Those parents who survive a summer in Phoenix with kids should receive a gold medal. It’s not an easy feat to keep active bodies busy with outside temps in the 100’s! And it doesn’t help that the scorching weather runs from May-October, much longer than summer break.
But never let it be said that Phoenix leaves those parents lacking for activities. There are as many indoor options as there are outdoor options! Beyond the wonderful summer camps, VBS programs, or swim lessons available, here is a list of our favorite pastimes to keep the kids smiling and entertained all summer long.
Harkins Summer Movie Series
This is one of our top summer activity recommendations to families! For only $7/person (ages 2 and under are free), you get to view 10 movies, one each week. Yes, that’s $7 for 10 movies total! It’s such a steal! (Snacks are not included in this price.) This year’s movie series runs from May 27-Aug 2, and includes favorites like The LEGO Movie 2, Shrek, Trolls, Penguins of Madagascar and more. View our blog post for more details. This is a 100% kid friendly event, even for little ones that might not be use to the movie theatre experience. Some theaters fill up quickly, so be sure to stop by your local Harkins and pick up the ticket booklet for your preferred day.
Membership to an indoor activity
How to survive a Phoenix summer with kids comes down to having a membership to a nearby indoor activity. You may already have a membership to, say, The Children’s Museum of Phoenix, which is a fabulous option. But if it’s the afternoon, and the kids are driving you crazy, and it’s 30 minutes away — are you really going to drag everyone there? I know I wouldn’t. A option closer to home, no more than 15 minutes, is what you need. For example, we have (and love) a membership to Legoland Discovery Center this year! But that’s a 35 minute drive. So I also snagged a membership to Party Jungle, which is only 10 minutes away. For $9.99/month, the entire household can enjoy the rides and play area and more! I know this will be our go to spot when we have just a few hours to kill. Trampoline parks are also a great option to expend energy, and will appeal to teenagers as well. Not sure what’s nearby? Find your city on our main page of activities, and see what is the closest.
Splashpads are free and located all over the Valley! If you’re like me and never heard of splashpads before moving to Phoenix, they are basically outdoor water play areas for kids. Larger ones with fountains and other features are splashpads, and smaller ones are often called spray pads. Either way, it’s a fun way to stay cool in the summer heat! Find a couple close to home, invite friends, and make it a weekly play date. Food and drink are usually allowed at splashpads; also pack a few cups or buckets to enhense playtime. One of the most epic ones is at Kiwanis Park in Tempe. Our favorite for toddlers can be found at Tempe Marketplace, or at Riverview Park in Mesa (it’s gated!). For more ideas, here’s a list of Scottsdale splashpads, and our favorites in the East Valley. Even the Phoenix Zoo has two splashpads, one with a fun cave!
Summer means swimming! Some families have their own pool, or have a neighbor that does, and others a community pool thanks to HOA. But if neither of these are options for you, then aquatic centers are your best friend! These fabulous city run pools often have water slides and other features, making it fun for the entire family. We’ve visited aquatic centers in Scottsdale and Chandler over the past couple summers. Every location has had clean restrooms, friendly staff, and most importantly, affordable prices. The kids have loved every visit! We bring a lunch and stay most of the day. For example, admission to the Hamilton Aquatic Center in Chandler is only $2.25/adult and $1/child ages 2-17 (under 2 is free)! Season passes are also available for $112/family of 4, giving admission to all six Chandler aquatic centers. Or there are punch passes. Most cities in the Phoenix area have their own aquatic center, some have several. Check out the city’s page for more information.
Indoor ice skating
Have you taken your kids ice skating? Yes, Phoenix has several indoor ice skating rinks that offer open skate sessions! It’s the perfect way to cool off when it’s 110 outside. (In fact, it can be almost too cold if you don’t dress appropriately. Be sure to bring pants and a long sleeve shirt or jacket.) Ice Den in Scottsdale has been our go to place. Check their website for open skate times, which usually last 1.5-2hrs, and will cost under $10/person. There are skating supports available for younger children, on a first come first served basis. All ages are welcome! There’s a snack bar and restrooms available in the lobby. Ice rinks can also be found in Peoria, Chandler, Gilbert, Phoenix and Tempe and prices/times will vary. Also: with the Pogo Pass, you get one free skate per month (not including $3 skate rental) at Ice Den in Scottsdale or Chandler! Not sure what a Pogo Pass is? See below!
The Phoenix/Tucson Pogo Pass is an incredible deal, with admission to over 20 places for just $39.99 with code PHOENIXWITHKIDS! They offer indoor and outdoor activities in Phoenix and Tucson; the indoor list is a great way to keep the kiddos busy through the summer. Indoor places include: Awesome Toddlers, Uptown Jungle, US Skateland, Phoenix Rock Gym, IDEA Museum, and more! There’s also a waterpark included, Golfland Sunsplash, and the Phoenix Zoo. Some places offer multiple admissions. Check out our blog post for more information about the Pogo Pass. If 3 or more of these destinations interest your family, its a great deal. (And bonus: you have the whole year to use your pass! So the pass can come in handy over school breaks or weekends. Some restrictions may apply.)
