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Scottsdale Vacation Tips for Summer Fun in Arizona

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Summer in Scottsdale sizzles with fun! Beautiful year-round, this sprawling suburb of Phoenix offers families plenty of activities, delicious cuisine, and refreshing ways to cool off during June, July, and August. Plus, Scottsdale’s amazing resorts provide deep discounts for summer vacationers. Take a look at these exciting things to do during your Scottsdale, Arizona vacation with these itinerary suggestions from a resident expert.

This story is brought to you in partnership with Experience Scottsdale and ItsThatHot.com.

Pink Saguaro cactus flowers

Desert beauty in Scottsdale, AZ (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Outdoor Morning Activities

When visiting Scottsdale in summer, it’s best to get up early to make the most of cooler mornings before the heat peaks. With the lack of sun at night and little water in the air to hold the heat, temperatures in the desert can drop 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit between the hottest time of the day to the coolest temps right before sunrise. The best weather for outdoor play is from dawn (between 5 and 6 am) until things start to get toasty around 9 or 10 am. No matter which outdoor activity you choose, it’s important to apply sunblock, stay hydrated with water or electrolyte beverages, and wear a brimmed hat for sun protection.

Cholla cactus in the McDowell Mountain Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

Cholla cactus in the McDowell Mountain Preserve (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Hiking in the Sonoran Desert

Of course, you’ll want to soak up some of Scottsdale’s desert beauty during your vacation. Set your alarm to take in the sunrise before hitting the trails. With dozens of hiking paths to choose from, you’re sure to find one that meets your family’s hiking levels and desires. McDowell Sonoran Preserve Gateway Trail is the most popular starting point. Another pretty option is Pinnacle Peak Trail, which is perfect for hikers seeking a moderate hike with views of the granite summit for which it was named. Make sure to follow signage to stay six feet away from fellow hikers for safety’s sake!

View of Pinnacle Peak Mountain during a hike from Four Seasons Scottsdale

Pinnacle Peak Mountain (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

For a less crowded experience, check out Lost Dog Wash Trailhead instead. Keep your eyes peeled for the trailhead marker here — it’s right across the street from the parking lot, just to your right of where the sidewalk starts.

Stellar Adventures ATV Sonoran Desert Tour

Stellar Adventures ATV Sonoran Desert Tour (Photo courtesy of Experience Scottsdale)

ATV or Hummer Tour

Get your heart pumping by exploring the Sonoran Desert on four wheels during your Scottsdale vacation. Stellar Adventures leads guided ATV tours or you can romp through the desert as a passenger in a Hummer or Blazer. Alternatively, Green Zebra offers one- and two-hour guided self-driving ATV tours of Scottsdale’s backcountry.

Scottsdale Segway Tours

Segway of Scottsdale Tour (Photo credit: Segway of Scottsdale)

Explore Scottsdale by Segway

Segway of Scottsdale leads two-hour tours through historic Old Town Scottsdale. Mic and ear pieces in their bright orange helmets help keep riders safe and informed during the six-mile tour past art galleries, the Civic Center Mall, Scottsdale Waterfront and more. (Participants must be aged 12 to 75.)

In addition to Old Town Scottsdale daytime tours, Scottsdale Segway Tours offers a culinary Segway excursion. You can also sign up for a Sunsets, Segways and City Lights option, perfect for exploring the city without the heat of the sun.

A family of giraffes at the Phoenix Zoo

Giraffes at the Phoenix Zoo (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Phoenix Zoo

Get up early to visit the animals at the Phoenix Zoo — the largest non-profit, privately owned zoo in the U.S. Summer hours start and end early to take advantage of relatively cool mornings (7 am – 2 pm, or 6 am start for zoo members). To facilitate social distancing in 2020, attendance will be limited, and tickets must be purchased in advance for a specific date.

Mountain lion at the Phoenix Zoo

Mountain lion at the Phoenix Zoo (Photo credit: Phoenix Zoo)

In addition to popular residents like giraffes, orangutans, and elephants — look for indigenous animals like coyotes, mountain lions, and Mexican gray wolves. Children love the Harmony Farm petting zoo and playground, Enchanted Forest play area, and the zoo’s Endangered Species Carousel. On hot days, be sure to bring along swimsuits to cool off at the Leapin’ Lagoon and Yakulla Caverns splash pads.

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park train with kids

Paradise Pacific Railroad at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park (Photo courtesy of Experience Scottsdale)

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

If traveling with children, then you’ll definitely want to visit McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park one morning during your Scottsdale vacation. A sizable playground and a smaller Old West-themed play area please kids of all ages. The highlight, however, is the Paradise Pacific Railroad. This ride-on miniature train chugs through the expansive grassy park.

