50+ Best Things to Do in Scottsdale with Kids (2024)

Scottsdale may be best known for its abundance of swanky spas, golf courses, and shopping malls. Thankfully, families will find a wealth of kid-friendly attractions here, too. As a family travel expert who spent half my childhood living in Scottsdale and then moved back to this Southwestern city with my brood several years ago, I am sharing my picks for the 50+ best things to do in Scottsdale with kids.

Scottsdale with kids sunset
Scottsdale sunset with kids (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

While visiting this expansive Phoenix suburb, you will likely wander beyond its borders. For that reason, I have included the best activities in neighboring areas as well. Join me in exploring Scottsdale, Arizona’s plentiful offerings for families!

This story is brought to you in partnership with Expedia.com.

Old Town Scottsdale fountain
Old Town Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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Old Town Scottsdale

Wander Old Town Scottsdale’s art galleries and shops in search of Southwestern jewelry and interesting souvenirs. Highlights for kids in downtown Scottsdale include horse-drawn carriage rides and the pinkety-pink Sugar Bowl ice cream shop with its attached video game arcade.

Fountain at the Civic Center with Scottsdale Public Library in the distance
Fountain at the Civic Center with Scottsdale Public Library in the distance (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Scottsdale ArtWalk

Scottsdale ArtWalk takes place every Thursday night (besides Thanksgiving) in Old Town Scottsdale. That’s when galleries throw open their doors from 7 to 9 pm and invite guests to get a closer look at masterpieces created by Arizona artists. It’s one of the best free things to do in the Valley of the Sun!

Young girl at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall
My daughter at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Scottsdale Civic Center Mall

Also located in Old Town Scottsdale is the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall. This beautiful outdoor space in the heart of Scottsdale is filled with whimsical sculptures, flower-filled gardens, and burbly fountains.

Pop into the expansive Scottsdale Public Library’s children’s section to cozy up with a good book in a make-believe castle. The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts are also located here.

Santa under the sea at Christmastime at OdySea Aquarium
Santa at Christmastime at OdySea Aquarium (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

OdySea Aquarium

OdySea Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the Southwest. Otters, penguins, and sea turtles are favorites at this 200,000-square-foot aquarium. Roll up your sleeves to pet stingrays, sturgeons, and other sea creatures in touch pools. Santa even makes under-the-sea appearances here at Christmastime in Scottsdale!

This attraction at Arizona Boardwalk will wow the whole family. Before you leave, be sure to take a potty break to view sharks swimming above the bathroom sinks!

Koi-filled pond at Butterfly Wonderland
Koi-filled pond at Butterfly Wonderland (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Butterfly Wonderland

Also at Arizona Boardwalk, Butterfly Wonderland delights visitors with its display of fluttering beauties in America’s largest butterfly conservatory. Additionally, during this educational experience, your family can view other insects, reptiles, amphibians, honeybees, and koi fish.

Start at their 3-D theater to watch Flight of the Butterflies. This film shows the impressive annual migration of monarch butterflies.

Then, get a firsthand view of the metamorphosis of butterflies and moths in the fascinating Butterfly Emergence Gallery. The highlight of any visit is the Conservatory, which is filled with free-flying butterflies and moths in a garden setting complete with a koi pond.

Spring view on one of the trails at McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Spring view on one of the trails at McDowell Sonoran Preserve (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Hiking in Scottsdale with Kids

The landscape will amaze first-timers to Arizona. This is especially true if your family visits in spring. That’s when the desert bursts with beautiful blooms, and outdoor adventures abound in Scottsdale.

Always be sure to bring plenty of water, a hat with a brim, and sunblock. If visiting the city of Scottsdale during summer, plan to hike early in the morning before temperatures soar.

Wildlife you might see on trails includes bobcats, snakes, and javelinas (often thought to be wild pigs, but they’re actually peccaries). You may also spy birds like darling Gambel’s quails or road runners. Meep! Meep!

Camelback Mountain in Phoenix is named for its animal shape. This is probably the most famous place to hike in the Valley of the Sun. It’s not, however, the best choice for inexperienced hikers or families with young children.

