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Scottsdale: A Playground for All Ages

Overflowing with outdoor adventure, fun in the sun, and thrilling Western-style escapades, Scottsdale is the ultimate destination for a family-sized vacation. Families can relish in resorts with year-round programming, rough-and-tumble Sonoran Desert romps, and hands-on experiential art exhibits. Scottsdale is a place where kids can be kids and parents can be big kids. Is it any wonder Sunset magazine named the city one of the “Best Places to Raise a Kid?”

Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Mini-VIPs

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess’ Trailblazers Family Adventure Centeris a highlight with weekly themed activities, but it’s the seasonal fun-for-all-ages festivities that really shine. You can look forward to Easter Brunch & BunnyPalooza with kid-friendly concerts, summer beach parties culminating in over-the-top fireworks displays, and the downright magical Christmas at the Princess that brings a four-story musical tree, skating rink, snow fall and visit from St. Nick himself.

Camp Hyatt Kachina at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch teaches tiny explorers about the Sonoran Desert’s flora, fauna and culture through hands-on crafting of dream catchers, rain sticks and Southwestern sand art. Fridays bring free Native American song and dance performances, while cowboy storytellers roam ‘round and entertain guests throughout their stay.

There comes a time when even the youngest has outgrown kids’ clubs and teddy-bear teas, and that’s when it’s time to book a stay at The Boulders Resort. From night biking to rock climbing and desert fly-fishing to water rappelling, it’s all about an adventurous style of family bonding. The resort’s spacious one- to four-bedroom villas are an ideal home-away-from home for active families with teens-and-up.

At The Phoenician, a treasure trove of organized endeavors at the Funicians Club includes crafts, games and activities that highlight Arizona’s storied history. Kids also can use child-friendly digital cameras to create video and picture postcards. There’s even a playground with a full-size jungle gym, sandbox, half-sized basketball court and bicycle rentals.

The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa has a staff member whose entire job is to make sure families have a good time!The resort’s Director of Fun runs a kid-friendly check-in at Kierland Mining Co., where kids receive “The Compass: A Trailblazer’s Guide to The Westin Kierland,” a scavenger hunt that imparts interesting facts about AZ history and culture. Rotating activities run the gamut from s’mores roasts and PJ parties to Kids in the Kitchen cooking lessons.

Kids for All Seasons programming at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North has a movie theater, ping pong, foosball and cultural crafts, plus there’s a weekly calendar of stargazing, hiking and other desert-dwelling adventures. Proof Canteen delights little ones and grownups alike with shuffleboard and a vintage Etch-a-Sketch as well as special “Sundaes on Sunday” that satisfy any sweet tooth.

Making a Splash

Scottsdale may be smack in the middle of one of America’s largest deserts, but families are never left high and dry. Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is home to six pools, 830 tons of white sandy beach and two of Arizona’s longest resort waterslides. At Hyatt Regency Scottsdale, a sprawling aquatic playground is decked with a “beachside” putting green, 28-foot rock climbing wall and Fun Zone where guests can play giant Jenga, Chess or Connect Four. The Phoenician’s Oasis Pool Complex has water volleyball, a splash pad and 165-foot slide that morphs into an “electric waterslide” with fog, lasers and pulsating music on summer holidays. And then there’s Westin Kierland’s Adventure Water Park that includes a lazy river, water slide, pop-jet fountains and FlowRider surfing simulator.

Things to Do & Places to Explore

The Sonoran Desert – one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems – is ripe with adventure for explorers young and old, be it by foot on the Bajada Trail at McDowell Sonoran Preserve or at Papago Park; on horseback at MacDonald’s Ranch, Fort McDowell Adventures or Rawhide Western Town; even via off-road-vehicle-of-choice with Stellar Adventures, Pink Adventure Tours and Green Zebra Adventures.

Art and song go hands-on during Native Trails, a free outdoor festival celebrating the Native American cultures of the Southwest through song and dance. The festivals go from early January through March, and bring together traditional instruments, colorful dances and authentic attire to share the stories of Southwest tribes, including the Hopi, Diné (Navajo), Akimel Au-Authm and San Carlos Apache. Continue the musical journey at Musical Instrument Museum, home to more than 15,000 instruments and an Experience Gallery where the kiddos can try their hand at the instruments.

Learn about the destination’s western roots at Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West, home to exhibits such as The A.P. Hays Spirit of the West Collection, featuring a selection of saddles, spurs and rare badges. In February 2017, delve deeper into Scottsdale’s history while watching the Parada del Sol Parade, the world’s longest horse-drawn parade.

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park delights with a family-oriented train ride and 1950s carousel ride while the Sonoran Desert takes center-stage at Desert Botanical Garden. The entire family can enjoy off-the-beaten path excursions at Butterfly Wonderland, the largest butterfly atrium in North America, OdySea Aquarium, a 400,000 square-foot aquarium that boasts 300 different species of marine life, from bayous and coral reefs to deep abysses in exhibits such as “Rivers of the World,” Amazon Rivers” and “Penguins.”

Kid-Friendly Fare

Hula’s Modern Tiki caters to pint-sized foodies with age-apropos bites from their Polynesian-with-a-twist menu, while Proof Canteen is a must not just for its Americana specialties but also its old-fashioned soda fountain and malts. Old Town Tortilla Factory (Mexican), Brat Haus (German) and Grimaldi’s (Italian) add an international twist to little ones’ meals while True Food Kitchen and Gertrude’s Restaurant are all about healthy and seasonal farm-fresh noshes. And because no family meal is complete without a sweet treat, we can’t forget Sugar Bowl for nostalgic shakes and sundaes, Super Chunk Sweets & Treats for gourmet cookies, pastries and cakes, and Sweet Republic for to-die-for artisan ice cream sandwiches and scoops.