Sun, swimming pools, and grandparents are pretty much all we need for a great vacation, so we love Arizona. Occasionally, we need to get out of grandpa’s pool, however, so here are some of our favorite things — dare I say, the 20 best things? — to do with kids in Phoenix when you need to get out of the house.
Take Them Out to the Ballgame
Even if you aren’t as fanatical about baseball as we are, the Cactus League may still tickle your fancy. Spring training for many major league teams takes place in Phoenix, which means you can catch a bunch of games at lower prices and with better weather than during the regular season.
Alternatively, the Diamondbacks call Phoenix home, so during the regular season you can catch a game at Chase Field. If you’re into fancy baseball stadiums (and we are), this one features air conditioning and a swimming pool!
This famous Phoenix steakhouse features great views, an expansive menu (including rattlesnake), and the kids will get a kick out of the slide into the dining room. Rustler’s Rooste deserves a spot on your restaurant itinerary.
LEGOLAND Discovery Center
My kids absolutely LOVE LEGO, so they were thrilled to visit the LEGOLAND Discovery Center Arizona. Our final assessment was that it is a cousin to the bigger LEGOLAND, and our favorite, LEGO House. It’s also probably best for the younger set, but still a fun way to kill a few hot hours in air conditioning.
SEA LIFE Arizona
If you’re at the LEGOLAND Discovery Center anyway, be sure to buy the combo ticket to the adjacent SEA LIFE Aquarium. My husband is a total aquarium snob, and even he was impressed by the walk-through tunnel which allows a 360-degree view of the sea creatures.
For more activities than you could possibly accomplish in one day, check out the Arizona Boardwalk. This large “entertainment hub” has enough restaurants and shops to keep you air conditioned for weeks, plus seven big indoor attractions:
- OdySea Aquarium — billed as the largest aquarium in the Southwest.
- Butterfly Wonderland — a butterfly atrium.
- The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! — a chance to learn some science with Ripley’s unbelievable collections.
- Laser and Mirror Maze — good for getting the wiggles out of older kids.
- Surprise Your Eyes — filled with “Instagrammable” illusions.
- Pangea — the home of 50+ life size animatronic dinosaurs and perfect for all budding paleontologists.
- VR Extreme — all virtual reality, all the time, and a way to get those gamers to agree to leave the house.
Enchanted Island Amusement Park
Inside Phoenix’s public Encanto Park is the charming (and free to enter) Enchanted Island Amusement Park. Sure, you’ll pay for rides, food, and a splash zone pass, but there are pedal boats, climbing walls, a train, and lots of rides. Probably best for the younger set.
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Phoenix
The only thing better than a swimming pool is LOTS of pools. Preferably with water slides. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor (formerly Wet n’ Wild) has all this AND a bag of chips. For a serious water park, head here.
Children’s Museum of Phoenix
We love ourselves a good children’s museum…and this one’s no exception. In addition to indoor play, during the winter it has an outdoor space with a children’s garden, sand pit, mud kitchen, and play equipment.
Golfland Sunsplash has pretty much everything my boys love: a water park, mini golf, plus a castle full of video games, and laser tag. What’s not to love?
Castles N’ Coasters
This place features the roller coasters you’ve been looking for…plus mini golf and an arcade. For your little thrill seekers, Castles N’ Coasters will hit the spot.
The unique i.d.e.a. Museum is designed for the whole family. An educational hands-on art experience, this place is perfect for your little artist.
Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeology Park
For some stunning history, visit this ancient village site of Pueblo Grande. There’s an outdoor interpretive trail here as well as museum galleries. Tiny tots may not love this, but the rest of your crew will.
Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve
Petroglyphs are one of those things we love to see in the Southwest, because there aren’t a lot of them near our home. Deer Valley Petroglyph Reserve at Arizona State University is worth a visit for sure. For a nominal fee, you can explore a quarter-mile trail in this 47-acre nature preserve and view over 1,500 prehistoric petroglyphs.
Desert Botanical Garden
For some desert botany, head to the Desert Botanical Garden. There are some seriously impressive trails here (and all the cacti you would expect), but also a lovely butterfly pavilion.
Musical Instrument Museum
If you are a music fan, the Musical Instrument Museum will be right up your alley. Would I trust my kids for one second here? Absolutely not. However, they do have an Experience Area where you can try out instruments, which kids will love.
Pioneer Living History Museum
We are total suckers for living history museums, so Arizona’s Pioneer Living History Museum caught my eye right away.
Hall of Flame Fire Museum
If you have any budding firefighters, the Hall of Flame, which is devoted to all things firefighting, will excite them. There are a lot of collections here, so make sure you are REALLY in to fire before heading over!
Experience the Old West at Goldfield Ghost Town
We got a serious kick out of experiencing the Old West at Goldfield Ghost Town. Turns out you could spend a whole day here! I never even made it to the actual mine tour. We were so busy between the shooting gallery, the photo studio, and the gem store. You’ll also find a train, a zip line, and a reptile exhibit. Gold panning and gem sluicing are always my boys’ favorites, and those are here, too.
Hike South Mountain Park and Preserve
South Mountain Park is impressive, a 16,000-acre public park in Phoenix that encompasses three mountain ranges. We wanted to take the boys on a (very brief) desert hike to hunt lizards and see cacti without driving too far, and South Mountain delivered. Dobbins Lookout is the highest point in the park that you can reach by car, and the views there are impressive. Even if you don’t hike, this place is worth a visit.
Take a Day Trip to a National Park
Saguaro National Park is only a couple hours south of Phoenix, if you’re into stunning cactus-against-the-sunset photos.
Petrified Forest National Park is a little farther at 3.5 hours, making it a little long for a day trip, but worth it for strange and beautiful landscape.
Grand Canyon — the granddaddy of them all — is too far for a day trip from Phoenix, but a doable add-on to your trip. Personally, I have a rule about not taking my kids to the Grand Canyon until they are old enough to reliably not bolt for the edge, but if you want to live on the edge (no pun intended) more power to you.,