If you are looking for the best things to do in Phoenix with kids, you have come to the right place. Phoenix is a wonderful choice for families looking for a warm winter destination full of unique experiences with the whole family. Commonly referred to as the “Valley of the Sun”, Phoenix rarely disappoints, as it averages 300 sunny days a year.
I grew up in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, and our kids love visiting the desert. Our favorite time to visit Arizona with kids is in the winter, spring, and fall when the weather is best. Here are some of the best family activities in Phoenix and the surrounding area.
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Best Family Activities in Phoenix
Arizona Science Center
My kids love visiting the Arizona Science Center, and chances are your kids will love it too. The museum houses over 300 hands-on exhibits and educational programs for kids of all ages and adults to explore.
The Center features live science demonstrations, a planetarium, an IMAX theatre, a Skycycle, the W.O.N.D.E.R. center, and so much more. The difficult part for visitors will be knowing where to spend all your free time!
Located adjacent to Papago Park, visitors will find the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden. The zoo has over 2.5 miles of walking trails, so be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen, and walking shoes.
Some of the popular attractions include the giraffe encounter, Sting Ray Bay, camel rides, and endangered species. There are splash pads (small water playgrounds for kids) for cooling off on hot days, paddle boats available for rent, a petting zoo, Monkey Village, and more. The zoo is home to more than 1,400 animals, so give yourself plenty of time to explore.
Desert Botanical Garden
Next to the zoo is the Desert Botanical Garden featuring plants, flowers, cacti, and wildlife (think roadrunners and quail) indigenous to the desert. The best time of year to visit the Desert Botanical Garden with children is when it’s not too hot because there is a lot to explore.
Don’t miss the Butterfly Pavilion, where children can witness all stages of a caterpillar’s life cycle. Kids love visiting butterfly gardens and watching the butterflies land on them. During the holiday season, Las Noches de las Luminarias is a not to miss event.
If your kids love butterflies, be sure to visit Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale. It is an interactive habitat where over 3,000 butterflies fly freely through a rainforest garden, and families with young children love it!
Children’s Museum of Phoenix
When you build a children’s museum, you better make it fun, and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix has done just that. From the Noodle Forest to the Art Studio to the amazing play structure known as the Schuff-Perini Climber, no child should complain of boredom during their visit.
This educational experience has many hands-on activities and interactive exhibits. Probably best for younger kids ages 9 and under.
Hiking in Phoenix with kids
There are places to hike and bike all over the Valley, but some of the best outdoor activities in Phoenix (and most enjoyable) for families will be found at South Mountain Park or Papago Park.
South Mountain Park is the largest municipal park in the United States (16,000 acres and 51 miles of trails). They have hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails available, and one Sunday each month, the park’s main access roads are closed to motor vehicles (check the website), making it an ideal place to explore with the whole family.
Papago Park is easy to explore as the trail has a steady incline, and older kids will enjoy the unique natural rock formations, which make for great picture opportunities. The highlight is the “Hole in the Rock”, which is just that, a hole in the rock.
Those that climb to the summit are rewarded with views of the surrounding cities, the airport, and if you hike at the end of the day, a beautiful Arizona sunset.
Spring Training baseball in Arizona
The Greater Phoenix Area is home to Major League Baseball’s Cactus League, and Spring Training is a big deal here. Fifteen MLB teams play in the Phoenix area throughout the month of March, and the area features the greatest concentration of professional baseball facilities anywhere in the United States.
On any given day, you can find a game to watch, the settings are intimate, and the weather is usually beautiful. What more could you want? If you’re thinking about taking the kids, here are tips before you go to a spring training game.
If you miss spring training, don’t worry; catch up with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Even on the warmest summer days, the field stays cool because there is a retractable roof over the stadium. The venue is a great place to catch a ball game.
Scottsdale with kids
McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
Children and adults alike love to visit the railroad park in Scottsdale. There are model railroads, trains to ride around the park, a train museum, a carousel, and playgrounds. This is a fun way to spend half a day riding the rails and learning the history of rail transportation.
Hot Air Balloon Ride in Phoenix with Kids
There are many companies that offer hot air balloon rides in the Phoenix area for private or special events. Viewing the desert from above is breathtaking, especially in the early morning hours or at sunset. If you think your older children are up for it, this could be the experience of a lifetime.
Take a Pink Jeep Adventure Tour
To get a close-up view of the desert, consider going off-road in a Pink Jeep Tour. The nearest location is in Sedona, two hours away, but the tour is worth it.
Imagine having an exciting ride through Red Rock country, learning about the outback and the area’s history, and enjoying the views. It’s so much fun and a perfect day out for families.
Rawhide Western Town
In a place like Phoenix, there’s bound to be a recreated Old West town, and there is; it’s called Rawhide. Located in the suburb of Chandler, this 1880s dusty “remnant” of a town features live-action cowboy stunt shows, gunfights, train rides through the desert, a petting zoo, a stagecoach, and my personal favorite, a mechanical bull.
There are stores throughout the town and a photo studio, as well as a restaurant. It is a fun family experience and if you watch one of the shows, know that you may end up as part of the performance!
