The Barringer Crater is a well-known Arizona landmark that attracts thousands of visitors to Flagstaff each year. The meteor impact site not only gives visitors a visceral appreciation for the force of nature that created it, it is also a great location to gaze at the night sky and discover the boundless cosmos from which our planet emerged. At the Meteor Crater Visitor Center, located on the outer rim of the crater, visitors can enjoy a variety of activities designed to educate and entertain. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.


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The Barringer crater can trace its origins to a meteor that struck the Arizona desert approximately 50,000 years ago with a force equivalent to 2.5 million tons of TNT. While most of the meteor melted on impact, it also created a mist of fine metal that spread for a mile in each direction across the landscape. The crater that formed as the result of this explosion ended up measuring three quarters of a mile in width and 750 feet in depth. At the time of impact, the area where the crater is now found was far cooler and wetter. This previously forested area was home to giant ground sloths, mastodons, and mammoths, many of which perished during and after the impact. Initially, a lake formed on the bottom of the crater.

However, as temperatures increased, the lake bed dried up and came to resemble what we see today. The first geologist to study the crater, Grove Karl Gilbert, came to the erroneous conclusion that the crater was created due to volcanic activity. This was later disproved by Daniel Moreau Barringer, who, though lacking credentials in the field of geology, was convinced that the mixture of rock and iron found in material deposited at the crater’s edge meant that the crater had been created by a meteorite. These conclusions led Barringer to put together investment capital to fund drilling at the crater in order to extract the iron ore he believed was at the bottom of it. Though his theory of the origin of the crater was correct, further drilling revealed that the meteor had been pulverized on impact, leaving only water and quicksand below the crater’s surface. Today, the Barringer Crater reminds visitors about both the triumph of empiricism in science as well as the Earth’s long and storied natural history.

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The Barringer Crater can be viewed from an air conditioned viewing area at the visitor center. Alternatively, visitors are encouraged to walk the crater rim and explore it individually. The springtime welcomes a variety of flora and avian species that are extremely photogenic against the crater backdrop, making a walk around the crater especially scenic. There are informative signs and observational telescopes that enrich the viewing experience, making it educational and immersive.

The discovery center located at the visitor center offers guests an opportunity to contextualize the Barringer Crater within a wider framework of meteor impact science. A 1,400-pound meteor fragment is one of the many highlights of this unique attraction. For those seeking a more hands-on experience, the discovery center also offers computer simulations as well as high tech graphics of asteroids, space, and meteorites. The 24 exhibits here chronicle the development of space exploration, from the tools used by early astronomers all the way to information about how the Apollo astronauts trained.

While the impact of the Barringer crater was certainly sizable, the discovery center offers additional information about similar occurrences around the world. Guests can learn to differentiate between a comet, an asteroid, and a meteor. Further, they can compare the Barringer crater to the ten youngest and the largest craters around the world.

Just outside the discovery center, there is an 80-seat state of the art movie theatre where visitors can view a 10-minute feature film called IMPACT, Mystery of Meteor Crater. The film includes 3D models and animations of the impact that created the Barringer Crater, allowing viewers to visualize the tremendous collision.

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3.Visiting the Barringer Crater

Visiting the Barringer Crater
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Those visiting the Barringer Crater have a variety of accommodation choices, such as the Hilton Doubletree Hotel, La Quinta Inn and Suites as well as the Sleep Inn. While there is a Subway restaurant within the visitor center, there are many other dining choices abound in the city of Flagstaff. From local joints such as MartAnne’s and La Bella Via to chain restaurants like IHOP and the Pita Jungle, Flagstaff is sure to satisfy every palette. Beer enthusiasts are bound to enjoy Flagstaff’s Craft Beer and Wine bike tour.

