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Experience exciting activities for the whole family with our jam-packed list of fun things to do in Scottsdale with kids!

Scottsdale is a family-favorite vacation destination because of its plethora of fun attractions, year-round sunny weather, and stunning natural beauty. 

In addition, it’s a great spot for traveling with kids, both young and old, due to its awesome restaurants and resorts. 

In this post, we’re covering 29 fun things to do in Scottsdale that the entire family will enjoy!

Plus, we’ve also included bonus tips for traveling with kids to make sure your trip goes off without a hitch!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. 

Here's our list of the best things to do in Scottsdale with kids from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona

Things to Do in Scottsdale With Kids

Scottsdale, Arizona – a gigantic suburb of Phoenix, AZ – has over 330 days of sunshine every year!

Often known for its swanky resorts and world-class golf courses, surprisingly, Scottsdale has dozens of awesome things to do with kids as well!

From beautiful desert hiking trails to fun shopping, museums, and zoos, our list of the best things to do in Scottsdale with kids has activities for thrill seekers, nature enthusiasts, and animal lovers alike. 

Plan the family vacation of your dreams with these tried-and-true Scottsdale attractions that you and the family will love!

Oh…and psst! We love visiting Scottsdale, Arizona so much that we’ve written several other guides to help you plan your trip!

Here's our list of the best things to do in Scottsdale with kids from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
Butterfly Wonderland

1. Explore Butterfly Wonderland

If you’d like to start your Scottsdale trip with an experience like no other, I recommend visiting Butterfly Wonderland – a rainforest habitat that is home to thousands of brilliant butterflies and rainforest animals. 

Enter the conservatory, where you’ll be surrounded by reptiles, birds, and of course, butterflies!

They also have a 3D movie experience and live chrysalis openings included in admission. 

Conveniently located at Scottsdale’s Arizona Boardwalk (which is loaded with other fun things to do in Scottsdale with kids!), this is a must-stop experience. 

Additional planning tip: You can save on admission tickets by bundling several of the 8 Arizona Boardwalk attractions together.

Choose between the Odysea Aquarium, Lazer & Mirror Maze, the Museum of Illusions, and more.

Here's our list of the best things to do in Scottsdale with kids from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park – photo courtesy of Experience Scottsdale

2. Visit the railroad park

The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park has more than just model trains – they offer real train rides down the Paradise & Pacific Railroad, vintage carousel rides, and several train cars to explore. 

Young kids will also enjoy their playgrounds and interactive play areas. 

In addition, this park is home to the Scottsdale Railroad Museum, which is filled with railroad artifacts.

As an added bonus – museum entry is free to all park visitors!

Additional planning tip: Traveling to Scottsdale during the holidays?

Make sure to check out the railroad park’s holiday lights display which is held annually from the end of November until the end of December.

Kids love it!

Resort Pass at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge
Resort day pass to JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge

3. Buy a ResortPass

In case you don’t know, there are dozens of luxurious hotels and resorts in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area – in fact, they are some of the nicest resorts I’ve ever experienced.

Even though you may not have the opportunity (or budget) to stay overnight, there are over 45 leading hotels and resorts (including JW Marriott, Fairmont Princess, Westin, Arizona Biltmore, and kid-favorite Great Wolf Lodge) that offer the chance to purchase a daily resort pass to enjoy its pools and amenities!

In other words, you don’t have to have a hotel room booked, instead, you can purchase a ResortPass and explore a resort’s pools, waterpark, spa, lounging areas, and workout facilities.

This provides you and your kids an opportunity for an amazing ‘daycation’ and to experience some pretty amazing amenities you may not otherwise get to enjoy.

We absolutely loved our daycation at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa where we felt spoiled by getting to use its 3 huge pools, 3 waterslides, lazy river, hot tub, outdoor relaxation areas, lounging chairs, towel service, and free parking!

Using our ResortPasses was truly one of the best things we did when visiting Scottsdale with our 3 kids!

4. Meet marine life at the aquarium

One of the most visited attractions on the Arizona Boardwalk, Odysea Aquarium is home to 6000 animals, including sharks, sea turtles, and penguins!

Enjoy the Russian Sturgeon touch pool, watch the otters play, and experience the magical colors of the Great Barrier Reef. 

They also have interactive encounters available with sharks, penguins, sloths, and helmet diving. 

McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Hiking at McDowell Sonoran Preserve

5. Explore the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Arizona is home to an abundance of diverse habitats, and exploring its natural beauty is by far one of the best things to do in Scottsdale with kids!

Part of the Sonoran Desert, the 30,580-acre McDowell Sonoran Preserve, is home to lush cacti forests and diverse wildlife, as well as trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. 

