You may think of Phoenix as the spot to escape the cold of winter or to catch a spring training ballgame, but we’ve got the scoop for you: Insiders know that summer is also an amazing time to visit this southwestern city as it is cheaper to stay and way less crowded. With direct flights from most of the country and loads of family activities, you’ll be in summer heaven. Here are 13 reasons summer makes such a great time to visit Phoenix with kids.

Up, Up and Away Over the Cacti

Get the ultimate view of Valley of the Sun by booking a hot air balloon ride. Kids are welcome to join in the fun (recommended height is 48 inches to be able to see over the basket). Summer is a great time to book your hot air adventure when the days are longer and you can catch one of those epic summer sunsets. Good news for hot days: you'll get a nice breeze while you are up there and photos to bring home with you!

Online: phoenixballoonrides.com

photo: Arizona Science Center

Open Your Mind at the Arizona Science Center

Downtown Phoenix is home to the Arizona Science Center where kids of all ages can learn and discover. This 120,000-square-foot building has over 300 hands-on exhibits in five themed galleries. Walk through an enormous working stomach (be forewarned, you may not be able to tear the kids away when they learn the stomach makes authentic noises) and then watch heart surgery being performed in the All About Me exhibit. Head to the Immersion Theater to feel what it is like to to be in the middle of a hurricane, tornado, wildfire, volcanic eruption or monsoon. Through Sept. 2, visitors can check out Mummies of the World: The Exhibition that includes 40 real human and animal mummies and 85 rare artifacts from across the globe. 

Online: azscience.org

photo: iFly

Go Indoor Skydiving at iFly

When the summer heat is on, head to iFLY indoor skydiving for a major adrenaline rush. With the help of an instructor, kids ages three and up (and their lucky grown-ups) get to experience what it’s like to skydive without having to jump out of a plane. Want to take your flight to the next level? Add on a “high fly” where you and the instructor fly even higher off the ground. It's definitely something you all will be talking about months later!

Online: iflyworld.com/phoenix

photo: Kierland/Ella Teagan

Ride the Waves at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

The whole family will agree that The Westin Kierland is the perfect spot for your Phoenix home base. With massive suites where your crew can comfortably spread out, The Westin Kierland knows what families need. Only resort guests have access to Kierland FlowRider™ where you can bodyboard or flowboard to your heart's content. Summer fun continues at the Adventure Water Park that offers a lazy river ride, a 110-foot-long waterslide and poolside cabanas you can rent to guarantee some shade for your crew. Kids ages 4-12 can head over to Kids Club for games and crafts and the whole family can enjoy a day full of programming hosted all over the property. Insider tip: you can save up to 30% when you book your stay at The Westin Kierland for the summer months and booking direct through their website gets you the best price.

Online: hotel-deals.marriott.com

photo: Kate Loweth

Visit the Grand Canyon on Its 100th Anniversary

A four hour drive will get you from Phoenix to the south rim of the majestic Grand Canyon and this is the perfect time to visit. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the park and there's loads to do and see while you are there. Drive in on your own or book a tour on a Hummer with Buck Wild Tours. You'll get to skip the line entering the park and will get loads of info from your helpful tour guide. 

Online: nps.gov

Delicious Dining around Every Corner

Phoenix has a robust dining scene with authentic Mexican food dominating the top billing (we especially like Barrio Café and its tableside guacamole). With four locations to choose from, Hash Kitchen is a favorite for breakfast eats and their massive Bloody Mary bar. When strolling through the downtown Scottsdale arts district stop by New Wave Market for the schmaltz chicken sandwich and a scoop of cake scratch ice cream. Kids will get a major kick out of the camp-themed ambiance and fun food at Camp Social. Bonus, there's a game room in the back! For stunning views and contemporary cuisine, you can't beat Top of the Rock Restaurant.

photo: OdySea Aquarium

Take an Underwater Journey at OdySea

For the perfect break from the summer temps, make your way to Scottdale’s OdySea Aquarium where you can come face to face with over 30,000 marine animals in floor-to-ceiling windows and interactive exhibits. Touch pools allow little ones to experience creatures like sea anemones “first hand.” Kids will get a kick out of the penguins’ antics and they will not want to leave the water table once they get there. Take your crew on board OdySea Voyager, where you are “submerged” in a “submarine” and taken on an aquatic adventure (really you are in a theater that rotates 360 degrees through different exhibits). Don’t miss a pit stop in the bathrooms at the entrance—sharks swim by as you wash your hands! 

