Home to iconic natural landmarks including Grand Canyon National Park and Sedona’s red rock buttes, Arizona is a mecca for year-round outdoor desert adventure with activities to please every member of your tribe. From epic hiking trails and world-class golf, to waterparks and river rides, to destination spas and critically acclaimed cuisine, it’s all here. Pick the right resort and there’s a good chance you’ll discover most of the fun just a few steps from your room. Here are our top picks for the best family-friendly resorts in Arizona.
Courtesy of The Phoenician
Water babies (and their parents) will go wild for the Phoenician Scottsdale’s six pools, 50-metre water slide and toddler splash pad. Another posh perk that promises to impress is the Night Owls program at Funicians Club. While the kiddos craft, play and watch movies, you can enjoy an indulgent adult-only evening. The bonus? Night Owls is complimentary, for up to two children per family, as a resort guest dining at one of the on-property restaurants. Slip in a treatment at the exquisitely reimagined Phoenician Spa, then wander over to the signature restaurant, Mowry and Cotton, for craft cocktails and sweet, whole roasted striped bass, served atop ancho chili and cotija cheese tossed corn. If you’re visiting on a Friday or Saturday, pop by Funicians for Bunny Hoppy Hour, between 5-6pm and pick out a Pho-Pho plush bunny.
For a cool cultural experience, book a stay at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler. Located in the Gila River Indian Community, about 30 minutes southeast of Phoenix, this sprawling desert oasis shares 2,000 years of Native American history through its breathtaking interior design, ancient artifacts, artwork and storytelling. Bring the kids on a guided tour to learn how the resort’s unique architecture and amenities pay homage to the Maricopa and Pica tribes. For outdoor family fun, rent a pedal boat or double kayak from the River Adventure kiosk, or book a trail ride through the Koli Equestrian Center. When it’s time for rest and relaxation, take the kids to the Adventure Club and experience the Sheraton’s championship golf courses, award-winning adults-only destination spa and Kai, one of the best restaurants in the state.
Kids will love trekking along the winding Window Walk Nature Trail at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson. The gentle paved pathway offers picturesque viewpoints, an 80-foot waterfall and over 200 interpretive signs featuring cool facts about indigenous desert birds, wildlife, flora and fauna. Feeding the fish at the Koi pond and exploring the butterfly garden are also a hit with little ones. Throughout the summer you’ll want to hang poolside for live music, water games and Dive-in movie nights. The Coyote Kids Club, for ages 4 – 12, will keep young guests entertained with scavenger hunts, back-of-house tours and desert themed art projects. Dining at the resort’s Flying V restaurant is another family favourite, thanks to the complimentary kids’ appetizer plate and tableside guacamole presentation.
Courtesy of Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
At Christmas the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess dazzles guests with magical holiday displays featuring more than four million sparkling fairy lights. An outdoor desert skating rink, four lane Polar-glide ice slide, Build-a-Bear workshop and enchanting live entertainment are just some of the highlights during the Fairmont’s merriest season. Throughout the summer months, visiting families will love the resort’s Dive-in movies shown at the Sunset Beach sand pool. Superhero camps and mermaid university led by Moon, the Fairmont’s resident mermaid are also sure to be hits. Or enroll the kids in Trailblazers kids' club while you play a round at the famous TPC Stadium golf course.
Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
Ritz-Carlton’s themed children’s programing is exceptional, and the Dove Mountain property in Tucson exemplifies five-star family fun. Nestled in the heart of the Tortolita Mountains, this luxury resort offers Ritz Kidz Rangers for adventurers aged 5 – 12 years old. Whether exploring the surrounding arid landscape and learning about its 230 species of creatures or discovering the different foods that people eat around the world, your pint-sized scientist’s imagination is sure to soar. Other thrilling outdoor activities are the Family Geocaching Adventure that takes place in the surrounding 50-mile network of trails and Astronomy 101 – a guided stargazing experience. Or, bring the excitement indoors with in-room glamping, complete with a pop-up pup tent, stuffed desert tortoise and educational story about the Sonoran Desert.
Courtesy of Hyatt Residence Club
Head to the Hyatt Residence Club in Sedona for spacious family suites with sweeping views of the area’s hallmark red rocks. Choose from one and two-bedroom condo-style rooms with fully equipped kitchens, stone fireplace in the living rooms and furnished outdoor patios or balconies. Poolside grills are great for barbequing while the kids swim, and outdoor firepits are the perfect spot for sunset smores. Epic views of Snoopy and Cathedral rocks can be enjoyed from the heated pool or a chaise lounge. The kids camp and recreational room, pool table and ping pong promise to keep your younger guests happily entertained while on property.
Courtesy of The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
Ideally located in the centre of Scottsdale, the Westin Kierland maxes out family fun. The kids will want to spend most of their time in the Adventure Water Park, floating along the lazy river and ripping down the 110-ft waterslide. For tweens and teens, the Kierland Flowrider – a board sport simulator – offers the ultimate desert surf experience. Parents will appreciate the multitude of dryland adventures that include award-winning golf, rejuvenating spa treatments and creative cocktail classes, while the kiddos will love taking part in Camp Kierland. At sunset grab a spot on the Dreamweavers Canyon Courtyard for al fresco cocktails and nightly Scottish bagpipe performances.
For a unique tent-free camping experience book a fully-equipped deluxe cabin at the Grand Canyon/Williams KOA. Located just an hour south of the Grand Canyon National Park Visitor Center, the year-round KOA is an ideal basecamp for your family’s bucket list adventure. With a fireside gourmet coffee bar, full-service concierge, heated outdoor pool, supervised summer kids camp and rec room with pool table and Wii games, you’ll enjoy a true resort-style vacation while basking in the great outdoors. Both the six and eight person deluxe cabins include a separate bedroom with king bed and a queen bed in the loft, a full bath, as well as all linens, kitchen cookware, dishes and utensils, and cable TV.
By Mhairri Woodhall