Our favorite hike to do with kids at McDowell Sonoran Preserve is the 4.4-mile Gateway Loop Trail.

This is a moderate hike that takes about 2 hours to complete and is a must-do when visiting Scottsdale!

Old Town Scottsdale sculptures
Old Town Scottsdale sculptures

6. Wander Old Town Scottsdale

Another one of the best things to do in Scottsdale with kids is to explore downtown Scottsdale!

Also known as Old Town Scottsdale, this is a great place to catch a bite to eat, go shopping, and take plenty of fun photos by its many sculptures. 

There are literally so many things to do in Old Town Scottsdale, including a fun public art walking tour, the Scottsdale Fashion Square shopping mall, a free trolley, and restaurants galore!

Kids will also love strolling along the Arizona Canal and watching the ducks from up on the bridge.

7. Experience MacDonald’s Ranch

One of our absolute favorite things to do in Scottsdale with kids is to spend a morning or afternoon at MacDonald’s Ranch!

At MacDonald’s Ranch, you’ll find ample southwest charm, including a horseback riding stable with family-friendly attractions and interactive experiences that will fulfill your “wild west” needs. 

Whether you’re traveling with young children that are itching to become cowboys or you’re just in it for the horseback rides, MacDonald’s Ranch offers fun for all ages. 

MacDonald’s Ranch experiences include:

  • Cowboy cookouts – Dinner with a horseback ride or hayride
  • Stagecoach rides – $300/group of 5
  • Horseback riding – $65/ hour, ages 6+
  • Petting zoo – Open to the public

Additional planning tip: MacDonald Ranch is only open seasonally from November 1st – April 30th.

If you’re visiting in October, be sure to check out their seasonal pumpkin patch. 

Here's our list of the best things to do in Scottsdale with kids from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
Gorgeous gardens everywhere!

8. Stroll through the Desert Botanical Garden

A quick drive to Phoenix (just 20 minutes outside of Scottsdale) is well worth the trip to the Desert Botanical Garden.

There are plenty of garden trails to explore the region’s natural beauty.

With blossoms, bees, hummingbirds, and more – enjoy five distinct habitats native to the area. 

Kids under 12 will love the Cactus Clubhouse – a nature play area where young kids are encouraged to explore the natural world through discovery and play. 

9. Visit a museum

With world-class art galleries, special-interest museums, and kid-friendly exhibits, a visit to a museum is a must when traveling to Scottsdale. 

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Located in Old Town Scottsdale, enjoy rotating exhibitions with modern art, design, and architecture at the Museum of Contemporary Art

Additional planning tip: Save $2 on admission by purchasing your tickets online!

Penske Racing Museum

If you’re planning a jaunt to Phoenix, make sure to stop by the Penske Racing Museum for race cars, winning medals, and various memorabilia. 

Musical Instrument Museum

Also located nearby in Phoenix, this Musical Instrument Museum is the largest museum of its kind, with over 15,000 musical instruments. 

Museum of Illusions

The Museum of Illusions offers interactive exhibits that the whole family will enjoy.

Here, you’ll find 60 exhibits based on illusions that will puzzle your perceptions and leave you with plenty of fun conversation and memories!

Pangaea Land of the Dinosaurs

Another attraction on the Arizona Boardwalk, Pangaea Land of the Dinosaurs, has incredible dinosaur exhibits, guided tours, and interactive stations. 

10. Watch a live show

One of the best ways to spend an evening on the town in Scottsdale with kids is to go see a live show!

While nightlife isn’t often family-friendly, a live performance is bound to keep family members of all ages entertained. 

Visit the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts for musical theater, music acts, and more. 

11. More fun at the Arizona Boardwalk

Beyond being a hub for activity and some of the best attractions that Scottsdale has to offer, the Arizona Boardwalk is a good place to find cost-effective fun.

After all, free special events happen here regularly. 

It’s also fun to eat lunch in one of their picnic areas or sample the various dining options, including Frozen Penguins homemade ice cream sandwiches, or an All-American burger from Johnny Rockets. 

For further enjoyment other than the ones already listed above, inexpensive ticketed attractions at the Arizona Boardwalk include: 

12. Head to a waterpark

Scottsdale has several waterpark hotels that you can choose from – as well as additional waterparks in its surrounding cities.

A family favorite option located in Scottsdale is the Great Wolf Lodge – an indoor water park filled with water slides, pools, dining opportunities, and play zones.

Because of its endless activities, Great Wolf Lodge is the perfect place to spend the day or the weekend. 

They certainly have fun for all ages, with low-key attractions like a splash pad for young children and adrenaline-pumping slides for the older kids. 