Instead, I recommend Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Park at the Gateway Trailhead, where there are public restrooms, maps, and a choice of multiple hiking trails.

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 your kids are loco for locomotives, then Scottsdale’s McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is a must. A sizable playground plus a smaller Old West-themed play area are fabulous for kids. The Scottsdale Railroad Museum might be interesting for your family to explore, too, with model railroad exhibits and full-sized train cars.

The highlight, though, is the Paradise Pacific Railroad; a ride-on miniature train chugs through the expansive grassy park. The Scottsdale Charros Carousel is also super fun with its antique horses and two wheelchair-accessible chariots.

Buy hotdogs, hamburgers, and ice cream at the Snackstop. Or pack a lunch to enjoy at picnic areas while watching the choo-choo.

In November and December, buy your ride tickets online in advance and expect long lines to see their Holiday Lights display from the seat of the train. A limited number of Fast Pass tickets are available and well worth the extra cost.

A rainbow of waterslides at Big Surf Water Park
A rainbow of waterslides at Big Surf Water Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Water Parks in and Near Scottsdale

With toasty temperatures for several months of the year, it should come as no surprise that water parks are plentiful in the Phoenix area. Keep in mind that these are typically open seasonally, so be sure to check hours before you go.

Some Arizona resorts, like the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, and Great Wolf Lodge Arizona, offer water features like water slides and lazy rivers for their guests as well. Read more about these and other Scottsdale hotels via Expedia.

Big Surf

Located in nearby Tempe (home of Arizona State University), Big Surf opened in 1969. It boasts the world’s first wave machine, a particular hit with older kids.

In addition to the Waikiki Beach Wave Pool, this water park offers more than 19 waterslides of different sizes and scare levels. Little kids will enjoy Captain Cook’s Landing, a splash and slide area.

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Phoenix

Formerly known as Wet N’ Wild, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor is the largest water park in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. Situated in Glendale, it’s filled with more than 700,000 gallons of water and features over 30 attractions.

Golfland Sunsplash

Thrill lovers will love the vast array of waterslides plus a water coaster at Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa. A 450-gallon wave pool, two splash play areas for young kids, and an activity pool will keep families content for hours.

Plus, the water park scenes from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure were filmed here. Gnarly, dude!

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

McDowell Mountain Ranch Aquatic Center

Significantly smaller and less expensive than the other options listed above, the McDowell Mountain Ranch Aquatic Center is the only water park on this list that’s actually located within Scottsdale. One winding waterslide, a pleasant lazy river, high and low diving boards, and a zero-entry splash pad make this an affordable and fun place for families to cool off.

Spring training baseball game in Scottsdale
Spring training baseball game in Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Cactus League Spring Training

When in Scottsdale, take kids of all ages out to a ballgame. With over 300 days of sunshine per year, Arizona is the perfect location for baseball spring training.

Fifteen teams call Arizona their spring training home. This includes the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Francisco Giants.

They play at 10 different locations throughout the Valley, like Scottsdale Stadium and Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale. Learn more about taking your kids to spring training in Arizona from our friends at Tips for Family Trips.

Southwest display at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix
Southwest display at the Musical Instrument Museum (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Musical Instrument Museum

Displays at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix are truly interactive. Visitors don headphones that come to life with music and information as exhibits are approached. Musical diversity appears before your ears and eyes with songs and videos of concerts and dances, colorful displays of familiar and unusual instruments, traditional costumes, and huge photographs. Get a hands-on opportunity to make music with a variety of instruments from around the world in the Experience Gallery.

A family of giraffes at the Phoenix Zoo
A family of giraffes at the Phoenix Zoo (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Phoenix Zoo

As a former multi-year member of the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, I’m a bit of a zoo snob. Thankfully, the Phoenix Zoo is truly one of the best zoos I’ve ever visited.

In fact, the Phoenix Zoo is the largest non-profit, privately owned zoo in the U.S. Most animal exhibits are large and lush, and the focus is on conservation and education.

