We are sharing fun things to do in Phoenix, Arizona with your kids. We're all over Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler, and Phoenix! We specialize in lists, the basics, with just enough information to pique your interest and let you decide where to go. Find Phoenix travel ideas for kids and families.
Hiking Hayden Butte with kids is a great outdoor activity that offers amazing views of the city in just an hour round trip! While it is a steady, steep incline to the top, even little legs can rise to the challenge and enjoy this unique city experience.
We parked at a little lot at the base of the trail (for $2/hr – we only needed 1 hour). There are also a couple parking garages in downtown Tempe, or consider parking for free at Tempe Beach Park, and walking a short distance back to the trail.
There are two ways to hike from the parking lot. Check the map at the trailhead to see the dirt switchbacks, or the straight up paved path. We tried both and the kids almost preferred the dirt paths! It was a fun way to add an extra .5 miles to our distance. (And our son loves rocks.) The switchbacks end near the top of the paved pathways, and then the trail continues with concrete steps and some sections of railings. Take your time, stay to the right (or let fast hikers pass you) and you’ll make it!
We spent about 15 minutes at the top, soaking up the views. The kids also enjoy playing on the rocks. If you can, have someone take a picture of your group in several directions to get in the full view. Looking northwest or south has some great views of the mountains.
Since part of this trail is paved, you could take a stroller. However, the steps are not stroller friendly. We recommend just walking Hayden Butte with kids, or using a baby carrier to take little ones who might need a ride. This is a short, simple hike even with the steep incline.
As always when hiking, be sure to bring closed toed shoes, water, hats and sunscreen!
If you’re looking for a city oasis, Singh Meadows in Tempe is the place to visit. It’s a pocket of beauty in a busy city, giving all ages a chance to breath and slow down for a couple hours.
We were sad to hear when Singh Farms closed in April 2016, and just recently heard about Singh Meadows in Tempe this past month. Apparently it’s been in business since January 2017, with the same owners of Singh Farms converting an old golf course to offer a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, a cafe, and beautiful green fields for relaxation.
We stopped by on a Saturday morning for a couple hours and could have easily stayed longer. The farmers market is a delight to browse (look for free samples of amazing spreads and jellies and more) and children will love the rainbow colors of food at their level. We picked up iced coffee, lemonade and cookies from the cafe. Next time we’ll have to sample the sandwiches, pasta and famous house baked pizzas because everything looked and smelled amazing. There is seating on the patio, picnic tables in the field, or you’re welcome to grab a blanket and picnic.
Scattered around the huge grassy areas you’ll find a variety of open play lawn games, like hula hoops and balls and badminton. We also brought some of our own favorite backyard games too and made new friends. Kids would also love bringing scooters for the paved pathways (which doesn’t extend far, but is fun). Grab an oversized bean bag chair and enjoy the view.
During our visit there was also a sweet mama goat and her two kids to pet, and a couple selling homemade goat cheese and soaps. We also walked around the pond a couple times. There wasn’t much beyond the pond, but children will love the space to run.
This is a beautiful place to meet up with friends, host a party, or unwind from a busy week. We’re excited to see how Singh Meadows develops! It has a peaceful vibe and welcoming spirit that is destined to become a favorite of locals, and a strong draw to visitors.
Singh Meadows is located in north Tempe, right near the intersections of the 101 and 202. Hours are 8am-2pm, Friday-Sunday, with ample free parking. No outside food or drink allowed.
It’s not difficult to be impressed with this newly opened indoor play area in Chandler. Giggles proudly features numerous wooden play sets, which just lends itself to natural beauty on many levels. We spent almost 5 hours here on their opening day and the kids were happily exhausted!
Giggles welcomes kids ages 6 and under to enjoy this wonderful play area. (Children 7 and older are asked to stay in the snack area to do homework or play board games.) Grip socks are required for children, regular socks for parents; they sell grip socks at the counter for $2/pair if needed. There are a couple comfy couches for mom chats, as well as benches strategically placed by various activities. Oh, and complimentary coffee and WiFi is offered!
