Things to do in Scottsdale with kids

Things to do in Scottsdale with kids, from museums to nature

Scottscade is near Phoenix, and even if it is close to a big city, you still get the feel and advantages of a smaller town. All the attractions are just a drive away. But you can always find a quiet place for your family to relax and rest. There are so many things to do in Scottsdale with kids. Which makes this one of the best continental US destinations for family visits.

Make your next family vacation a breeze

Travel with your kids now and build amazing memories as a family! Get our book, written by parents just like you, that will guide you all the way.

1. OdySea Aquarium is among the best things to do in Scottsdale with kids

OdySea Aquarium

The OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale has been named the Best Indoor Entertainment in the country. This multi-level, state-of-the-art facility, which stores more than 2 million gallons of water, is the largest aquarium in the state of Arizona.

The habitats for the animals came first, and the construction of the OdySea Aquarium was developed around them. OdySea was able to put the displays in the forefront because of this. The external concrete has a raindrop falling pattern. And the river walkway in the park represents 5 major Arizona rivers: Gila, Salt, Verde, Colorado, and Santa Cruz.

The OdySea Aquarium is a mix of theme-park-style entertainment and highly engaging aquatic life displays. The goal is to give an educational, interactive, and pleasant experience for visitors of all ages. It is located in downtown Scottsdale and is very easy to find even for first-time visitors.

There are over 65 exhibits and 370 species at the Aquarium. Including the world’s first Russian Sturgeon touch display, two stingray touch exhibits, and a tidal touch pool. OdySea is also home to Voyager, which bills itself as the “world’s only revolving aquarium experience.”

As part of the “world’s first and only revolving aquarium experience,” guests will take their seats in a stadium-style theatre with 46-foot viewing windows. Participatory activities include SeaTREK® underwater walking, a dynamic “Penguin Interaction Program,” “Shark Behind the Scenes” trips, walk-about “Animal Ambassadors,” and Question & Answer sessions with Animal Care specialists, among others.


2. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

If you are looking for the most entertaining things to do in Scottsdale with kids, a ride on this railroad is on top of the list. Smaller kids will love this experience. Located in the heart of Scottsdale, this 30-acre railroad park is believed to be one of a kind in the country.

Paradise & Pacific Railroad or Allan Herschell carousel, established in 1950, are two options for a ride. You can shop at one of Scottsdale’s many unique boutiques or museums. Or take a break from shopping by relaxing on the grass under a tree in one of the city’s most gorgeous parks.

The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is free to visit. Children under the age of two ride for free on the train and carousel. The Scottsdale Railroad Museum and the Model Railroad Building both charge admission. Stillman Station is the only place to buy tickets.

To cool off, get a hot dog or iced coffee from Hartley’s General Store. The Aguila Depot, which was purchased and transferred to the park in the late 1970s, houses Hartley’s. Park is open 363 days a year with only exceptions being Christmas Day and Thanksgiving.

Park offers event organization, like birthday parties, and group celebrations. At Christmas time you can bring your kiddos here to meet Santa. Year-round there are live music events and festivals organized here, making Scottsdale very attractive to visitors from the area.


3. Musical Instrument Museum

Musical Instrument Museum
Photo credit:

All music lovers have to stop by this museum and learn about 6,000 years of history of the most exceptional music instruments from around the world. When visiting Scottsdale you have to use the opportunity to explore this unique place. Especially if your little ones are starting to play any instruments soon. This will spark their interest and love for music.

MIM was built as an exclusive worldwide musical instrument museum. MIM’s creator Bob Ulrich (then CEO of Target Corporation) was inspired to create a new type of museum that would focus on the kinds of instruments used every day by people all around the world after seeing that most musical museums showcased old, predominantly Western classical instruments.

More than 8,000 instruments from more than 200 nations are now part of MIM’s collection. Many different civilizations are depicted in the galleries. The tagline of the museum is “Music is the language of the spirit” which sums up the shared belief that music is a universal language.

If you have time to attend the events in the museum, you will have the opportunity to listen to live performances of the extraordinary musicians who perform on these peculiar instruments. Some of the events also include dance performances or interactive performances. You can try out the instruments with your children.

Some of the temporary and permanent exhibits here include Congo Masks and Music, The Electric Guitar, Ancient Music Treasures From Central China, Stradivarius, and so much more.