Charros Carousel at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

Charros Carousel at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park (Photo credit: McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park)

The Scottsdale Charros Carousel is lots of fun, too, with its antique horses and two wheelchair-accessible chariots. Meanwhile true train lovers enjoy exploring indoor model railroad displays and outdoor full-sized train cars.

Troon North Golf Club

Troon North Golf Club (Photo credit: Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale)

Golf in Scottsdale

Golf lovers — pack your clubs and hit the links first thing in the morning! The Scottsdale area boasts over 200 courses sure to please any golfer. What’s more, golfing prices plummet here in summer. At two luxury courses, Troon North Golf Club and The Boulders, prices drop as much as 75 percent during these warmer months, allowing golfers on a budget to take advantage of these world class options.

OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale with children

OdySea Aquarium (Photo credit: Odysea)

Summer Afternoon Attractions

After a morning of playing outdoors, your family will be ready to cool down. The afternoon is the perfect time to head back to your resort for a swim and poolside lunch. If you’re still up for more exploring (or you can’t rouse the troops before noon), chill out with air-conditioned indoor activities or seek a public pool for splashy fun. During your 2020 Scottsdale vacation, be sure to check attraction websites for current hours or closures and social distancing procedures.

Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale, Arizona

Butterfly Wonderland (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Arizona Boardwalk

The 200,000-square-foot OdySea Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the Southwest, houses sea creatures like fish, stingrays, otters, and penguins. Also located within the Arizona Boardwalk campus, Butterfly Wonderland impresses vacationers with its display of living fluttering insects in America’s largest butterfly conservatory. Expect limited attendance to maintain safe social distancing in 2020.

Glow Putt Mini Golf in Scottsdale, AZ

Glow Putt Mini Golf (Photo credit: Glow Putt)

Indoor Miniature Golf

Meanwhile, glow-in-the-dark miniature golf at Glow Putt is always in season, no matter the temperature outside. Kids love the glowing, playful displays. For summer 2020, golfing group sizes are limited to four players (usually seven) to increase safety during the global pandemic. After a round or two of glowing putt putt, head upstairs for a cold treat at the Sweet Republic ice cream shop.

Musical Instrument Museum

Musical Instrument Museum (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Valley of the Sun Museums

Museums offer all sorts of cool learning opportunities. Explore the Native American cultures of the Southwest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Or, wander through the world-renowned Musical Instrument Museum, which celebrates musical diversity with displays featuring songs, videos, musical instruments, and traditional costumes from around the world. Depending on your family’s interests, you may also want to visit the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa, Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, or the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

McDowell Mountain Aquatic Center in Scottsdale with kids

McDowell Mountain Aquatic Center in Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Pools and Water Parks in Scottsdale and Beyond

Although nearly all hotels in Scottsdale feature swimming pools, if you’re looking for a different splashy scene, then you have some fun options for families in the Valley of the Sun. McDowell Mountain Ranch Aquatic Center offers a winding waterslide, a pleasant lazy river, high and low diving boards, and a zero-entry splash play area. Also, El Dorado Aquatic Center is home to a water playground with slide for young children, a zero-entry pool, plus two waterslides for bigger kids.

Additionally, water parks in neighboring areas include Big Surf in Tempe, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Phoenix, and Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa.

Old Town Scottsdale fountain

Old Town Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Scottsdale Summer Evenings

As the sun sets in the desert, temperatures drop. That’s when to hit the town for fun and food. Here’s what to do in Scottsdale in summer during the evenings.

An artist at Scottsdale ArtWalk

(Photo credit: Scottsdale Gallery Association)

Scottsdale ArtWalk

Old Town Scottsdale is home to more than 100 art galleries, many of which specialize in pieces by local Arizona artists and Southwestern American art. For more than 45 years, this area of town has been welcoming visitors to the Scottsdale ArtWalk on Thursday evenings from 7 to 9 pm. Often galleries offer refreshments, live music, and special exhibits. Many galleries have implemented special safety protocols due to the Covid-19 pandemic. To avoid crowds, you can often make a private viewing appointment as well.