What you’ll find at Giggles:
two playgrounds with slides, climbing walls and cute little features like a pulley and basket, and a tire swing
a cozy treehouse with lounging chairs
a train table and two coaster train rides
a stage with instruments and microphone, perfect for the budding musician
a side area for toddlers with age appropriate toys (this is not sectioned off)
a large trampoline with plenty of space for friends!
a closed room for nursing mothers, and a separate area for diaper changes
a snack area, with a sink and microwave, and plenty of seating (outside food is welcomed)
so much more! Plan a visit and see for yourself.
Giggles is open 7 days a week. Hours are currently Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-8pm, and Sunday and Monday from 10am-6pm. Costs are $10/child, with each additional sibling $8. They also have a monthly membership and host birthday parties!
We loved the airy feel to Giggles, the friendly staff, and the unique look of the wooden play structures. It’s also a nice combination of indoor play areas like Playtime Oasis with their multiple “learning stations”, and the familiar and loved playgrounds you might find at parks. This a great place to visit for the summer months, or any time the kids might need an enclosed space to roam safe and free.
At first glance, you might not think that Pinnacle Peak is a kid friendly hike. While impressive with boulders and tall peaks, it can seem intimidating and just plain tough for little legs. But it’s actually a fun hike that kids will love and is one of our favorite places to take visitors. In a relatively short amount of time, you gain beautiful views with lots of desert plant life to admire.
Restrooms and a small visitors center are at the base of the trail, along with a couple picnic tables. The trail itself is just under two miles and not a loop. There are numerous switchbacks but the elevation gain is slow. This makes it easier for kids and really, the view of Scottsdale is amazing anywhere on the trail! There are several overlooks to stop and rest if needed.
Once you pass the highest point of the trail, just under 3/4 mile, the path meanders downward, before coming back up again with a few switchbacks. This part is not as scenic, but is still beautiful. We’ve taken guests as far as Grandview, and also to the end of the trail and back.
We are not avid hikers, but love the challenge and desert beauty of Pinnacle Peak. Our kids are slow but steady walkers. They always feel accomplished and proud of themselves afterwards! We’ve taken children, grandparents, and pregnant women on this hike and everyone has loved it.
This is not a stroller friendly hike. However the path is smooth with little chance of twisting an ankle or injuring little ones (as long as you stay on the trail). The highest point of elevation on the trail is 2,889 feet.
This park also offers three rock climbing sections. Older children and teenagers might enjoy exploring this route. Contact the park office for more details.
As always when hiking, bring plenty of water for each person, sunscreen, hats and snacks. Close toed shoes are also a good idea when exploring rough trails. Our kids love bringing little backpacks to put in treasures that they find! (Which would be mostly rocks for our son.) We always look them over back at the picnic tables, and then leave them for others to enjoy.
We recently spent a full day in Old Town Scottsdale! Scottsdale is our hometown and the Old Town area is one of our favorites to wander as there is so much to do within walking distance. Whether you’re visiting from out of town or a Phoenix local, here is a fun list that will keep kids smiling as you explore Old Town.
Scottsdale Civic Center Park – this area is a great place to start! There is no playground, but kids will love the foundations and ducks, running in the green grass, and admiring the gorgeous flowers. The LOVE statue is a great family photo op! Also, newly installed by the ponds are Sun Lanterns (and they glow at night). Further down are fun little merry go rounds, another contribution from the Scottsdale Public Art. Our kids played on these for a good half hour.
Across from the merry go rounds is the Scottsdale Historical Museum. It is free to tour. The employees are so friendly and pointed out a few exhibits which would interest our kids. Don’t miss ringing the huge bell! Also pick up a free brochure explaining the self guided tour of Old Town and its history. Even if you don’t follow the exact route, it’s very helpful and interesting to refer to when walking around, a great mini-history lesson of the city for older children.
Scottsdale Civic Center Library – also in the park area is a huge library with a fabulous children’s area. (You can park in the parking garage for free, but only for 3 hours.) Kids will love the castle decor, the little tower for reading or playing, and all the toys and educational activities scattered around at various tables. Ask a librarian about storytime hours too!
