Family Vacations to Phoenix and Scottsdale

Last updated 9th May 2018

Why Go

There’s one major reason to go to Phoenix: the weather is gorgeous! With the exception of the heart of summer (think mid-May through August), Phoenix weather will be sunny and perfect. With over 300 days of sunshine, there’s good reason it’s called the Valley of the Sun. The area is known for golf, shopping, and fine dining for adults, with plenty of activities for kids. In the spring the area hosts fifteen Major League baseball teams for spring training which draws visitors from around the country. There are outdoor experiences aplenty from hiking and biking to off road exploring. Whatever your family loves, they are sure to find it in the Phoenix area.

A view of downtown Phoenix, Arizona shot from Camelback Mountain at sunset.

Where to Go

The Greater-Phoenix area encompasses several metropolitan areas including: Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, and Chandler. Many tourists find themselves staying in one of these centrally located suburbs since they tend to be located near attractions and have a fair number of family friendly hotels.

Scottsdale is known for upscale shopping, but it’s also the home of Butterfly Wonderland and the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. It’s also home to some of the area’s high end luxury hotels with water parks and golf courses.

Tempe is home to Arizona State University, Tempe Town Lake (where kayaks and paddle boards can be rented), Sea Life Aquarium, and Legoland Discovery Center.

Mesa has many outdoor activities for adventurous families from Canyon Lake to the Superstition Mountains. Kids will love Riverview Park (they may never want to leave), tubing on the Salt River, and discovering the dinosaurs at the Arizona Natural History Museum.

Chandler is where families can find plenty of fun at Rawhide, a complete replica of an 1880s frontier town. It’s also a popular spot for family bike rides, with over 327 miles of paved cycling paths.

What to Do

Some of the favorite highlights are listed above, but there are still plenty of other options to see. Here’s what visitors shouldn’t miss in Phoenix and the metropolitan area.

  • Papago Park. Both the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden are located in the park and perfect for a family day out. The zoo has over 1,400 animals, a giraffe encounter, camel rides, and petting farm for young children. The garden showcases native plants and flowers and kids will enjoy the garden walks and special events throughout the year.
  • Museums. Explore the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Arizona Science Center, and Musical Instrument Museum. All of these museums are high on the list of must visit spots for families. Each one has a different focus, but they all have one thing in common: fun. The Children’s Museum is the ideal place to spend a day with young ones as it has an art studio, building blocks, dress up area, and indoor and outdoor play spaces. The Arizona Science Center makes science fun with hands-on experiments, an IMAX theater, a planetarium, and a SkyCycle where kids can ride a bike through the air! The Musical Instrument Museum is a favorite for children and adults showcasing music and instruments from around the world. It’s very interactive and kids love creating their own beats!
  • Get Active. The Phoenix area has plenty of spots that lend themselves to getting outdoors and exploring. Papago Park is a great place to hike and take in the view of Tempe Town Lake and the surrounding cities. South Mountain Park is one of the largest municipal park in the United States. It’s perfect for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Every fourth Sunday of the month, the park’s main access roads are closed to motor vehicles, making it an ideal place to explore with families. Tempe Town Lake is a man-made reservoir where families can rent paddle boats, kayaks, or stand up paddle boards. Rent bicycles at the Bicycle Cellar nearby and take a trail ride through the area.

Arizona Canal running through Scottsdale.

Getting Around

Most families will enjoy having their own rental car while visiting Phoenix, but there are several transportation options. The Valley Metro’s light rail runs from Mesa, through Tempe, and all the way to Phoenix, but does not service Scottsdale. There is public bus service throughout the entire metro area. Taxis are plentiful as are ride sharing options such as Lyft and Uber. Attractions can feel quite spread out, so it is recommended to rent a car at the airport to make the most of a visit.

Kirsten Maxwell is the founder of Kids Are A Trip, a family travel site created to inspire families to explore the word with their children. A bilingual teacher of Puerto Rican descent, Kirsten enjoys exposing her family and audience to other customs and cultures. She and her husband have three sons, ages 15, 13 and 10.