This zoo is home to nearly 400 different species of animals. In addition to popular residents like giraffes, orangutans, and elephants — look for indigenous animals like coyotes, mountain lions, and Mexican gray wolves.

In addition to impressive animal exhibits, there are some features at the Phoenix Zoo for kids that should not be missed. Harmony Farm provides a petting zoo and playground for young children. Meanwhile, you’ll have a tough time pulling bigger kids away from the Enchanted Forest play area. (I know I do!)

Carousel at the Phoenix Zoo with kids
Carousel at the Phoenix Zoo (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Children will want to take a spin on the zoo’s carousel, too. The Endangered Species Carousel features faux ride-on endangered animals.

When it’s hot outside, bring along swimsuits to cool off at the Leapin’ Lagoon and Yakulla Caverns splash pads. Alternatively, check out the Phoenix Zoo Lights nighttime displays in winter.

Also, look for interactive animal experiences like stingray feeding, camel rides, and giraffe feeding for an additional charge.

Chihuly glass sculptures at the Desert Botanical Garden
Chihuly glass sculptures at the Desert Botanical Garden (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Desert Botanical Garden

Just around the corner from the Phoenix Zoo is the Desert Botanical Garden. Go here to wander along paved paths lined with desert flora like cactuses, wildflowers, succulents, agave plants, and ocotillo trees. Displays teach visitors about the indigenous plants and people of the Sonoran Desert.

Make a reservation at their onsite sit-down restaurant, Gertrude’s (children’s menus available). Or grab a quick bite at the Patio Café.

Dinosaur Mountain at Arizona Museum of Natural History
Dinosaur Mountain at Arizona Museum of Natural History (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Arizona Museum of Natural History

Plan to spend a few hours at the interactive Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa. Kids love to pan for gold in a courtyard outside. Wander through the Lost Dutchman Mine exhibit and “lock up” your family members in its jail cells. Then, explore a Hohokam village where you can grind maize with stone tools and put together giant puzzle pieces to form pictures of Native American pottery.

Most impressive among the permanent exhibits, though, is Dinosaur Mountain. This display of life-sized animated dinosaurs on a cliff features booming “flash floods” that send water gushing down the display every 23 minutes.

An outdoor exhibit at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix with kids
An outdoor exhibit at the Arizona Science Center (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Arizona Science Center

The Arizona Science Center in Downtown Phoenix rocks! You definitely could spend a whole day exploring the center.

With hands-on experiments complete with nobs to crank and buttons to push, children are too busy having fun to realize they’re learning something. The onsite Dorrance Planetarium is one of the largest and most technologically advanced in the nation, too.

My favorite exhibit is Forces of Nature. Step aboard the “stage” to experience a 5-minute show. (It repeats every 15 minutes). This may be too scary for toddlers and preschoolers, but big kids love to experience a (mild) earthquake, windstorm, thunder, lightning, and more.

MacDonald's Ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona
MacDonald’s Ranch (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Horseback Riding and More at MacDonald’s Ranch

Saddle up for fun at MacDonald’s Ranch in Scottsdale with kids. This horse stable offers guided trail horseback rides and stagecoach rides through the desert. If traveling with a group of eight or more, book a desert cookout along with a hayride, stagecoach tour, or horseback adventure for a truly memorable experience.

When visiting in October, plan to attend the annual MacDonald’s Ranch pumpkin patch. Expect a petting zoo, pony rides, old-fashioned games, and food trucks. The highlight is boarding a horse-pulled hayride or tractor-pulled train to a pumpkin patch surrounded by saguaro cactuses and sagebrush.

Kids playing at the Phoenix Children's Museum
Kids playing at the Phoenix Children’s Museum (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Designed for kids from birth through 10 years, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix offers all sorts of interactive opportunities to PLAY. Most visitors spend two to four hours exploring the museum’s 14 exhibits.

Kids love to build forts and cities in Building Big and then navigate their way through a Noodle Forest. Enjoy this museum’s climbing structures, a pint-sized pretend grocery store, a book loft, and more.