Food Time – there are endless options in Old Town! Some of our kid friendly favorites are Rehab Burger, Morning Squeeze, Breakfast Club, Arcadia Farms, and Brat Haus. For sure, don’t miss stopping for some ice cream treats at the Sugar Bowl! This 1950’s style diner has amazing floats and malts, epic sundaes and yummy single serve scoops. There’s even a small arcade in the back. We love taking visitors here!
Shopping – Old Town has some of the best shops for purchasing souvenirs, gifts or unique items with a Western or Arizona theme. Jewelry and art stores are also in abundance! Two of our favorite stops for kids are Bischoff’s Shades of the West and Scottsdale Southwest – both have a great kids sections of books, toys and clothing. Cactus Hut is also a fun store. Also, Zoolikins has a selection of Arizona themed kid items, as well as being a fantastic resource for all things baby related (carriers, cloth diapers, food utensils, and classes).
There’s also a huge mall, Scottsdale Fashion Square, with two floors of shopping, a Harkins theatre, a huge food court and more. We love the Disney Store here!
Desert Stages Theatre is also located in the mall. We recently saw a youth production of Peter Pan and are eagerly waiting for Aladdin Jr. to come to stage later this year. These types of shows are a great way to introduce theatre to children. See their website for their current season and consider making an evening show during your next Old Town visit!
Mini Social – next to Zoolikins is an indoor play area for ages 6 and under. They offer a variety of toys and activities, along with a small cafe of drinks and food. If the weather drives you indoors, or you want to meet up with friends, this is a great option! Cost: $5-9/person, depending on age and number of children.
Ride the Trolley – There are numerous free parking garages around Old Town, and to make the deal sweeter, there’s a free trolley to transport you around town! Stops are labeled, or you can flag one down at any place besides a stop light intersection. The one we rode also had a driver giving a brief history of various places. The kids loved seeing things from a different perspective and it allowed us to see more without wearing out little legs.
Museums – there are a couple options for indoor exploring. Other than the historical museum, there is The Art of Ice Cream Experience and Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. The Art of Ice Cream has a coloring wall, a ball pit, a bowling alley and more — all with an ice cream theme! Think color and cute Instagram photos of the kiddos. Tickets are $15/adult, $13/ages 4-11 (3 and under are free). The Western Spirit Museum has a large collection of art, pottery and western apparel, like an impressive collection of saddles. In our opinion, it is not geared for children, but they do a good job offering kid friendly activities on the western theme. Our kids enjoyed the three tables to design their own movie posters and the western “Chutes and Ladders” game (and mom loved them being distracted for 10 minutes so she could actually read the signs). Be sure to ask for the children’s clipboard of special activities; complete a sheet and return it to the welcome desk for a free prize! Adults are $15/person, children 6-17 are $8/person (5 and under are free). Also, from November-April Scottsdale residents are free on Thursdays with proof of residence.
Arizona Canal – we absolutely love bike riding along this canal, but it’s also perfect for walking and meandering. The paths are wide and paved, you will likely see ducks in the water too which kids will enjoy. Located along the west end of Old Town, you can access all the shops and restaurants before or after exploring, including trolley stops. If you are inclined to take a bike ride, there are several rental shops, from electric bikes to kid bicycles.
Thanks for joining us in our little tour! Please let us know if you have a favorite stop in Old Town. We’re always excited to check out new places in our hometown.
If you’re looking for a full day adventure, try Wildlife World Zoo! Because it’s so much more than your typical zoo, with hundreds of exotic animals, an impressive aquarium, and awesome amusement park type rides. It’s located on the far west side of Phoenix, not really on the way to anywhere. (It took us about an hour to drive from Scottsdale.) But we think it’s completely worth the drive and price and you won’t be disappointed with your visit.
We very quickly noticed that there are no paved walkways here, just dirt paths. It may make your shoes more dusty that normal but we really enjoyed the “natural feel” when you wander and view the animals. Plus you don’t have the heat that concrete gives off! Strollers of all types will be completely fine on the paths.
Some of our favorite exhibits were the kangaroos, which were wandering free in a large enclosed area, and the entertaining monkeys as they swung around and chattered. The kids loved the peacocks in the trees! (Especially the one that landed on a employee truck and allowed a closer view of its gorgeous feathers.)