4. Old Town Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale

A pedestrian-friendly part of the city filled with interesting gift shops, historical buildings, monuments, and world-class art galleries is a must-see for all visitors of the city. 68th Street to Miller Rd., and Chaparral Rd. to Osborn Rd., make up the Old Town area.

There are over 15 hotels located in the Old Town for any price range, and when traveling in a group or with family this might be the best place to book your accommodation. From here everything is within walking distance, and cafes, restaurants, and shops are minutes away.

The Old Town has more than 100 bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. In addition to that, you will find over 45 public art installations around the neighborhood. This picturesque area is ideal for a family photoshoot, shopping for souvenirs. And overall exploration and hunt for special art pieces.

For residents and visitors, Scottsdale’s free trolley system is the best way to get around all the city’s attractions. Including restaurants, shopping, and schools. Taking the free Old Town trolley through Old Town Scottsdale is a wonderful way to see all the greatest attractions in the area. Riders can get off and get back on the bus whenever they choose.

Scottsdale is a great place to stroll the streets and see a variety of intriguing and thoughtful public art. Scottsdale Public Art’s permanent collection includes statues, waterfalls, modern sculptures, and interactive works. The Horseshoe Falls monument is a great place to cool down in the river rock mist that surrounds elegantly piled horseshoe towers. The horseshoe-shaped arrangement of the towers adds to the western feel.


5. Butterfly Wonderland

Butterfly Wonderland

Butterfly Wonderland, the biggest butterfly conservatory in the United States, is on the Arizona Boardwalk. Begin by watching the 3D video “Flight of the Butterflies” on the magnificent yearly migration of monarch butterflies. On exhibit are a wide variety of insects, reptiles, amphibians, and honeybees in addition to butterflies and moths.

By immersing visitors in the world of butterflies and other rainforest creatures, Butterfly Wonderland takes them to the jungle. You will be surrounded by butterflies. And although you are not supposed to touch them, they might land on you which is very funny for kids.

It’s a tropical paradise filled with hundreds of butterflies. They have journeyed from all over the world to surprise our guests each day. Take in the sights and sounds as up to 70 different species come together for the first time, sip nectar from flowers, and dance the day away. Additionally, there is a large number of Koi fish, as well as a few tropical finches and two chickens.

If you have a stomach for insects, here you can try edible insects and learn about “entomophagy”—the eating of insects. Crispy chips made from cricket protein, chocolate ants, and coconut brittle mealworms are some of the most popular insect snacks.

When you finish your visit, stop by a gift shop and a cafe for a cup of tea and a snack. If you have more time, you can also enjoy events they are organizing almost every day. Featuring Reptile Encounter Talk, Gong Meditation, Painting Class, and so much more.


6. Big Surf Waterpark

Big Surf Waterpark

Take advantage of Arizona weather by visiting one of their many water parks. At Big Surf, in the city of Tempe, the world’s first wave machine may be found. Water slides of all sizes and fright levels are now available in addition to the Waikiki Beach Wave Pool at this water park. Captain Cook’s Landing, a splash and slide area, is a hit with little ones.

Since its opening in the 60s, this was always a popular attraction and also a place where you would go to listen to good live music. Even names like Pink Floyd, Elton John, and Red Hot Chilli Peppers had their concerts here.

With 2.5 million gallons of water, the Waikiki Beach Wave Pool is the first wave pool in the United States. There are rafts and boogie boards for rent during normal business hours. All attendees under 48 inches tall will be required to wear a life vest, which will be given free of charge by Big Surf Waterpark. Also, children under the age of eight must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian at all times.

Everyone loves the water slides: Hurricane Slides, The Black Hole, Tornado Twisters, and others. For most of the slides, kids have to be taller than 36 inches. For small kids, 48 inches and under, there are small slides available at Bora Bora Bay.

In Captain Cook’s Landing, toddlers will have a good time. Little ones may have fun with a gigantic frog, water mushrooms, a seal, and water cannons at the water park. Children under 48 inches must be supervised at all times while playing here.


7. Phoenix Zoo

Phoenix Zoo

Although it is not in Scottsdale, it is a short drive away, and among the best things to do in the area. Phoenix Zoo is the largest privately-owned zoo in the US with a focus on conservatorship and education. The animals have beautiful large habitats that resemble their homes in the wild.

