For thousands of years, native people have made their home in the Southwest, creating an incredibly rich and much-underappreciated culture. The Heard Museum (2301 N. Central Ave., 602/252-8848, www.heard.org , 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, $10 adults, $3 children 6–12) documents their millennia-old traditions, offering an impressive introduction to Native American art and Arizona’s original inhabitants.
Experience what it is like to live in a Navajo hogan, or learn how the intricate weavings and beadwork found in many clothes, baskets, and rugs reflect a tribe’s unique history. There are also intricate sand paintings, Barry Goldwater’s collection of 437 Hopi kachina dolls, and boldly imaginative works by contemporary artists, as well as exhibitions documenting the indignities of those forced to live on reservations and boarding schools in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Heard Museum started as the personal collection of Dwight and Maie Heard, who built the first incarnation of the Spanish Colonial building on their private grounds in 1929 to house the art and artifacts that had begun to overtake their home. Dwight died of a heart attack as the display cabinets were being installed, but Maie forged ahead, overseeing the museum until her death in 1951.
The Heard has been significantly expanded over the years, and its grounds, beautifully landscaped with native plants and trees, also provide space for music and dance performances, special events, and festivals, like the annual Indian Fair and Market  each March. The gift shop sells art and jewelry by Native American artisans, and its Southwestern-inspired restaurant, Arcadia Farms (602/251-0204, 9:30 a.m.–3 p.m. daily, $9–13), is a satellite of the popular Scottsdale café .