Whether traveling through or visiting Phoenix, here is a great list of activities that you can do with your “6 and under” crew. The activities are categorized by indoor or outdoor, as the summers in Phoenix can be too hot for children to be outside most of the day. We also provide some great day-trip ideas that might work for your family.
The Phoenix Zoo is an obvious attraction. To make your experience with young kids easier, be sure to bring your stroller and sun protection. The weekends at the Phoenix Zoo are extremely busy when the weather is favorable. We prefer not to go on the weekends to avoid the crowds. There are two splashpads at the zoo that run during hot weather, so bring the swim suits. Kids will enjoy feeding the giraffes (see the zoo’s website for feeding times) and riding the carousel This zoo has a children’s trail that has a petting zoo where you can go in and brush the goats, see farm animals and play on the little people playground.
While you are at the zoo, stop by the Hole in the Rock for a quick, easy toddler-style hike up for great views of the city. The entrance to this park is right next to the Zoo’s entrance. You can’t miss the big rock either! When you get to the top make sure to keep your tot with you, as the rocks are well worn and slippery from all the foot traffic.
Another attraction close to the zoo is the Desert Botanical Gardens. I would caution parents with small children when considering a visit to the DBG. This is a cactus playground, and there is no barrier between all the many cactus and curious toddler hands. If you can keep your kids close and they understand not to touch the plants, this visit could be a successful outing!
McCormick Stillman Railroad Park is a big hit with the kids, as they can ride the miniature train with parents. A huge playground accompanies this park, along with a carousel and lots of grounds to run and play.
Scottsdale Quater Splashpad is a chic place to play in the water. The fountains typically run from 10a-9p, but check the schedule to be sure. This is an especially cool place to be at night time in the summer. Most valley splashpads turn off at 7p at the latest, which is still often too hot to be outside, even in the water. This “after dark” splashpad is one of the only places to cool off after the sun goes down! Some perks at the quarter are the IT’Sugar candy store and Menchies Frozen Yogurt. The bathrooms are located by the escalator going up to the movie theater and there is even a family restroom for changing.
If you are looking for a place to stay that also has a great water park, check out Arizona Grand Resort.
All of the many trampoline places in the valley are sure to excite the kids. Most places charge by the hour. For our kids, we find that one hour is plenty, but sometimes they like to stay longer. One of our favorite places is Airworx in Chandler. They have a trampoline platform designated as 7 and under only, with a foam “sideline” area for parents and the baby to sit close by. There is also a bounce house style climbing wall and slide for 7 and unders only. We also love this place because they charge only $6 per child and parents do not need to pay to get in. Another favorite is AZ AirTime in Scottsdale. They have a similar setup, and for little kids they charge $7 for the first hour and $3 for each hour after that (prices vary with the seasons and they do run deals, so check the website).
The SeaLife Aquarium is a captivating, hands on, underwater adventure. It can be a bit on the spendy side for admission, but for the sea lover in the family, this is a thrilling experience with a walk through tunnel, jelly fish, sharks, a “touch” tank and manta rays.
The Arizona Science Museum can be a great way to spend a hot summer day. It is not as impressive as some other science museums (like the Minnesota Science Museum) but does offer some educational opportunities. It too is on the spendy side for admission, so plan to spend a half day here. This one is best for kids 3 and up.
The Children’s Museum is one that I would personally choose over the Science Museum for kids 6 and under. There is lots to explore, including the three story high playground made out of crazy recycled things like a flying bathtub. You are allowed to bring in food and beverages, just be sure to eat them in the cafe where food consumption is allowed. If you can, leave the stroller behind for this outing, as the place is much easier to navigate without one. There is stroller parking outside each activity area if you need to bring the stroller. Just pack a smaller “valuables bag” that you can sling around your shoulder when you leave the stroller and all the other gear. The baby/toddler room is the perfect place to hang out if you have little ones.
Imagination Avenue is not really an attraction, but it is a toddler favorite for hot summer days. This indoor little people town has pretend play, a slide, a climbing area, a baby zone and a cafe to eat your lunch. This place gets busy during the summer. It is very kid friendly, as you expect, which makes it easy for the adults to relax and have a conversation. (Kids 1-12 pay admission, parents and babies under 1 are free).
Another great indoor play area is the Play Factory. Kids can climb and play and get super tired for naptime!
If the kids love trucks, you have to check out the Hall of Flame museum!
Butterfly Wonderland is the valley’s newest indoor attraction featuring an indoor Atrium and everything bugs. It is a bit spendy and the amount of stuff you get to see isn’t a whole lot, but for the bug enthusiasts it is worth the visit. Best to leave the stroller behind for this one and note that no outside food is allowed in (leave the snacks in the car).
DAY TRIPS FROM PHOENIX
Bartlett Lake is just a 1 hour drive north from Scottsdale and gets you the wilderness effect without too much trouble. This man-made lake has sandy beaches, trails to hike, docks to dive off and even places to camp. Tips: You’ll want to pick up a day pass for the Tonto area. You can find them at retailers, purchase online and sometimes buy them at the Marina on Bartlett lake. There isn’t too much to see or do on the way there. Once you pass Cave Creek town, there won’t be any more places for fuel, food or a potty until you get to the lake.
Sedona is a beautiful drive just 2 hours north of Phoenix. If the kids can travel well, this is worth the drive and even a night spent at one of the many hotels can make the trip even better. Stop at the Ranger station on your way into Sedona for maps and a day pass or pick up vehicle parking passes at most of the gas stations in Sedona. There are lots of trails that kids can hike and many horseback riding outfitters. Stop at the fossil and mineral shop in Sedona along Hwy 89A for a neat souvenir. If you are looking for swimming opportunities, the main attraction is Slide Rock Park where you can slide down natural formations in the limestone made by Oak Creek. On the weekends and holidays Slide Rock can be busy, and they charge $20 for parking, no Red Rock passes accepted there. A quieter place is Grasshopper Point Swimming and Picnic Area, which requires a Red Rock Park pass for parking. If you are looking for a great place to have dinner, our family’s favorite is Elote. They are the only authentic Mexican restaurant in Arizona we have found. It is relatively kid friendly (without being a fast food place). Ask to sit on the patio for great views if the weather is deserving. Note that they are open for dinner only Tuesday through Saturday, so plan accordingly. If you are looking for something different, try this list of Sedona eateries. There is also a Wildflower Cafe and an Indian Market that has food for sale.
If your kids are really great in the car, the Apache Trail is a fun scenic drive, starting just north of Mesa, AZ. Winding trails take you up and down the sides of mountains – this drive is not for the faint of heart! Halfway through the trail, about 20 miles in, the paved road ends at Tortilla Flat and the dirt road begins, taking you all the way to Apache Lake. Most people stop at Tortilla Flat to eat at the famous restaurant, grab some prickly pear ice cream, hear the band on the weekends and then turn back around for home. (Notes: your vehicle should be in good working order, as breaking down on this road is no fun. Spring is the best time to go, so you can pull off at the scenic overlooks without roasting and often the flowers are in bloom. If you can manage, plan to switch drivers at the halfway point so the other person gets a chance to look out the window instead of making sure the car stays on the winding road.)