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15 Unique Things to Do with Kids in Tempe

Tempe, Arizona is on the edge of the East Valley and about 10 minutes from the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport. It is a university town, with family friendly attractions for all! Here’s a list of some of our personal favorites. Maybe it’ll spark an idea for a family fun weekend, activities for summer, or introduce you to Arizona for the first time.

Our daughter, Emily, poses with her Tempe travel bag.

TEMPE ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS

Gallery of Scientific Exploration at ASU Tempe

We were pleasantly surprised with how interesting this tour was! The gallery has numerous ways to explore earth and space with interactive displays, digital media and visible laboratories. Our kids were in awe of the huge rotating earth!

The kids (Owen, 2, and Emily, 5) pose next to the Mars Rover Replica atASU’s ISTB 4

On the second floor you can view large collections of meteorites with information on where they were found. There’s also a theatre that shows planetarium type shows. This would be a great field trip for all ages interested in in earth and space.

The Gallery of Scientific Exploration at ASU Tempe has a huge globe that shows data about the world


Arizona Mills Mall

This is one of our go to locations over the long summer, and is a great place year round.

The carousel at Arizona Mills 

Our daughter balances at the Arizona Mills play area.

There are shops, a huge food court, a Harkins movie theatre, plus a carousel and mini train to ride for a modest price. Don’t miss the Rainforest Cafe either!


LEGOLAND & Sealife Aquarium

But the best thing about Arizona Mills Mall? Definitely Legoland and Sealife Aquarium.

LEGOLAND’s interactive exhibit

Owen (age 2), and Emily (age 5) have enjoyed repeated visits to LEGOLAND and love the real LEGO city!

The LEGOLAND clock tower decorated for Halloween

These two places are exactly what the titles suggest: everything Legos, and everything related to the sea. Legoland is a mixture of free play, games, a couple rides and an awesome store to pick up some new sets. Any Lego lover will be in heaven!

Sealife has eye-level exhibits designed for the kids.

Owen, age 2, watches the fish

Sealife is a wonderful tour of various fish and plant life, with low lying tanks to delight little ones and information and talks to interest older children.


Tilt Studio

For teens, Tilt Studio might be of interest at Arizona Mills, with over 150 classic and modern interactive video and prize games for all levels. There truly is something for everyone at this mall, so plan to spend the day and enjoy it all.


Tempe Town Lake — Boating with Kids

Boating at Tempe Town Lake – this is one of our favorite activities in Tempe. There are many types of boats to rent, even paddleboards, and the whole family will enjoy exploring the lake. Also, check out our article on taking sailing lessons at Tempe Town Lake.

The kids get ready to board the boat at Tempe Town Lake


Childsplay

Childsplay at Tempe Center for the Arts – we’ve been to two performances of Childsplay, Rock the Presidents and The Cat and the Hat. Both were excellent! The Cat in the Hat was shorter, not even an hour, but completely captured our 2 year old’s attention.

This is the view at Sunset at Tempe Center for the Arts

Held in the beautiful Tempe Center for the Arts building, these plays are the perfect way to introduce children to the classic acting theatre with engaging stories and professional actors.

Childsplay in Dr. Seuss’ The Cat In The Hat

Rock The Presidents at Childsplay


Tempe Marketplace dining, shopping, and entertainment!

Tempe Marketplace – shopping, dining and entertainment all in one place!

Emily with her Peanuts ticket.

We meet friends here often to see a movie at the Harkins theatre, grab lunch or dinner, and love the splashpad!

The splash pad at Tempe Marketplace.


Spray pads in Tempe

Spray pads in Tempe — Hudson Park (near Rural Road and Apache Blvd) or Jaycee Park (near Roosevelt and 5th Street) or Esquer Park (near the 101 and Apache Blvd) are all great options for kids to enjoy cooling off when the weather gets hot. Normal hours of operation are 10am-7pm, April 29-October 29.


