11 Best Kids Activities in Scottsdale
Best known for its world-renowned golf courses, luxurious spas and resorts, and vibrant nightlife in Old Town, you may think of Scottsdale, AZ, as the perfect destination for a romantic getaway—not the next spot for your family vacation.
But wait! Even though Scottsdale might be better known for its adult activities, you might be surprised to discover the amount of fun, educational things available for you and your family to enjoy while visiting Scottsdale with kids.
From interactive museums, indoor mini-golf courses, and tons of animal encounters, kids of all ages will have an unforgettable time exploring all the fun, kid-friendly activities that Scottsdale, AZ, has to offer.
1. McCormick Stillman Railroad Park
The McCormick Stillman Railroad Park is a 30-acre park in Scottsdale that offers rides, attractions, and tons of family fun.
Take a ride on the Paradise & Pacific Railroad or the Allan Herchell 1950s-vintage carousel, and then explore the Scottsdale Railroad Museum and Model Railroad Building.
Kids will love to play on the unique playgrounds, Western Town Play Structure, or get ice cream from Hartley’s General Store.
Admission to the McCormick Stillman Railroad Park is free. Tickets to ride the train and carousel cost $3 each, but children two and under ride free.
2. Desert Botanical Garden
Searching for an educational, engaging, family-friendly activity during your Scottsdale vacation? Look no further than Desert Botanical Garden—a 140-acre botanical garden home to 50,000 cactus, trees, and flowers from around the world.
The Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) is one of only 24 botanical gardens accredited by the American Alliance of Museums for its commitment to the education, research, exhibition, and conservation of desert plants.
Children and parents can choose from dozens of hands-on, nature-based experiences while admiring the beauty of the Sonoran Desert and beyond during their day at the DBG.
The Desert Botanical Garden is located just four miles from Old Town Scottsdale. Tickets are $24.95 for adults and $12.95 for kids. However, if you visit on the second Tuesday of the month for “Community Day,” admission is free!
3. Arizona Science Center
The Arizona Science Center is a museum with a mission to inspire, educate, and engage the curious minds of children through science. It’s one of the best things to do with big and little kids in Scottsdale because there’s something interesting for all ages to learn and explore.
The museum hosts exciting hands-on permanent exhibits, rotating seasonal exhibits, an impressive planetarium, and a state-of-the-art theater.
Here are just a few of the many permanent exhibits that kids will love:
- All About Me: Learn about how the body works and functions.
- Get Charged Up: Experience a hands-on science lesson.
- Evans Family SkyCycle: Watch an engaging, high-wire physics lesson.
- My Digital World: Discover past and modern technology that impacts everyday life.
The museum is located next to the Civic Center in Downtown Phoenix. Tickets to the Arizona Science Center are $13.95, and kids three and under can visit for free.
4. Butterfly Wonderland
Explore the lush, tropical rainforest in the heart of Scottsdale, Arizona, at Butterfly Wonderland—the largest butterfly conservatory in the country!
Butterfly Wonderland offers fun things to do that all ages will enjoy:
- Admire over 70 species of friendly butterflies along with koi fish, finches, and tree frogs in the indoor Conservatory.
- Visit the Butterfly Emergence Gallery to watch beautiful butterflies emerge from their chrysalis.
- Learn about the life of a butterfly at the 3D Theatre.
- Explore the Rainforest Reptile Exhibit to see the reptiles and amphibians that live with butterflies in the wild.
Butterfly Wonderland is open 365 days each year from 9 am to 5 pm. Tickets purchased online cost $22.95 for adults and $14.95 for kids. Children under age two can visit for free!
5. OdySea Aquarium
Dive under the sea at OdySea Aquarium—the largest aquarium in Arizona. OdySea Aquarium features over a dozen galleries, encounters, tours, and activities to create a fantastic experience for the whole family.
Fun things to do at OdySea Aquarium include:
- Encountering charismatic African black-footed penguins at Penguin Point.
- Interacting with species like sturgeon, sea stars, pelagic rays, benthic rays, and anemones up-close at each of the four Touch Pools.
- Watching lively otters wrestle and play at Otter Banks.
- Traveling through the Deep Ocean on a fully-enclosed glass escalator while you watch sharks, giant rays, and other deep-sea creatures swim overhead.