Three generations posing at Museum of the West
Three generations posing at Museum of the West (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West

Explore informative, playful displays about cowboy culture and Amerindian history at Museum of the West in Old Town Scottsdale. Kids will enjoy climbing aboard a stagecoach, making rub art of desert animals with crayons, and playing a Southwestern version of a Chutes and Ladders game.

Be sure to pose in an Old West-themed optical illusion painting at the museum. An employee or volunteer will be happy to snap your pic.

Roller Coaster at Castles N' Coasters Theme Park in Phoenix
Roller Coaster at Castles N’ Coasters Theme Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Miniature Golf and Theme Parks

Amusements like mini-golf, video game arcades, and theme park rides abound in the Valley of the Sun. Whether you want a full-blown amusement park experience or you’re looking for a couple of hours of distraction, your kids are in for a treat.

Golfland Sunsplash

Even when its water park closes for the season, Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa continues to amuse guests. Enjoy three miniature golf courses as well as bumper cars, bumper boats, laser tag, and a huge arcade with prizes.

Kids playing miniature golfat Castles N' Coasters in Phoenix
My kids playing miniature golf at Castles N’ Coasters in Phoenix (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Castles N’ Coasters

For full-sized outdoor rides, including a log ride and a few roller coasters, head to Castles N’ Coasters in Phoenix. You’ll also find four mini-golf courses and tons of indoor arcade games.

Although my kids and I had a ball at this theme park, ride safety didn’t seem to be the highest priority. Plus, given the area of town, I’d advise sticking to a daytime visit.

Jake’s Unlimited

Located indoors in Mesa, Jake’s Unlimited is a bit of a trek from Scottsdale, but it’s one of my kids’ favorite places in the Valley. Look for a full-sized carousel and bumper cars.

Included with the price of admission are video games and five rides. Pay additional fees for bowling, games with prize tickets, and laser tag. Also, an unlimited buffet of pizza, pasta, salads, sodas, and soft-serve ice cream is available free of charge until 8 p.m.

Children at Glow Putt Miniature Golf in Scottsdale
My son and friends at Glow Putt Miniature Golf (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Glow Putt

Glow-in-the-dark miniature golf at Glow Putt is always in season in Scottsdale with kids. “Charge” your golf ball by placing it inside blacklight tubes throughout the course. Kids especially like the hole with a spinning wheel that tells golfers to moo like a cow or kick the ball with their feet to avoid penalty strokes. After a round or two of glowing putt putt, head upstairs for a delicious treat at the Sweet Republic ice cream shop.

Peter Piper Pizza

Peter Piper Pizza is part restaurant, part arcade. Choose from several locations throughout the Valley, including two in Scottsdale. The pizza and wings are decent, but the primary reason to come here is for video games and prizes.

Puttshack at Scottsdale Quarter
Puttshack at Scottsdale Quarter (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)


Opened in 2023, Puttshack Scottsdale bills itself as upscale tech-infused mini golf. Each ball is linked with a personal profile to automatically keep score so you can focus on fun. Children are welcome until 8 pm, when the venue takes on a more grownup bar vibe. The game is recommended for kids aged 7+.

A bagpipe player welcoming sunset at Eagle Mountain Golf Club in Fountain Hills just south of Scottsdale
A bagpipe player welcoming sunset at Mountain Golf Club in Fountain Hills just south of Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Championship Golf Courses

Full-sized golf courses are plentiful in the Valley of the Sun. In fact, the Scottsdale area boasts over 200 golf courses. Spring is the best time of year in Scottsdale for golf with ideal temperatures in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit. Budget seekers, however, will appreciate discount pricing on world-class courses in summer.

Every February, golf lovers flock to the Valley to attend the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the world, the Phoenix Open takes place at the Tournament Players Club (TPC) Scottsdale. This 36-hole course is open to the public and offers private lessons for adults and kids alike. 