PO Box 697, Flagstaff, AZ 86002-0697

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Things to Do in Flagstaff, Arizona: Barringer Meteorite Crater

More Ideas in AZ: Arizona Copper Art Museum

The Arizona Copper Art Museum is located in the small, former mining town of Clarkdale, Arizona, which is now known as a destination for artists and retirees. The museum collection of over 5,000 pieces takes visitors on a visual history of copper and its relevance in America. Items from the collection focus on works of art from the United States and Western Europe from the 1500’s to today. A museum visit begins with the Historical Information Collection.

This exhibit displays art and artifacts related to the history of copper, when it was discovered, and its use for tools, weapons, art and pigment. Arizona, known as the Copper State, is the largest producer of the metal in the U.S. The exhibit explores myths, symbols and the mysterious properties of copper. The Military Art, or Trench Art Collection exhibits examples of copper use in weaponry, and decorative wartime artworks. Trench art was a form of carving done on spent shell casings by soldiers during downtime between battles throughout World War I and II. The decorative carvings sometimes memorialized battles or leaders, and acted as souvenirs for families and loved ones. An Art and Architecture Collection showcases the uses of copper in decorative arts, along with its alloy, bronze. Copper has been commonly used as decorative architectural molding, bronze has a rich history of use for sculpture, and brass for casting. A Religious Art Room provides examples of how copper has been used as a decorative element in religious buildings and spiritually inspired works of art such as icons and sacred figurines. The Kitchenware Collection displays examples of copper cookware used historically over open fires, and also in today’s kitchens.

Copper has been used in food storage, and the washing of dishes and laundry. Copper’s superior uniform cooking capabilities have made it the preferred choice of chefs for hundreds of years. The museum’s collection includes samples of cookware, bakeware, and candy making forms. The Drinkware Collection demonstrates the history of copper as a popular vessel for drinks. Although copper has been replaced by glassware and ceramics in most contemporary households, many water pipes in homes are still made from copper, which aids in the sterilization of the water. New to the Drinkware Collection is a 16-inch copper wine jug from the 1600’s. The nearly 2-gallon pitcher from Tuscany in the Northern Italian wine region is highly ornate with a decorative flora and fauna motif. A Distillery and Winery Collection displays the copper vessels and tools used for making beer and wine and spirits. The use of copper stills was popularized in the 1800’s during prohibition. Copper stills assist in the removal of sulfur-based components from alcohol.

History: The 9,000 square foot Copper Art Museum opened in Clarkdale in 2013, but traces its roots back to 1919 when the first known antique shop opened in Minnesota, displaying copper wares. The collecting of copper items grew in popularity in the United States from the 1960’s through the 1990’s. The Clarkdale location was chosen for its history as a smelter town for the nearby copper mines in Cottonwood and Jerome, Arizona. The Clarkdale smelter operated from the early 1900’s through 1953. With its beginnings as a company town, Clarkdale is one of America’s first planned communities and Old Town Clarkdale, where the museum is located, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the mission of the museum is to collect, display and study copper creations from the 16th through 21st century with the intent of inspiring and educating visitors. In 2017, the museum was nominated for a Governor’s Arts Award in the Small Business Category. The award honors those who have demonstrated significant support of the arts in Arizona.

Ongoing Programs and Education: Docent-led tours are available if scheduled in advance. Tours are available for school groups free of charge.

What’s Nearby: Copper Mountain Antiques, the museum’s gift shop, is located 4 miles away in Jerome, Arizona, home of the historic copper mine. The scenic route 89A connects the three towns of Jerome, Clarkdale and Cottonwood. Today, the three historic towns are known for their arts communities, and tourism is the main industry. Annually, over 250,000 visitors pass through the three small towns, which themselves have a collective population of fewer than 20,000.

849 Main St., Clarkdale, Arizona 86324, Phone: 928-649-1858

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More Ideas in AZ: Titan Missile Museum

The Titan Missile Museum in Sahuarita, Arizona tells the story of America’s largest nuclear weapon. The facility includes the Titan Missile National Historic Landmark and the Education and Research Center. The Titan Missile Museum Education and Research Center contains the exhibit halls, classroom space, and an archival storage area.