You will be able to see Arizona native species like black-footed ferrets, Mount Graham red squirrel, cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl, and also a number of animals from around the world. Other popular exhibits are zebra, tigers, lions, giraffes, etc.

See all 400 species when following the trails that take you around the zoo. These trails are the Africa trail, Arizona trail, Tropics trail, and children’s trail. Located one next to another, you can see all of them in a day, and also enjoy other attractions too.

This zoo has a number of kid-friendly attractions in addition to its stunning animal displays. Young children may enjoy petting zoos and playgrounds at Harmony Farm. In the meanwhile, older children will have a hard time leaving the Enchanted Forest play area.

Leapin’ Lagoon and Yakulla Caverns splash pads are great places to cool down on hot days. The zoo’s carousel, which displays a replica of an endangered species, is a must-see for children. For an extra price, you may engage with animals by feeding stingrays, camels, and giraffes. In the winter months, The Phoenix Zoo Lights’ shows are a beautiful thing to see.


8. Desert Botanical Garden

Desert Botanical Garden
Photo credit:

The Phoenix Zoo is just next door to the Desert Botanical Garden. Take a walk around this park to see the numerous cacti, wildflowers, succulents, and agave plants, as well as ocotillo trees that grow in the desert. A series of exhibitions highlight the Sonoran Desert’s native vegetation and fauna.

When a small group of concerned neighbors understood the need of preserving the desert’s natural beauty, they started the idea of a garden in 1939. The concept was created by Gustaf Starck, a Swedish botanist who gathered like-minded neighbors by posting a sign that stated: “Save the Desert.”

People like Gertrude Divine Webster, a notable socialite at the time, contributed to the Garden’s success. Due to the efforts of many individuals and groups, the Desert Botanical Garden turned from a concept into reality around eight decades after the inital idea.

Nowadays, this is a destination of fun and learning where you can bring your family to explore the gardens, dine in one of the on-site restaurants, or experience the light and sound adventure “The Electric Desert” during the winter.

Following walkways and hiking trails through the arid environment is the greatest way to enjoy a garden. Hike the Sonoran desert nature loop route all the way to the summit for a breathtaking perspective of the mountains that surround the Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix.


9. Arizona Science Center

Arizona Science Center

The Arizona Science Center in Phoenix is fantastic for children of all ages. They can enjoy hands-on activities, which include nobs to spin and buttons to press. The planetarium on-site, the Dorrance Planetarium, is one of the country’s largest and most technologically sophisticated. You could easily spend a whole day visiting the center.

The Arizona Science Center features four levels of interactive exhibits, a cutting–edge planetarium, and a five-story–high large-screen cinema. Permanent exhibits include All About Me, where you learn how your body works, Flight Zone, where you learn everything about flying, My Digital World, with everything about our digital era, and so much more.

Forces of Nature replicates natural occurrences for anyone daring enough to go onto the “stage” for the five-minute presentation (which repeats every 15 minutes). While an earthquake, wind storms, thunder, lightning, and other natural disasters may be too frightening for babies and preschoolers, older children enjoy experiencing them.


10. Arizona Museum of Natural History

Arizona Museum of Natural History

The natural history museum is a great place to take your future scientists since there is nothing more exciting for them. This magnificent museum in Arizona is where you may spend hours exploring and learning about the history of Arizona as well as the rest of the world.

Take a stroll around the Lost Dutchman Mine exhibit at the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa and “lock-up” your loved ones in the exhibit’s jail cells. Then take a trip to a Hohokam hamlet, where you can learn to grind corn with stone tools and piece together gigantic jigsaw pieces to create Native American pottery artwork.

Children have a lot of fun panning for gold outside in a courtyard. The most impressive attraction is Dinosaur Mountain, a performance featuring life-sized animatronic dinosaurs on a precipice accompanied by deafening “flash floods” that send water rushing down every 23 minutes.

Things to do in Scottsdale with kids


With all these attractions listed, this might become one of your priorities on the bucket list. It is a comfortable, warm, and sunny place, where you can enjoy summer, waterparks, and gorgeous nature. There are so many things to do in Scottsdale with kids, that every family member will find something they like and make this holiday unforgettable.

0 0 votes
Article Rating

Ready to embark on an adventure with your kids?

Subscribe to our newsletter AND get a free sample copy of our entire book, How to Travel With Kids (Without Losing Your Mind)!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments