trove for the city.
One of the best museums in the Valley and a hit with kids, the Arizona Science Center (600 E. Washington St., 602/716-2000, www.azscience.org , 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, $12 adults, $10 children 3–17) packs 350 interactive exhibits into 40,000 square feet of gallery space, making science seem cool and a little dangerous: Climb a rock wall, race up a pulley system, make clouds, or lie on a bed of 1,000 nails. Noted architect Antoine Predock designed the sprawling concrete-and-metal building, creating soaring spaces for the large displays.
The museum’s high-tech IMAX theater and planetarium feature a series of shows throughout the day, and nationally traveling exhibitions regularly make a pit stop here.
The on-site CityBakery (602/257-8860, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. daily, $6–11) is a great place to grab an after-museum lunch or snack, with lots of gourmet sandwiches and salads that grownups will love.