12 Things To Do With Family In Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale, Arizona is a vibrant city in the Sonoran Desert known for its upscale resorts, world-class golf courses, art galleries, and high-end shopping. But beyond the glitz and glam, Scottsdale offers plenty of fun family-friendly activities perfect for making memories with your loved ones.

From hiking beautiful desert trails, to exploring fascinating museums, to splashing around aqua-blue swimming holes, there is something for travelers of all ages to enjoy. With ample sunshine and mild winters, anytime is a great time to visit Scottsdale with your family.

Explore the Outdoors with a Desert Hike

Scottsdale boasts gorgeous stretches of the Sonoran Desert in its backyard, so be sure to lace up your hiking boots and head out on the trails. Camelback Mountain is a can’t-miss hike for its iconic shape and panoramic views at the summit. For little legs, head to the Lost Dog Wash Trail or India Creek Trail for flat, easy desert paths.

Or walk among cacti and flowering shrubs along the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, passing cool rock formations and maybe spotting jackrabbits and roadrunners. Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated in the dry desert air. Finish off your outdoor adventures by grabbing a bite to eat at one of Old Town’s dog-friendly patios.

Splash Around Western-Themed Water Parks

When the desert heat becomes intense, cool off with a day of waterslides and wave pools. Head 25 minutes north of Scottsdale to the Wild West-themed Wet n’ Wild Phoenix water park. Ride the massive Blue Niagara wave pool, brave the steep Bomb Bay body slide, and let little cowboy and cowgirls play at Cowabunga Beach. Or check out nearby Golfland Sunsplash water park with larger-than-life structures like the 50-foot Python Plummet speed slide and a 1,000-gallon tipping water bucket.

Tour Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Desert Home

Gain insight into one of America’s most iconic architects with a tour of Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s former winter home and studio. Wright used desert sand, stone, and wood to craft striking angular buildings that blend seamlessly into the natural landscape.

Guided tours give you access to Wright’s drafting studio, private living quarters, Cantilevered Theater, and the beautiful desert vistas surrounding his winter residence. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to step inside the visionary mind behind Fallingwater and the Guggenheim.

Ogle Old West History at Scottsdale’s Museums

From Native American culture to frontier cowboys, Scottsdale’s museums cover the gambit of Arizona history. The Scottsdale Museum of the West has an extensive collection of Navajo weavings, Hopi pottery, cowboy gear, and more. Kids love panning for real gemstones on the indoor mining sluice at the Scottsdale Rusty Spur Saloon’s neighboring Mining Camp.

Gain insight into Arizona’s various Native tribes at the Heard Museum, featuring 12 galleries of pottery, baskets, jewelry, and artifacts. And the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) traces global music history with a collection of over 15,000 instruments. Don’t miss displays like Elvis Presley’s sequined jumpsuit!

Saddle Up on a Desert Horseback Ride

For a quintessential Southwestern experience, head out on a trail ride through the saguaro-dotted desert landscape. Several Scottsdale ranches lead guided desert horseback rides for all experience levels, even for first-time young riders.

Hold on tight in the saddle on a gentle horse like Sweet Paint or Spirit, and keep your eyes peeled for quails, lizards, jackrabbits, and other desert critters along your ride. Camelback Trail Rides, MacDonald’s Ranch, and Ponderosa Stables are all highly-rated options for memorable desert rides with the kiddos. Western wear optional.

Go Nuts at an Indoor Playground

When everyone needs a break from the Arizona sun, bring your high-energy kids to one of Scottsdale’s many indoor playgrounds and activity centers. The Village Health Clubs & Spas has a massive two-story soft playground full of multicolored structures like rope ladders, giant slides, ball pits, and trampolines—perfect for burning off some steam.

Or head to AZ Airtime, home to over 25,000 square feet of interconnected trampolines for practicing flips into foam pits. The spot also features dodgeball courts, a climbing wall, and a “Wipeout” foam obstacle course modeled after the TV show. Definitely arrive with comfy socks—shoes not allowed!

