If you are looking for your next family travel destination, look no further than the southwest hub of Phoenix. The desert landscape is like no other and it is the perfect backdrop for hiking, star gazing and days spent lounging by the pool. Bonus, Phoenix has its own airport so you don’t have to travel far before the vacation begins. Read on—your Arizona adventure awaits!
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. Kids who meet the minimum height requirements will love soaring above on the Sky Cycle as they balance and peddle across a single wire.
In addition to these and other permanent exhibits, the Arizona Science Center features temporary exhibits like A Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature (open through Sept. 4). Is it a mirror in front of you or a way through the maze? Proceed cautiously and you just might make it out the other side! Additional fees apply to featured exhibits and planetarium shows.
Arizona Science Center
600 E Washington St.
Kids will get a major kick out of the camp-themed ambiance and fun food at Camp Social. With a vintage camper as the hostess stand, you’ll feel like you should have brought your flashlight and bug spray as soon as you arrive. Kids will make a beeline to the back of the restaurant where the game room is located. Parents can grab a moment at the bar on one of the tire swing seats before sitting down to your meal.
Food options include pizzas that take on national park themes like the Smoky Mountain that comes topped with smoked mozzarella, house made sausage and house made tomato sauce. Kids will love the burgers or the giant soft pretzel on the appetizers menu. Make sure you save room for dessert—the signature s’mores are must! Cook the giant marshmallows on your own table and make your neighbors jealous.
6107 N 7th St.
Got a sitter for the night? Make your way to Camp Social’s next-door neighbor, Hatter & Hare, an Alice in Wonderland-themed bar for kids over 21.
Your must-stop spot for gourmet sandwiches, salads and all-day breakfast is Luci’s at the Orchard. In addition to making some of the best chilaquiles around town, Luci’s offers Funky Monkey French Toast, build-your-own juice and a frozen hot chocolate perfect for that 100+ degree day. Bring the swimsuits for the kiddos and they can frolic in the outdoor splash pad while you enjoy your cold brew in the shade. In addition to outstanding eats, Luci’s sells all sorts of kitschy gifts including all the unicorn items you’ve ever dreamed of.
Luci’s at the Orchard
7100 N. 12th Street
If you need a spot downtown near the Arizona Science Center to grab a slice, make La Piazza the spot. This brick oven Neapolitan pizza joint was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and is quick and very kid-friendly.
1 N. 1st St.
Just a 15-minute drive from the airport will get you to the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort. All the rooms at this hotel are suites which means that you will have more than enough room for everyone to spread out in the separate living room. A major draw for families is the hotel’s massive River Ranch, an on-site water park. Grab an inner tube and float around the lazy river to get the lay of the land before you line up for a turn on the water slide. There’s a kiddie pool for the shortest swimmers and mini golf for when you need to get out of the water.
If you and the kids need a break from each other, send them to Coyote Camp. Located near the water park, this camp for kids ages 4-12 offers full- and half-day options where kids enjoy crafts, educational activities and swimming. On Friday and Saturday nights, parents can head out for a night on the town while the kids get dinner and activities from 6-9 p.m. (additional fees apply for Coyote Camp).
Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort
7677 N. 16th St.
With loads of flights into Phoenix every day, you won’t have any trouble making your way here from anywhere in the country. Many families flock to Phoenix in the spring for baseball spring training but the city has lots to offer families any time of year. Warm summer days make for the perfect time to lounge poolside or spend some time exploring a museum or science center. Head to the Visit Phoenix website for even more ideas for your Phoenix vacation.
—photos and story by Kate Loweth
This trip was paid for by Visit Phoenix but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.