Young man hitting the ball at TopGolf Scottsdale
My nephew hitting the ball at TopGolf Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Topgolf Scottsdale

For a unique golf-themed excursion, reserve a bay at Topgolf Scottsdale. Here, your family can dine and drink while hitting micro-chipped golf balls at giant dartboard-like targets in an outfield. Kids of all ages are welcomed at Topgolf.

Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's former home
Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s former home (Photo credit: marcoscasiano, Depositphotos.com)

Taliesin West

Parents and budding architects will appreciate a visit to Taliesin West. Once the winter home of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, today it is the headquarters of his foundation. It is open seven days a week for self-guided audio tours and 90-minute guided walking tours.

Taliesin was a hub of architecture education for over 88 years, with graduate students building their own shelters in the Sonoran Desert. The School of Architecture closed at this location in 2020 and moved to Arcosanti, an experimental town about one hour outside Scottsdale.

Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the world’s most well-known architects. He is renowned for his Prairie Style, which incorporates elements of nature like water, stone, and plants in structural designs. Residents of the Valley of the Sun are proud of Wright’s influence in Arizona. While in Scottsdale, you will likely drive on Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard, one of the busiest streets in the city.

Rainbow Ryders hot air Balloon flight
Rainbow Ryders hot air Balloon flight (Photo credit: Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon Co.)

Hot Air Ballooning in Scottsdale

Floating above the desert in a hot air balloon is an experience your family will long remember. In fact, with 300 days of sunshine per year in Scottsdale, the area offers more flyable days than anywhere else in the United States.

Choose from shared or private flights with Hot Air Expeditions and Rainbow Ryders. Ages 5+ can take to the sky for a magical journey over the desert.

Medieval Times Scottsdale
Medieval Times Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament

For a roaring good time, make reservations for the Scottsdale Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament. Expect jousting horses, sword fights, falconry, and a queen overseeing it all. Plan to come an hour or so early to get the best seats, peruse the shops, and maybe purchase a themed drink (with alcohol or without).

Families root for their knight while chowing down on food like chicken, potatoes, and corn on the cob. (No utensils allowed!) Vegetarian options are available as well.

Think this dinner show is just for kids? My family was hosted by Medieval Times for my Game of Thrones-enthusiast husband’s birthday celebration. He kept leaning over throughout the performance and saying, “This is the best birthday ever!”

Afternoon tea sweets at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale
Afternoon tea sweets at the Phoenician Resort (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Afternoon Tea at the Phoenician

Treat your family to a traditional afternoon tea at The Phoenician, one of the most luxurious resorts in the Valley of the Sun. Enjoy hot tea, finger sandwiches, scones, and petite pastries in the hotel’s sumptuous lobby. Parents can up the fancy factor by ordering a glass of sparkling wine or Champagne. All of this is accompanied by a live piano performance. The Phoenician happily provides gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and vegetarian menus with 24-hour advance notice.

Young teen boy flying at iFly Scottsdale
My son during his iFly flight

iFLY Indoor Flight Experience

Children as young as 3, and adults of any age can get a taste of what it’s like to soar in the air at iFLY in Scottsdale. iFLY explains how their experience differs from skydiving on their website, “At iFLY, you don’t jump or fall, you fly gently on a cushion of controlled air.” In addition, those aged 6 to 70 can add to the experience with a Virtual Reality flight.

Antique fire truck at the Hall of Flame Firefighter Museum
Antique fire truck at the Hall of Flame Firefighter Museum (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting

The Hall of Flame Firefighting Museum in Phoenix boasts the world’s largest collection of vintage fire trucks. Vehicles range from a 1725 English handpumper to more modern engine-powered models. Also look for a touching memorial to fallen fire rescue heroes, with a special display for those who died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers in New York.

Make a game of your visit by asking kids to select their favorite from the museum’s more than 90 fire trucks. There is one climb-aboard fire engine for make-believe rescue missions, too.

Most of the trucks are strictly hands-off, which can make a visit with toddlers and preschoolers somewhat nerve-wracking. But grade-schoolers who dig fire engines would like to spend an hour or so here.

