Located in the heart of metro Phoenix, Tempe and Chandler are ideal for vacations that are filled with indoor fun, desert adventures and relaxing by the pool.
When you’re a kid, the arms of a mighty saguaro cactus look like they’re waving “hello.” A family of quail running down a desert path looks like something you’d see in a cartoon. And, the Arizona sky at sunset looks like a watercolor painting in real life. Seeing these symbols of the American Southwest, in the same place where you can visit a wonderland of LEGO bricks and jump to your heart’s content at an indoor trampoline park, is downright epic for young travellers.
This is exactly what you can expect during a family vacation to the Sunny Arizona, and here we highlight the best activities for families in Chandler and Tempe, Arizona:
Papago Park, located where Tempe and Phoenix meet, is a desert preserve with nearly 10 miles of hiking and biking trails. See the sunset from Hole in the Rock, a natural rock formation that affords amazing views of the cities below. Go on a bike ride along the Crosscut Canal Path, or visit one of the many attractions located in the park. Phoenix Zoo is among the best zoos for kids, with features such as the Arizona Trail, Stingray Bay and Giraffe Encounters. Desert Botanical Garden is home to thousands of plants from arid regions around the world, art exhibitions and special events throughout the year. Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park provides a glimpse in the Hohokam people who occupied this area more than 1000 years ago. Kids who dream of becoming a firefighter will be in their element at Hall of Flame Fire Museum, featuring over 90 classic pieces of firefighting equipment. And, the AZ Heritage Center at Papago Park introduces visitors to the contemporary history of the state and metro area with interactive exhibits and fascinating displays.
Spend the whole day at Tempe’s Arizona Mills, an indoor shopping and entertainment destination with the whole family in mind. Start by buying a combo ticket to visit SEA LIFE Arizona Aquarium and LEGOLAND Discovery Center, located next door to each other.
Adults and children alike will delight in thousands of sea creatures at SEA LIFE, from sharks to sea turtles to jellyfish. This aquarium is interactive for kids, with tanks and viewing bubbles that are perfectly sized for the young set, a scavenger hunt passport to encourage learning about our ocean world and a 360-degree ocean tunnel. SEA LIFE added an outdoor water play area in 2017, Colorado River Adventure, where kids can pump, twist and turn a water stream and learn about conservation.
Next, visit LEGOLAND Discovery Center, the perfect spot for families with kids 3-10 years old. There are two rides, thousands of LEGO bricks in themed play areas, a 4D theater and iconic Arizona landmarks at Miniland.
Also inside Arizona Mills, you’ll find Tilt Studio. You can spend hours here playing all types of games, from classics like pinball machines to arcade favorites such as Pac Man to the newest in virtual reality games.
Rawhide Western Town & Steakhouse
Arizona’s largest Western-themed attraction in Chandler is accessible from everywhere and perfect for young cowboys and cowgirls looking to embrace Arizona’s old west. Catering to families and kids alike, visitors may engage in a number of attractions and live-action stunt shows. Hit the trails by taking a hay-wagon ride or stroll down the recreated frontier town on foot or riding a gentle and steady burro. Young ones will delight in the chance to pan for gold, visit the local petting zoo and catch a ride on the mini-train and assorted fun rides. More adventurous kids will want to take their chance at the 30-foor rock climbing wall or challenge their balancing skills aboard a mechanical bull. While admittance to the theme park is free, visitors may purchase an attraction wristband or pay per attraction.
Introduce your children to some of the most beloved stories presented by this acclaimed professional theater company. Childsplay brings a collection of original plays and works inspired by literature such as A Christmas Carol and Go, Dog, Go! All performances take place at the lovely lakeside Tempe Center for the Arts.
Tempe Town Lake
One of Tempe’s most unexpected attractions is Tempe Town Lake, a two-mile long recreational lake located between Downtown Tempe and Papago Park. Explore the cool waters by renting an electric boat, pedal boat, kayak or paddle board from Tempe Boat Rentals. Go for a stroll or bike ride along the five miles of pathways that surround the lake. Or, relax on the lawn with a picnic lunch from one of the many restaurants in Downtown Tempe.
You’re sure to have a great time at Tempe Marketplace, a shopping, dining and entertainment destination close to Downtown Tempe and the Arizona State University Tempe Campus. There are dining options to satisfy everyone from the pickiest of toddlers to grandparents. Thirsty Lion Gastropub & Grill, Kabuki and Noodles & Company are just a few favorites. Enjoy free live music on Friday and Saturday nights at The District Stage, beginning at 7 pm. And, the kids will love the Splash Pad located near Barnes & Noble. It’s open daily from 7 am to 11 pm.
Kids that Rip Family Action Sports Center
Also known as KTR, Kids That Rip Family Action Sports Center is a 60,000 square foot center located in Chandler that is perfect for active kids and families looking to spend quality time together. The facility features dedicated areas to practice parkour, train to be a ninja warrior, as well as trampolines for jumping. The facility also features an obstacle course and a large park area for skateboarding, scooters and BMX. All this activity calls for a recharge at the café, offering family-friendly fare and quick snacks.
Veterans Oasis Park
One of more than 65 parks located in Chandler, Veterans Oasis Park is considered one of the premier birding spots in the Valley with its recharge basins, riparian areas, 5-acre lake and abundance of native vegetation. This 113-acre park is a natural draw to birds of many varieties from tiny Burrowing Owls to stunning Vermilion Flycatchers; over 150 species have been seen at the park! The first Saturday of the month, November through April, Desert Rivers Audubon Society leads family bird walks around the water recharge ponds at the park. Typical tours last approximately 45 minutes and loaner binoculars and bird bingo cards for the kids are provided. The paths are relatively flat and easily accessible by foot or wheelchair.
Take a self-guided stroll around a man-made lake for the Chandler Solar System Walk. Navigate your way around a 2,500-foot path along a series of monuments and signs representing the sun, planets and primary celestial objects – all placed at distances relative to the scale of the solar system. Each foot on the walk represents 1.5 million miles which means that the distance from the sun to Earth is 62 feet along the walk — equivalent to the actual 93 million miles between the two in space. The signs provide detailed information about the planets and references to ancient cultures who studied the skies, mythology, the asteroid belt, dwarf planets, and comets. The self-guided tour is perfect for budding astronomers.
Burst of Butterflies
Located in Downtown Chandler, this fun and funky painting and art studio is perfect for all ages. The energetic art studio offers budding artists plenty of walk-in activities including soap making, candle making, stained glass, jewelry making, pottery painting, step-by-step canvas painting and much more. It is an excellent way to commemorate a family vacation to Arizona.
Playtopia at Tumbleweed Park
With lots of room to play, Playtopia is a free, 2.5-acre playground and picnic section of Chandler’s Tumbleweed Park. The grounds feature several play zones with themes based on Chandler’s rich agricultural heritage. Playtopia is an ideal place for endless imaginative play that attracts families from all over. Ramadas and plenty of grassy lawns are available for a picnic lunch or snack that can be picked up from one of Chandler’s many family-friendly restaurants.
To learn more about Arizona, visit the Arizona Office of Tourism. For information about Chandler, Arizona, go to Visit Chandler. For information about Tempe, Arizona, go to Tempe Tourism.