One particular we love about Phoenix is the wonderful variety of activities! Indoors or outdoors, there’s always an event or destination to keep families occupied. We have the familiar children’s museum or science museum, even a great zoo. But we are often asked for recommendations of unique places to visit here in the Valley. You know, those museums or activities that are unique to our city, state, or even region and aren’t found in other areas.
We’ve compiled a list of must visit destinations that we feel make Phoenix different and special. Whether you’re visiting from out of state or wanting to explore your own city more, hopefully this will jumpstart a fun family adventure. Often the most memorable activities are the ones you don’t expect!
Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa – open for lunch or dinner, you can experience a professional musical performance on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ. This instrument has around 6,000 pipes and delivers an amazing sound that will captivate any age. At the restaurant, you can order pizza, salad, sandwiches, ice cream and more. We love bringing friends and family here, and our guests have always been amazed. Be sure to take advantage of the cards to request songs; the organist will more than likely play your favorite movie title or familiar song.
Odysea in the Desert in Scottsdale – home to numerous attractions, this complex is a one stop for all day fun! Choose from Butterfly Wonderland (our daughter’s top favorite), the Mirror Maze and Laser Maze Challenge, Odysea Aquarium, Dolphinarius, the newly opened Pangea: Land of the Dinosaurs, and other great activities like water bumper boats, a train ride, Polar Play, and more. There are numerous restaurants to choose from, from burgers to pizza to Mexican. There truly is something for everyone.
Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix – whether you’re a music lover or not, this museum is unique in that you learn about musical instruments from around the world. With special headphones, displays automatically start playing when you reach them, making it easy to stay as long as you want, or move on. There are also numerous hands on displays to try various instruments. In our opinion, this museum is best suited for children over 6, as the headphones are difficult to keep on with smaller heads (and younger ones might lose interest quickly.)
Splashpads – for the late spring, summer and early fall months (April-October), any child will love the splashpads scattered around the city. What’s not to love about small fountains of water shooting up from the ground? It’s a fun way to stay cool. Some locations also have water play equipment, and shopping nearby, like Scottsdale Quarter. Here’s a list of some of the best splashpads in Phoenix!
Hiking or nature areas – Phoenix is home to some amazing hiking trails, which can be confusing to some people because it’s also the desert! But our winters are prime weather to explore and soak up the sunshine. Hole in the Rock is our favorite location, with Pinnacle Peak being a close second. There are also a handful of nature areas which give little ones a way to hike without the long commitment.
Wildlife Zoo and Aquarium in Litchfield Park – we love our local Phoenix Zoo, and renew our membership every couple years. If you’re up a short drive, however, Wildlife Zoo and Aquarium offers a fun twist on the normal experience. You can see over 600 exotic animals (the kangaroos were our favorites), a baby animal nursery, a sea lion show, a fabulous reptile exhibit, and so much more. There are also rides, making this a small amusements park experience as well. We recommend this place to families often.
Goldfields Ghost Town in Apache Junction – what’s a visit to the Old West without a stop at a ghost town? Goldfield’s is far from abandoned, however, being recreated to offer an underground mine tour, gold panning, a train ride around the town, gun fight re-enactments, stores and more. Definitely stop at the Crazy House; it will give your kids something to talk about for days! Nearby is Lost Dutchman State Park, a great place to hike as well.
Boating on Tempe Town Lake in Tempe – let the kids steer a boat and explore around the lake. Tempe Town Lake is on the northern edge of Tempe and offers electric boats, kayaks, paddle boards and and pedal boats. We took a family ride out on an electric boat, and have kayaking on our list to try soon as well. Our daughter has also tried sailing, and lessons are available for ages 8 and up.
Railroad parks – McCormick Railroad Stillman Park in Scottsdale is the best place to take little ones (well, and older ones — even adults!) for a day. You can take a 10 minute ride on a train around the park and see the two playgrounds, and catch a glimpse of the carousel and model railroad building, which is definitely worth a visit in itself. Ice cream treats and even burgers are available for lunch or snack time. If you’re sticking to the East Valley, Desert Breeze Park in Chandler has a similar experience, or there is Daisy Mountain Railroad, at Anthem Community Park.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior – desert life isn’t all cactus and tumbleweed! This botanical gardens does an excellent job of educating young and old of the beauty of the desert, and worth the hour drive. What we love about this place, over the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, is the oasis feel and short hiking trails, as well as the educational side of learning about plants from other regions, like South Africa or Australia. (The suspension bridge over the river is awesome too!) But honestly, you can’t go wrong visiting either place! Both are well done and beautiful in their own ways.
Pueblo Grande Museum in Phoenix – historical museums teach so much about the past, and this museum has great insight into the ancient Hohokam people that use to live in central and southern Arizona. History buff or not, it’s a fun way to learn about those who have come before. The Pueblo Grande Museum is very child friendly, with a side room full of interactive exhibits, and exploring the ruins outdoors. There are a few little huts to go in as well, which the kids loved.
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