Scottsdale’s reputation as a chic city filled with high-end shops and restaurants doesn’t mean families will not have a fantastic vacation here. The city offers so many activities that are fun for adults while entertaining kids of all ages. From parks to sports to museums, Scottsdale has a bit of everything. Here are many of the reasons why you should schedule your next family vacation in Scottsdale.
Things To Do In Scottsdale
1. McCormick Stillman Railroad Park
Scottsdale’s many parks provide places to stroll, play, and picnic. Parks spread throughout the city to ensure that there’s some nature to hang out in nearby no matter where you stay. One of my favorites is McCormick Stillman Railroad Park.
My family has enjoyed many fun days and evenings in this park. My daughter and I have traveled around the park on the Paradise & Pacific Railroad and rode the horses of the Charros Carousel dozens of times. The renovated playground provides many options for climbing, swinging, and sliding, while the miniature western town sparks imaginative play. You can also explore the model railroad museum, the 1928 Pullman Car used by presidents, and the Merci Train car which delivered aid to the French people during WWII. Large lawns host picnics and areas for throwing balls and Frisbees.
Pro Tip: For several months in the spring, the park stages concerts every Sunday evening with food and ice cream to purchase. Arrive early to find space for your blanket near the stage and take a train ride before the music starts.
2. Chaparral Park
If you traverse this 100-acre park from north to south, you can learn about desert flora in the xeriscape park, watch the joyous hounds in the dog park, and catch a local game of baseball or soccer. Then, shoot some hoops or hit the playground — a compact, safe tangle of slides, swings, and climbing structures. Around the lovely lake, build your muscles at the 10-station exercise course or have a picnic while watching the geese and the two eagles that frequently visit. Along the western edge of the park, embark on the Indian Belt Wash Greenbelt, which takes advantage of parks, golf courses, and the green belt to provide 11 miles of path to walk or bike.
3. McDowell Sonoran Preserve
To truly experience the desert landscape, head to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. There are many trails of various lengths and difficulty levels, perfect for the abilities and desires of your family. My favorite launching point is at the Gateway Trailhead. A large parking lot, clean restrooms, and a water station await your visit. The options range from the flat and wide nature trail with informative placards to the almost 10-mile loop with stunning views through Bell and Windgate Passes. The Gateway Loop, the most popular trail, will provide a fun, moderate hike for most families.
Pro Tips: Be aware of and prepare properly for the weather. Once the sun comes up over the mountain, there is very little shade and you can overheat quickly. Carry more water than you think you will need. If you come across a rattlesnake, give it a wide berth. The only two I have seen were on the farther trails, but they can be anywhere.
4. Spring Training
Baseball fans and anyone looking for a fun day in the sun can visit Scottsdale Stadium, home of the Giants, and Salt River Fields, home of the Diamondbacks and Rockies MLB Spring Training stadiums. Outside of Spring Training, Salt River Fields also holds many festivals and hosts the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens.
5. Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum Of The West
Nestled in downtown Scottsdale, the collection of Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West ranges from artifacts such as spurs and saddles to exceptional paintings and sculptures by western artists. The youngsters can clamber aboard a stagecoach and pose in a 3D camping scene. Everyone can learn about Western history and culture through the museum’s permanent and special exhibitions.
6. Festivals And Art
Scottsdale abounds with art and festivals that families can enjoy during their stay. The Scottsdale Waterfront hosts many festivals throughout the cooler months. Canal Convergence spans a couple of weeks in November and entails elaborate sculptures spanning the canal and various light displays. There are interactive pieces along the sidewalk and flame-shooting sculptures within the canal timed to a musical show. Scottsdazzle brings concerts and fun activities during December. You can also attend various food and crafts festivals and concerts.
The Civic Center Plaza offers space to relax and play as well as various types of events. A complete renovation is due to be finished in January 2023 with a new splash park and improved open-air concert spaces. Many street art pieces dot the downtown area, from the colorful mosaics of Pinball Wizard and the soaring Soleri Bridge to the 26-foot-high One Eyed Jack.
Resorts That Delight The Whole Family
7. The Westin Kierland Resort And Spa
Everyone in the family will find many captivating moments at The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa. At Adventure Water Park, young children can wade into the shallow end of the spacious pool while bolder children ride the water slide and teenagers brave the Kierland FlowRider. Those looking for a calm time can float on the lazy river and lounge in the shade while sampling the cocktails and snacks. The youngsters can hang out at the Westin Family Kids Club or play in the OK Corral, while the adults hit a round of golf, luxuriate in the spa, or explore the Scotch Library.
Pro Tip: Just east of the resort, head over to Kierland Commons and Scottsdale Quarter for plenty of outdoor shopping and dining options. Each has a central square with spaces to relax and a splash pad in Scottsdale Quarter.
8. The Phoenician: A Luxury Collection Resort
The sprawling pool complex of The Phoenician includes various options for families, from the Kids Zone with a slide and splash pad to several pools surrounded by lounge chairs and private cabanas. Whether you prefer golf, tennis, pickleball, or a game room, you will have plenty to fill your days. The pampering at the luxurious spa will refresh you with a steam room, sauna, relaxation room, and fabulous massages so that you are ready to spend time with the kids again.
9. Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows
The rooms at Andaz consist of small bungalows with room to spread out and an outdoor patio. The atmosphere is calmer than most resorts but the pool still offers space for fun. Andaz sits near downtown Scottsdale, perfect for exploring the area, but is set off the main street under the gaze of Camelback Mountain.
10. Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor & Restaurant
For an old-fashioned ice cream parlor where the treats retain the rich, creamy flavors you have loved since your childhood, you can’t beat the Sugar Bowl. A Scottsdale icon since 1958, the pink décor and the long, wooden soda fountain bar bring you back to the ‘50s. Choose from dozens of traditional ice cream flavors and dishes, just like the kids in the Family Circus Comics. A game room in the back gives the kids, and some adults, a great place to burn off some of that sugar high.
11. Grimaldi’s Coal Brick Oven Pizzeria
Before your ice cream, stop across the street at Grimaldi’s to watch the cooks hand-toss the dough, add your favorite ingredients, and pop the pizzas into the coal-fired brick oven. The hearty New York-style, thin-crust pizza aids in your recovery from a long day of playing in the pool or park.
Pro Tip: Share some cannolis, loaded with chocolate chips.
12. Brat Haus
Also in downtown Scottsdale, the Brat Haus boasts a large, off-street patio that can accommodate a family of any size. Choose one of their 28 craft beers on tap to wash down your Bavarian pretzel, Belgian-style fries, or choice of brat. If you brought your dog along on vacation, he is welcome to join you.
Families can share many experiences in Scottsdale all year long. Visit a park or museum, see a game, then relax in the pool before a fun meal. The sun will likely shine warmly down on you.
Pro Tip: Just a short drive from Scottsdale brings you many other opportunities for family fun. Two you don’t want to miss are the Phoenix Zoo and the Musical Instrument Museum. Depending on the weather, these are both perfect side trips within a half-hour drive for your Scottsdale stay.
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