Things to do in Phoenix when you're parents?
January 28, 2010 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Things to do in Phoenix when you're parents?

We're going to be spending the bulk of next week (2/2 to 2/7) in the Phoenix area, staying in Fountain Hills. We're visiting my in-laws, who have a winter place there. Their typical activities generally revolve around golf, TV, and occasionally shopping, so they're not completely up on the kids scene. We're bringing our 8-month-old; our niece and her parents will also be there (niece is 4). What should we do with the kids?

Already on the agenda are a local playground, probably a little swimming, and at least one meal at Los Dos Molinos, which became a family tradition thanks to your answers to this question. Also probably a parents' night out (suggestions for that wouldn't hurt either).

We're looking for stuff that's relatively nearby and interesting for the 4-year-old and the adults. Baby loves going for walks - are there good places we should check out? Museums, nature trails, gardens? Where do you Phoenix folks like to take your kids?
posted by nickmark to Travel & Transportation around Phoenix, AZ (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Bookman's in Mesa.
posted by hermitosis at 11:17 AM on January 28, 2010

The Desert Botanical Garden is really pretty and fun to walk around in.
posted by bluefly at 11:27 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Phoenix Rail Food reviews restaurants that are easily accessible from the Light Rail.

This Phoenix history blog might give you some ideas on more cultural destinations.
posted by zamboni at 11:35 AM on January 28, 2010

Best answer: The zoo now has komodo dragons!
posted by Aleen at 11:38 AM on January 28, 2010

Second vote for the zoo. It's surprisingly good.
posted by Etrigan at 11:39 AM on January 28, 2010

I visited Phoenix last year (thanks Askme!) and one of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Desert Botanical Gardens. Highly recommended.
posted by beandip at 1:19 PM on January 28, 2010

Best answer: Mountain-climbing?
If your 4-year-old is the active type and if you have a snuggly baby carrier and the daddy is pretty strong, Hole in the Rock at Papago Park is a just-walk-right-up easy climb. Papago Park is right near the zoo and the Botanical Gardens. There are picnic tables and other trails which are just desert walking without actually climbing, but my kids loved the idea of waving to Grandma (who stayed on the ground) from the big hole in the mountain. It only took 15 minutes or so to climb it.

They also liked the trains at McCormick Park in Scottsdale. And the Arizona Science Center. My nephews love the zoo.

And here is a webpage with more ideas: Things to do in Phoenix with preschoolers.

You should also be aware that Fountain Hills is a bit outside of Phoenix, so check GoogleMaps for drive times to make sure your kids are prepared to be in the car for 30-60 minutes, rather than thinking it's just a quick trip.
posted by CathyG at 1:21 PM on January 28, 2010

Best answer: The zoo really is pretty nice, especially around this time of year. Your niece might be old enough to enjoy the Arizona Science Center, which usually has some neat exhibits for kids.

Since you've been to Fountain Hills before, I assume you've visited the eponymous fountain? I thought it was absolutely fascinating when I was a toddler.
posted by arianell at 1:29 PM on January 28, 2010

The Desert Botanical Gardens and Zoo are right next to each other, so you could make a day out of it (although each would probably take up a whole day, if you let them). The Arizona Science Center is great. There's an Arizona history museum and the Phoenix Children's Museum immediately in proximity to it, too, right off of Copper Square. There's a couple of pretty good, if overpriced, restaurants on the square too. I can't vouch for the chidrens museum or the AZ history museum, but the Science Center is pretty great. Highlights: "Forces of Nature" on the 3rd floor, and the physics room with all the hands-on demos. Last time I was there a lot of the 1st floor was shut down for renovations, but it's still worth a look.

For hiking/walking, definitely check out South Mountain and Camelback. There's also a few short-but-beautiful trails (less than 5 miles) out at the Lost Dutchman state park, off of the 60 out by Apache Junction. It's been a few years since I was there, but I think it costs $5 to park for a day. Beautiful terrain though. For a longer hike, there's some stuff in the Superstitions (Peralta Canyon is gorgeous, but probably a bit much for a 4-year-old, since there's a lot of uphill).
posted by Alterscape at 1:39 PM on January 28, 2010

I'd love to see a four-year-old do Peralta - I suppose it's possible - it's not a hard trail, just a bit long and steadily uphill. Really one of my favorite trails in the Phoenix area, though it can get a bit crowded. It also takes a while to get to the trailhead, particularly from Fountain Hills. It's also rocky/steep enough at times that I myself would not be comfortable carrying an eight-month old, but I'm risk averse.

