Family Vacation Scottsdale Arizona
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Family Vacation Inspiration: Scottsdale, AZ

As fabulous as the {510} is, a getaway far from the Bay is always refreshing. We recently ventured to Scottsdale, Arizona and it did not disappoint. The flight to Phoenix is relatively short, and, accustomed to Bay Area traffic, driving around these desert cities in our rental car was a cinch. (Scottsdale is about 12 miles from the Phoenix airport.)

Family trip to Scottsdale, Arizona
Landscapes at Four Seasons Resort in Scottsdale

Things to do in Scottsdale

Scottsdale itself offers a range of activities for all ages including poolside fun, outdoor adventures, spa treatments, shopping, pro sports, museums, and much more. Read on for our favorites, and jump down to the bottom of this post if you are looking for where-to-stay tips.

Things to Do With Kids In and Around Scottsdale

Whether you stick around in Scottsdale or choose to explore the outskirts, you will be met with majestic landscapes, friendly people, and plenty of roadside exploration.

Arizona Boardwalk
The Arizona Boardwalk is a premier entertainment destination for all ages. | Photo: Parul Patel

Here are our top activities for spending time in Scottsdale with kids

McCormick Stillman Railway Park

This railroad park has it all – a train ride, carousel ride, model railroad building, massive playground, lots of running space, food, cute train cars for private parties, and a museum all about…trains! We suggest families take a few hours out of their trip to get all aboard at this park (no entry fee)!

Railway Park in Scottsdale
Hop on a train, build one, or just learn about one at the McCormick Stillman Railway Park. | Photo: Parul Patel

Scottsdale Quarter

The AZ shopping scene is quite upscale. We had a chance to visit Scottsdale Quarter an outdoor mall that offers a fancy urban vibe and variety of major (and smaller) retail brands. The kids enjoyed the shops that served ice cream and sweets, the ever-popular splash fountain, and a bunker hill with plenty of running space. Both quick service and sit-down restaurants are abundant at this destination.

Scottsdale Selfie Museum

For those who thrive on taking fun selfies, this interactive studio definitely provides entertainment for your teens with various backdrops, some laughs with your friends, or capture a family photo as a memento of your trip.

Children's Museum of Phoenix
Kids and adults can learn and play at the museum. | Photo: Parul Patel

Old Town Scottsdale

A free trolley will take you around the area, which is helpful for beating the heat. Old Town Scottsdale refers to the main area of the city, packed with hidden gems, art galleries, shops, and restaurants.

Arizona Boardwalk

At the AZ Boardwalk, families with different age groups and interests can easily span out to an activity of their liking. This area includes the largest butterfly conservatory Butterfly Wonderland, VR Xtreme for all virtual reality buffs, Johnny’s Playground for indoor play, the OdySea Aquarium, and more. My kids loved the rotating exhibit & the escalator “submerged” underwater at OdySea (for you Monterey Bay Aquarium frequent flyers, do note this aquarium is much smaller and children will plow through the exhibits pretty quickly).

OdySea Aquarium Scottsdale
The Arizona Boardwalk features a range of activities for all ages including the OdySea Aquarium. | Photo: Parul Patel

Spring Training

During the months of February through March, it is baseball nirvana here. Prices do double around this popular time, but visitors will experience the most pleasant weather. There are ten baseball stadiums within an hour of each other and a densely packed schedule that allows fans to follow their favorite team around to different venues. My family hasn’t caught a Cactus League game yet, but it is an idea we’ve been pitching around for some time and plan to attend within the next season or so.

The Great Outdoors

Scottsdale (and the entire state) provides endless options to enjoy the outdoors either on foot, bike, horse, or even Segway. If you choose to stay in Scottsdale, check out the Sonoran Desert trails for hiking along with some of the best golf courses.

Scottsdale AZ
As our Whitney reported after she went to Scottsdale, “Those cactus from Roadrunner cartoons are for real.” | Photo: Parul Patel

Swimming in Scottsdale

With sweltering heat through much of the year, pools and waterslides are abundant in this area. Many hotels feature some sort of water play in addition to swimming pools. Our hotel had multiple swimming pools, a splash zone, and water slides. It’s safe to bet that water play will make up a large chunk of your time in Scottsdale.

Spa and Relaxation

If you’re lucky enough to get wrapped in mud or pampered at a luxury spa, do it! Scottsdale famously has more spas per capita than any other city. Since my six-year old can’t sit still or hold in her giggles while donning cucumber on her eyelids, mommy-daughter spa day will take a rain check for a future visit.

Children’s Museum of Phoenix

We visited the Children’s Museum on a whim not knowing that it is one of the top three museums in the country! It certainly lived up to that with engaging exhibits that enhance the mind, and pique children’s interests in a whimsical way (very similar to Bay Area Discovery Museum). My kids especially loved the grocery market, launching cars on a racetrack, and sock skating. We adults were able to sneak in a little play too!

Phoenix Museum
The Children’s Museum of Phoenix promises the best in play including this wacky climbing structure and a ride through a “car wash”. | Photo: Parul Patel

Phoenix Zoo

Even though zoo life is a big part of entertaining our kids in the Bay, animal-lovers shouldn’t miss the Phoenix Zoo as it is one of the largest zoos with thousands of species. Fun features besides the animals include a safari cruiser, water play areas, and camel rides.

Where to Stay and Eat with your Family in Scottsdale

With onsite childcare, game rooms, golf lessons, and water slides, many Scottsdale resorts are designed to appeal to families. If the Southwest is in your travel plans, check out special hotel packages as well.

Children swimming in Arizona

The Scottsdale tourism board gave us their picks of family-friendly resorts in the Scottsdale area:

Many hotels have onsite restaurants so you don’t have to leave the premises. Our Holiday Inn included a full kitchen so we grocery shopped and cooked some “at-home” meals. The typical fast food chains and common sit-down joints are quite abundant in this area. Some eateries we enjoyed within the Valley of the Sun include Butters Pancakes & Café, Bootleggers, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, Dosa Place, and Sprinkles (ok Sprinkles is strictly desserts, but it is delicious enough to mention!).

Vacation Houses in Scottsdale

If you want to stay a week, consider a VRBO with a pool to have more space (a living room!) and an easy morning routine with breakfast at home.

Scottsdale Arizona
Visiting Scottsdale around the holidays entails stunning decor, sipping hot chocolate amidst festive lights, and loads of holiday-themed activities. | Photo: Parul Patel

Any time is a good time to visit Scottsdale – all you need is a long weekend or a school holiday and that will be enough for a full recharge and disconnect from daily life. And with a short flight, it easily becomes that place you continue to visit with new adventures each time.

If you’ve been somewhere we haven’t mentioned or have a pro tip for places we did, we’d love to hear it.

[Photos: Kids swimming by Four Seasons Scottsdale]

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