Outdoor patio at Olive & Ivy in Scottsdale, Arizona

Outdoor patio at Olive & Ivy in Scottsdale (Photo credit: Fox Restaurant Concepts)

Restaurants in the Valley of the Sun

With over 800 restaurants in Scottsdale, you certainly won’t go hungry during your summer vacation here! Enjoy delicious food while dining safely at any of Maggiore Group’s restaurants with their Coronavirus protocols. This restaurant group includes Tomaso’s Italian Kitchen, which serves my pick for the best authentic Italian cuisine in the Valley. You can also get craft meatballs and charcuterie at the Sicilian Butcher in Phoenix. Additionally, Hash Kitchen in Scottsdale serves boozy brunches with a DJ in mornings.

Spicy Coconut Curry with Tofu at Flower Child Scottsdale

Spicy Coconut Curry with Tofu at Flower Child Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Another restaurant chain that is committed to providing safe dining options during the Coronavirus outbreak is Fox Restaurant Concepts. My family is a regular at Flower Child, which offers healthy fare like salads, wraps, plates and gluten-free desserts. Olive & Ivy is another favorite, with its darling outdoor patio and Mediterranean menu. Take a look at a list of Fox’s restaurants and their Covid-19 promise.

For additional dining options at a discount, Arizona Restaurant Week takes place every June. Take a look at this year’s participating restaurants.

Fairmont Scottsdale at night

Fairmont Scottsdale at night (Photo credit: Fairmont Scottsdale)

Drive-In Movies

Go old school by watching a drive-in movie during your Scottsdale vacation. In 2020, both Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and Fairmont Scottsdale Princess projected family-friendly movies onto giant screens for viewing pleasure from a vehicle on Fridays and Saturdays in April and May. Let’s hope this retro nighttime activity returns to both venues next year. In the meantime, the Sonora Village website promises Moonlight Movies are returning soon to Scottsdale!

Aerial view of the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch

Aerial view of the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch (Photo credit: Michael Baxter)

Where to Spend the Night in Scottsdale

As the temperatures soar in Scottsdale, room rates at the city’s swanky resorts drop drastically. Look for discounted resort spa service prices as well. Many hotels also offer outdoor activities like tennis, golf, and guided hikes. With incredible hotel pools and summer offerings like dive-in movies, you may never want to leave your resort!

All of these hotels have stepped up their cleaning and safety protocols in light of the 2020 health crisis. Visit their websites for details on how they’re keeping guests safe during Scottsdale vacation stays.

Family pool at Four Seasons Scottsdale

Family pool at Four Seasons Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North

Families seeking pampering, delicious restaurants, outdoor activities, and gorgeous desert scenery will adore Four Seasons Scottsdale. This resort features three pools — a shallow children’s pool, a family pool, and a pool just for grown-ups. Tucked away in North Scottsdale next to Pinnacle Peak Park, Four Seasons is where to go to escape it all. Read my comprehensive review of Four Seasons Scottsdale.

Waterslides at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Waterslides at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess (Photo credit: Fairmont)

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Want to visit the beach in Scottsdale? Head to the Fairmont! This resort boasts Arizona’s only white sand beach. You’ll also find six swimming pools and two twisting waterslides here. Kids will love summertime dive-in movies and pool parties at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, too. Meanwhile parents will appreciate their swish world-class spa and championship golf course.

Lazy river at Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

Lazy river at Westin Kierland Resort & Spa (Photo credit: Westin Kierland)

The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

Pool lovers flock to the Westin Kierland for their Adventure Water Park. It offers the iconic Kierland FlowRider flow-board simulator for surfing in the desert, a lazy river, and a 110-foot-long waterslide. If you want to stay away from crowds, then rent a family-friendly poolside cabana to relax in shaded luxury. Better yet, enjoy your very own Tommy Bahama Relaxation Reef private “island”. Now that’s social distancing in style!

Great Wolf Lodge Scottsdale indoor waterpark

Great Wolf Lodge Scottsdale indoor waterpark (Photo credit: Great Wolf Lodge)

Great Wolf Lodge Scottsdale/Talking Stick

The Great Wolf Lodge Scottsdale is home to Arizona’s first indoor water park. Expect multiple waterslides, a splash-loaded treehouse with giant tipping bucket, play pools, and lazy river. In summer, families also enjoy the outdoor Raccoon Lagoon’s water play area with fountains galore.

Waterslide and splash pad at Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch

Waterslide and splash pad at Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch (Photo credit: Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch)

Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch

Cool down at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale‘s 2.5-acre water playground complete with a sand beach, 10 swimming pools, 20 fountains, and 45 waterfalls. Daredevils will especially like their three-story, high-speed waterslide. Even if you’re not staying at the Hyatt, you can still cruise through the resort’s seven-acre lake aboard a handcrafted Italian Gondola boat while being serenaded by professional gondolier!

