We were lucky enough to call Phoenix our home for almost 7 years. We were married at the Desert Botanical Gardens and both our kids were born there. We understand the lure of an average of 299 days of sunshine, which draws many people to visit the Greater Phoenix area and the Sonoran Desert. Many think of Phoenix as an opportunity to explore the Wild, Wild, West as it can have a child of any age (including adults!) imagination run with some pretty incredible and memorable experiences. Beyond the traditional western-themed attractions, there is so much more to see and do in the Greater Phoenix area.
Here is our recommended must-do list:
Butterfly Wonderland : Located in Scottsdale right off the 101, Butterfly Wonderland is really accessible. This attraction is so cool as you get to immerse yourself into the butterfly conservatory filled with so many different species and colors of butterflies, reptiles, bugs, etc. that live in the rainforest. You will get to see the butterfly lifecycle up close, experience a 3D movie, join a feeding or talk about the different animals thriving there.
Cactus League – Spring Training Games: There are 15 Major League Baseball teams that call the Greater Phoenix area home for Spring Training. What does this mean if you are a baseball fan? It means you get to go and get up and personal with your favorite teams and players. The ballparks are a much smaller scale, so a lot of times you get to see and meet some of your favorite players, get autographs and pictures. The games are a lot of fun as they don’t count toward the team’s season record, so they try a lot of different players and plays out.
Tip: if you want to have more of an opportunity to meet the players, go early and get as close to the field as you can. Make sure to bring a sharpie!
Desert Botanical Garden:: This showcases the beauty of the desert all in one place. It is magical, especially from the end of April to June when the cactus is typically in bloom. There are different nature trails to choose from. They offer hands-on activities for kids, which is a good way to educate them as well as to get them involved. When planning your visit, I would check out their calendar online to see if there is anything you are particularly interested in doing while at the gardens.
If you are in Phoenix near the holidays, I recommend checking out the gardens in the evening for Las Noches de las Luminarias. It is a wonderful experience.
Wildlife World Zoo: We highly recommend this zoo over the other options in the valley as they have over 600 separate species of animal that you can get up close and personal with. When you are walking along and a jaguar walks over your head, it is a crazy feeling, but cool! Having the opportunity to feed the giraffe is always a hit for the kids. And the petting zoo is fun for everyone too. The zoo offers a wide variety of activities and camps as well (if you are in Phoenix for an extended stay).
Children’s Museum of Phoenix:: The slogan of the museum, is “Come Play & Learn Today!” and that is exactly what your child will do when he/she is there. A child’s senses are stimulated as the museum uses education-based exhibits and activities. It is really neat to see your child using their creativity and imaginations to embrace themselves in what they are discovering.
McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park: What kid doesn’t love trains? I personally still have yet to meet one! This park has some really fun things for kids to do. For starters, there is a train and carousel at the park that kids love to ride. The museum is also a neat place to check out to see some history of the railroad and see a model railroad.
Musical Instrument Museum (MIM): : This place is really cool! There are over 7,000 instruments from over 200 places around the world. The exhibits offer interactive activities in which you can experience the sounds and how the instruments are played. You can also delve into seeing some of your favorite musicians’ instruments. The MIM has regular music performances, so it is recommended that you check their upcoming events calendar for when you are planning to be in Phoenix.
Deer Valley Airport:: This one is a little bit out of the norm and I believe more of a local spot. In 2010 this airport saw 368,747 aircraft movements making it the 25th busiest airport in the world. There is a restaurant that is at the airport. I would go to eat and have your kids enjoy all the planes taking off and landing. You can go outside and get a closer view of the runway as well.
Splash Pads: Again, throwing these out as a previous local. Phoenix has so many splash pads, some are free and some you can go to for a small fee. I would suggest checking out phoenix.gov/parks if you are looking for one near to where you may be staying.
Hotels with a 1-day pass: Last local tip! Phoenix is also known for some pretty fabulous resorts. For a good handful of them, you don’t have to stay at the resort to be able to use their pool and water facilities, as Day passes may be available.
Just a few extra tips for when you are outdoors:
Use Sunblock, I recommend no less than 30 SPF.
Don’t touch the wildlife! There are a lot of animals that live in the desert that can bite and may be venomous. It is wise to not get too close. If you do happen to get a bit, make sure to seek medical attention immediately.
Wear Comfortable Clothing and Shoes. Wearing breathable lightweight layers. I also suggest having a hat to protect your face from the sun.
Drink plenty of water and bring extra with you. Dehydration is real, so the best thing you can do is keep yourself hydrated.