Alice in Wonderland production at Desert Stages Theatre
Alice in Wonderland production at Desert Stages Theatre in their previous location (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Live Theater Performances for Families

For families who want to see live theater on vacation, you can find that in Scottsdale.

Desert Stages Theatre

Located within Scottsdale’s huge Fashion Square Mall, Desert Stages Theatre offers a Main Stage, a smaller Actor’s Cafe, and Youth/Teen productions. My family enjoyed seeing Alice in Wonderland here shortly after our move to Arizona. Each year this theater presents 250 performances.

Don Bluth Front Row Theatre

Want the best seats in the house? You can’t go wrong at Don Bluth Front Row Theatre! That’s because there are only 76 seats, which surround the stage on all sides. You just might be surprised by the caliber of talent this little live theater puts forth. I know I have been! Look for family-friendly productions like Mary Poppins, It’s a Wonderful Life and The Wizard of Oz.

Theaters Near Scottsdale

If you’re willing to travel outside of Scottsdale, then look up what’s playing at Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria or take a peek at traveling Broadway productions at ASU Gammage in Tempe.

Octane Raceway in Scottsdale, AZ
Octane Raceway (Photo courtesy of Experience Scottsdale)

Octane Raceway

Adults and kids alike enjoy racing speedy go-karts at Octane Raceway at the Scottsdale Pavilions. Also on-site are a video game arcade, laser tag, mini bowling alley, and axe-throwing.

Junior drivers must be at least 46 inches tall to participate. For participants under age 16, junior races top out at 25 mph. Meanwhile, grown-up races go up to 45 miles per hour. Parents can compete against kids in a junior race (at junior speeds, of course).

Chase Field in Phoenix
My daughter’s high school choir performing at Chase Field in Phoenix (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Regular Season AZ Professional Sporting Events

In addition to being a hub for baseball spring training, Arizona is home to four men’s Major League sports teams plus a professional Women’s National Basketball Association team. No matter the season or your sport of choice, you’re sure to find a game to enjoy during your Scottsdale vacation. Look for tickets to Arizona sporting events via TicketLiquidator.

Sports lovers can watch the Arizona Diamondbacks play in regular season games in the impressive Chase Field with its retractable roof in downtown Phoenix. Meanwhile, both the Phoenix Suns men’s basketball team and the Phoenix Mercury WNBA team play at the Talking Stick Resort in Phoenix. Although the Arizona Cardinals football team has not won a Superbowl (yet!), their home stadium, State Farm Stadium in downtown Phoenix, has hosted a few. For hockey, head to the Phoenix suburb of Glendale to watch the Arizona Coyotes play.

Diving into fun at the Museum of Illusions Scottsdale
Diving into fun at the Museum of Illusions Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Museum of Illusions Scottsdale

Trick your eyes with an array of interactive displays at the Museum of Illusions Scottsdale. At this attraction, all ages will enjoy playing and learning about vision, perception, and the human brain. The displays of optical illusions naturally encourage conversation and laughter!

Interactive display at Arizona Ripley's Believe It or Not
An interactive display at Arizona Ripley’s Believe It or Not (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Arizona Ripley’s Believe It or Not

View a megalodon shark jaw, crawl through a life-sized replica of an enormous prehistoric snake, and pose next to an animatronic version of the tallest man who ever lived at Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

A dinosaur egg photo op outside Pangea Land of the Dinosaurs in Scottsdale with kids
A dinosaur egg photo op at Pangea Land of the Dinosaurs (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Pangea Land of the Dinosaurs

Dinosaur lovers will roar with delight at Pangea Land of the Dinosaurs. Enjoy life-sized animatronic dinos on display, kids will enjoy a T-Rex obstacle course, a fossil digging area, dinosaur temporary tattoos, and a small dinosaur ride.

Arizona Boardwalk in Scottsdale, Arizona
Arizona Boardwalk (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

More Play at Arizona Boardwalk

In addition to OdySea Aquarium, Butterfly Wonderland, and the other great attractions detailed in this guide to Scottsdale, the Arizona Boardwalk campus offers even more play for families. My kids love Laser + Mirror Mazes with its colorful reflective labyrinth and challenging laser-filled walk-through puzzle. Cyber Quest is an arcade with video games and carnival games with prizes. Also, the UFO Experience explores unidentified flying objects, alien abductions, and encounters with extraterrestrials.

