For many travellers, the idea of entertainment within a Native American community brings to mind the images and sounds of a casino. And while gaming has become a common economic stimulus for many Native American communities, there are some places where families can now find tons of kid-friendly entertainment options.
One of the best examples is the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRP-MIC), located on the eastern border of Scottsdale, Arizona. In SRP-MIC’s Talking Stick Entertainment District, culture and entertainment are combined to create incredible memories.
As you schedule a family trip to this must-see Arizona spot, here are some things not to miss.
The largest aquarium in the southwest United States, Odysea Aquarium features over 30,000 animals within 50 different exhibits. The exhibits are brilliantly constructed to provide the perfect experience for all family members, from the short attention span of a toddler to the child who never wants to leave the fan-favorite penguin exhibit. This educational, interactive and entertaining facility also offers a 3D movie, SeaTREK underwater ocean walk and a Living Sea Carousel, which takes guests through the Open Ocean, Sea Turtle, Sea Lion/Seal and Shark exhibits.
Insider tip: Don’t forget to visit the restrooms in the main lobby, which have viewing windows into the shark habitat.
Experience the largest indoor butterfly pavilion in America. This rainforest habitat features thousands of butterflies from around the world. Learn about the flight patterns of butterflies through an educational 3D movie and don’t miss out on the interactive nature exhibits, including the Rivers of the Amazon.
Insider tip: Wear bright colored clothing and you may find butterflies more likely to land on you as you walk through the exhibits.
Dolphinaris Arizona allows visitors to interact with dolphins, learn about this amazing species and support ocean conservation efforts. You can interact with dolphins while remaining on dry land or take part of the ultimate experience of being in the water with them. Become a dolphin trainer for the day, with an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at their world-class dolphin care.
Insider tip: At Docktails Beach House, an open-air restaurant located just feet from the pools, you can enjoy watching the dolphins while eating or having a cool drink.
Polar Play is a fun-filled (and cold!) ice-themed playground for children and adults. The indoor playground includes games, sculptures, tasty treats, ice drinks and so much more. As you might expect, everything within the ice playground is made of ice.
Insider Tip: As travelers rarely visit Arizona with a winter coat, large parkas and jackets are provided as part of the experience. Don’t forget to ask about snowballs.
Odysea in the Desert Shops & Restaurants
The main courtyard of Odysea in the Desert includes two floors of retail and restaurants that can satisfy the cravings of everyone in your group. If you are looking for an experience where you can park once and spend an entire day, Odysea in the Desert is an all-inclusive choice.
Insider Tip: The retail shop Four Peaks Mining Co. provides a free mining experience for kids.
Octane Raceway and Velocity VR
If your family is always looking for that extra burst of adrenaline with a side of competition, Octane Raceway and Velocity VR can fulfil this need. High-speed race karts carve up the corners and fly down the straightaways up to 45 MPH on a challenging raceway. The 1/3-mile track is the only full time indoor/outdoor track in the entire United States. Don’t worry, there are options for a slower race experience for the little ones or beginning racers. While waiting to race, enjoy an expansive arcade and mini-bowling alley. Velocity VR, powered by Zero Latency, is located inside Octane Raceway. This virtual-reality experience is the first free-roam multiplayer virtual reality arena to open in the western United States. Perfect for the gamer in the family, you can choose between fighting off a zombie apocalypse and roaming around an intergalactic space station.
Insider Tip: Relax on the outdoor patio after enjoying your indoor experience with an adult- or child-friendly beverage. The patio overlooks the race track; you can also take part in free outdoor games such as corn hole and giant Jenga.
iFLY Indoor Skydiving
Visitors from the ages of 3 to 103 find it impossible to leave iFLY without a smile on their face. iFLY, an indoor skydiving experience, is the simulation of true freefall conditions in a vertical wind tunnel. It’s where the dream of flight becomes a reality. The flyers take flight in the wind tunnel, flying one at a time with an instructor’s assistance. If they whole family is looking to fly, check out the family package. Along with your flight, everyone will leave with a video clip capturing their flight session.
Insider Tip: If you aren’t flying, keep your cameras ready, as you can take amazing photos and videos from the viewing gallery. Be alert and watch the instructors put on a breathtaking show between flight experience transitions.
If your group includes golfers and non-golfers alike, Topgolf is the perfect destination. This high-tech driving range features games that can be played by all ages and skill levels. Guests aim their microchipped golf balls at 11 giant dartboard-like targets providing instant feedback on each shot’s accuracy and distance. Amazing menu items such as brisket grilled cheese and injectable donut holes can be enjoyed at one of the 100+ climate-controlled hitting bays or within the properties full-service restaurant. Traditional golf attire is not required.
Insider Tip: You don’t need to provide your own clubs. Both right- and left-handed sets are included in your price and located at each of the bays.
Talking Stick Resort
Every Friday and Saturday evening at Talking Stick Resort’s fire garden you can enjoy a free show of native dancing, stories and music with Yellow Bird Productions. Yellow Bird Productions specialize in cultural presentations that celebrate the unique spirit of the American Indian. For the past 30 years, Yellow Bird has curated a unique repertoire of songs, dances, stories and dialogue that entertain and educate audiences of all ages.
Insider tip: Before or after the show, experience a taste of New Orleans at Ocean Trail. At this 19-seat award winning creole-style restaurant, food is freshly prepared in front of you in the an open cooking station.
Talking Stick Golf Club
When visiting a new part of the world, many people want to sample local flavors. Wildhorse Grille at Talking Stick Golf Club provides an affordable and relaxed atmosphere while offering local favorites like the Pima Stew. More traditional menu items such as burgers and salads are also available.
Insider Tip: Visit the pro shop within Talking Stick Golf Club to get an inside look at the history and growth of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
Salt River Fields acts as a chameleon property by offering very different experiences based on the time of year. If you’re visiting during the months of February and March, you can enjoy America’s pastime — Major League Baseball does spring training here. Opening in 2010, Salt River Fields has the highest attended spring-training facility in all of Major League Baseball. It is the spring-training home to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies. If your visit brings you to the Talking Stick Entertainment District outside of those months, you can enjoy one of the many large festivals and events that take place at Salt River Fields throughout the year. In October, Salt River Fields is home to two of the most iconic events in Arizona. The Arizona Taco Festival serves over 500,000 small portioned tacos while entertaining festival goers with acts like lucha libre wrestling, the chihuahua beauty pageant and a kid’s zone. Later in the month, enjoy Halloween with a display of over 20 hot-air balloons and 4,000 pounds of candy for trick-or-treaters. A kid’s zone, haunted trail, live music and fireworks will cap off the experiences at this safe and fun-filled family-oriented festival.
Insider Tip: The property offers a stewardship and history trail free of charge. These trails, found on the eastern and western sides of the facility, provide information on the important aspects of the Pima and Maricopa Indian Tribe’s culture seen throughout the property. Keep your eye out for the three water-bird statues that lead to the properties three-acre lake.
As evidenced by the above list, the Talking Stick Entertainment District can fill the schedule for families for days on end. Visitors to the area can ease the stress of driving among destinations by enjoying a free trolley service offered during the months of October to April. This service connects properties both within the Talking Stick Entertainment District and goes into downtown Scottsdale.
To learn more about both the cultural and entertainment offerings of the Talking Stick Entertainment District and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, visit www.talkingstickarizona.com.
Photos Courtesy of Talking Stick