Drive Go-Karts at Octane Raceway

Gather your speed-demon family members for exhilarating go-kart races at Octane Raceway near Scottsdale’s Old Town. This electric go-kart track spans a quarter mile long, with hairpin turns and thrilling straightaways to rev up Junior’s inner Andretti.

Kids need to be at least 4 feet tall to drive their own kart, while younger passengers can ride along with Mom or Dad. Beyond go-karts, the entertainment center has bowling lanes, billiards, ping pong, shuffle board, darts, and a restaurant/bar to refuel at when checkered flags wave.

Explore the Desert Botanical Garden

Meander through five themed trails showcasing desert flora from around the world at the Desert Botanical Garden. Kids will love the huge sahuaro cacti towering overhead on the Sonoran Trail, spotting fuzzy cholla cactus up close on the Center for Desert Living Trail, and walking through the desert wildflower meadow when blooms burst into colorful life.

Check the feeding schedule to watch the free-flying butterflies at the Hassayampa River Preserve butterfly pavilion. And don’t miss artwork installations like desert willow structures and migrating metal birds integrated throughout the creative grounds.

Enjoy Native American Culture at the Pueblo Grande Museum

Just minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park provides a great first stop to soak in some Sonoran Desert history and culture. Outdoor trails wind through the ruins of indigenous Hohokam village sites occupied between 500-1450 CE.

Inside the museum, replicas bring to life traditional Hohokam housing, agricultural, hunting tools and pottery. Kids can grind corn on a metate grinding stone or try their hand at prehistoric games like hoop rolling. Daily guided tours and weekend cultural demonstrators like Hopi artists or Akimel O’otham dancers give further glimpses into Arizona’s native people past and present.

Splash Down the Salt River

For a super fun family float, head up to the Lower Salt River for an afternoon lazily bobbing down the cool mountain-fed waters. Multiple companies like Salt River Tubing, Salt River Recreation and Wilderness Aware Rafting provide tubes, life jackets, shuttles and guides for enjoying the peaceful three-hour float.

Along the way, your crew can soak up the striking Sonoran landscape, spy desert wildlife, splash and swim to your heart’s content. The river does close during winter months, so plan summer trips to make the most of this beloved Arizona pastime.

Shop ’til You Drop at Scottsdale Fashion Square

After working up an appetite with all the family activities, take a break to wander around Scottsdale Fashion Square—Arizona’s largest shopping center. With over 250 stores and restaurants, all under one air-conditioned roof, you can give the kids’ bank accounts and your credit cards a workout.

From Macy’s and Nordstrom to an Apple store and Microsoft Experience Center, the sprawling mall covers anything you could need to revamp your family’s wardrobes. Fuel up on pasta at The Cheesecake Factory, then catch a flick at the Harkins Camelview theater inside.

Get Hands-On at the Discovery Kids Museum

The nonprofit Discovery Kids Museum offers a perfect indoor retreat for children 10 and under to role play to their heart’s delight. Budding builders can drive toy bulldozers, architects can design block towers on an earthquake table, future paleontologists can excavate a massive dinosaur fossil, and tiny grocery store clerks can scan play food across working cash registers.

Costumes, crafts and toddler areas make learning through imaginary play even more engaging. Outside, a model 1950s Main Street invites imaginations to roam free under Arizona’s sunny skies.


With ample sunshine, outdoor adventures, and family fun, Scottsdale makes an excellent warm weather destination for making memorable moments with your loved ones. Hiking desert trails, learning about Native American culture, splashing down waterslides or river tubes are just some of the myriad activities that will delight kids young and old. Whenever you visit, be sure to take time to sample the region’s delicious Southwestern cuisine, from glorious tacos to savory green chili, between your Scottsdale adventures. With so much to see and do, your family will surely be asking to return to Scottsdale again soon.

Leave a Comment