When people first think of Phoenix, they probably picture lush desert resorts, spas, and expansive golf courses, all ideal for an adult getaway. While Phoenix and the surrounding Valley do offer an abundance of fun activities for adults, the city also offers a lot of unexpected and fun opportunities for the whole family as well.
In fact, there are hundreds of amazing kid-friendly activities in the Valley, many of which allow you to enjoy the beautiful Arizona weather throughout the year. From the zoo to the Arizona Science Center, it is easy to fill your weekends and summers with activities that keep the boredom at bay!
Arizona Science Center
Photo credit: ABC15 Arizona
Located in the heart of downtown Phoenix, the Arizona Science Center is one of the most fun museums you will ever visit. Do not worry if your kids really are not super into science- this museum offers incredible hands-on exhibits that make you forget you are learning and teaches science in a very approachable way!
The interactive museum actually has over 350 permanent exhibits and currently has a special Astronaut exhibit feature. While you are visiting, you must make it a point to stop by and watch one of the IMAX theater shows and pay a visit to the planetarium as well. If you visit between now and May 2021, you can catch their Arizona Skies planetarium show, which teaches you about the different constellations present in the Arizona night sky right now.
The science center is a great spot to stop by on one of the rare rainy Arizona days, or in the summer when your family is in need of a great air conditioned indoor activity.
Photo credit: Experience Scottsdale
The Sonoran desert might seem like an unlikely spot to find a huge aquarium, but Odysea Aquarium is the largest marine aquarium in the Southwest. It’s hard to miss the massive building, which is located right off of the 101 in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
The aquarium offers more than your typical aquatic experience by combining theme-park style amusement with amazing underwater exhibits. Odysea offers a lot of ways to get more hands-on with your experience and go beyond watching the fish swim around through the glass.
You can try out their underwater ocean walking experience and visit their 3D theater during your family’s visit as well. One of the most enjoyable exhibits is the touch pools, where you can use all your senses to interact with aquatic wildlife, including petting stingrays!
If you go to Odysea and your kids love it, your family can join the aquarium as an annual pass holder and get unlimited visits to Odysea for a year. The annual pass will also grant you special access to preview exhibits early and to get discounts at the restaurant and gift shop.
Bearizona Wildlife Park
Photo credit: TripAdvisor
Bearizona is actually a two hour drive from the Phoenix area, but it is a destination that is worth the drive. If you and your kids are looking for a fun day trip or weekend getaway, head up north to Williams, AZ to experience the drive-through wildlife park. Not only is Williams a fun town to explore on it’s own, but you can enjoy the scenic views of Northern Arizona while interacting with wildlife. How cool does it sound to have a bear walk past your car?
The coolest part about Bearizona is that you get to be very close to the animals as you drive through the wildlife park in your car. Inside the Bearizona park you will be able to see wolves, bears, bison, beavers, bobcats, and so much more! While you are not allowed to feed the animals, you can drive through the exhibit as many times as you want in order to get the full experience.
This experience allows you to observe wildlife at a much closer distance than at a traditional zoo! If the drive through experience doesn’t suit your family’s needs, you can also jump on the guided tour bus and have a trained guide assist in teaching you fun facts about the many animals in the wildlife park.
Castles N’ Coasters
There is a reason amusement parks continue to be a beloved childhood activity. There is something so fun about screaming on a roller coaster and eating amusement park food! One of the most special local spots to get this experience is Castles N’ Coasters. It is a ten acre amusement park located very centrally to the Valley off the I-17 highway that offers attractions for all ages.
For the true thrill seekers, ride the Desert Storm roller coaster to get the full vertical drop and spin experience. One of the great parts of Castles N’ Coasters is that their rides and attractions offer something for everyone.
If your kids are younger or not big fans of roller coasters, you can still spend a day having fun at this amusement park. Between the fun house, go karts, arcade, and carousel, there are endless rides to be explored here.
This is the perfect spot to plan a playdate or go with friends to really make the most of the experience. There is even a mini golf course, where you can challenge your kids to a friendly putt putt competition!
Big Surf Water Park
Photo credit: Big Surf
On a hot summer day, there is no better place to be than at Big Surf. Whether you are five or fifty, there is something so magical about going down a water slide.
When it comes to waterparks, Big Surf is one of the best. Located in Tempe, Big Surf has been around since 1969. It actually was the first waterpark in the United States to have a wave machine! You can still spend an hour floating in the Waikiki Beach Wave pool on a raft or boogie board.
They take water safety very seriously, so if your kids are shorter than 48 inches tall, they will be required to wear a life vest during their time in the water park. Kids must also be with an adult at all times while playing on any of the water attractions or slides.
Big Surf is also a great place to have a summer birthday party! You can enjoy being outside and make the most of your time in the water park, and then when your kids are ready for cake you can head over to a private air conditioned birthday room!
Cactus League Spring Training
Photo credit: Choice Hotel
If your kids love sports, Phoenix offers one of the most premium and exclusive sporting experiences you can find. Starting in late February and March, you can visit the Cactus League training facilities to watch some of your favorite baseball teams practice in the preseason. This is a great way to enjoy the beautiful spring weather and watch over fifteen teams you wouldn’t typically get to see play in Arizona.
The tickets only cost a fraction of the regular season games, so these are great to attend with young kids who do not have a lot of experience attending baseball games yet. The stadiums are also much smaller and less noisy, which makes it a much more lowkey setting.
While Phoenix might not jump to mind immediately when you think of family friendly destinations, it actually is a hidden gem of a destination. All of these activities in Phoenix might be kid-friendly, but everyone in the family is really bound to have a good time.