Fun Things to do in Tempe with kids
Arizona State University
Tempe is home to Arizona State University, and many people head to campus, the nearby entertainment district (Mill Avenue), and Tempe Town Lake for a day out.
ASU’s campus is fun to explore, as they have some unique architecture (the art museum stands out for me) and buildings open to the public, such as the Marston Exploration Theater, which shows 3-D astronomy movies and is open for exploring on the weekends.
Tempe Town Lake Rentals
Tempe’s Town Lake was once the Salt River, but as that dried up, it was made into a reservoir with inflatable dams on each side.
Today it is a hotbed of activity where boats and paddle boards can be rented, people can take Segway tours, small children can play on the Splash Playground, or families can watch a performance at the new Tempe Center for the Arts, which overlooks Town Lake.
Bikes are available to rent in downtown Tempe at The Bicycle Cellar. From here, it’s an easy ride to Papago Park, Mill Avenue, and Tempe Town Lake. Pack a picnic and spend a day exploring with the kids.
Mill Avenue has over 100 shops and restaurants and features original events, outdoor kid-friendly activities and festivals, and historical landmarks. There is always something going on in downtown Tempe!
Where to Eat in Phoenix with Kids
Grimaldi’s has several locations throughout the Valley, and we have never been disappointed with their thin-crust brick oven pizza.
They also have delicious salads and a fun atmosphere. The staff is helpful and attentive every time we have been.
La Grande Orange Grocery
Don’t be thrown off by the word “grocery”; you will want to stop here for breakfast, coffee, sandwiches, pizza, gelato, and everything else on their menu. Their muffins will melt in your mouth, and the pancakes are delicious too.
Buy some English muffins for later because they travel well, and you will want to preserve your memories of this place for as long as possible.
I hate to tell you this, but once you eat Mexican food in Phoenix, nothing will ever compare. Once you eat at Barrio Café, other Mexican food restaurants will pale in comparison.
This is a wonderful place to get fish tacos, and the handmade guacamole is out of this world. Go here for Mexican food, and you won’t be disappointed.
Snooze A.M. Eatery
One of my favorite breakfast spots in the Valley, Snooze, has something for everybody. Their breakfast creations are works of art, and the pancake flight is unforgettable.
The place is loud, but it’s the perfect place when eating with kids! There are several locations around town, so find one near you and get ready for a feast for the entire family.
Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor
This old-school ice cream parlor in Scottsdale will delight children and adults alike. You can’t miss the big pink building on Scottsdale Road, a landmark for 55 years. I love their root beer floats!
Best Family Resorts in Phoenix with Kids
Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch
Not only does this resort have fabulous dining and spa options for the adults, but it also has golf, tennis, and a 2.5-acre water playground complete with a three-story waterslide. Just what the kids want on vacation.
The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch
While this resort may see its fair share of conference-goers, it is a great option for families and children of all ages, with an excellent location in Scottsdale, generous-sized rooms, and beautiful pools. The on-property restaurants are top-notch, but you won’t want to go anywhere else once you try their morning cinnamon rolls.
Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass
This resort reflects the culture of the local Gila River Indian community, from its rooms to the restaurants to its spa. It makes for a very unique destination in the desert southwest.
The property offers all kinds of fun things to do, including golf courses, tennis courts, four swimming pools, and a waterslide. Not to mention it is home to the only AAA Five Diamond Restaurant in Arizona, Kai. Nearby is Rawhide (see above) and a major outlet mall for shopping.
Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
The Westin Kierland is extremely kid friendly and plans daily activities for the kids through their kid’s club. This is also one of the best places to go for water play. The adventure water park has a lazy river, wave pool, splash pad, water slides, and a “flow rider,” which simulates surfing, snowboarding, wakeboarding, and skateboarding all in one. Kids go crazy for it.
Parents will love the luxury of the resort, the spa, the golf, and the dining. There are villas available for families seeking more space than a traditional room affords.
JW Marriott Desert Ridge
Another kid-friendly property in Scottsdale, this JW Marriott has different activities, including multiple swimming pools, a lazy river, and a water slide. They also offer a Family Escape Kids Club and a nighttime PJ Party.
There’s golf and a spa on the property, as well as Canyon Villas, larger units for families. Find more details about Marriott Vacation Club Canyon Villas here (you don’t have to be a member).
Tips for First-Time Arizona Visitors
When spending the day outside in the desert landscape of Phoenix, wear sunscreen (and re-apply), bring sunglasses, wear a hat, drink plenty of water, and bring lip balm; it is always hotter than you think it will be.
I hope you enjoyed my suggestions for fun family activities in the Phoenix area. I may live in Dallas, but Phoenix will always be my home.
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If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. It’s nice to have a space where you can relax before your flight.
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Book Your Tours and Travel Photos
Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational-based activities. The former teacher in me loves their tours.
One of our favorite things to do annually is taking photos with Flytographer. They have photographers around the world and we’ve used them on four separate occasions. This is our favorite travel souvenir.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
With the state of travel these days, it’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threats, or cancellations. We always travel with insurance and would recommend SquareMouth, Travelex, or Medjet as good options. And if you want to compare different insurance options, use Travel Insurance Master to find the best policy for your group.