Flowering spiny cholla cactus in Arizona

Flowering spiny cholla cactus in Arizona (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Learn More

Take a look at my comprehensive list of things to do in Scottsdale with kids and get additional help to plan your Scottsdale vacation from the experts at Experience Scottsdale.

Headed to Northern Arizona? You’ll definitely want to read my Grand Canyon tips!

To explore America’s biggest ghost town, check out my tips for visiting Jerome, Arizona.

Discover the charms of Arizona’s territorial capital in my guide to Prescott.

Things to Do on Scottsdale, Arizona Vacation in Summer

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Would you like to experience a Scottsdale summer vacation? Let us know in the comments below!

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Matt Taylor says

    I live here! I used to work in Scottsdale but now I work at home in Mesa. So much to see and do here in the Phoenix Valley. Awesome shopping areas and restaurants in Scottsdale Downtown as well as The Quarter area. I love it here!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Aren’t we lucky to live in such a beautiful place?! I love the Valley of the Sun. I really need to explore more of Mesa next!

  2. I have ALWAYS wanted to go to Arizona. I’ve never been to any place that’s like desert before, it would be a brand new world! Scottsdale seems great!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Jessie – I hope you can come out to enjoy Scottsdale’s desert beauty and many activities someday!

  3. khoingn | The Broad Life says

    I always this kind of post as it’s easy for me to list all the activities I would like to do at the place. Thanks for sharing this post! It seems so much fun visiting Scottsdale

  4. Monidipa says

    Wow, Arizona is so beautiful. I would love to visit this place… So much to do there.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      I hope you can visit Arizona someday! We have so many different landscapes and climates to explore!

  5. Marie Phillips says

    This would be my type of vacation! I would love to spend a week at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and then see the sights.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Yes, yes, yes! The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a popular resort for locals and travelers because it’s so beautiful and they offer so many fun extras for families!

  6. Subhashish Roy says

    Scottsdale certainly looks a destination to be in during the summer. The blue sky, the lovely family pool at Four Seasons, the indoor waterpark makes me want to dash off there right now. Wish I could. Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa would be a great place to stay in.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      There are so many incredible summer deals at all of these resorts, too! I hope you can come to Scottsdale in summer someday!

  7. I’d heard about Scottsdale before, but didn’t realise it was this pretty, makes me jealous of everyone that can go on vacation there this year

    • Colleen Lanin says

      I lived in Scottsdale as a child and just moved back six years ago. I took Scottsdale’s beauty for granted back then but now I really appreciate the desert landscape!

  8. This is such a helpful guide packed with so many activities to explore, thanks! The trip to ZOO sounds really interesting although all the other activities seem equally tempting.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      I love the Phoenix Zoo so much — I’m so blessed to live in Scottsdale where we have so much to explore!

  9. The Joyous Living says

    i had no idea there were so many things to do in scottsdale/phoenix. i would love to visit the aquarium, zoo and try some ATVing 🙂

    • Colleen Lanin says

      We haven’t done an ATV tour yet, either, but we’re planning to do that very soon! Looks so fun!

  10. wow, Arizona is a nice destination for summer fun. The golf club is looking so beautiful and different from usual golf clubs.

  11. Emman Damian says

    Scottsdale looks amazing! I hope I can go to Arizona and take pretty photos too. Glad you enjoyed the trip.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Well, I live here so it wasn’t too far to go! 😆 There is so much beauty here — it’s a great destination for photographers!

  12. Melanie williams says

    This place looks amazing. Also it is nice to get some travel inspiration especially when we cannot travel this year x

    • Colleen Lanin says

      We may not be able to travel this year (or at least very far), but we can still travel dream! ❤️

  13. Lavern Moore says

    One state I have yet to visit is Arizona. The city of Scottsdale seems like a worthwhile place to visit.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      There’s so much I love about Arizona, and Scottsdale is one of the most vibrant and pretty places in the whole state!

  14. Pati Robins says

    i actually dream of visiting arizona one day !! there is so much to see and do

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Pati – I hope you can visit my beautiful home state someday. Our landscape here really is amazing and it changes so much as you travel from Scottsdale/Phoenix to the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona.

  15. Lisa Goodmurphy says

    It sounds like there’s so much to do in Scottsdale in the summer but I’m not sure that I could stand the heat! But it’s a dry heat, right?!?

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Ha! It IS a dry heat, which does make it much more tolerable. Also, if you can get up early in the day to enjoy cooler temps and spend the afternoon indoors in a/c or in your resort pool — the heat won’t bother you! 🙂

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