The facility teaches visitors about the history of the Cold War in America and the threat of nuclear war. For over 20 years, 54 Titan II facilities across America were on alert. Each missile was capable of launching from its underground silo in less than 58 seconds to deliver a thermonuclear warhead of nine megatons to destinations as far as 6,000 miles away in under 30 minutes. Visitors to the Titan Missile Museum can see the missile, its launch site, and the associated facility that housed crew members.

History: When the missile site named “launch complex 571-7” was deactivated in 1982, plans immediately began to convert the site into a museum. By 1985 interested parties had convinced the Air Force, Tucson Air Museum Foundation Board (now the Arizona Aerospace Foundation) and Tucson community that a museum was worthwhile, and permission to convert the site was granted. Several modifications were made to the site to ensure safety, and to demonstrate that the missile was no longer operational. First, the missile was stored on the surface of the site for 30 days to allow satellites to photograph it and confirm it was no longer operational. Then, prior to lowering it into the launch site, holes were cut in each of the propellant tanks as well as the re-entry vehicle’s heat shield.

A large window atop the launch site, with the door partially open, allows for continued viewing by visitors and satellites. In 1986, the museum opened to the public. Close to ten years later, in 1994, the site was declared a National Historic Landmark. Although the launch complex was just 31 years old when it received its landmark status, a rarity, it is one of only two intercontinental ballistic missiles sites in the world to have been preserved for public viewing. The museum receives no government funding and relies entirely on private donations and admissions fees. It is currently managed by the non-profit Arizona Aerospace Foundation whose mission is to promote aerospace education through the preservation of the history of flight. In addition to the Titan Missile Museum, the foundation manages the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame and the Pima Air and Space Museum, both in Tucson.

Ongoing Programs and Education: Guided tours are the only way visitors can see the missile site, and there are several tours to choose from. One-hour guided tours take guests 35 feet underground into the missile complex, and to level 2 of the missile silo. Tours finish above ground, looking down at the missile from the top of the launch duct. The 90-minute Director’s Tour takes guests through the same areas, but under the direction of the museum director, Yvonne Morris. Ms. Morris is a veteran Titan II Missile Combat Crew Commander, and speaks to the realities of living as a crew commander during the Cold War Era. Beyond the Blast Door tours are 1 hour and 45 minutes. These tours cover the same areas, with the addition of a look inside the crew’s sleeping quarters, and the opportunity to stand directly below the missile at 100 feet below ground. Titan Top to Bottom Tours showcase the entire missile complex. Top to Bottom tours run approximately 5 hours. The museum offers overnight experiences for those who wish for an immersive experience.

Visitors should be advised that some tours are not handicap accessible; many require guests to climb ladders, or fit though 2-foot wide spaces. All tours require closed-toed, rubber-soled shoes. A Junior Missiliers program for youth gives young visitors a booklet with games to complete during their tour. Children who complete the booklet receive a badge and certificate. School and youth group tours for children in grades 5 through 12 are available free of charge. School and scout group tours teach the principles of rocket flight through hands on activities and experiments. The museum also offers pre-visit activities. The 90-minute pre-visit programs vary in complexity and approach and are available for download from the museum’s website. Ham radio operators are invited to broadcast and listen on the historic discone antenna at the museum. The 80-foot tall antenna was built in 1963 by the Collins Radio Company.

1580 Duval Mine Road, Green Valley, AZ 85614, Phone: 520-625-7736

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More Ideas in AZ: Desert Caballeros Western Museum

The Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, AZ showcases the art and history of the American West through inspirational exhibits of artwork, educational programming and recreational activities. Permanent exhibits at the museum include the Hall of History Dioramas. Each diorama was created by a team of professional artists and volunteers, and each showcases an episode or theme in the history of Wickenburg and the surrounding area. Subjects include the daily chores of Hohokam farmers, ranch life and the dude-ranch life, working conditions in mines, the arrival of railroads and the first paved highway, and Wickenburg’s glider training program during World War II.

