Explore the Valley of the Sun With the Whole Family in Tow
Phoenix, AZ, may be surrounded by a quiet and barren desert landscape, but the city itself is bustling with activity, offering vacationing families a host of kid-friendly attractions to enjoy. Explore the city’s natural setting, dotted with colorful succulents, cactuses and rugged mountains, while your kids learn all about local wildlife and nature at area zoos and gardens. When you need a break from the heat, cool off with a trip to a water park or head inside a local museum where interactive exhibits let children examine the world of science and the arts.
Life in the Wild
Home to more than 1,400 animals, the Phoenix Zoo (455 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, AZ) is teeming with wildlife. Come face-to-face with everything from Asian elephants and bald eagles to Galapagos tortoises and zebras. Little animal lovers can brush the goats and enjoy close encounters with sheep and horses in the Red Barn at Harmony Farm. For an added fee, you can also feed a giraffe or stingray. Schedule a behind-the-scenes tour to get a unique view of select animals and habitats.
Experiment With Science
Unlock a world of wonder at the Arizona Science Center (600 E. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ). Interactive exhibits give kids the chance to climb inside a fuselage, ride a bike on a wire 15 feet in the air and lie on a bed of nails. Live science demonstrations are performed daily, and include such varied activities as extracting DNA from a piece of fruit, examining the anatomy of a cow’s eyeball or creating geysers with liquid nitrogen. Short films on science and nature are screened daily at the museum’s theater and IMAX complex.
Museum Mayhem: Where Fun Meets Learning
Children's Museum of Phoenix (215 N. 7th St., Phoenix, AZ) entertains kids with a variety of hands-on exhibits. Little ones will spend time shopping in a pretend market, racing mini-cars down a three-level track, riding a tricycle through a car wash and squeezing their way through a forest made from foam noodles. Children are encouraged to express themselves creatively at the art studio through a variety of mediums, while special exhibits are reserved exclusively for tiny visitors, such as a pint-sized cafe with a kitchen and an elevated playground made from found objects.
Spread across 140 acres, the Desert Botanical Garden (1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, AZ) offers five trails through a lush outdoor landscape. Explore the garden, stopping to soak up the sight of colorful desert wildflowers, succulents and cactuses. Help children stay engaged by picking up an activity sheet from the front desk. Most visitors embark on self-guided tours, but you’ll add a bit of excitement to your experience by signing up for one of the select evening tours held after dark and led by flashlight.
Scorching desert temperatures draw visitors to Wet 'n' Wild Phoenix (4243 W. Pinnacle Peak Rd., Glendale, AZ), an outdoor water park in Glendale, just 25 minutes north of downtown Phoenix. The park offers areas designed with tiny tots in mind, such as a splashpad with spraying fountains and a multi-level fort equipped with little slides and a massive dump bucket. Older kids will enjoy such hair-raising attractions as the Constrictor, a water slide with corkscrew turns, and Maximum Velocity, a duel-racing water coaster with more than 830 feet of drops and curves. Catch 4-foot swells in the wave pool or stay in the shallow end for a relaxing afternoon in an inner tube.
A travel writer since 2002, Leah Rendon has written countless articles for online pop-culture magazines and various travel-related websites, including Eurobooking and World66. Gosford also has experience in copywriting, having developed a series of articles related to network marketing. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in theater arts.