Scottsdale, Arizona is a perfect destination for families seeking an adventurous and relaxing warm weather getaway. With a pleasant climate most of the year, and a variety of family-friendly attractions, Scottsdale offers a range of indoor and outdoor activities with something for everyone in the family to enjoy. This guide covers the top 10 family-friendly activities in Scottsdale and the surrounding Phoenix area, so you can plan the perfect vacation for you and your loved ones.
Embark on a wild adventure at the Phoenix Zoo, home to over 3,000 animals across 400 species. Winding trails take you to exhibits with animals from Africa, to the equatorial zone, to local Arizona desert species. The kids will love the Children’s Trail, which has an array of smaller animals from around the world, as well as a petting zoo and age-appropriate demonstrations. The zoo also offers unique experiences like giraffe feeding and camel rides, as well as special events and themed exhibits throughout the year. And GoodNight Stay is pleased to have a new partnership with the Phoenix Zoo. As part of this collaboration, guests of GoodNight Stay can now enjoy exclusive discounted rates on General Day Admission tickets to the Phoenix Zoo. Learn more here!
McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
The McCornick-Stillman Railroad Park has been a Scottsdale family tradition since 1975. Planning a visit to this historic park is a must for anyone traveling to Scottsdale with children. This 30-acre park is one of the most unique parks of its kind, offering train rides, a 1950’s carousel, a playground, and a large grassy area with big shade trees. The well-maintained green spaces are perfect for a family picnic after you’ve enjoyed the rides. The park also hosts a variety of special events throughout the year, including concerts (many of which are family-friendly) and a month-long holiday lights exhibit. Don’t miss the Scottsdale Railroad Museum for a fascinating glimpse into the history of trains and explore the miniature railroad exhibits at the Model Railroad building.
Water Park Fun
Take the whole family for a splashing good time at a local water park, perfect for the warm Arizona days. The Scottsdale area offers several options for water park fun. The McDowell Mountain Ranch Aquatic Center offers a lazy river, waterslide and zero-depth entry splash pool at affordable rates during the summer. At other times of the year, River Ranch in Phoenix is a great option for families to relax in the water, with a slide and lazy river. Located a bit north of Scottsdale, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor offers over 35 slides and fast-paced attractions for the thrill-seekers in the family.
The Arizona Boardwalk is a shopping and entertainment complex which features gift shops, kid-friendly dining, and a host of attractions perfect for family fun. Dive into an underwater world of wonders at the OdySea Aquarium, where interactive exhibits and live animal shows provide an educational and entertaining experience for all ages. Walk among the beautiful rainforest environment where butterflies fly free at Butterfly Wonderland, learn about the prehistoric past at the Pangaea dinosaur exhibit, or challenge your perceptions at the Museum of Illusions. Arcades, a laser maze and Ripley’s Believe It or Not round out the experience at Arizona Boardwalk, where there is sure to be something to delight your family!
Desert Botanical Garden
Immerse your family in the beauty of the desert at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. This living museum showcases a stunning collection of desert plants from around the world, with a focus on native Sonoran Desert flora. Exhibits display information about the survival mechanism of various desert ecosystems, as well as how indigenous people used those native plants. Children of all ages and their families can participate in hands-on, nature-based walks, activities, and experiences in a fun and safe environment. The Botanical Garden offers kid-friendly programs throughout the year, including summer camps, story times, and more. Families will enjoy taking a leisurely stroll along the scenic trails, and be sure to visit the Butterfly Pavilion for a magical experience.
Transport your family back in time with a visit to MacDonald’s Ranch in Scottsdale. This Old West-themed attraction features horseback riding, stagecoach rides, a petting zoo and a variety of western-themed activities. There’s even a pumpkin patch in the fall, complete with a hay-bale maze, panning for gold, lawn games, a scavenger hut, petting zoo, and more! Their Cowboy Cookout dinner packages include a hearty cowboy meal and a trail ride, making this a perfect way to immerse yourselves in the spirit of the Wild West.
Hike at Pinnacle Peak Park
Lace up your hiking boots and head to Pinnacle Peak Park for a family-friendly hike. The well-maintained trail offers panoramic views of the surrounding desert and is suitable for all skill levels. There is little shade on this trail, so sunscreen and water are a good idea. We also recommend getting an early start on days when the temperatures are above 80 degrees. Bathroom facilities with drinking fountains are provided at the trailhead.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve
The vast McDowell Sonoran Preserve offers over 200 miles of trails through the desert landscape. This free nature preserve is home to stunning views, with towering cacti, unique geologic features, and diverse wildlife on display. Start at the Gateway Trailhead, where the Bajada Nature Trail provides an accessible loop trail perfect for an easy afternoon hike suitable for all ages.
Head over to the Pavilions at Talking Stick shopping center where you can find several options for some family-friendly activities. Race go-karts at Octane Raceway, have a family bowling night at Mavrix, or engage in friendly competition at Imagine 3-D Mini-Golf.
Musical Instrument Museum
Your music-loving family will love the Musical Instrument Museum. This unique museum features exhibits from around the world, allowing visitors to play instruments and explore the rich history of musical traditions. The Collier STEM gallery reveals the science behind musical instruments for a truly fascinating experience.
For families seeking a convenient home base during their Scottsdale adventure, vacation rentals provide the space and comfort needed for an unforgettable getaway. From cozy desert retreats to spacious homes with pools, a vacation rental elevates the convenience and relaxation of your family vacation. Book your Scottsdale vacation rental and embrace the adventure of this exciting destination for your next family vacation!