I spent much of my childhood in Arizona thanks to my grandparents being snowbirds, so it holds a very special place in my heart. As an adult, I have built a lot of wonderful memories there as well, and as much as I’d like to continue exploring new places, my heart still takes me back from time to time. Now I’ve had the opportunity to show my daughter the desert, and I’m sharing my experiences with you as well. Here is how to make the best out of a family vacation in Scottsdale.
First off, plan on renting a car for this trip. There are so many things to do outside of Scottsdale, and that ride share bill will get expensive if you’re relying on someone else to chauffeur you. The perk to renting a car- you only have to install that car seat once!
Scottsdale is a great area to stay in because it’s centrally located to many attractions and activities. My home away from home is the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa, making it my number one recommended hotel. Moms, I am putting an emphasis on resort and SPA, because their Agave Spa has been ranked top 10 in the world. You might even find Oprah herself sitting next to you in the sauna, as it is one of her personal favorites. Hey, if Oprah likes it, we all should, right?
Next to the main hotel is also the villa sector, which all come with fully equipped kitchens in case you feel like making more of a dent in your bank account.
As far as kids go, the Westin Kids Club is one of the best childcare facilities I have found while traveling. They have wonderful staff that keeps them busy all day long while you are enjoying your spa day. Drop them off starting at 9AM and pick them up at 5PM. They also offer half day options if you’re only needing a few hours to yourself. Aside from the spa, the Kierland Golf Course is also highly regarded and is endorsed by the amateur (emphasis on amateur) golfer, yours truly. Take advantage of that kids club for your round and enjoy.
What does Westin have to offer in the way of amenities? The list is endless. For the water babies in your life, there are several pools with cabanas to keep them active in the water and also out of that desert sun during their snack time. The cabanas are first come, first serve, so make a day out of it and snag one up early. While you’re there, grab an inner tube and float the lazy river with your kids while you sip on your pool serviced adult beverage. There are also water slides, hourly entertainment, and other fun things to engage in while you’re hanging by the pool. It is a must. Enjoy some down time.
Another great option in Scottsdale is the Sonesta Suites Scottsdale Gainey Ranch. With an all-suite set up with kitchenettes, you are sure to be comfortable in the room as a family. They even provide a Gainey Plush Bear for all of your kids to fight over once you arrive. On top of that, they have a beautiful pool, an on-site fitness facility, plus discounted entry to the neighboring health club. Complimentary breakfast and late afternoon drinks and appetizers are all included in your daily rate as well. Not a bad deal if you ask me!
How many of your kids like trains? Or at least riding on one? I have yet to hear a parent say zero or no to those questions! In this case, take the whole family to McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. Visit the museum, ride on some trains, look at model railroads, and enjoy the playground at the end. There is fun for kids of every age bracket, not limited to those over the age of 18, or 45 for that matter.
Scottsdale is also home to the beautiful Sonoran Desert Preserve, where you can take a stroller-friendly, kid-friendly hike on the Bajada Nature Trail. There you will see lots of vegetation and wildlife while getting some energy out of the kids. In addition to the preserve, you can also book horseback riding, jeep tours, and even helicopter tours. Click here for an overview of all activities.
Are there any music buffs reading this? If so, this next attraction is for you. Spend an afternoon in the Musical Instrument Museum, where you can discover musical instruments from all over the world. They also offer hands on learning and encourage kids of all ages to try out a variety of instruments in the Experience Gallery. Don’t forget to check out the concert schedule as well!
Put your rental car to use next and take a day trip to Tuscon. There you will find the Desert Museum, my personal favorite attraction in all of Arizona. Let’s just say they have a little bit of everything from bobcats to stingrays to snakes to tarantulas (you get my drift), plus an absolutely amazing hummingbird aviary. Pro tip- wear something colorful and/or floral and you might just have a couple land on you! New to the museum is also a recent dinosaur skeleton collected from where else, but Arizona. Plan on getting on the road early and spending the whole day there because there is that much to do. Enjoy it and think of me when that hummingbird poses with you for a photo-op! Totally kidding. But not really.
There’s nothing like feeding your cranky, overtired child sugar, so why not take a trip to Sugar Bowl? Not to worry, they have real, main-course food that you can force feed them before they go crazy on the dessert menu. Enjoy the retro, soda fountain style atmosphere and an ice cream sundae while your kids fuel up on their favorite foods.
The Vig. Take your kiddos out back and let them play corn hole and bocce ball while you sip on some wine and take in the modern, laid back atmosphere. If you go on Sunday, bottles of wine are half price.
Looking for some southwestern style food? The Blind Pig Café has been written up as one of the best spots for some great authentic Mexican food, as well as some American classics. Try the queso fundito and the street tacos for the most “Blind Pig” experience.
O.H.S.O is another awesome place for kids. Request a table outside so you can watch your kids play classic recreation games while you sip on some locally brewed beer and relax.
And just in case you do have some adult time, I have to throw out my favorite restaurant in Scottsdale, The Mission. It is a really trendy, foodie restaurant featuring Latin style cuisine and the most amazing margaritas I’ve ever had. Well-behaved kids with an open-minded palette would do fine here, but it is definitely more of a “hire some childcare for the night and do a date night” type place. Enjoy it.
In closing, Arizona is so beautiful in its own unique way and offers entertainment to audiences of all ages. Pack your lip balm with your sunscreen, as it’s a dry climate, and don’t forget to pick up some delicious prickly pear syrup (my all-time favorite margarita flavoring) while you’re there! Book and enjoy that wonderful sunshine!