Other attractions at this water park include:

  • Mini-golf course
  • Mining activity 
  • Climbing walls
  • MagiQuest experience
  • Ropes course
  • 10 pin bowling
  • Arcade games

Some Scottsdale resorts, like the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, offer water features like water slides and lazy rivers for their guests as well.

Waterpark options nearby include:

Here's our list of the best things to do in Scottsdale with kids from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
LOVE sculpture

13. Scottsdale Civic Center Park

Make sure you set aside some time to breathe in the fresh air and experience your natural surroundings when visiting Scottsdale with your kids. 

Scottsdale Civic Center Park is located within Old Town Scottsdale, and although there is not an actual playground here, kids love the wide-open green space!

There are plenty of flowers, fountains, ducks, and the iconic “Love” sculpture to enjoy.

14. Visit the animals at the Phoenix Zoo

Little kids and adults alike will find wonder in their trip to the Phoenix Zoo

From jaguars to zebras to Komodo dragons, this zoo is home to nearly 400 species and over 3,000 animals that call it home.

If you want to get even closer to the animals than a typical zoo experience, the Phoenix Zoo offers several animal encounters for an additional cost.

Animal encounters include:

  • Visit the petting zoo at Harmony Farm
  • Meet the monkeys at Monkey Village
  • Pet the stingrays at Stingray Bay
  • Meet giraffes at your Giraffe Encounter
  • Enjoy a camel ride

Find further fun with animal presentations, a carousel ride, and safari cruiser tours!

15. Watch a baseball game

While Phoenix is the official home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, you can watch them in Scottsdale during spring training.

From late February through mid-May, you’ll find the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies playing at Salt River Fields. 

Kids will love the game almost as much as they appreciate the stadium snacks! (Don’t forget to grab a hotdog and some popcorn for the full experience!)

You can find full schedules and tickets here. 

Sugar Bowl ice cream parlor
Sugar Bowl seating

16. Sample ice cream at Sugar Bowl

Looking for the perfect place to grab a treat?

The Sugar Bowl should be your first stop!

This ice cream shop is a Scottsdale staple, serving ice cream and diner food since 1958. 

Dine in for a sweet bout of nostalgia with authentic 1950s decor, classic American fare, and delicious floats, malts, and ice cream sundaes!

There’s even a small arcade in the back.

Pinnacle Peak is one of the best hikes for kids in Scottsdale!
Pinnacle Peak

17. Hike Pinnacle Peak

Depending on your child’s ability and adventurous spirit, one of our favorite things to do in Scottsdale with kids is to hike Pinnacle Peak.

Though it may look overwhelming at first, Pinnacle Peak is actually quite doable with school-age kids.

It’s important to instruct kids to be attentive during the hike, however, and to move aside for hikers coming down the mountain.

Also, keep in mind that you can turn around and go back down whenever you please, as it is not necessary to get all the way to the top before enjoying the beautiful views.

Pack plenty of water and other kids’ hiking essentials, and be sure to review tips on sticking together and not going off-trail.

18. Check out the McDowell Mountain Ranch Aquatic & Fitness Center

McDowell Mountain Ranch Park & Aquatic Center is a top destination for family activities in Scottsdale.

Here, you’ll find 3 soccer fields, an aquatic facility, a skate park, and a fitness center spanning over 75 acres.

The aquatic facility has an eight-lane lap pool, four diving boards, a large tube water slide, a lazy river, an interactive spray pad, and several water play features.

There are even shaded areas next to the water park, as well as veranda seating with a view of the pool area.

For only $9 for adults and $6 for kids, the McDowell Mountain Ranch Park & Aquatic Center is also very affordable!

More Awesome Things to Do With Kids in Scottsdale

  • iFLY – An indoor skydiving experience that makes you float in the air inside of a tunnel – guests can opt for virtual reality simulation as they hover.
  • Octane Raceway – A 1/3 mile indoor/outdoor track high-speed go-karting track at which both adult and junior races are available.
  • Glow Putt – An 18-hole indoor, air-conditioned mini golf experience ‘in the dark’. All of the balls and obstacles are lit with blacklight technology.
  • Scottsdale Civic Center Library – An awesome children’s area with a castle-themed reading area and plenty of activity tables.
  • Scottsdale Desert Stages Theater – A performing arts theater located within Fashion Square Mall that offers 5 youth shows (made up of cast members ages 3-19) a year.

Conclusion: Things to do in Scottsdale with kids

That wraps up the most fun-filled things to do in Scottsdale with kids!

Make sure you take advantage of the incredible Arizona scenery along with these unique experiences. 

If we’ve missed any must-see attractions in the Scottsdale area, we’d love to hear about them in the comments down below!

Happy planning!

*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*

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Here's our list of the best things to do in Scottsdale with kids from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
Here's our list of the best things to do in Scottsdale with kids from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!

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