Online: odyseaaquarium.com

photo: The Phoenician/Mark Silverstein Photography

Stay and Play at The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort

If the Funicians Club isn't your #1 reason for staying at The Phoenician, it should be. Kids ages 5-12 can enjoy outdoor sports, a cactus garden tour, arts and crafts projects, a playground activity, as well as video games, charades, bingo and other board games. You can book your kid crew in there for a half day or full day of fun, or drop them in the evening for dinner and a movie while you dine at the upscale J&G Steakhouse. The Phoenician Spa, 18-hole golf course and expansive pool complex complete with water slide are all waiting for you! Want to make sure you are getting the best deal? The hotel's website always has the lowest available rates and summer will definitely get you the best deals. 

Online: hotel-deals.marriott.com

photo: Butterfly Wonderland

Visit with Thousands of Butterflies

In the same complex as the OdySea Aquarium you will find Butterfly Wonderland, a garden where you can see these beautiful creatures up close. First, stop at the Emergence Gallery where hundreds of live chrysalis with emerging butterflies. Then step inside the conservatory where more than 3,000 butterflies flutter among the tropical plants. In addition to these flying creatures, learn about rain forest reptiles and bees in other exhibits. Pro tip: buy your OdySea Aquarium and Butterfly Wonderland tickets together to save a few bucks. You can exit and reenter both throughout the day if you need to leave to grab a bite to eat.

Online: butterflywonderland.com

Shopping for Days

Phoenix is home to top-notch shopping options from quirky local shops downtown to larger malls that cater to all the fashion trends. Biltmore Fashion Park has stores like Lululemon, Ralph Lauren and Saks Fifth Avenue. Chandler Fashion Center, the second largest mall in the Phoenix area, will offer a respite from the heat. Explore dozens of shops from bookstores to toy stores here. You'll also want to spend some time in the Scottsdale Arts District and don't be surprised if you have to ship your new purchase home. Talk about the perfect way to remember your visit! 

photo: Kate Loweth

Make Your Way to a Museum

A museum visit is the perfect way to spend a summer day in Arizona and there are lots to choose from around town. Step back in time the minute you walk in the doors of the Arizona Museum of Natural History. Here you can learn all about the prehistoric mammoths and other creatures who roamed Arizona. Down the street from this museum is the i.d.e.a. Museum, where kids can explore imagination through art, science and technology. The museum features Artville for tots up to age four and HUB, a gallery with 11 different interactive stations to create. Little airplane lovers must visit the Commemorative Air Force Museum where you can head into the hangar to learn how aircraft evolved as a heroic partner to ground and sea operations from WWI to present.

photo: Courtyard Scottsdale/Craig Jolly

Easy Relaxation at Courtyard Scottsdale Old Town

Scottsdale's Old Town neighborhood is home to this family-friendly hotel with tons to explore right around the corner. The Courtyard Scottsdale Old town is walking distance to the Fifth Avenue shopping district and load of restaurants, museums and even bike rentals to get you out and about. The hotel offers amenities all families will enjoy like a large pool, laundry facilities and an on-site restaurant. Bonus: the summer rates can't be beat when you book directly through the hotel (look for summer savings of up to 30% off).

Online: hotel-deals.marriott.com

photo: Six Flags Hurricane Harbor

Splash Down at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor

Whether you spend your day gliding down the Adventure River on an inner tube or you challenge your crew to a face-first race down the 240-feet of Wahoo Racers, your day at Hurricane Harbor is definitely going to be epic. Splash Island is the water wonderland designed just for little ones with dump buckets, mini waterslides and sprayers galore. 

Online: wetnwildphoenix.com

—Kate Loweth

Plan ahead and save 30%  with this Marriott Hotel offer. It’s valid through 12/31/2019. Other restrictions may apply.