The Valley of the Sun or Phoenix, Arizona is the capital of the state of Arizona. The area is known for its high-end resort spas, golf courses and nightlife, but there is also plenty to do in this sun-drenched desert destination for families. Summers here can be VERY hot, so fall, winter and spring are better times to visit.
The Phoenix Zoo is the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the U.S. The zoo is home to over 3,000 animals, including 30 endangered species. It is open daily except Christmas Day. Buy tickets online in advance and save.
Located in downtown Phoenix, the Arizona Science Center has over 350 permanent hands-on exhibits. The Science Center also hosts traveling exhibits throughout the year. Closed only on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Perfect for children ages birth to age 10, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix has three floors of hands-on, interactive and educational exhibits. Open Tuesday-Sunday and select Mondays.
Kids love the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park located in Scottsdale. This 30 acre park features a 15 gauge railroad with scale steam, diesel locomotives and riding stock. There is also a carousel, museum, two playgrounds, and picnic area.
Phoenix is home to the only Global Instrument Museum, the Musical Instrument Museum has a collection of over 15,000 musical instruments from nearly 200 countries. Visitors on average spend about 4 hours here and this is the number one attraction in the Phoenix area despite only opening in 2010. The museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.
Future firefighter in the family? The Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting in Phoenix has a fire safety exhibit where kids can climb a fire pole, dress up in uniforms, explore the Safety House, and participate in interactive activities. The museum also has dozens of fire vehicles dating back to 1725, plus lots of other fire memorabilia.
How about a future police officer? The Phoenix Police Museum is a small museum that gives kids the opportunity to wear a police uniform, and see a police car, helicopter and motorcycle up close. Kids can also get their “mug shot” taken in the photo booth. The museum is run by retired police offers and admission is free. Allow about an hour for this museum.
Hiking is a popular activity in the Phoenix area. Make sure if you go hiking to wear a hat, sunblock and bring plenty of water. You are in the desert so watch for rattlesnakes and scorpions. A few recommended spots in the area:
1. Camelback Mountain- The most well-known hiking spot in the area. With an elevation of 2,706 feet, those who hike to the summit will be greeted with amazing 360 degree views of Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Paradise Valley. With grade schoolers try the easier Ramada Loop.
2. Hole in the Rock- Great, short hike for kids located in Papago Park. Climb up a short trail and then ascend the steps to the mouth of the hole and enjoy the views of the beautiful lake and picturesque desert.
3. Phoenix Mountain Preserve- This large desert park is located right inside the city. There are a variety of well marked trails and paths with great views. The park is also has a visitor’s center.
Day trip suggestions from Phoenix:
1. Sedona- Located about 2 hours from Phoenix, is a small town known for its charm, beauty and hospitality. The town sits at the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon and is surrounded by towering red rock formations. It is the perfect spot for hiking, biking, and kayaking. The climate here is dry and temperate, so the weather is almost always perfect.
2. Montezuma Castle National Park- This apartment style dwelling was carved into a limestone cliff by a Native American tribe, the Sinagua, more than 600 years ago. Visitors can walk the trails and view artifacts in the on-site museum. The park is located about an hour and a half from Phoenix.
3. Saguaro National Park- Located about 2.5 hours from Phoenix, this park was developed to protect the giant Saguaro cactus. The park offers hiking trails, camping sites, and special nighttime events.
4. Petrified National Forest- There is no other park in the U.S. like this one. Located 2.5 hours from Phoenix, the forest is known for fossils of plants and animals that existed during the Triassic Period and special extraction events are offered for children. The Painted Desert and the Rainbow Forest are also part of the park.
While not necessarily just a day trip from Phoenix, the Grand Canyon is a great place to visit from there. It’s only a 3.5 hour drive, but you may want to spend some extra time the area. The area offers views of the Canyon, hiking, bike tours, horseback riding and water rafting.
Phoenix Professional Sports Teams- Phoenix has five professional sports teams. For game tickets visit the team website or a reputable ticket broker.
Arizona Diamondbacks- Professional Baseball Team, regular season runs late March through the end of September. Tours are available of Chase Field year round. Please check the website for details.
Arizona Cardinals- Professional Football team, regular season runs September through December. If you are interested in a tour of State Farm Stadium please contact that stadium tour hotline at 623-433-7165.
Arizona Coyotes- Professional Hockey Team, regular season runs from October through early-April.
Phoenix Suns- Professional Basketball Team, regular season runs from mid-October through mid-April. To determine if tours are currently being offered of Talking Stick Resort Arena, please contact 602-379-2060.
Phoenix Mercury- Professional Women’s Basketball Team, regular season runs from late May through early September. To determine if tours are currently being offered of Talking Stick Resort Arena, please contact 602-379-2060
In addition to these 5 professional sports teams, Phoenix is also the spring training home of the Cactus League. Cactus League teams include the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. Spring Training games run from late February through late March. For more information on Spring Training please visit the Cactus League website.
Family Friendly Phoenix Restaurants
1. Camp Social- This camping themed restaurant has tire swings that hang from the top of the bar, a wooden canoe suspended from the ceiling, and an arcade room with skeeball and shuffleboard. The pizzas are named after National Parks and follow the theme of the park.
2. Angry Crab Shack- With 6 locations in the area, this popular seafood spot offers Southern-style seafood boils priced by the pound. Kids love it, because they can be noisy and messy. Boil choices include shrimp, king crab, crawfish, mussels, and blue crab.
3. Luci’s at The Orchard- This restaurant has a splash pad and plenty of open space for kids to run around. It starts to get crowded around 10 AM, so get here early for breakfast. Kids love the funky monkey French toast. Luci’s also serves lunch.
4. The Teapot- A family friendly coffee shop geared toward children ages 1-8, this converted historic home in downtown Phoenix has a great play space including a playhouse with a slide and mini rock wall. Kids can also play with push-pedal cars and other toys. There is a seating area for parents with wooden patio tables. It is only open from September through May.
5. The Perch- Located in Chandler this restaurant serving craft food and craft beer is known for its outdoor seating area and over 50 exotic birds. There are also games to keep families entertained.
6. Chelsea’s Kitchen- This fun spot is located in Arcadia and is rated as having one of the best kids menus in the area. Kids meals are fun, inventive and served on TV dinner-type trays. Kids also eat free from 3 to 6 pm.
7. Rustler’s Rooste- An authentic cowboy steakhouse located in Phoenix. Diners have the option to enter the main dining room of the restaurant via a slide, or sit out on the patio and enjoy an amazing view of the city.
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