Scottsdale may well be the family entertainment capital of America. We recently visited the area with our kids—three teenagers and a nine-year-old—and can say without a doubt Scottsdale has plenty to offer that kept each of us happily entertained. Here’s what you need to know.
Everything You Need and Plenty of What You Want
We packed as much as we could into our four-day itinerary and felt like we didn’t even scratch the surface of what there is to do there. Great food, tons of entertainment venues, interactive museums, outdoor adventures, and of course, plenty of pool time to beat the heat.
We were invited by Experience Scottsdale to experience what the town has to offer. Pictures are better than words, though, so let me show you a bit of what we did so you’ll know what kind of vacation you can plan. I’ll warn you now, you’re going to want to book your family vacation to Scottsdale asap!
Our plane landed in the morning, so we started our time in Scottsdale at the Arizona Boardwalk, visiting the Butterfly Wonderland. The moment we stepped into the enclosed outdoor space where the butterflies live, it felt like stepping into a whole new, enchanting world. Everywhere you looked, there were countless butterflies in every color. The place is touted as the largest butterfly conservatory in the US, and it didn’t disappoint! All of us – kids and adults alike – thought it was well worth the visit. It was such a serene and relaxing experience! A definite must-visit.
The OdySea Aquarium is next door to the Butterfly Wonderland, so it was easy to meander over there when we were ready. We spent a few awe-inspiring hours exploring all there is to do there and made a unanimous decision that it was our favorite aquarium by far! There’s so much I could say about it, but I’ll mention just two things. The auditorium that turns into a rotating aquarium experience is incredible, but I don’t think anything could have prepared us for the view from the bathroom! (I could describe it, but you really just have to see it.)
Museum of Illusion
Here’s a place that truly blew our minds…just as it is designed to do. The Museum of Illusion is also located at the Arizona Boardwalk, along with the butterfly exhibit and the aquarium. It’s filled with exhibits that defy logic, twist your perspective, and leave you with more questions than answers—in the most fun way. It’s not just a feast for the eyes, it’s a full-on sensory experience. The kids found it hilarious, and we left with some pretty unforgettable family photos.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
We were excited to stay at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, and wow, did it live up to expectations! The rooms are plush and comfortable, the service is impeccable, and everything about the property was top-notch but not stuffy. We enjoyed an amazing dinner at their La Hacienda restaurant, so we didn’t even have to leave the property for the evening. Can’t say enough about how much we loved our stay here!
Cabana at the Fairmont Scottsdale Pool
One of the highlights of staying at the Fairmont was our time at the pool. The whole family absolutely loved having a cabana by the pool, and spending time relaxing together was exactly the kind of getaway we were looking for. It’s the perfect blend of pampering, relaxation, and fun, and it’s an experience I’d recommend to anyone.
Horseback Riding at Macdonald’s Ranch
Arizona may bring the heat, but it’s nothing an early morning visit to a ranch can’t handle. We tried something different and went horseback riding at MacDonald’s Ranch. It was like stepping into a Western movie—riding through the desert, surrounded by stunning natural beauty. We loved it! The ranch hands who led the ride were fun and were full of interesting trivia all along the way. Adults and teens alike gave this a big thumbs up!
Breakfast Kitchen Bar
If you’re in Scottsdale, plan to start at least one day at the Breakfast Kitchen Bar. This place was hopping! Even my pickiest eater found something to love, and we left feeling fueled for a busy day of exploration.
Musical Instrument Museum
The Musical Instrument Museum is something else and you don’t have to be a musician to enjoy exploring this museum. You’ll find instruments from literally every corner of the globe, and you’re actually encouraged to try them out in one of the rooms. We all experimented with new sounds and had fun playing things we’d only seen in movies. Plan for at least a couple of hours here because there is so much to see!
Wonderspaces felt like stepping into a living art exhibit where every corner was filled with something new and unique—from virtual reality experiences to immersive light installations. It was a sensory overload in the best way possible, and it gave us all a newfound appreciation for the power of art. You won’t need a lot of time here, but it’s a fun space to visit, plus it’s located in the mall, which was another hit with our teens.
