Exploring family vacation in Scottsdale as the guest of Mommy Poppins and the Scottsdale Tourism Board, I visited some cool family-friendly places in Arizona.
Why Scottsdale? East Bay families will find many direct flights from Oakland (OAK) to Phoenix (PHX). With a relatively short flight, and no time change (part of the year), you can be transported to a totally different environment for a long weekend or school holiday. Whitney reports, “Those cactus from Roadrunner cartoons are for real.”
Landscaping at Four Seasons Resort in Scottsdale
What to do
I spent my Scottsdale vacation days on water slides and wrapped in a gooey-but-heavenly spa treatment. If mud wraps aren't your kids' scene, I have other ideas for fun family activities:
- See the Sonoran Desert on foot, bike, horse back, or even a Segway.
- Splash in the pool or zoom down a water slide. They seem to be everywhere: with 100 degree temps the norm for much of the year, swimming pools are at every hotel; and most of them have slides!
- Play golf. For older kids and parents, I found this list of must-play golf courses in Scottsdale/Phoenix.
- Watch Spring Training games of the Cactus League. In March, this area of Arizona comes to life with 15 Major League Baseball teams gearing up for the next season — including our two hometown teams. How fun is that?!
- Butterfly oasis. The future home of desert aquarium complex (huh?) now hosts a butterfly wonderland swarming with children and insects alike.
- Poke around Old Town Scottsdale. My kids would like this for about 17 minutes before a tasty lunch Bootleggers. Yours may enjoy the cute little shops topped off by a ride on Ollie the Trolley for a little longer.
Baseball baseball baseball! If you're in town for Spring Training, you must spend some time on the Cactus League site studying the stadium map of game fields in relation to local towns and driving routes, and getting all squared away with tickets before you take on more plans.
Need more ideas? Here's a list of 25 things to do with kids in Phoenix/Scottsdale according to my travel companion, Mommy Poppins.
Where to stay:
Before booking your hotel, check on some of these family perks:
- Kids club. Many resorts have some flavor of day time or evening childcare restricted to a superfun clubhouse location during particular hours. Know before you go.
- Kitchenette? Picky eaters? On a budget? Or just tired of eating out? A condo with a mini kitchen will be worthwhile. Ask first.
- Waterslides? Arizona is HOT. I can almost guarantee a pool, but the more water play the better. This is vacation, after all.
- Near or far. You may need to rent a car, rely on group shuttles, or Uber your way around town depending on your vacation goals. Find your favorite attractions on a map. If you're planning to stick to the resort for golf and good times, maybe you won't need a car.
- Package price. Often the vacation packages bundle up amenities together to save you money on the whole shebang. Of course, if you don't want all the bits and pieces, you lose.
- Timing is everything. In Scottsdale for Spring Training to cheer on the A's or Giants? Sorry to tell you that the room rates DOUBLE. On the upside, the weather is near perfect and the hotels still have water slides.
I learned that many of the larger resorts pack family amenities in with gusto to lure the tourists away from one another. As guests of the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Hotel, we were treated to absolutely divine spa treatments (adults only) and fits of giggles on the water slides. I could have lived on the guacamole at the on site restaurant Hacienda. The Christmas package sounds amazing for families including ice skating rink with carousel, lights everywhere, and train rides. If the Southwest is in your travel plans, I'd consider this for sure. If you're on site during the sweltering summer, they sweeten your visit with dive in movies, extreme water play, and nighttime fireworks. I can't imagine hitting Arizona in July though, during my late April visit, the weather had already hit 100 degrees.
Our conference was held at the Phoenician Resort (also in Scottsdale). OMG, that place is swank. It has stunning multi-level grounds with different swimming pools and a golf course. It would be a pain in the booty to navigate with a stroller, but preschoolers would be right at home at the water play amenities. I don't think any of the rooms include kitchenettes.
Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort is one of those hybrid hotel/condo places with some basic kitchen items — sometimes but not always called a casita — and Whitney's family loved it in years' past. Better than a few water slides, there's a four-acre waterpark on the property with mini golf.
From kids’ camps and water slides to scavenger hunts and junior golf instruction, many Scottsdale resorts appeal to pint-size travelers of all ages. If you play your cards right, a visit to one of these resorts might play out like a magical cruise in which your little ones are in kiddie camp all day and playing shuffleboard with their buddies while you have a real date night (or a muddy massage like I had). Alternatively, your children might hate the small game room and weird “vacation friends” and you can have family-fun-togetherness.
- Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
- Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
- Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa
- JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa
- The Phoenician
- The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
My trip to Scottsdale included some activities and lodging comped in exchange for my editorial consideration. All opinions are my own. Please note that I did not travel with kids so my vacation was quite relaxing.
[Photos: Butterfly Oasis by Heather Flett, Kids swimming by Four Seasons Scottsdale]