South Mountain has some nice trails that are fairly short and not all that steep, though I'm guessing a four-year-old would still need to be helped a decent amount at parts. I've seen families with kids having a great time around Fat Man's Pass into Hidden Valley in South Mountain.

I'd second hole-in-the-wall at papago park - I loved it when I was a kid. And the desert botanical garden is great - I think they have tours for families, but that could have stopped - a friend of mine used to work there and would teach me what I could eat from cacti and other desert plants. I always loved that.

I'd also second the Arizona Science Museum. Not sure if it is still there, but when I was a kid, we'd go to the museum and then go up a glass elevator to a rotating restaurant at a hotel next door. We never ate or drank anything at the hotel, just marvelled at the glass elevator and the rotating restaurant at the top.

As far as swimming, when I was a kid I loved the Kiwanis wave pool over in tempe. it's indoors, and not as cool as something like Big Surf, but still fun during the winter (if it's still there).

For the parent's night out, pizzeria bianco can be fun - though the wait is very long - but it's fun to tell people in New York and Chicago that you've had what some call the best pizza in the country in Phoenix, AZ and then face their outrage. Downtown in general is improving, though having not lived there for a while I'm no expert.
posted by slide at 2:28 PM on January 28, 2010

I always recommend the Heard Museum.
posted by nestor_makhno at 3:27 PM on January 28, 2010

You've picked a fantastic time of year to come visit our desert.

I'll second the Arizona Science Center, Phoenix Zoo, and McCormick Railroad Park. I'm not in love with the Desert Botanical Gardens like some of the other folks here, but it's still a very nice place to take a stroll.
posted by phredgreen at 5:16 PM on January 28, 2010

I'm not in love with the Desert Botanical Gardens like some of the other folks here, but it's still a very nice place to take a stroll.

I came here to suggest the Desert Botanical Gardens, so I'll add my voice to those who loved it! I think the reason visitors might get even more out of it than residents is that the fauna is so alien to us. It's one of those tourist experiences that feels very specific to the place you're in.

We visited Phoenix with our at-the-time 15-month-old, and he loved the Desert Botanical Gardens, especially the butterfly tent. An 8-month-old would love the butterflies, too; they're very thick, so if you have the baby in a carrier of some sort, I'm sure she'd see them easily.

My husband is a bit of a Frank Lloyd Wright buff, so we toured Taliesin West, which was spectacular and a wonderful experience for him, but involved me chasing a 15-month-old in circles just outside the rooms the tour was visiting. An 8-month-old might be more compliant, though. If you could time it for a nap, you'd be golden.
posted by palliser at 8:30 PM on January 28, 2010

Don't forget about RAWHIDE! They don't make 'em like that anymore. Super fun and cheesy.
posted by Kloryne at 8:34 PM on January 28, 2010

Oh and The Farm at South Mountain is really fun too. An actual working farm, arts and crafts, farm animals, and cafes where you buy picnic baskets and eat outside at bench tables. Lots of room to run around.
posted by Kloryne at 8:42 PM on January 28, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, all! The zoo was a huge hit - the niece got to ride a camel, and the eight-month-old got to pat the camel (and promptly stuck her hand in her mouth, to her mother's chagrin). We only spent about an hour and twenty minutes at the zoo, simply because the little ones were getting on towards nap time, but there was clearly a day's worth of fun to be had. Grandma and Grandpa were delighted too.

Hole in the Rock was a huge temptation - especially once we saw it from the zoo parking lot. I totally wanted to go up, but had to bow to the realities of naptime. We'll do it next time for sure - I'm certain both kids will love it. So even though we didn't actually go there, it also rates a best answer. Thanks again!
posted by nickmark at 10:10 PM on February 8, 2010

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