Look for special events like craft fairs and live concerts throughout the year at Arizona Boardwalk, too. Plus, enjoy an array of shops and restaurants at this entertainment complex.

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

Four-Wheel Desert Tours

During your Scottsdale vacation, you can get your heart pumping by exploring the Sonoran Desert on four wheels.

Stellar Adventures leads guided ATV and UTV tours or you can romp through the desert as a passenger in a Hummer or Blazer. Kids must be age 6+ to ride as a passenger in a Utility Terrain Vehicle.

Green Zebra Adventures offers 1- and 2-hour guided self-driving ATV tours of Scottsdale’s backcountry. Children must be at least age 4 to ride as a passenger.

Bicycling Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt
Bicycling Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt

Go for a family bike ride on Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt. This 22-mile trail stretches from North Scottsdale to Tempe Town Lake in neighboring college town, Tempe. Lined by grass and mostly tucked away from traffic, this is a picturesque paved path for bicycle riders. Embark on a 2- to 3-hour guided tour with 360 Adventures or rent e-bikes from Pedego for a half-day or full-day independent ride.

Chaparral Park fully accessible playground for kids in wheelchairs and all abilities
Chaparral Park’s fully accessible playground for kids in wheelchairs and who have other disabilities (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Chaparral Park

Scottsdale is home to many parks for families to enjoy (46 to be exact!). But the 100-acre Chaparral Park stands out. The Indian Bend Wash Trail wanders right through this pretty green space. Bike or walk around the paved path around the park’s lake, which is stocked for anglers.

Kids of all abilities love the wheelchair-accessible Chaparral Park Playground, designed to meet the needs of children with physical, cognitive, and sensory disabilities. On weekends, find sports fields and courts filled with locals playing baseball, basketball, and volleyball.

Old West-themed Playground at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale with Kids
Old West-themed playground at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Additional Tips for Visiting Scottsdale with Kids

All year long, your family is sure to have plenty to explore and enjoy in Scottsdale. Keep in mind that winters are likely chillier than you think, and summers are even toastier than you might imagine. Read about the best time of year to visit Scottsdale.

As you can see from reading this list of fun things to do in Scottsdale with kids, many popular destinations are in neighboring cities and towns. Plus, Scottsdale is very spread out. Therefore, you will likely need a rental car unless you plan to spend most of your time at your resort.

Scottsdale is one of the safest places to visit in all of Arizona, with most crimes related to property theft. As when visiting any city, exercise reasonable caution while exploring.

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Book Your Scottsdale Family Vacation with Expedia

Expedia has everything you need to book your trip to Scottsdale with kids. From hotels, airfare, and car rentals to vacation rentals and activities, Expedia has you covered.

Whether you’re planning a month-long trip or a weekend getaway, Expedia can connect you with the best travel deals to destinations in Arizona and around the world. Explore more of Scottsdale and book your vacation with Expedia.com!

Flowering Saguaro cactus in Arizona
Flowering Saguaro cactus in Arizona (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

More Things to Do in Arizona

Read my tips for visiting the state’s famous national park, the Grand Canyon with kids.

Discover quirky fun in Arizona’s biggest ghost town, Jerome.

Learn about the state’s territorial capital with these entertaining things for families to do in Prescott.

Check out the many adventures in and near Flagstaff in Northern Arizona.

Find out why families love Enchantment Resort in Sedona.

Explore Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments with kids.

Best Things to Do in Scottsdale, Arizona with Kids

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Dreaming of a Scottsdale family vacation? Save this list of the top things to do when visiting Scottsdale, AZ with kids. Just pin the image above to Pinterest. Go ahead and follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Would you like to visit Scottsdale with kids? Share your tips or questions in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: I received monetary compensation from Expedia related to this blog post. My family was also hosted by The Phoenician, Medieval Times, and the Museum of Illusions Scottsdale. All opinions are mine, as always.


