Ranch Realty: Places to Visit after buying or renting your perfect new home in Scottsdale, Arizona!
1. "Old Town" Scottsdale
Wander "Old Town" Scottsdale’s art galleries and shops peddling Southwestern jewelry and souvenirs. ArtWalk takes place every Thursday night. 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 Southwestern artists. Highlights for kids in Old Town include horse-drawn carriage rides and the pink Sugar Bowl ice cream shop with an attached video game arcade.
2. Scottsdale Civic Center Mall
Also located in "Old Town" Scottsdale is the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, a beautiful outdoor space filled with whimsical sculptures, flower-filled gardens, and bubbly 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.
3. Scottsdale's OdySea of the Desert Aquarium
Located at the Arizona Boardwalk, OdySea Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the Southwest, will wow the whole family. Otters and penguins are favorites at this 200,000-square-foot aquarium. Roll up your sleeves to pet stingrays, sturgeons, and other sea creatures in touch pools. Before you leave, be sure to take a potty break to view sharks swimming above the bathroom sinks!
4. Scottsdale Butterfly Wonderland
Also located at Arizona Boardwalk, Butterfly Wonderland delights visitors with its display of living fluttering beauties in America’s largest butterfly conservatory. Start at their 3-D theater to watch “Flight of the Butterflies” — a film about monarch butterflies’ impressive annual migration. In addition to butterflies and moths, your family can view other insects plus reptiles, amphibians, honeybees, and tropical fish on display.
5. Hiking in Scottsdale with Children
Scottsdale’s landscape will amaze first-timers to Arizona. This is especially true if your family visits in spring when the desert bursts with beautiful blooms. Be sure to bring plenty of water, a hat with brim, and sunblock — no matter where you choose to hike. If in Scottsdale during warm (or hot!) weather, plan to hike early in the morning before temperatures soar. Wildlife you might see on the trails includes bobcats, javelinas (often thought to be wild pigs but they’re actually peccaries), snakes, and all sorts of birds like darling Gambel’s quails or road runners. Meep! Meep!
Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, so-named for its animal shape, 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 Mountain Preserve. Park at the Gateway Trailhead, where there are public restrooms, maps, and a choice of three hiking trails.
6. 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 and a smaller Old West-themed play area are fabulous for kids. The highlight, though, is the Paradise Pacific Railroad, a ride-on train that chugs through the expansive grassy park. The Scottsdale Charros Carousel is also super fun, with its antique horses and two wheelchair-accessible chariots. Model railroad displays and full-sized train cars might also be interesting for your family to explore. Buy hotdogs, hamburgers, and ice cream at the Snackstop or pack a lunch to enjoy at a picnic table 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.
7. Water Parks in and around Scottsdale
With toasty temperatures five+ 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 current hours before you go. Some Scottsdale resorts, like the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, offer water features like waterslides and lazy rivers for their guests as well. Read more about these and other Scottsdale hotels via Expedia.
Located in nearby Tempe (home of Arizona State University), Big Surf opened in 1969 and boasts the world’s first wave machine. Now, 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.
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.
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!
Significantly smaller and less expensive than the other options listed above, the McDowell Mountain Ranch Aquatic Center is the only water park included that’s actually located within Scottsdale. One winding waterslide, a pleasant lazy river, high and low diving boards, and a zero-entry splash play area make this an affordable and fun place for families to cool off.
8. Cactus League Spring Training Baseball
Take the kids out to a ballgame when in Scottsdale. With over 300 days of sunshine per year, Arizona makes the perfect location for baseball spring training. Fifteen teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers call Arizona their spring training home. 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.
9. Scottsdale 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, plus traditional costumes and huge photographs. Children and adults even get a hands-on opportunity to make music with a variety of instruments from around the world in the Experience Gallery.
10. The Phoenix Zoo at Papago Park
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, it’s 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. 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!) When it’s hot outside, bring along swimsuits to cool off at the Leapin’ Lagoon and Yakulla Caverns splash pads. Children will want to take a spin on the zoo’s carousel, too, which features faux ride-on endangered animals. Look for interactive animal experiences like stingray feeding, camel rides, and giraffe feeding for an additional charge. Additionally, check out the Phoenix Zoo Lights nighttime displays in winter.
11. The Desert Botanical Gardens
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. Mid-October to Mid-May, go at night to see the desert come to life in the Electric Desert — a light and sound experience. Learn more and buy your Desert Botanical Garden tickets with Expedia.