HULA’s Modern Tiki
Lunch at HULA’s Modern Tiki was a delight. It’s got a laid-back, tropical vibe, and the food is exceptional. They’ve got a modern twist on classic Hawaiian dishes that left us all happily satisfied. Our kids especially enjoyed the fun tropical drinks in the tiki mugs. They were the cherry on top of an already great dining experience!
Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
If you’re a history buff, you’ll love Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. It’s an immersive dive into the history and art of the Wild West, complete with interactive exhibits that even kept my teenagers engaged. It was a fascinating journey back in time and a great educational experience for the whole family. Don’t overlook the opportunity to visit—it’s well worth your time!
A day at Mavrix is a day of pure, unadulterated fun. Between bowling, arcade games, and laser tag, we were spoiled for choice. Our whole family loved every second of it and could have spent much more time there. It’s a great spot to let loose and have some family fun, and you can easily spend several hours enjoying all there is to do. You can even have dinner while you bowl! (Added bonus, their pizza and desserts are terrific!)
The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort
So that we could experience two fantastic hotels, we spent a couple of nights at The Phoenician in Scottsdale. Simply put, it is luxury at its finest: plush rooms, exquisite service, and a pool complete with a waterslide that the kids had a great time on. We enjoyed a private cabana at the pool that felt like our own little oasis. (If you’ve never rented a cabana, give it a try!)
The Phoenician was lovely in every way and we loved so much about this gorgeous hotel, but one of my favorite things was spending a little time walking through their cactus garden at twilight. It was so peaceful—I honestly had no idea there were so many varieties! Then we hit the pool again since it’s open 24/7, and why not?
The Phoenician Tavern
There are eight restaurants at the Phoenician, and if they’re all as good as the Tavern, then you can’t go wrong with any of them. We enjoyed a lively evening of entertainment during our dinner. Guests got to request their favorite songs while the two dueling pianists put on a show that was so much fun to clap along with. The Spicey Fried Dill Pickle appetizer came recommended, as did the Hot Cookie Skillet for dessert, and they were both as good as we hoped!
Daily Dose Old Town Bar & Grill
The next morning, we visited the Daily Dose Old Town Bar & Grill for breakfast, and it was a pleasant surprise. The place serves up comfort food at its best! They have so many options, the hardest part is choosing, but I really don’t think you could make a bad decision here. Even our gluten-free kiddo had plenty of options and left feeling quite satisfied!
Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
We wrapped up our vacation with an evening at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament. It’s not just a dinner, it’s an experience and one we won’t soon forget! We got to cheer on our own knight (ours was the green one) while enjoying a great dinner. (Without utensils, because that’s how they do things there) The energy in the room was infectious, and we left with memories we’ll cherish for a long time. Medieval Times was an easy decision for choosing a dinner venue everyone could enjoy!
If you’re wondering where the best place to see the Grand Canyon sunrise at South Rim is, you’re not alone. With more than six million visitors to the national park each year, there are plenty of people trying to find the best place to see the show.
And what a show it is! Mother Nature does not disappoint. It was easily one of the most memorable sunrises we’ve ever seen! There are some things you should know before you go, though, and we’ll do our best to answer all your questions for you.
Best Vacation Spots in Arizona
Planning a trip that includes the best vacation spots in Arizona can be slightly overwhelming. There are simply too many cool things to do in Arizona to do even half of them in one vacation! Here are 12 fantastic options for you to choose from.
Odysea Aquarium: A Family-Friendly Underwater Adventure in Arizona
What has thousands of residents but no houses, a tunnel without cars, and a bathroom where you can watch sharks swim by? If you guessed the Odysea Aquarium in Scottsdale, Arizona, you were right!
The Museum of Illusion: Captivating Minds in Scottsdale, Arizona
There’s a new museum in Scottsdale, and it’s going to blow your mind. No, really. The Museum of Illusion is a reality-bending, awe-inspiring marvel that will entertain, baffle, and leave you spellbound while you work your way through each mind-boggling display. We’re warning you now: prepare to have your mind blown!
Visiting Antelope Canyon – Everything You Need to Know!
This has got to be one of the most interesting places I have ever been and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. Get comfy, because I’m about to tell you everything you need to know about visiting Antelope Canyon!
Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.