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  1. Thanks for compiling such a comprehensive guide to family-friendly activities in Scottsdale! I particularly appreciate the recommendations for cultural experiences like the Musical Instrument Museum and Taliesin West, which align perfectly with my passion for art and architecture. As an avid collector, I’m always seeking inspiration from diverse cultural offerings, and these suggestions will definitely be added to my itinerary. Keep up the excellent work! Someone also told me about the Miguel Camarena Art Gallery in Cave Creek. Can you shed light on this?

  2. This is by far the most comprehensive guide to traveling with kids/teens in Scottsdale I have ever read. Kudos! I’m a native so I’m familiar with most of these but there are still others I’ll have to put on our family’s bucket list 🙂

  3. I live in Scottsdale, and this is a wonderful collection of all of the great things our beautiful city has to offer! Thank you for creating this beautiful and informative page!

  4. Hi Colleen,

    I’m 61 living in San Diego, I have visited Az many times, and like the affordable life. My fear is the heat
    I’m scared at my age, it’s a big move will I be able to handle the heat.

    Thanks Jodi

    1. Hi Jodi- My parents are in their mid-70s and love the heat here in Phoenix! It’s so much easier to tolerate, I think, than very cold weather and snow as we age. I suppose it really depends on how sensitive you are to heat. We Arizonans don’t spend too much time outdoors in summer unless it’s in a swimming pool or we get up very early for a hike. I suggest coming out for a visit mid-summer before your move to see how you feel. Good luck with your decision!

  5. We currently live in the Atlanta area after 20 years in Chicagoland. Everything “fun” here is soooo expensive – even or esp compared to Chicago where they offer free days to even the pricey places. The Atlanta zoo and aquarium are cost prohibitive for families. Are museums and such crazy expensive in AZ?

    1. Hi Lori –

      Some of the activities on this list can be expensive, especially when paying for entrance tickets for many family members. However, others are quite affordable. We lived in San Diego for 15 years where prices are much higher for most things, so pricing does feel like a bargain to us. For example, San Diego Zoo entrance tickets are currently $58 for adults and $48 for children whereas the Phoenix Zoo prices are $25 and $17 respectively (and even cheaper when you buy online in advance).

      Also, there is a great option for locals to get free entrance to many Arizona attractions by picking up complimentary Culture Passes at libraries. Examples include the Desert Botanical Museum (these go fast!), Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Arizona Science Center. You must show proof of residence, though, and passes tend to run out towards the end of the month.

      Additionally, many attractions offer a Free First Friday of the month, like Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Arizona Science Center, and Phoenix Art Museum.

      I hope that helps!

  6. Oh my gosh, Scottsdale looks so lovely! Though I’ve never yet been myself, reading about your adventures here make me want to come over all the more.

  7. I haven’t been in Scottsdale yet. I have always wanted to visit the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. I hope to see it soon.

  8. I bet there is more stuff you can do there. The outdoor activities looks super fun. The carousel seems to be good.

    1. Oh, yes! There are plenty of tasty restaurants, amazing resorts, seasonal events, full-sized golf courses, incredible spas, beautiful biking paths, and more to explore in Scottsdale!

  9. Scottsdale has such amazing things to offer in variety. I love holidaying in such places which have an abundance of nature too. Love to be there sometime.

  10. I have never been to Arizona, but I would love to go! There is so much to do in Scottsdale. My kids and I would love seeing the museums, playing mini put, and going to the water parks!

  11. What a great place! I will have to consider traveling to Scottsdale! It seems there s something for everyone!

  12. I didn’t know there was a six flags near there and the aquarium sounds fun I looove aquariums! Sounds like Scottsdale has more to offer than I thought!

    1. To be clear, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor is a water park — not a full-blown amusement park — but still lots of fun! OdySea Aquarium is huge & so impressive, I’m sure you’d love it!

  13. I love everything that Scotsdale has to offer for a family. So many attractions to take in. It seems like it’s never-ending fun!