There are more than 600 species in the exhibits, and over 6,000 individual animals.
Speaking of exhibits, there are several that are indoors, giving a nice break from the sometimes intense Arizona sunshine. (They are also air conditioned!) The reptile exhibits were very impressive and the kids loved the glass cases being on their level. We learned a lot about so many little creatures, some of which we didn’t know existed.
The other indoor exhibit was the aquarium. It’s not as extensive as Odysea or SeaLife, but had a great variety fish and sea creatures. It actually brought a more complete picture to the amazing variety of animals that exist on our planet!
There are a variety of shows and feedings to bring an extra special touch to your visit. The sea lion show, which runs twice a day, is so cute and free with admission! The kids petting zoo and lory parrot feedings are free as well. For an extra charge and you can feed the sea lions, giraffes, and stingrays.
The Safari Park is not to be missed, with over 30 different types of animals for you to see either by walking or the optional tram ride. This was one of our favorite sections, as the animals were so up close and personal.
When it’s time for a snack or lunch, there are six restaurants or cafes to choose from. Or, you are more than welcome to find a picnic table and enjoy your own food. We opted to have lunch by the Sky Rise and it was fun to watch. Don’t miss the playground too – it’s a nice break time for parents and kids will love climbing and sliding.
What’s unique about Wildlife World is that it’s also part amusement park! Little ones will love the train and carousel. And there’s also a log ride, zip line, roller coaster, log ride, flying swings and more. All of these activities cost extra and range from $3.50-6.00/person, with the zip line being $15/person.
Admission to Wildlife World is $39.99/adults, $19.99/children 3-12 (kids 2 and under are free). Check their website for coupons. Groupon also offers $3-5 off per person.
Hours are 9am-6pm, with the aquarium open 9am-7pm. Last admission is at 4:30pm. The park is open 7 days a week, including all holidays!
A small gem in Tempe is the Halle Heart Children’s Museum, where kids can learn about cardiovascular health. There are exhibits about eating a balanced diet, the benefits of exercise, how tobacco and smoking affects your body, and more. It’s easily accessible just north of the I10/Hwy 60 intersection, making a fun stop when visiting anything in Phoenix.
The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful. We had one staff member pause to help us with a small craft and was great at explaining the representation of arteries and veins.
Our favorite exhibit was the visual and audio comparison of a human heart to animal hearts. It’s truly astounding to see how tiny a hummingbird’s heart is, or how massive a giraffes heart must be to pump blood up its neck! The kids talked about this numerous times on the drive home.
They also enjoyed the grocery shopping area, and the active corner. We probably played Fruit Ninja longer than we should, but hey, it got us moving!
Our six year old also was shocked at the visuals of how smoking affects more than just your lungs. This is a strong point of the museum: lots of visuals for things that kids hear every day. Don’t smoke, it kills your body! Make sure to eat your veggies. Move at least 30 minutes a days. Words are powerful, but pictures and hands on interaction go a step further to help kids (and adults!) understand how healthy food strengthens your body, or how exercise gets the blood flowing through your body.
Don’t expect to spend a full day at this museum. Our visit was just under two hours, which allowed us to experience everything a couple times. This place is small but fun; some of the displays weren’t responsive, and the short movies were dated in quality and graphics. But for $5/person (3 and under are free) it’s definitely worth a stop! We would go back.
There are so many reasons to love your local library. Besides checking out books, most locations offer classes, free story times, events and more. And have you heard of a Culture Pass? It’s a great way to check out a selection of local museums or attractions for free!
With a current library card (you can sign up for one at your nearest location, no charge), you can check out a pass and get free admission for two. There are 14 locations to choose from! The discount admission will apply to the highest paid value; so if two adults and one child are visiting a museum, then the free passes will apply to the two adults, not the adult and child. This pass is valid for a week, and then expires, but with nothing to return.
Check your local library for a list of current venues participating in the Culture Pass. At the time of this article, the complete list of attractions are:
Passes are available on a first come, first served basis. Some restrictions apply, such as only being able to check out two passes per month, or the pass only covering general admission (and not special exhibits). Your local librarian will be happy to answer any questions and show you how the passes work!