Have you taken your kids bowling? Our family loves it; two summers ago, when our kids were 2 and 5, it was our go to summer activity every couple weeks. We’d show up at opening time, usually around 11am, and have most of the place to ourselves. Bumpers on the lanes and the bowling ball assist ramps made it easy for the kids to score. Sometimes we’d order a pizza or appetizers too. The whole family has great memories from those bowling days! Search for what alley might be closest to you, and give them a call to see if they offer any kid or family specials. We’ve had fun at Fat Cats in Gilbert (part of the Pogo Pass) and Bowlero in Scottsdale (Via Linda location). Also, visit Kids Bowl Free for, as the title suggests, 2 free bowling games for kids at select locations! Adults can be added for an affordable fee.
Try Groupon for a new place
Feel like shaking it up a bit? Get on Groupon as a family and see what piques the interest! We like to search generically as “kid activities” with Phoenix as the location. At the time of this article publication, there are numerous paintball locations listed, a membership for 4 to the Arizona Science Museum, The Stomping Ground, Odysea Aquarium and Butterfly Wonderland, all three Uptown Jungle locations, many trampoline parks and MORE! Search for restaurant deals as well. This is a fabulous way to save on local attractions. More ideas can be found in our popular blog post outlining 9 Ways to Save on Phoenix Attractions. Note: some Groupons has restrictions on days the vouchers can be used, how many you can use in one visit, etc. Read the fine print carefully to avoid any issues.
Your local library
Your local library is a wonderful year round resource, and especially comes in handy over the summer. Free classes for toddlers and preschoolers are the most popular. There are LEGO clubs that meet on weekends. Some locations hold kid movie nights, craft events, or volunteer options. Don’t forget the free summer reading program too! We’ve done this several times; even young ones can be read to for 10-15 minutes a day and earn prizes. Stop by your local library and ask for information on any summer programs! And of course, stay to check out some new reading material or have the kiddos enjoy different toys in the children’s area. Look into the Culture Passes as well. When available, this is a good way to check out local museums for free.
Get out of town (day or weekend)
There comes a time when enough is enough. Escaping the heat of Phoenix at least once is almost as key as learning to survive the heat. Weekend getaways are the most popular, but day trips can be refreshing, without the overnight commitment. So where to go?? For day trips, we recommend local lakes, like Butcher Jones Recreation Area At Saguaro Lake, or Phon D. Sutton Recreational Area along the Salt River. Payson is also a fun day trip (did you know there’s a lavender farm to tour??). We also love Crescent Moon Picnic Site near Sedona. For overnights, Flagstaff is awesome and offers so many activities beyond the Grand Canyon. Our favorites are Sunset Crater National Monument, bike riding, hiking around the Arizona Snowbowl, Lowell Observatory, and the numerous parks and coffee shops in town. Bearizona in nearby Williams is also fun. Of course, there’s many camping opportunities in the woods too, around Prescott, Payson and Flagstaff. Keep in mind that lodging can book up quickly during the summer months.
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Bonus: assign certain days for certain activities
One last tip we offer for summer survival is to have a routine. Assigning certain days for certain activities gives kids (and parents!) something to look forward to. For example, one summer we had our Harkins Movie Date on Mondays, and an ongoing splashpad/Chick-Fil-A date with friends on Wednesdays. The other days were open to last minute ideas, staying at home to chill, and swim time. (This was also the year we bought the newly released Nintendo Switch + a couple games. Lots of family Mario Kart games happened that summer!)
Just remember that the temps WILL come down eventually; in November we’ll have 80’s again and the glory of outdoor activities will return.
To offer even more ideas for summer survival, we asked our followers on Facebook and Instagram to share their favorite ways to beat the heat! Here are some of the awesome suggestions:
“We love the splashpad at the Phoenix Zoo, and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.”
“Typical week: Indoor play place, library day, swimming day, art/craft day (I get ideas online), or a splash pad in the morning. We like to change it up! The Stomping Grounds is our absolute favorite hands down. Then Giggles and Luv 2 Play.”
“Modern Milk does Parent & me yoga on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well as other classes. With yoga, you can do a drop in or class pass.”
“We have a big shaded patio with misters, and a big (12ft) blow up pool. Sometimes staying home and avoiding hot cars is a must!”
“We love the library, splash pad, and parks before 9:30am. The Phoenix and Scottsdale locations have great baby and toddler song classes, and the play spaces are a great break from the regular toys at home.”
Mom of 2, Cave Creek
“I plan on a lot of ice activities in the kiddie pool, in the driveway after 6pm! I like to freeze blocks of ice with toys sticking out of them so they can be dug out, like an excavator activity.”
“The Scottsdale Train Park has limited hours in the summer. We like to go in the mornings, and take breaks from the heat in the ice cream shop and miniature train museum.”
“I take my kids to the pet stores and look at the animals, fish, etc. Free zoo!”
“They have free craft days at Home Depot!”
“Friendship park now has a gated splash pad! We love the splash pad at Lucis at the Orchard too. Rio Verde Park has a nice gated splash pad. We have the Science Center pass and that’s a great way to be in the A/C.”
We hope this article has given you some new ideas to fill your summer days! And stay tuned: we have another blog post brewing, a sort of Phoenix Summer Bucket List — one that our family will personally be undertaking for a couple months! Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter, or follow us on social media to be notified!