12. Arizona's Museum of Natural History
At the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa, wander through the Lost Dutchman Mine exhibit and “lock up” your family members in its jail cells. Then explore a Hohokam village, stopping to grind some maize with stone tools or put together giant puzzle pieces to form pictures of Native American pottery. Kids love to pan for gold in a courtyard outside. Most impressive, though, is Dinosaur Mountain, a display of life-sized animated dinosaurs on a cliff with booming “flash floods” that send water gushing down the display every 23 minutes. Plan to spend a few hours at this museum.
13. The Arizona Science Center
The Arizona Science Center in Downtown Phoenix rocks! 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 too. The onsite Dorrance Planetarium is one of the largest and most technologically advanced in the nation! You definitely could spend a whole day exploring the center.
My favorite exhibit is Forces of Nature, which simulates natural phenomena for those brave enough to step aboard the “stage” to experience the five-minute show (which repeats every 15 minutes). It may be too scary for toddlers and preschoolers, but big kids love to experience a (mild) earthquake, wind storms, thunder, lightning, and more. Expedia explains more about what to expect at the Arizona Science Center.
14. Horseback Riding and More at MacDonald’s Ranch
Saddle up for fun at MacDonald’s Ranch. This horse stable offers guided trail rides and stagecoach tours 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.
If visiting Scottsdale in October, then plan to visit the annual MacDonald’s Ranch pumpkin patch. Expect a petting zoo, pony rides, old-time games, and a barbecue food truck. The highlight is boarding a horse-pulled hayride or tractor-pulled train to a pumpkin patch surrounded by saguaro cactuses and sagebrush.
15. Children’s Museum of Phoenix
Designed for kids from birth through 10 years, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix offers all sorts of opportunities to PLAY. Kids love to build forts and cities in Building Big and then navigate their way through a Noodle Forest. Climbing structures, a pint-sized pretend grocery store, a book loft and more add to the fun at this museum. Most visitors spend two to four hours exploring the museum’s 14 exhibits. Maximize fun and learning with our Children’s Museum of Phoenix tips.
16. Hall of Flame Fire Fighter Museum
The Hall of Flame Firefighting Museum in Phoenix boasts the world’s largest collection of vintage fire trucks. Vehicles range from a 1725 English hand pumper to more modern engine-powered models. Make a game of your visit by having everyone select his or her very favorite from the museum’s more than 90 fire trucks. There is one climb-aboard fire engine for make-believe rescue missions. 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. 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 will like to spend an hour or so here.
17. Live Theater Performances for Families
For families who want to see live theater on vacation, you can find that in Scottsdale. If you’re willing to travel outside of Scottsdale, then look up what’s playing at Arizona Broadway Theater in Peoria or take a peek at traveling Broadway productions at Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium in Tempe.
Want the best seats in the house? You can’t go wrong at Don Bluth Front Row Theatre! That’s because there are only 73 seats, which surround the stage on three sides. You just might be surprised by the caliber of talent this little live theater puts forth. I know I was! Look for family-friendly productions like Mary Poppins, It’s a Wonderful Life and The Wizard of Oz.
Located within Scottsdale’s huge Fashion Square Mall, Desert Stages Theatre offers a Main Stage, a smaller Actor’s Cafe, and Youth/Teen productions. Each year this theater presents 250 performances.
18. Scottsdale's Pangea Land of the Dinosaurs
Dinosaur lovers will roar with delight at Pangea Land of the Dinosaurs at Arizona Boardwalk. In addition to life-sized animatronic dinos on display, kids will enjoy a T-Rex obstacle course, fossil digging area, dinosaur temporary tattoos, and a small dinosaur ride.
19. More Play at Arizona Boardwalk
In addition to OdySea Aquarium, Butterfly Wonderland, and Pangea Land of the Dinosaurs — the Arizona Boardwalk campus in Scottsdale offers even more play for families. My kids love the Laser + Mirror Mazes. At Ripley’s Believe It or Not, families will be amazed by a wacky collection of intriguing objects and astonishing artifacts like a life-sized model of a prehistoric snake and a statue of the world’s tallest man. Surprise Your Eyes is a fun spot for Instagrammers, with all sorts of interactive trick art displays for your photo-taking pleasure. VR Extreme is a modern arcade of sorts, where all 24 experiences involve immersion in a new world via the wonder of virtual reality. Finally, at Johnny’s Playground, children can bounce and slide on an array of inflatables in an indoor playground while parents rest their feet.Since 1974, Ranch Realty sales and leasing agents have been helping residential real estate buyers, sellers, renters and investors. We are the "Valley of The Sun" real estate experts. Sales, leasing and property management in cities valley-wide. Furnished and unfurnished rental houses, condos and patio homes, on short or long term lease agreements.