Temperatures have finally dropped here in Phoenix, so it’s the perfect time to visit Arizona’s capital with the whole family. Throw open those hotel (or Airbnb) windows, hit the parks, and really enjoy everything on offer here in the Valley of the Sun.
Here are your best bets for keeping kids of all ages entertained (and fed and rested and everything else) if you’re traveling to Phoenix, Arizona — courtesy of a local Arizona mom in the know (hi!).
Where to go
Near Phoenix is the much-talked-about OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale, which opened a few years back. One note of warning: It’s expensive. A kids ticket will cost you $27.95 and adult tickets are another $10 on top of that. But it’s definitely worth the cash — at least once. The wide variety of sea life on-site is remarkable. And it may sound strange, but make sure to take a trip to the bathroom while you’re there. Voted America’s best restroom (bet you didn’t know that was a thing) in 2017, the aquarium’s bathroom boasts one entire wall of glass, allowing sharks and fish to swim up close while you’re washing your hands — or changing a diaper.
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We introduced Rafiki to her sire (father), Miguu, this week! As you can see from the photos, all is going very well. This means you can see the Masai giraffe family, mom (Imara), father (Miguu), daughter (Rafiki) and her reticulated giraffe “aunties” on the Savanna in the morning! Our other Masai family, Sunshine and Siku, have not yet been introduced to Rafiki, but that will happen in the near future. Thus, they are on the Savanna with the rest of the herd in the afternoon. #SavingSpecies #MoreThanAZoo
When the weather is this perfect, definitely find time for the Phoenix Zoo. Just a short stroll through the animal exhibits and a lunch on the lake is worth the drive to Tempe. And if you find yourself here in December, check out the unparalleled holiday ZooLights. Kids will go, um, wild for it.
Where to stay
The best Phoenix resort for parents looking for chic digs that are still kid-friendly is Sanctuary on Camelback. Elegant and serene, this is the perfect hotel to relax and recharge in. But don’t worry; it welcomes kids, who will love the pool and wandering the Camelback Mountain-adjacent grounds looking for lizards. Plus, the food is fantastic, and the Asian-inspired spa treatments and Sunday brunch with executive chef Beau MacMillan are not to be missed.
Where to eat
Phoenix is full of great restaurants the whole family will enjoy. One of our favorite places to eat is Fajitas; my husband is Latino, and his family once owned two Mexican restaurants. His standards for Mexican food are high, but Fajitas does it right. Located on I-17 between Dunlap and Peoria, this place is a family-owned go-to. The best thing on the menu are, of course, the fajitas. And after a long travel day with high-energy kids, what’s better than a margarita… or three? Every now and then, we switch up our Mexican food in Phoenix for Tee Pee, which reminds my husband so much of his family’s former restaurant in Colorado.
Another favorite is a nearby Italian place, oddly enough called Times Square. You can’t go wrong with this menu for kids; from fresh seafood to the pasta dishes, each meal is better than the last. And definitely try the bread pudding. Times Square has four little hole-in-the-wall locations (the kind of places you know will have the best food).
Looking for a super-classy place that won’t kick your kids out? Head to Bar Pesce, formerly Crudo, for amazing seafood, pasta and a Gin It to Win It cocktail that never feels out-of-season.
Where to play
Every year, we get annual passes to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix — three floors full of different rooms and exhibits for kids of all ages. There is a giant playground area right as you enter, an art studio with different art projects planned each day, a room set up like a grocery store for kids to pretend shop and cook and a noodle forest for the kids to run through. On the second floor, there is a restaurant where food prices are surprisingly affordable. No one checks bags at the entrance, though, so we always bring snacks in for the kids. Crowds are more manageable if you go right when it opens. It’s a great place to start the day.
So, if you’re looking to fly south (or at least fly warmer) this winter, move over, California: Phoenix is where it’s at. With so many kid-friendly festivals, outdoor options and delicious food (and cocktails), Arizona’s capital is a prime vacation spot for travelers of all ages. Plus, you know, America’s best restroom. Who wouldn’t want to see that?