Spending time as a family doesn’t have to drain the family budget. Here are some great family activities in Arizona that are fun and completely free.
McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, located in the heart of Scottsdale, Arizona, is the most unique park of its kind in the country. Take a ride on the Paradise and Pacific Railroad and antique carousel. Visit a variety of shops and museum or play in one of the spacious playgrounds, or just relax in the grass under a tree or in one of the park’s picnic ramadas.
7301 E. Indian Bend Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85250. Hours: Sun up to sun down, every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas; Admission: Free; train ride and carousel extra
Montezuma’s Castle is an ancient Sinaguan Indian ruin, overseen by the National Park Service. The visitor’s center has a small museum and gift shop. Walk the paved trail to see the ruins from a distance (you can not climb in the ruins). The NPS employees were happy to answer questions and provide information on other NPS sites in the area. Path is stroller-friendly and the kids loved to watch along the path for lizards and other wildlife.
I-17, ext 289 (90 minutes north of Phoenix, 45 minutes south of Flagstaff); Hours: Open daily: 8am-6pm June through August; Open daily: 8am-5pm September through May; Admission: Free
Estrella Mountain Regional Park
Beautiful mountains, deserts and grassy areas come together in this popular mountain park of over 19,000 acres. Great for biking, hiking, fishing (catch and release only) and picnicking. Plenty of great hiking trails, plenty of room to run around and picnic, and fishing in the river. The park also hosts many events throughout the year as well as activities (most free) for children of all ages; such as star gazing and crafts.
14805 W. Vineyard Ave., Goodyear, AZ 85338. Hours: Sunday through Thursday 6am-8pm; Friday through Saturday 6am-10pm; 365 days per year; Admission: Free
Downtown Scottsdale Trolley
Hop on board and enjoy Scottsdale’s beautiful surroundings and Arizona’s beautiful weather. The Scottsdale Trolley is free to ride (drivers may not accept tips) and visits some of the most popular downtown Scottsdale destinations:
• Old Town
• Main Street Arts District
• Marshall Way Arts District
• Fifth Avenue Shops
• Scottsdale Fashion Square
Downtown Scottsdale route; Hours: Monday through Sunday 11am-6pm; Thursday: 11am-9pm; every 15 minutes; Admission: Free
Camelback Mountain Trails
Camelback Mountain is one of the city’s largest peaks, and it has a reputation of being quite a hairy climb. The eastern-side, however, offers trails that are a great way to take in the scene without the rescue helicopters. Younger children can easily climb up to the “saddle” of the camel — the halfway point to the summit — and older ones can venture on. Great views of the city and clear pathways make this a great way to spend a couple of hours outdoors with the kids. (Parking is a little further offsite so be prepared to start hiking right out of the car!)
Trailhead is on Cholla Lane off 64th Street/Invergordon, Phoenix, AZ. Hours: Trailheads and trails are open from sunrise to sunset or 7p.m., whichever comes first; Admission: Free
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