IKEA

IKEA – okay so IKEA may not be unique, but it’s the only one in Arizona and we have made our fair share of purchasing here. Their kids products, both furniture and toys, are decent in both price and sturdiness! And let’s face it, who can’t help but be inspired by the compact storage ideas. On a hot summer day, it’s a great place to browse, and have some lunch that won’t hurt your wallet.


Bookstores

Changing Hands bookstore – we love books, and independent bookstores like Changing Hands are even more amazing with their friendly, knowledgeable staff and numerous events for kids. They offer story times, book clubs, reading programs and a wonderful selection of fiction and non-fiction books for all ages! Our kids spent a good hour browsing on their own, and we received some new title recommendations from the staff. This is a gem not to be missed! (They also have a store near Camelback and 3rd Avenue in Phoenix.)


Rock climbing indoors

Phoenix Rock Gym is a great place for the whole family to try indoor rock climbing!


Indoor paintball in Tempe

Tempe Paintball – for ages 10 and up, paintball games (and indoors too) can be a fun activity with family or friends


Tempe Beach Park on Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Beach Park – this is a fabulous park (no sand, despite the “beach” mention) with wide open spaces and great for family outings. This where you can rent boats and kayaks, play catch, explore along the 5 miles of paths along the lake, have a picnic and more — all set against Tempe’s building skyline. Don’t miss the splash playgrounds for kids as well (note: the splashpad is currently under construction until summer 2018.) We’ve also attended several festivals, the most recent being the Aloha Festival, with other popular events being Octokerfest and the epic 4th of July fireworks display.

Tempe Beach Park


Hike Hayden Butte

Want to get in a hike or catch the sunset? Pay a visit to the Hayden Butte Preserve. This short, somewhat intense hike will make kids feel accomplished, and the views of Tempe and Phoenix are amazing!


TEMPE FOOD OUR KIDS LOVED

We recently published an article listing our favorite places to eat in Tempe. Of particular mention, there are a couple that our kids enjoyed the most.

The Normal Diner

The Normal Diner – our five year old loved the huge pancakes! And who can go wrong with chicken and fresh fries. All kids meals are $6. The atmosphere is relaxing and casual, good for kids that may not sit still long. Parents can grab coffee at the coffee bar on their way out, and the day is made.

Breakfast and lunch at The Normal Diner

Check out that amazing mural at The Normal Diner


Thirsty Lion

Thirsty Lion – after wandering around Tempe Marketplace, this is a handy restaurant to grab some lunch or dinner. And being a sports bar, it won’t matter how loud the kids get! It can be busy, but the food is tasty (our kids went for the pizza) and there are plenty of cocktail and beer options for parents. The patio is lovely too.

Dinner options at Thirsty Lion


HOTEL RECOMMENDATION IN TEMPE

If you need a place to stay, we suggest the Phoenix Marriott Tempe at The Buttes

We instantly loved this hotel for the beautiful location and great amenities. It’s already on our list for a possible staycation this summer! Located just 5 miles from the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, it’s the perfect central location to stay for exploring both Tempe and surrounding cities. Two pools are available (one with a water slide!), a romantic rooftop restaurant, a spa, 2 cafes and more. We had breakfast from their buffet in the Market Cafe and it was perfect for the kids to get a bit of everything (eggs, pancakes, oatmeal, toast, etc), without having to order specific items. Plus, the landscape is beautiful and will tempt you to wander just to see what’s around the corner.

The absolutely stunning swimming pools and view

Walkways at the hotel feel like they are in the clouds!

Breakfast at the hotel – that’s a real waterfall behind us!

The entire hotel has walking scenery like this.


Thanks for reading!

You may also be interested in our Tempe restaurant recommendations, coffee shop list, and our list of East Valley splash pads.

Special thanks to the wonderful people at the Tempe Tourism Office, especially Toni Smith for spending several days with us as we explored Tempe and the surrounding areas to check out some of these kid-friendly spots.

Jana is a wife and mother of two children, and lives in Scottsdale with her husband, Chris. Jana grew up in Illinois and Wisconsin, and moved to Arizona in 2010. Follow on Instagram @phoenixwithkids for daily photos around Phoenix.

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