In addition to the dioramas, the museum has several life-sized reconstructions that duplicate scenes from history, including a Wickenburg Street Scene, and a Western Town scene. The scenes include a general store stocked with hundreds of period artifacts, a saloon, post-office, watch-repair shop, church and private home. Out on the Ranch is a reconstructed period ranch home representative of the 1920’s. The home includes a corral and covered wagon. The exhibit showcases the daily life of early settlers to Wickenburg. A Gem and Mineral Display showcases the famous “Five C’s” of Arizona; copper, cattle, corn, citrus and climate. Items in the display come from area mines around Wickenburg and include gold, silver and turquoise as well as hematite, jade, jasper and chalcedony. The American Indian Art and Artifacts Display includes leatherwork, beadwork, basketry and other artifacts which teach the history of the tribes in the region.

History: The Museum was founded in 1960 to display exhibits related to the western heritage of the town of Wickenburg. Wickenburg began as a small mining camp in 1863 when Henry Wickenburg founded the Vulture Mine. The museum opened in 1969 in the historic former Brayton’s Commercial Company building, however in 1972, a fire completely destroyed the building and its contents. After several years of fundraising, the museum reopened in 1975, and added an additional 6,000 square feet in the 1980’s. The museum continued to grow over the years and received full accreditation from the American Association of Museums in 1996. Significant gifts in the 2000’s allowed for the addition of the Charles T. Klein Pavilion, the Cross Cultural Learning Center, and the Quayle Family Gallery. In 2013, the museum acquired the adjacent property block to allow it to further expand.

Ongoing Programs and Education: The museum offers self-guided tours as well as docent-led tours for groups of 8 or more. Youth programs at the museum include school group tours. Culture Path is a 4th grade field trip curriculum which includes education in the area of history and Native American culture, biology and geology, as well as hands on activities such as panning for gold, identifying native plants and minerals and creative writing. Programs are held at the museum’s Boyd Ranch as well as the Desert Caballero Museum. The museum hosts summer camps for kids and a children’s cowboy poetry contest. The annual poetry event is held each December and teaches over 1,000 local school children about the history of cowboy poetry. Adult programming includes an author’s series that hosts monthly book club discussions. Tuesday Talks invites historians to speak on subjects related to current temporary exhibits and art shows. The Hassayampa Lecture series more specifically focuses on the history of the Wickenburg region.

Art workshops for adults offer multi-day hands-on programming and frequently invite artists who show at the museum to teach sculpture, painting and more. Desert Adventure Tours are day-long Jeep tours of the historic Wickenburg mining areas and ghost towns, led by a museum docent. The museum also offers self-driven tours to pick saguaro cactus when in season. Cowgirl Up! is an annual month-long event that’s been held at the museum for over 10 years. The show invites female artists who represent the American West to show and sell their paintings, drawings and sculpture at the museum. The 2018 show will represent 58 artists, chosen by jury through a selection process. Fiesta de Septiembre is a family event which takes place each September. In partnership with the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce, the museum gathers and displays local Hispanic family trees and oral histories. A Kids Zona during the festival offers hands-on arts and crafts programming.

Past and Future Exhibits: A new exhibit in the Quayle Family Gallery, ‘Wickenburg’s West: Adaptation/Reinvention/Transformation’ marks the 150th year anniversary of the town of Wickenburg. Items in the exhibit include artifacts and photographs on loan from private donors, the Phoenix Museum of History and Tempe Museum of History as well as items from the Desert Caballeros Museum’s permanent collection.

What’s Nearby: The Boyd Ranch is a 160-acre ranch surrounded by public land just 12 miles north of downtown Wickenburg. The ranch was donated to the Desert Caballeros Museum in 2004. The ranch may be reserved for recreational group usage, trail riding, and mule rides.

21 N Frontier St, Wickenburg, AZ 85390, Phone: 928-684-2272

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