We have only checked out a handful of these locations, like the Heard Museum, Halle Heart Museum or Pueblo Grande Museum. But we are planning to visit all of these during the year and will definitely share details and photos of how families might enjoy the museums together. Also, checking out a pass for a date night is a fun option too!
It’s also worth nothing that some locations have free days. These are:
Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve (occasional free admission days)
Desert Botanical Garden (second Tuesday of every month, from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.)
Desert Caballeros Western Museum (Children under 18 free every day)
Heard Museum (Free for members & Native Americans)
Phoenix Art Museum (free Wednesdays, 3:00 – 9:00 p.m., First Fridays, 6:00 – 10:00 p.m., and some weekends)
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (Thursdays all day, Fri & Sat 5-9pm)
One of our Scottsdale libraries (the Civic Center location) also offers special event Culture Passes. A current option is a pass for two to see East Valley Children’s Theatre’s play of Beauty and the Computer Geek! Again, ask your local librarian for what is offered in your area.
We love parks! It’s a great way to soak up some sunshine, get some exercise and usually there is no cost involved. Phoenix offers awesome park options, some with shade covers and splashpads too, making them available even during the hot summer months.
If you’re in the mood for different scenery, a place to meet friends, or just want to have nap time in the car after a morning out, here is a list of ten of our favorite parks around the Valley. We feel these are unique and have something of interest for all ages.
Do you have a favorite park? Leave a comment and let us and readers know!
Granada Park (6505 N 20th Street, Phoenix) – the playground is great, with lots of sand, and the kids are crazy about the pond (so many ducks!) It also accesses the Arizona Canal Path, if you’re inclined to walk, run or bike. Also love the view of Squaw Peak.
Riverview Park (2100 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Mesa) – there’s a huge splashpad! Also the play structures are epic, ranging from a zip line to a climbing tower (teens will love this). We also like that this accesses the Rio Salado Pathway, taking you all the way to Tempe Beach Park.
Kiwanis Lake Park ( 5500 S Mill Ave, Tempe) – the playground is great, and we love the pond with ducks, and paddle boats to rent. Lots of space to run, and paths for littles to practice bike and scooter skills. The nearby Kiwanis Rec Center has an indoor pool as well!
Tumbleweed Park (745 E Germann Road, Chandler) — the kids love that the majority of the playground is under a huge barn. There’s also a zipline, tire swing and a great sand area. Lots of areas to explore, and the Tumbleweed Rec Center has so many options for classes.
Florence Ely Nelson Desert Park (8950 E Pinnacle Peak Road, Scottsdale) – there’s a couple short nature paths past the restrooms, with gorgeous flower blooms in the spring. Look for wildlife too! We also love the spray pads at the playground, making this a great stop for the summer.
Anthem Community Park (41703 N Gavilan Peak Pkwy, Anthem) – this park, north of Phoenix on I17, is worth the drive. Gorgeous walking paths for littles to explore, a playground, train ride, a lake — we could have stayed here all day. There’s also a skate park.
Sahuaro Ranch Park (802 N 59th Ave, Glendale) – the playground is so unique, partially suspended, making it a great challenge for older children. Also, wander the historical buildings, orchards and watch out for peacocks!
Freestone Park (1045 E Juniper Ave, Gilbert) – there are two playgrounds to enjoy here, plus a train ride and mini rides on the weekends. We also loved the lake (what is it about kids and water?) and that is accesses the Heritage Trail for bike riding or walking.
Pioneer Park (526 E Main St, Mesa) – this park recently had a major renovation and is massive! There are slides, climbing structures, a small sandbox (the rest of the park is wood chips), and a splash pad plus much more. Older children will enjoy this as much as younger ones. (Although we will say, this park can get super busy on weekends with big kids, and little ones can be easily “lost”. So consider climbing and exploring with them!)
McCormmick Stillman Railroad Park (7301 E. Indian Bend Rd, Scottsdale) – this is probably the most popular park in the Phoenix area and for good reason. Great playgrounds and a train and carousel to ride, plus more.