When you buy your tickets online, they cost $37.95 for adults and $27.95 for kids.
6. Spring Training Game
If you’re taking a family vacation to Scottsdale during the spring, you can’t miss the chance to catch a spring training baseball game with your kids.
Visit the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick to watch the Arizona Diamondbacks play or the Scottsdale Stadium in Old Town Scottsdale to catch a San Francisco Giants spring training game!
This family-friendly activity is fun for both adults and kids of all ages. Lawn seating is a great option for parents with young children because they can watch the game while the kids explore.
7. MacDonald’s Ranch
Give your kids a wild west experience they will never forget at MacDonald’s Ranch—the premier horseback riding stable of Arizona.
MacDonald’s Ranch welcomes all ages and experience levels for horseback rides through Scottsdale’s beautiful McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
You can choose a group ride with others, a private ride with your whole family, or a memorable moonlight ride as you admire the breathtaking sunset views in the Sonoran Desert.
Aside from horseback riding, MacDonald’s Ranch offers other outdoor activities like stagecoach rides, cowboy cookouts, and a seasonal pumpkin patch with a petting zoo, pony rides, mechanical bull, and panning for gold.
8. Phoenix Zoo
Come face to face with animals from around the world at the Phoenix Zoo—the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the United States. It is located in Papago Park in Phoenix, AZ, and spans 125 acres.
The Phoenix Zoo has tons of fun things for kids to do, including the 4-D theatre, endangered species carousel, Safari cruiser, Harmony Farm petting zoo, and the water play areas and playgrounds. Some of the most notable animals to see at the zoo are the tigers, lions, elephants, and giraffes.
The Phoenix Zoo also features an “Arizona Trail,” with tons of local plants and animals on display. You’ll almost feel like you’re in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve!
Tickets for adults cost $25, and tickets for children cost $17. Admission for children under the age of three is free.
9. Great Wolf Lodge Water Park
The Great Wolf Lodge Water Park is a great place to visit in Scottsdale with kids. This indoor water park is home to thrilling water slides, a splash pool, a lazy river, and tons of other attractions that both big and little kids will love.
While the kids play, parents can grab a craft beer or mixed drink at the Watering Hole and relax in the adults-only hot tub—making it one of the best activities for parents to enjoy in Scottsdale, too.
During your time at the Great Wolf Lodge, consider visiting the climbing wall, mini-golf course, ropes course, or arcade located on the property. Or, grab an ice cream cone from Ben & Jerry’s!
You can purchase a day pass with access to the water park, restaurants, and 50+ family-friendly things to do at the Great Wolf Lodge in Scottsdale without having to book a room on the property.
10. Musical Instrument Museum
The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Scottsdale has more than 8,000 instruments from over 200 world countries. Each gallery reflects the rich diversity and unique history of different cultures from each continent.
Kids will encounter instruments from all around the world, with galleries emphasizing musical contributions from each culture. There are also interactive, hands-on galleries where kids can play age-appropriate instruments.
The MIM has a family center that includes an eating area, tables, a restroom with a changing table, and space for children to play.
Tickets to the MIM cost $20 for adults, $15 for teens, and $10 for children four and over. Children under the age of three are free!
11. Children’s Museum of Phoenix
The Children’s Museum of Phoenix is one of the best things to do in the Scottsdale area, designed with kids in mind. The museum’s mission is to engage the minds, muscles, and imaginations of young children.
Each activity and experience kids can enjoy at the museum is created to be interactive and fun. Although the indoor experience is currently closed due to COVID, kids can still enjoy the museum’s outdoor activities, like the Straw Maze, Scrap Yard, Frost Kitchen, and Sand Pit.
The museum is located in Downtown Phoenix, and admission to the museum is $14.95 per person.
Relax in a Family-Friendly Vacation Rental While Visiting Scottsdale with Kids
After a jam-packed day of exploring Scottsdale with kids, we know that you’ll be ready to return to your own peaceful, private retreat.
That’s why a kid-friendly, spacious vacation rental is the perfect option for traveling with kids in Scottsdale.
Your family will have plenty of space to spread out, access to fantastic amenities, and fun entertainment options, like large flat-screen TVs, a private pool, ping-pong table, and mini-golf course to keep your kids busy while you relax.